Here we go again with another jam-packed installment of CUP O' JOE! Exclusively here at CBR, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada opens up the minds of the Marvelous, revealing the ins and outs of everything from comics to animation and beyond!
Driven by a regular string of responses to the biggest questions submitted on the CBR message boards for our CUP O' Q&A feature, we present loads of CUP O' JOE content across our 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, the news out of Marvel crosses into both the celebratory and the controversial as Joe delivers his first Cup O Joe as the newly minted Marvel Chief Creative Officer while also speaking to the much ballyhooed day-and-date release for Marvel's "Invincible Iron Man Annual" online (including clearing up the confusion over the pricing of the book in Marvel's Apple App) and knocks out a bevy of fan questions on Marvel's titles including the tease of a new Marvel Universe comic written by Mark Millar.
CUP O' JOE is Executive Produced by Jonah Weiland and Produced by Kiel Phegley.
Kiel Phegley: Well, Joe, for starters congratulations are in order. You're now Marvel CCO! This certainly is a big deal for you and for Marvel, it seems. I don't think there's ever been a position like this for the company, even back to when Stan first moved to L.A. to work in animation, has there?
Joe Quesada: That's not really accurate. Avi Arad had the CCO title for some time. Historically speaking, a CCO title is a relatively new convention within the world of business, so the title simply didn't exist back in the day. You could argue that Stan would certainly have held the title in the late '60s and '70s if it had, as he operated very much like a CCO during that period.
Kiel Phegley: So in general, what does this mean for what you do?
Joe Quesada: It means I'm going to be very, very tired.
Kiel Phegley: It seems very much an expansion of your duties in publishing to include all areas Marvel works in, but are there some specific job changes or responsibilities on your mind that maybe folks didn't get from the press release?
Joe Quesada: On the surface, that's a pretty accurate description - it's an expansion of my duties. What that simply means is that, along with overseeing publishing, I'll have a hand guiding everything from animation to movies to TV as we move forward in this amazing new Disney world we now live in. The best part of this is that I'll also have an opportunity to work in a more official capacity with all of the incredible people we have in all our creative divisions. In the past I've helped by consulting, but now I can actually get my hands dirty and dig along with everyone else.
I'm also going to be learning a lot. I'm looking forward to working with people like Cort Lane and Eric Rollman at Marvel Animation and Kevin Feige and his entire team at Marvel Studios. These are some of the smartest and most talented people in the biz. It's going to be a lot of fun.
In a more detailed sense, there will be some significant changes. The most obvious one will be the fact that I'll be spending a lot of time out west. There will be a ton of changes and some stuff that I need to get my arms around - some of it can be even be filed under, "The Great Unknown." By that, I mean that there's some defining of the CCO position that I'll have to do on the fly. While Avi was our previous CCO and did a wonderful job, he wasn't intimately involved with publishing and Marvel wasn't under the Disney family umbrella. And that's what makes this new job incredibly interesting to me. It's the new challenges and opportunities that come with it as Marvel becomes a truly global company as part of the Disney family.
When you look at Marvel today, as opposed to even just four years ago, we are a much different place. We now produce our own movies, not just license them. We now produce our own animation and are slowly building a studio and infrastructure and [are] starting to develop more and more ideas and shows. We of course produce the greatest comics on the planet, and now more and more doors will be opening up for us as we integrate with the rest of our family. And that's everyone from ESPN to ABC to Disney World Wide Publishing and so on. We've been America's Storyteller for a very long time - it's now time to expand that to the rest of the World.
Kiel Phegley: Let's take some of your new work that fans will really want to hear about one piece at a time. Starting with the movie side of things, we know you've been a part of the Marvel Creative Committee for years giving notes and suggestions about various films. What kind of involvement do you expect to have now that you're CCO? Will you be working in terms of hiring the talent who will be working on the movies from writers and directors to actors, or will your role be more about shaping the films once the creative teams are in place?
