CUP O' JOE: A Marvel U Overview

With Thanksgiving still on the minds of fans everywhere, we at CBR are thankful for our chance to round out the holiday week with an all-new installment of CUP O' JOE! Exclusively here at CBR, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief and Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada opens up the minds of the Marvelous, revealing the ins and outs of everything from comics to animation and beyond!

Anchored by the always entertaining weekly team of MARVEL T&A (that's Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso) and driven by a regular string of responses to the boldest questions submitted on the CBR message boards for some one-on-one fan Q&A, we present loads of exclusive Marvel content across our CUP O' JOE mini-site from the latest installments of Joe's regular interviews with the CBR staff, CUP O' DOODLES sketch fests, polls, videos and more!

This week, Joe lands back at CBR to give a broad overview of where and how he plays into Marvel's various publishing lines. From the world of comics where he weighs in on the cancelation of "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" and promises no hype for "Death of Spider-Man" to the world of TV and animation where he addresses the wider goals that could effect rumored projects like "The Incredible Hulk" and "Cloak And Dagger" and on through animation where comics and TV collide, Joe peels back the curtain on the current goings on of Marvel to entice and possibly infuriate readers looking for new news on their favorite Marvel characters. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Welcome back, Joe! It's been a while since you've been in one place long enough to sit down for a regular Cup O' Joe. I trust Tom & Axel have been keeping the flame alive to your satisfaction in the meantime?

Joe Quesada: Not really.

Kiel Phegley: HA! Somehow that's kind of what I thought you'd say.

Joe Quesada: Look, Tom and Axel do a lovely job and I appreciate that it takes two of them to do the job somewhat properly that I did weekly with my eyes closed. Lets face it, it takes a lot of energy to keep the fans interested and riled up. I do have to admit, it bugs me not to have the time these days to do a weekly Friday column, I honestly miss the interaction with the fans.

Kiel Phegley: All right then! Well, we've got a lot of ground to cover, but I want to start at the ground floor of everything Marvel: the comics. We know that these days you're schedule doesn't allow you to be as hands on with the line as you've been in the past, but what would you say has been the role you're playing now? How have you been working to shape the general plan for publishing for 2011?

Joe Quesada: My role is more global in publishing these days. I'm very much involved and hands on with our events, big storylines and important initiatives and because I do that same function across all areas of the company now, I also work as a conduit between the different creative divisions of the company.

Kiel Phegley: For the layperson, how exactly does that work?

Joe Quesada: That's actually a great question, let me try to simplify it as best as I can. Because I'm working with our movie, TV, animation and comics divisions, I'm privy to tons of things that are going on creatively throughout every department. However, it's impossible for the folks in publishing to know everything that's happening in animation and it's impossible for the folks in animation to know everything that's happening in film and so on. Sure, we know the big things for the most part, but there may be things that are just starting to percolate that we may be able to draw lines of connectivity between.

So let's say that Jeph Loeb and his team are looking to develop a particular animated show within the next two years, the guys in publishing may not be aware of this until it's closer to reality. Now, I may be at a big publishing creative summit and we may hit upon an idea that might work perfectly for what the animation folk are trying to develop so this is where creative connections can be made that might bring a lot of value to both divisions. It's all very organic, but I'm finding that little by little there's a synergy that seems to be developing that I think will go a long way towards cohesiveness as we continue to grow. This is increasingly important, now that we're part of a bigger family, we're growing very quickly but we still need to stay grounded to our roots and by that I mean publishing and our fans which is where everything begins. We can never lose sight of that.

Kiel Phegley: Are there any comics projects you've had a hand in shaping or at least been around to see grow from initial pitch to final product that you think will be particularly important to Marvel coming up this year?

Joe Quesada: Absolutely, a bunch of them. Anything that you see as a big initiative, I'm absolutely involved in. What I'm not involved in is every single story arc across every single title. I just don't have the time to be in every single story meeting, especially when my days consist of a variety of creative meetings across divisions. Also, my staff doesn't need me micro managing the Marvel line - guys like Axel and Tom are much better editors than me, and they've done a great job over the years of helping me oversee the entire universe.

