Marvel has been celebrating its 75th Anniversary in publishing this year. The Marvel Studios film franchise has proven nigh-unstoppable at the box office, and next season, not one, but two Marvel-based TV shows — the returning “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Marvel’s Agent Carter” — are set to air on ABC.
So what worlds are left to conquer? Marvel has its sites on some uncharted territory later this year with upcoming touring stage show “Marvel Universe LIVE!,” produced in conjunction with Feld Entertainment — the company behind the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Scheduled to debut in Tampa Bay this July with live-action versions of multiple Marvel heroes and villains, it’s one of the many things that Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada has focused on in recent months.
“It literally is the Marvel Universe come to life,” Quesada told CBR News. “There’s a story, it’s not just a stunt show where you see characters bouncing around, doing something mindlessly.”
RELATED: AXEL-IN-CHARGE: Cup O’ Joe Returns!
With Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso away, the CCO reclaimed his former Friday afternoon on CBR slot, for a one-week-only revival of former Q&A column “Cup O’ Joe” in place of the current “Axel-In-Charge.” Yet with so much to talk about, this particular cup spilled over to a special Monday edition, talking the challenge of “Marvel Universe LIVE,” recently debuted 2014 publishing event “Original Sin,” Angela’s place in the Marvel Universe one year following the character’s migration from Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn” world, DC Comics’ 2015 move from New York City to Burbank, California and the likelihood of him drawing new interior pages anytime soon.
Albert Ching: Joe, you’ve been working with the upcoming “Marvel Universe LIVE!” stage show produced in conjunction with Feld Entertainment, which is another new thing for Marvel and certainly a different type of proposition. What has you excited about the potential of that endeavor? Why is it an important thing for Marvel to be involved in?
Joe Quesada: It’s funny — just yesterday I was on Facebook, and I was cruising my news feed, and saw that somebody had posted that they just heard an ad for the Marvel Feld show and it sounded really intriguing, and they went to the website but it wasn’t giving them enough information to pull the trigger on buying tickets. They weren’t sure what the show was about — is it a kiddie show, was it “Marvel on Ice?” They couldn’t really figure it out. I answered the post, and sent some clips that are on YouTube that gave a clearer picture that it was none of those things. The thing that’s got me excited about “Marvel Universe LIVE!” Is that it literally is the Marvel Universe come to life. First of all, it’s an adventure, there’s a story, it’s not just a stunt show where you see characters bouncing around, doing something mindlessly — there’s a Marvel adventure here, with our heroes trying to thwart a great evil. You are going to see things that you’ve never seen before performed live in an arena. Our characters will be doing the things that you would expect our characters to be doing, except it’s going to be live and in front of you. That’s really about all I can say. Ouch, my lip!
While it’s not a kiddie show, it’s absolutely a show you’ll want to bring your kids to — but it’s going to be one of those shows where, I guarantee you, dad’s going to be like, “I think it’ll be a good show for the kids,” and meanwhile, dad’s salivating because he wants to go see it more than anyone. [Laughs] It’s pretty fantastic. I’ve been really involved with the folks at Feld, with the construction of this show. They spared no expense in hiring the absolute best people. I can’t say enough about it. Everything from the costuming to the special effects, it’s an amazing, amazing production.
I would imagine that would be a prime example of where your position as chief creative officer, and ensuring consistency in the Marvel brand between different worlds, would be very important, because that sounds like something that could go two different ways — it could either be very cool, or kind of cheesy. It has to be a big responsibility for you to make sure Marvel’s well represented in something like that.
Quesada: Yeah. I’ve been involved in it from the script stage. The other thing that I bring to it, aside from the knowledge of Marvel, is the fact that I also know what’s happening in other divisions. For example, I know what’s going on in our feature movies slate. As we were working on “Marvel Universe LIVE!”, I obviously had read the script to “Winter Soldier,” and knew what was happening, and had seen early cuts of the movie. As we were working on certain Cap and Black Widow scenes, there were certain lines that just weren’t quite right — so there were things that tweaked here and there so that they would resonate a little bit more with fans who had gone to see the movies and there wouldn’t be a complete disconnect. That’s also another facet of my job, bringing in a little bit of advance knowledge that can help projects and the consistency within them.
Let’s talk about the comics side — last week, the latest Marvel event started in earnest, “Original Sin,” an idea that’s been around in its basic stages for a few years. Were you involved much in the development of this story?
Quesada: Yes and no. I’ve been a big proponent of “Original Sin” for a very, very long time. The actual origins of the idea, if memory serves, goes as far back as when we were working on “Fear Itself.” Allan Heinberg at one point suggested that maybe the “fear” could be hidden secrets that our characters are afraid to have been discovered. This didn’t quite fit the direction of “Fear Itself,” but there was something really beautiful and simple about that concept. We thought Allan would write it as the next event, but he just didn’t have the time. I just loved the idea so I kept bringing it up at every summit we had after that. We tried to get a couple of takes, but it never got enough traction until Ed Brubaker came through, and he had an idea of how to involve the Watcher, but Ed also had to eventually pass on writing the project. But I kept hammering at the concept of “Original Sin” and even wrote a brief outline of how a lot of the mechanics of the story could work using Ed’s brilliant Watcher concept. My hook was that a lot of the information was digitally stored in the Watcher’s blood. That evolved into the Watcher’s eyeball, which is even cooler.