Joe Quesada: My most immediate role will fall into several categories as I see it right now, too many to list and some of which I'm not at liberty to say, but fans will find it mindblowingly CCOl, when they hear about it.
But as an example, I'll be working on our movies with the Studios team in a very creative sense and the bulk of that will involve story and the look of our films. I'll also be getting deeply involved in helping out with our Writer's Program and I'll be working to build a more tangible bridge between all the creative divisions of Marvel so that we are all operating and working together towards the same objectives. We do an amazing job of this already, but I feel that we can get even better at it.
For example, I remember a world not too long ago, when comic fans used to worry - and rightfully so - about comic book movies having too much of an influence on what the comics looked like or how they read. I think that was a valid concern for some time. But today, when you can see that Marvel Studios movies are so beautifully influenced by what happens in publishing, the lines get blurred and one set of creative ideas influence the other and back again. A perfect example of this is that, I feel that the visuals for Asgard and Bifrost are so amazing in our upcoming Thor movie, that I would be floored if they didn't affect how we started to draw them in the comics. They have re-imagined these things in a way that keeps the original idea alive while modernizing it for a new audience in a way that is wholly unique. In contrast, I think you'll see how so many comic book ideas and designs have made their way into the movie as well. In short, what will happen is that you'll see a world in which the very best ideas will rise to the top and will make their way across the spectrum of Marvel Entertainment.
Another good example of this will be that some of our Marvel West creative folk will be at some of our Publishing Summits. It will be a great way for them to get even deeper insight into upcoming storylines that might influence what we do in our movies and cartoons.
Kiel Phegley: Going back to "Blade," even, this past ten plus years of Marvel films have seen more and more connective tissue grow between the comics and comic creators and the final movies that hit theaters. A lot of this has to do with directors and producers being fans of the original material, but in recent years we've seen a much stronger connection like seeing Adi Granov's designs used in "Iron Man" and seeing Brian Bendis write the Nick Fury scene in that movie as well. Do you at all plan to bring along more comic book talent to the film side of things?
Joe Quesada: Well, if you look at the Adi Granov and Brian Bendis involvement in Marvel movies as a particular point in our creative history, what is very evident to anyone who follows our movies, is that this happened right as Marvel started to produce its own flicks. With our licensed movies, we don't have that kind of control. With Marvel Studios movies we have full control, and we're able to assign any talent that we feel is appropriate to make that movie the very best it can be. And yes, many times that talent comes from the comic book ranks.
I certainly envision a world in which fans of the Marvel Universe will see more and more recognizable names involved in all areas of Marvel. Comics, animation, movies, TV, video games, you name it. At the end of the day we'll be looking to use the best and brightest of the creative world has to offer on our products, and many of the best and brightest work in the land of comic books.
Kiel Phegley: Speaking of publishing, we know that you've been very busy of late already dividing your time between your Editor-in-Chief duties and your newer animation gig - and dividing time between New York and LA. With even more LA work on tap, isn't something going to have to give in terms of your work schedule and how much time you can commit to each of these different units within Marvel? How are you holding it all together, man?!?!?
Joe Quesada: With a little Scotch Tape and paperclips. Yes, there's no question that it's a lot of work, but we've got some more surprises coming Marvel fans' way. Stay tuned, maybe even this week. Like I said, Marvel is truly becoming a global company, so over the next few months and years fans will see how we're going to be addressing this incredible period and opportunity.
Kiel Phegley: With that in mind, what will your role be in the creation of comics? Surely you won't have time to get into the nuts and bolts of each series or even each franchise the way you were able to in years past. Will your E-i-C role turn into something similar to your CCO duties, where you work on big picture events and idea creation while guys like Tom and Axel help guide the monthly schedule?
Joe Quesada: Yes, but it won't be that radical a change with respect to our publishing division, as over the last year and a half or so this has been the case. With my increased travel schedule over the last year plus, I've only been able to work with the publishing division in a more macro sense, or as you put it, a more, "big picture," sense. During this time, Tom and Axel have been handling the more detailed functions of the stories within our comics. My role has been one in which I work on the larger stories and the overall flavor and feel of our books and universe.