Kiel Phegley: The other side of publishing that we've been talking a lot with Tom and Axel about lately has been making the line a bit more manageable after a lot of product has been hitting to tie into movies like "Thor" and "Captain America." In fact, I'm pretty sure the large amount of books out there could be a contributing factor to a critical hit like "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" not making enough sales to stay on the racks. How do you creatively meet the challenge of keeping the line focused where fans know which books are there to meet their specific interests?

Joe Quesada: Well, we're definitely cutting back a little on the number of limited series we're doing and focusing more on our ongoing mainline titles. And yes, while we have a significant number of Thor and Cap titles out due to the upcoming movies, I don't think that's why a wonderful title like "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" suffered. It had the same opportunity at success as the other books. While the content of "TTMA" was spectacular, it seems to have suffered from one pitfall, and it's a constant double-edged sword we deal with on a daily basis. We want to do quality, accessible, continuity-light 
projects and fans request it all the time, but the reality is that the marketplace ends up dictating that the product that does the best are the stories that are connected to the current continuity, that readers perceive as mattering. I wish I could change that fact because I'd love for us to do more project like "TTMA," but right now with the economy being what it is, unfortunately, the math doesn't lie.

Kiel Phegley: One specific project I have to ask about is the upcoming Ultimate event "Death of Spider-Man." We'd heard that the recent Ultimate summit was one in which Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar and company were making some drastic changes, and this sounds like the result of that. As you were in the room for those meeting, what can you tell us about who pitched this story initially, and what was your reaction to that as Ultimate Spider-Man and the Ultimate is in many ways your longest-running initiative as E-i-C?

Joe Quesada: Well, here's the deal, I'm not going to comment on any of the big Ultimate plans just yet. While you may have seen an ad here and there, we have a strategy in hand that I can't divulge just yet, and part of that is that I'm not going to say anything about anything that's going on. Yes, you've heard it here first, for the first time I'm not going to engage anyone in any hype or teasers designed to break the internet in half or any other such percentage. But I will say this, when we all got together last month to discuss the Ultimate Universe, it was like being right back at the beginning ten years ago. Stuff was being thrown around the room like it was the Wild West all over again. We started the two day summit by challenging ourselves and the room to go for it and get back to doing with the Ultimate U what it does best, which is look at the Marvel characters and do things that are beyond unexpected and the extraordinary. Out of that challenge came some of the most incredible stuff, but it's going to have to wait for another day for me to talk about it. Let's just say that the Ultimate U is going to set the standard once again.

Kiel Phegley: That said, the pre-debut hype for this series has already contained phrases like "nothing will ever be the same" and "a storyline unlike any other." To be frank, readers hear these kinds of things constantly for modern comic stories, making it hard to cut through the hype. Is there something specific about this story you can share that assures fans it's not just a stunt killing?

Joe Quesada: How about this? I can't say anything at all. As a matter of fact, I have no idea what you're talking about. The truth of the matter is that whatever you're referring to, whatever fans have seen advertised or in the comic's press, they should just forget the saw it. It's a misprint, it's a glitch in the time stream, a wobble in the cosmic continuum, I have no idea what you're talking about??? Keep walking, there is no hype here, no hype here.

Kiel Phegley: Cool. The other division of Marvel that's been getting a lot of traction in the news of late has been Marvel TV ever since Mr. Jeph Loeb took control a few months back. In general, what can you tell us about you and he have been interacting on development? What's your first goal in launching a Marvel TV series?

Joe Quesada: What I can tell you is quite a lot yet very little. We are working on a significant number of ideas with some brilliantly talented TV folk, but that's all I can say about it for now. As much as the world of comics is filled with rumor and innuendo, the world of movies and TV is fueled by it. It's a cottage industry. There's a lot of stuff out there about what we supposedly have planned, but I'm not going to add any wood to the fire just yet, at least not until there are concrete things to report. That said, I'm out of my head with excitement at some of the things I've read and heard pitched for the small screen. When I think back to just where we were last year as a company and I look at us today, it's pretty miraculous. When people use to ask me years ago where I saw Marvel ten years in the future, I would always say, "Complete worldwide domination!" Looks like we're on our way!

