UPDATE 5/10/2013 9:48 AM PT: Quesada has posted a facial breakdown of Angela on his Twitter account for a better look at his design process for the character.
Between bouncing back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, hosting segments for the Marvel Universe block on Disney XD and contributing here and there to the comics themselves, Quesada’s contributions to the House of Ideas these days are varied and often hidden behind the scenes. But this week, the flood gates opened from the CCO’s office with two new pieces of the Marvel puzzle. Yesterday, Quesada’s redesign for Neil Gaiman’s Angela hit the web while official confirmation came that Disney Animation will be making a big screen version of Stephen Seagle and Duncan Roleau’s Big Hero 6 characters.
With Quesada involved in both deals, CBR News reached out to the artist to talk about his latest work in Marvel’s major plans. Below, the CCO describes what he had to keep and change from Todd McFarlane’s initial version of Angela, how that design will continue to change as she moves into the hands of other artists, what the big ideas are driving her appearance in “Age of Ultron” and beyond and the behind-the-scenes story of how “Big Hero 6” made it to the big screen. Plus, an exclusive tease of Sara Pichelli’s Angela-starring cover for “Guardians of the Galaxy” #6, with the full cover coming in today’s “Axel-in-Charge!
CBR News: Joe, fans have been wondering exactly what Angela will be up to since her Marvel debut was announced, but I’m guessing you’ve been done with this for a while. It must be nice to see that work get out in the light of day.
Joe Quesada: Yeah. There’s always stuff I’m working on behind the scenes that won’t see the light of day for months if not years, so it’s interesting that the Angela stuff broke the same day as the “Big Hero 6” news. That’s stuff we’ve been working on for a while. Timing is funny that this all comes out in one day.
Let’s talk just about the visual half of Angela’s debut. Looking at this image, it seems like you really did start with Todd McFarlane’s initial version of the character and then tweaked it. What did you want to do to make her more of a Marvel character?
There were two things concerning me as I approached the design. Number one, this is a character that’s getting introduced into the Marvel U for the first time, and for fans who remember her from back in her “Spawn” run, I didn’t want to create a design that was so radically different that she’d be unrecognizable. That would kind of defeat the point. As time goes on, I’m certain she will be redesigned. They’ll probably put more armor on her to cover up more of her bare flesh, for one. [Laughs] But I wanted to keep as much of what was originally Angela there.
And as I started to research the character, I realized that no two artists ever drew her exactly the same. Sometimes she’d literally change from panel to panel. So I stuck strictly to what Todd had done and what Greg Capullo had done as the template. And then, I did a little bit of adapting to make her more “Marvely” — I added a little bit of Kirby influence to it and kind of a cosmic flair with some of the angular design elements. There’s some stuff you can’t see from that particular piece like weapons she has in the back of her costume, and those will become more evident as the character moves into real world publishing for us. But even the wings on the helmet and things were all inspired by some of Todd’s stuff and some of Greg’s stuff.
There’s a series of maybe ten turnaround drawings I did to try and make her work in 3-D space. Because again, looking at some of the work on her, it was stuff from the ’90s so we were all going crazy with the design work. Some of that stuff didn’t work when you turned it in space and she lifted her arms, so I tried to make the costume more functional and then put it out to our artists and say, “Take this from here. This is not meant to be taken literally. Add pieces of armor. Adapt and have fun with it.” So like with every Marvel character, everyone will be able to do their own thing with it. She’ll be open to interpretation, and I have a feeling that costume is going to morph as time goes on, but she won’t become something completely different without the previous iconography attached to her.
I did sort of feel like the one stylistic idea that you and Todd share in common is a fondness for playing with that ribbon edging that wraps around Angela’s sword and neck. Shades of your Daredevil billy club zig zags there.
Yeah, those are things Todd and I and Greg Capullo as well had a similar take on. But even in this piece, I took it easy. [Laughs] I wanted this legible for anyone looking at the design work, but when you see my pages at the end of “Age of Ultron” #10, I got a little nuts with the ribbons. Why not?
What has that process been like of Neil bringing this character to Marvel? It seems like that took a lot of back and forth between himself, yourself, Brian and Editorial.
When the early conversations started with Neil, that was probably a year or so ago. We were getting closer to the time when we figured Angela could appear in the Marvel Universe, and Neil said “Listen, when you guys are ready to do it, let me know what sort of ideas you have. I’m more than happy to consult and help out in any way that I can.” So the challenge with Angela as we started to see it was that it came from a different creator, a different publisher and a different universe. It wasn’t a universe that necessarily gelled with the Marvel Universe and the way we create things. If we were creating a character called Angela, we’d work on a number of items in a different way than Todd would be doing for “Spawn.” So we had to say, “How do we take a character like this? If we inserted her wholeheartedly the way she’d been in ‘Spawn,’ it probably won’t work for the Marvel Universe. I don’t know how that plays between her and other characters and how we construct stories.”