You were heavily involved in the introduction of Angela to the Marvel Universe last year, and in an “Original Sin” tie-in, it’s set to be revealed that she has a very close tie to Asgard, being Thor and Loki’s sister. Axel Alonso mentioned last week that idea originally stemmed from you. How quickly did you see that kind of potential in the character? And was it something that was always in mind in considering how to better integrate Angela into Marvel?
Quesada: It came out of just thinking about how to make Angela matter within the Marvel Universe. Here we had this great character we had just acquired but we were struggling with a way of introducing her into the Marvel U that would make her matter instantly and have her hit the ground running. So I started to think about how Stan brought Cap into the current Marvel Universe from the 1940s and did in a way that allowed him to work within the context of the modern universe immediately. So instead of thinking of Angela in terms of how do we introduce someone new, what if we’re introducing someone who has been here all along? Then the more I started looking at the source material and the work done by Neil, the more evident it became that there were similarities between Angela’s world and the world of Thor, the Nine Realms and our cosmic universe, so maybe if there was a story to be found, that was the place to find it.
I released a bunch of Angela turnarounds I had done a while back. The reason those turnarounds existed was because I was writing this proposal for how Angela could work within the Marvel Universe. It was sort of a beat-by-beat roadmap on the history of Angela, her people, her realm, where they came from, where they are now, and where Angela really came from, and how she came to be, and how she could fit into the Marvel Universe. There’s a reason you find her in the middle of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It was really setting up the “Original Sin” story that involves Angela. All of this done using Neil’s “Angela” mini as a roadmap.
Neil was also very, very instrumental in this as well, because it was one thing for me to come up with the story — then I wanted to pitch it to Neil and get his blessing. I wanted to make him a part of the process. Thankfully, Neil loved the idea. I also had a couple of missing little pieces here and there that I needed help with and Neil was instrumental in helping me find those and locking it all into place. There were also a lot of Marvel staffers that helped in the process. Once I started honing these ideas, I called at least two or three editorial creative meetings to help put together the logic of it all, to make sure all the pieces fell together continuity-wise, and made perfect sense.
So there’s a document floating around that I wrote sometime last summer that has Angela’s entire history spelled out. Maybe someday, after “Original Sin,” we’ll get to show it to see how the idea morphed from that document to the actual execution.
One more thing in the comic book world that I’d like to get your take on — it’s been about six months since the news broke that DC Comics was moving its publishing operations from its long-time home in New York City to Burbank. What are your thoughts at this point on that move, and what kind of impact do you think it might have on the industry as a whole?
Quesada: I think I’ve made my thoughts clear — as a business decision, I can’t comment on that. They have to do what’s best for them as a company, and this is obviously what they feel is best for them as a company. From an emotional standpoint, it’s sad. It’s a sad day because they’ve been a New York company for a very, very long time. It’s no different from seeing any classic New York institution pack up their stuff and move. It’s not like they’re going out of business, but it’s just sad to see it happen.
What kind of impact it will have on the industry? I don’t really know. The impact it has on the industry will be determined by what impact DC being on the west coast, and being there in the Warner offices, has on them. It could be very, very good for them — and if it is, that’s going to be great for our industry as a whole, and that’s great for Marvel, that’s great for everybody. We’re hoping for the best, and wishing those guys a tremendous amount of luck. The only thing that I’m really jealous of is that they’re going to have much better tans than all of us here at Marvel. They’re certainly going to be eating a lot more kale. They’ll be much thinner — when you go to conventions, the DC guys will be tanner, and much thinner, than the Marvel guys.
Although people in New York walk so much more.
Quesada: Yeah — we won’t have that stressful, “I’ve been in traffic for five hours to drive three miles” look on our faces. [Laughs] This coming from a guy who now spends half of his time in LA, so trust me, I know.
But I wish them a tremendous amount of luck. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels sad that they’re moving, but it’s business, time marches on, turn the page.
To wrap up, I think the last time we saw interior pages from you was the aforementioned Angela debut in “Age of Ultron” #10 last year. Obviously you’re busy with everything we’ve been talking about, but do you have any plans to draw a comics story in the near-ish future?
Quesada: No current plans right now. I would love to. The honest truth is, would I be able to do a “run” on anything? Nah, that’s not happening anytime soon, not unless it’s a story that’s two or three years down the road, and somebody gave me a script now. Yeah, sure, maybe I can scribble a page here, a page there. That’s certainly something I could do.
But something that is of utter importance and significance to the continuity of our universe right now? That’s not going to happen. Maybe a short story. Covers? Yeah. I just agreed to do a couple of covers for some upcoming stories. That said, I’m still doing a ton of drawing, but most of it is stuff that isn’t seen or may never be seen. I’ve been doing some sketching here and there for the “Daredevil” show, I’ve been doing some animation design stuff here and there. I just did a Stormtrooper helmet for the “Star Wars Legion” exhibit. I’m keeping my hands busy. I can’t say I draw every day, but I’d say I draw five out of seven days of the week, because I really do feel that if you don’t use it, you absolutely lose it.
Plus, it must be a good release from some of the other stuff you’ve got going on in the job.
Quesada: Yeah. Some people meditate, this is what I do. I get behind the drawing board, turn on the music, get in the zone and do the thing that got me here in the first place.
This Friday, Axel Alonso returns to AIC! Got questions for him? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for this week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!