Kiel Phegley: It had been a long time since we've had a straight comic book TV series in primetime but over the past few years fans have seen a lot more of their favorite stories on air from "Smallville's" shift to a more superhero show to "The Walking Dead's" highly faithful adaptation of the comic on AMC. What does the success of a faithful adaptation - primarily in tone, but also with story - mean to the future of comic adaptations in TV, and how does Marvel plan to capitalize on that?

Joe Quesada: At it's most basic it just shows that there are no limits to what we can do in comics, and it once again exemplifies the mainstreaming of what was once a niche medium. For those of us in the world of comics, these are incredibly exciting times and it's only going to get more so.

One of the great values of being a part of the Disney family is that we have access to a lot of incredible demographic research. Over this last year we've learned more about our audience and about our prospective audience than I think we've ever known in our history. One of oft repeated concerns from people in the comics industry is this fear of fragility: when are comic book movies going to run their course because surely they will? There was a time when this may have been a valid concern, the fear that we're always just one bad movie away from being "The Western." Well, it seems that that isn't really a valid concern anymore because of how the mainstream now views comic book/super hero movies. The revelation today is that the viewing public doesn't see our movies as a separate genre...a niche genre. Movies like "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America" and "Green Lantern" are now lumped in with movies like "Star Trek," "Tron," "Harry Potter" and "Transformers." They're all part of the blockbuster/big action/special-effect/adventure world, that's a huge shift in perception. Simply said, as long as big budget, special effects movies are in vogue, so will GOOD comic book movies.

To me, that was some of the best news I've heard in my ten plus years here at Marvel. So, it's no wonder that TV will be the next big frontier for us to conquer.

Kiel Phegley: In terms of specifics, we've heard a few pieces of info on what shows may be making their way to air first from Marvel. The biggest story of late is the word that "Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro and "Battlestar Galactica" executive producer David Eick may be on tap for an "Incredible Hulk" TV series. What suits this team to tell that character's story?

Joe Quesada: To be honest, Kiel, I can't comment on anything that we haven't formally announced or on anything in the rumor mill. Never did when it was only comics, won't start now.

Kiel Phegley: In that case, with his upcoming role in the "Avengers" movie, why move the Hulk back to TV now? Is part of the draw the nostalgia for the original Bill Bixby/Lou Ferigno series?

Joe Quesada: La-la-la-la-la, I can't hear you!

Kiel Phegley: Well, I still have to ask about the other show that's been named as in development: "Cloak And Dagger" which is a Marvel property with a strong following that doesn't always find a way to make it as a solo series in comic shops. Why is TV a good fit for those characters, and what kind of tone with a "Cloak And Dagger" TV show carry?

Joe Quesada: While I'm not going to comment on rumors, what I can say is that when you look at Marvel and it's characters we have a huge catalog with tons of characters and concepts that can adapt beautifully to TV. The fun part for our ABC family and us is going through these characters and concepts while figuring out which would be the very best at this exact time.

The one thing that's critical is that whatever that first show turns out be, it has to hit the ground running and it has to kick major ass. We have to make a huge statement about what Marvel TV is and what the future is going to hold for us, so we're taking great care with what we consider for development and how we develop it. This will also take into account the creative people that we choose to get involve with on each of our shows, and in the Merry Marvel tradition, we'll only be working with the very best.

Kiel Phegley: Lastly, Disney CEO Robert Iger was recently quoted as saying that three Marvel series were headed to TV. Any word on what the third will be?

Joe Quesada: Let me say again for the record, La-la-la-la-la, I can't hear you!

Kiel Phegley: Moving over to Marvel Animation, we've gotten a lot of questions for you on the board about what's next for the TV and DVD projects Marvel has in the hopper. Let's start with pblimp360 who had some questions about the recently launched "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!" series on Disney XD. He asked, "With 'The Avengers' [airing], and Christopher Yost already actively being a part of things as one of the writers of the show, how active will other writers and staff from Marvel be a part of this? Are they consulting with you guys for better stories, art direction and such?"

Joe Quesada: Yes, pblimp360, absolutely! Chris has done a spectacular job and is very emblematic of what we want to continue doing as we move forward with our animated shows. We want to get more and more of our comic book talents involved. As I'm sure you've heard announce, "Ultimate Spider-Man" has enlisted Man of Action and Brian Bendis to be part of the writing and brain trust as well as the brilliant Paul Dini. There are more people to talk about with respect to "USM," but I'll let J-Loeb break that news when the time is right. He hates it when I take all his glory.