So we had to look at her, and I started to get the germ of an idea where I had some thoughts on how to approach her origin — where she came from, how she fits in the Marvel U. A lot of those things were stories Neil, Todd and Greg never got to tell. It was “Who is Angela? Where does she come from? What are the stories of young Angela growing up?” It’s all the stuff we do at Marvel. We get a full immersion into the character’s origin and what it was like to grow up as a child with powers or a child in a society — whatever it may be. I started to build a template off that and had two or three ideas we could build off of, and so I called for a larger Editorial meeting where I pitched these ideas to a small group of our editors as well as Brian Bendis who was on the phone.
We started batting ideas back and forth about who Angela is and what is this race of angels she comes from. What does that mean in the Marvel Universe? Once I figured all that out, I put it all down in one document, and luckily Neil was in the city soon after, and we got to sit down and start discussing things. I said, “These are two or three of the ideas we could go with, but this one is my favorite.” And he agreed that that was the one to go with. He gave it his blessing and started adding some colorful elements into the world of Angela that helped me round things out. I came back with Neil’s thoughts and the one idea we thought was strongest. Then Editorial started honing that further.
I think I said in the most recent EW article that the most important part of the approach was that we not look at Angela as someone who just got ripped into our universe. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. The way to look at her and really build an origin around her is to say that she’s been here all along. It’s very much the way Stan [Lee] brought Captain America from the ’40s all the way into 1963 Marvel. By doing so, he added that one wonderful element of a man out of time. I wanted to know how we could do something similar, which is not to say that we’re pulling Angela out of the timestream. We’re just using that kind of methodology. What if she’s always been here, and it’s just our readers who are discovering her for the first time? It’s the same way a lot of our characters have been discovered for the first time is the path we’re taking.
I was talking to Axel Alonso about this, and I feel like Marvel has had a lot of stories involving characters like Mephisto or Son of Satan that deal with the Hell side of the afterlife equation, but you’ve never had too many stories about Heaven and angels. Is that a fortuitous part of how this all came together?
Well, that presupposes that that’s what we’re doing with her. I don’t want to give that away. She does come from a race called angels, but I just want to leave it at that because otherwise we’ll be giving away story elements. But I don’t want people to assume we’re going one way or another with her. The one thing that Marvel readers may not see right away is that when Angela comes into the Marvel Universe, she’s hitting the ground running. We have big plans to fully integrate her into the Marvel U in the coolest way possible. So cool that fans will be yelling at me! [Laughs] Won’t that be a surprise.
I have to ask because the EW article again opened the Pandora’s Box of Marvelman discussion. Anytime Neil is working on something new for you guys, the big question becomes “Are we closer to Marvelman?” Anything loosening up on that front?
No. We’re still not prepared to talk about it. We’ve been very patient and very deliberate on how we talk about Marvelman. The internet leaks aside and the stuff that may be out there which you’ve read and isn’t true, we’re very careful with this. We don’t want to talk about this before its time — especially with something as great as Marvelman. People have waited a long time, but wait a little longer and things will be okay. We’re not prepared to talk about it yet, and when we do, I want to make sure that we make it the biggest thing possible.
Like you said, the “Big Hero 6” news hit this week, and that was surprising because it’s a concept that even some Marvel diehards don’t know a lot about. But when you think of things that could be made into animated features, it’s no surprise that something like this was created by two of the Man of Action masterminds in Stephen Seagle and Duncan Roleau. How exactly did this get arrived upon as a Disney Animation feature?
The idea actually came from Don Hall, the director, who is a huge Marvel fan and obviously a big nerd if he remembers Big Hero 6. Don came to us with suggestions for maybe six of our lesser known properties, and we started working with him on some ideas for how these could be approached as Disney animated movies. Don took three of those possibilities to John Lasseter, and John really gravitated to the story that we spitballed on “Big Hero 6.” That’s how it came to be, and it’s been really fun. I’ve been involved some with those guys, and it’s great to see how someone else’s creative process works. I was lucky enough to spend two days last week with John and the animation guys beating out the story and seeing how these guys work, and it was not unlike the process we have here at Marvel.
And this is a full theatrical movie as opposed to some smaller projects for TV or DVD.
Yeah. This is a Disney animated motion picture.
Well, what was it then in that original concept that justified this property as the one to go all in with? What was the x-factor that made it go?
Well, I think the x-factor was that when we started reimagining Big Hero 6 with Don and his crew, there was a story there of two brothers. I think it was a boy and his robot kind of thing that makes it very Disney in the traditional sense. But the beauty of this is that Don is a real Marvel fan, and he’s embraced the visual history of Marvel. I think we’ve gone and lectured to the animators over there about what Marvel is and how we look at visual dynamics in our comics — everything from Jack Kirby to John Romita Sr. to John Romita Jr. So there’s a lot of Marvel influence in this, which is really cool. It’s going to be an amazing blend of what Disney does in animation and what Marvel does in the action adventure genre.
Check back later today for more Angela discussion with Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, plus the exclusive debut of Sara Pichelli’s Angela-riffic cover for “Guardians of the Galaxy” #6!