Chicago, Day 1: Locked & Loaded - Quesada on Marvel's "Young Guns" Initiative

Announced today during the Cup O' Joe panel at Wizard World Chicago (coverage to come shortly), Marvel Comics unveiled a new company initiative dubbed the Young Guns. Simply put, the company has identified six up-and-coming artists who will help pave the way of Marvel's future. CBR News spoke with Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada to learn more about the initiative, its origins and which artists make up the Young Guns.

"The Young Guns initiative is quite simple," Quesada told CBR News earlier this week. "Over the last year or so I've been noticing a wave of young artist coming through the door who just have this particular vibe, a certain energy, you know, that X factor that you just can't define, that makes a future superstar penciler. It's that magic that you feel when you first see someone like J. Scott Campbell or Travis Charest. You know these are talents who, with proper career management, will be the next super stars to drive fans to the stores, fill our books with excitement and keep retailer's registers ringing. To be quite honest I don't think I've seen a current wave of talent like this since the early nineties."

The artists making up the Young Guns are Jimmy Cheung, Olivier Copiel, David Finch, Trevor Hairsine, Adi Granov and Steve McNiven. Each artist is exclusive to Marvel. Quesada talked briefly about each artist.

"...I can't tell you how proud I am of this first group," said Quesada. "You'll also notice that a few of the names on this list aren't exactly brand new guys to the industry, so let me explain.

"David Finch: Dave's been around for a while, as he can attest to, I've been a huge fan of his since he stepped into the comic's arena back in the day with Top Cow. David's biggest problem was that he was one of the best draftsman working in comics that wasn't producing. Dave took a proactive stance to change his life around and to make a commitment to himself and his fans and is now producing about thirteen issues a year. How often do you see that? So, to many people he was the best kept secret in comics and now he's going to influence the look of the 'Avengers' for the next 20 years I feel in the same way George Perez did.

"Jimmy Cheung: Here's a young artist who has been around a bit, went to Crossgen and suddenly started to hit his stride. I have more writers dying to work with Jimmy than I care to think of, the line goes out the door. He has a unique style that's perfect for the Marvel Universe because he has a keen understanding of how to tell a story and bigger than life dynamics.

"Olivier Copiel: Since day one at Marvel I coveted having this guy on our team. Another one of the best-kept secrets in comics. Olivier was working for another publisher and I kept shaking my head because I knew he was being miss cast and placed on books not worthy of his A list talent. Books that no one was reading. As soon as he became available we snapped him up and you've only seen the very tip of what he can do. His upcoming issues on Uncanny are going to be the breakthrough book he's needed.

"Trevor Hairsine: One of our relative newcomers, I brought Trevor in to first do Marvel Knights work for me. His few issues on 'Cla$$ War' were breathtaking and I knew that we were looking at someone of Brian Hitch type talent and potential. Since then, Trev has moved straight to the ranks of the Ultimates, not a small feat for someone barely a year in the industry at the time. This guy's got talent coming out of his ears! A true classic artists with incredible classical rendering skills. You know this guy knows anatomy better than most of us.

"Steve McNiven: What can I say about this guy? He hasn't even been at Marvel for a year and right now he is the most copied artist I've seen in the last 10 years. By that I mean that when Jim Lee was at his 'X-Men' pinnacle, every kid's portfolio was full of Jim Lee swipes. Several years later and the world was filled with Joe Mad, Campbell and Charest clones. Today, 75% of the portfolios I'm looking at are all McNiven wannabes. That tells you something about this guy's universal commercial appeal. Truly one of the most uniquely commercial styles I've ever seen. The skies the limit for Steve.

"Adi Granov: It's a new age for comics and the world of illustration. Over the last few years I've seen many computer artist trying to do their best to make CGI Comics palatable. The over all problem is stiffness and a certain disconnection that the art has to the reader. Well, that was until this kid named Adi came along. Classically trained with Mac in hand, he's going to redefine how comics are done and look. From the minute you see Adi's work you know that it's something special. Since Adi has walked through our doors at Marvel, we've started to notice more and more CGI artists who are starting to get better at the craft, but I believe Adi and a few future wave Young Guns will be blazing the trails and showing us how it's done."

Quesada explained that there will be additional waves of Young Guns to come at Marvel, but that these six artists make up their first grouping. "These guys are the new front line taking comics forward into the next age," said Quesada.

"The toughest thing was just picking out six, especially when we have so many more artist who are also worthy of this honor. I'm pretty certain that you'll be seeing wave two. I think what will be fun for us and the fans is to see who gets selected. By the way, I encourage Marvel fans to write in if they have a favorite young talent that they feel is deserving of wave two. I'm here and I'm listening!"

The genesis of this initiative lies in Quesada's interest in setting the stage for the next set of super-star comic artists in the industry.

"Well, the initial concept came as I started to see all these great new artist coming through the door and I just felt in my heart of hearts that we needed a proper way to market their careers," said Quesada. "Say what you will about me but I think that the one thing I know how to do well is manage a career. So, this is one of the many steps that we'll be taking towards promoting our new hot talents who have decided to make Marvel home and secure that they have long, healthy and successful futures in the comic's biz and at Marvel."

Each of these artists will be contributing to the next phase of the "Avengers" in a big way, with Finch handling the artistic chores on the title. Artist Jimmy Cheung will help launch "Young Avengers" which Quesada says "will be our most controversial and soon to be incredibly popular title." Announcements regarding the other artist's involvement will be announced during a panel at Wizard World Chicago, to be found later today on CBR & Newsarama.

Currently, artists like John Romita Jr., the Kubert brothers and Brian Hitch are thought of as definitive Marvel artists, but don't go calling them the "Old Guns."

"JR JR, the Kubert's, Hitch are our Guns, nothing old about these guys," said Quesada. "These guys are the brick and mortar on which Marvel is built. What the Young Guns initiative represents is a lot of pressure taken off the shoulders of these guys. The more talent we have, the more special each book becomes. Guys like Andy, Adam, JR, Brian and so many others are our proven superstars. These are the guys that all the up and comers look up to. But for the continued life's blood of any comic's universe, you have to always bring in fresh new voices, it raises every one's game just as having guy like JR JR, the Kubert's and Hitch raises our young talent's game."

As has been mentioned above, each of these artists is signed exclusively to the house of ideas. In recent years, the exclusive has taken on increased importance in the industry, giving a publishing company bragging rights and creators financial security. While exclusive contracts have been around for years, in the last five years Marvel, DC and other companies have signed more creators to exclusives than at any other time in comics history.

"It's the latest rage, the newest fad," Quesada said of exclusive agreements. "For my career, exclusives were never the way to go, but it's a different world today and in many cases it seems to be working out well for many creators. I guess the biggest problem comes when someone signs exclusive, is promised a bill of goods and then finds that they are never delivered. I've been hearing some horror stories. Nothing worse than being stuck somewhere you're not having fun at.

"At Marvel we spend quite a bit of time and money marketing our exclusive talents and Young Guns is just one of those ways. We feel that this is both important for our artists and, of course, as that talent's cache increases in the industry we all benefit from that. It's a win-win for the talent, publisher, retailer and fans!"

Quesada shared some final thoughts with our readers about the Young Guns.

"It's just fun to see and watch these guys coming through our doors and establishing themselves as the next big wave.

"And as I said, stand by, you can probably figure out who may be a YG wave two creator, but you never know and your e-mails count.

"See ya in the funnybooks!"

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