As we discuss more and more future animated shows, one of the first things Jeph and I talk about is who from the Marvel world can we tap to come on board. Obviously, this is project specific as we want to use people on projects that they would be best suited for, so I think it's a good bet that you'll be seeing many familiar names as time goes on.

One of the things that we've often talked about is how there is a certain look and feel to marvel Comics that is unlike any other company's comics. There has always been a noticeable and real difference in what a Marvel Comic looks like versus a DC book or any other company for that matter. It's in our DNA, it started fifty years ago, a dynamism, an explosiveness and a self-defacing nature that we're going to work very hard at bringing to our animated shows. So, what better way to tap into that than to go to the source, the people who create our books.

Kiel Phegley: He followed up with "The show from what we've seen look great, but if the first season is successful, as I'm sure it will be, will there be a larger focus on bringing in other characters from the comics for a cameo?"

Joe Quesada: Absolutely! What's really been fun about the Avengers animated show isn't just bringing you some great characters and stories adapted from past legendary comic book arcs, but also having guest appearances by some of the newer characters in our universe.

Okay, you can tell I'm excited, I've said too much.

Kiel Phegley: Darkxmen is up next, wondering "with Disney behind marvel, will we see any big events like Civil War, Siege, or even Chaos War or a mini series like Ares go to your straight to DVD ( excuse me blu ray all the way) movies? Lionsgate really dropped the ball on getting those type of movies done."

Joe Quesada: Darkxmen, while I would never discount something like that, there are no current plans but it's not like they haven't been discussed.

Kiel Phegley: Lastly, we have frequent questioner Hypestyle asking "I have the dvd set to "Super Hero Squad season one", it's great stuff. I'd like to know how you choose the characters to be involved in every episode?"

Joe Quesada: Because SHS is such a fun show to produce, we tend to get pretty silly during our creative meetings. In-between chuckling, snorts and milk shooting out of our noses, someone will inevitably raise their hand with an "Oooo-Oooo! Wouldn't it be hysterical if [Insert character] came to the world of SHS and did [Insert ludicrous idea]!!!" Once the room stops giggling and manages to compose itself (which could take some time as usually someone starts giggling again and reignites the whole thing), we find ourselves with a fun mix of classic, modern and sometimes obscure characters that end up in our show.

Kiel Phegley: And he follows up with a question that a few folks have been chiming in with: "Now that Marvel Comics owns MarvelMan, when can we expect to see him make an appearance in a video game or an animated show?"

Joe Quesada: Patience, Hypestyle, all good things come to those that wait.

Kiel Phegley: To wrap, I have to ask after movie stuff really quickly. I'm assuming you've been out to the "Captain America" set a few times this summer. What was your experience with those folks like, and now that you know the shape of that movie, have you been taking everything from it and Thor to Joss Whedon to work on "Avengers" next?"

Joe Quesada: The honest truth Kiel is that I have not had the chance to visit the Cap set over in London. This summer I've spent so much time in LA on other business that the idea of taking a few days to head out of the country was just too exhausting a proposition when piggy backed against west coast trips. My work on the Cap movie consists mainly of working with Kevin Feige, Stephen Broussard and the writers on the outline and the story. In my role as CCO, effecting things on set is not one of my responsibilities. Kevin and his crew are brilliant moviemakers, believe me, they don't need my help in that area. So at the end of the day, a visit to the Cap set would have consisted of me just hanging out, watching a master like Joe Johnston do his thing and turning down the constant hassle of being asked to be a body double for Chris Evans as Steve Rogers once he comes out of the Project Rebirth experiment. I'm a humble guy, I never go shirtless.

Have some questions for Joe Quesada or Marvel T&A? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It is from this dedicated thread that CBR's staff will pull questions for our next week's massive return to our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer session with Marvel Editorial! Do it to it!

Tags: joe quesada, marvel studios, cup o joe, avengers earths mightiest heroes, death of spider-man, thor the mighty avenger

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