Kiel Phegley: Somewhat connected, do you think you'll have any time to draw in the future? Are there certain projects you're looking lend your pencil to on the publishing side or elsewhere in the company?
Joe Quesada: Time to draw will be sparse from what I could sense right now. There is absolutely no way that I'll be able to draw anything that is on a schedule of any kind. Maybe there'll be the occasional cover here and there, but as for sequential stuff, man, I haven't a clue when I'll be able to get behind the drawing board and have enough time to get anything significant done. So, for now "OMIT" will be the last project where you'll see me drawing any interior pages. It actually makes me pretty sad even just saying it out loud. Before, when I was solely doing my E-i-C duties, I could at least fool myself on occasion into believing that I could do a significant amount of interior artwork. No such luck with this new job description, there's just too much to do and too many moving parts to even remotely think about any more additional work without driving myself into a cold sweat and or blind panic.
Kiel Phegley: Perhaps this is something that you won't know until it's upon you, but do you expect your public profile with Marvel to change at all moving forward? Most executives even at entertainment companies aren't known for interacting with fans as much as we do in comics in general and in things like Cup O' Joe specifically. Do you expect you'll still be out there chairing convention panels, getting one-on-one time with fans and playing rock concerts with your new title firmly in place?
Joe Quesada: That's one thing that I'm absolutely sure won't change. I personally need the connection to our fans. It's the only way I know to have an intimate understanding of what it is that they want from Marvel and their universe. Also, as I see it, I owe the fans everything and it's because of that, that I always want to keep an open channel. I want to continue with as many interviews and columns as time permits, as well as answer as many e-mails as come across my desk. I wouldn't be here at Marvel or in this new position, or heck - even drawing comics, if it weren't for the fans. Now granted, because of all the crazy travel I've been doing these past few months, it's arguably been difficult for me to keep up a weekly COJ schedule, but I'm hoping to remedy that as time goes on. I can't promise that it'll be weekly, but I am planning on getting back in the saddle. I just need to settle into a new role, but I'll still find a way to let our fans know what's going on in the Marvel U and I'll even find time to piss off DC.
What, too soon?
Kiel Phegley: We've talked a lot here about the ways in which being CCO is changing things, but looking forward to what you'll be taking on, what's the thing you're most looking forward to that'll be different from your job in the past?
Joe Quesada: Just the absolute variety of different creators and projects I'll be working with. At the end of the day, the very best part of my job here at Marvel is that I have the unique privilege of spending every day making up stories and drawing CCOl pictures with some of the greatest creative minds on the planet. That's just been timed by a hundred! In short, I get paid to do what I used to get yelled at in school for doing. So, it's really not all that much different except that I get to do more of it across a larger canvas.
I can't wait, it's going to be a heck of a ride!
Kiel Phegley: Joe, the big news that just hit was Marvel's simultaneous release of the "Invincible Iron Man Annual" on the iTunes Marvel App and in comic shops. There's been a lot of talk surrounding this, but I think the most pressing question is why is now the time for Marvel to be testing the day-and-date waters, and why is this annual the book you're doing it with?
Joe Quesada: We've been up and running with the Marvel App for over two months now, and it's been a resounding success. Up 'til now, the books we've posted have been slightly older titles that have already seen print in various forms, shapes and sizes. All eyes are on us as the industry leader here, so we've been looking for the perfect opportunity to present something on a day and date release to test the waters. The folks who manage the digital comics decided to work with the "Iron Man Annual" for a few reasons, the first being that, hey it's Iron Man, one of our most recognizable characters in the world right now. One would have to assume that because of the overwhelming popularity of the iPad Marvel App, there are people who have it who may never have ventured into a comic shop or perhaps lost interest in comics many years ago and are curious as to what's been happening in our fantastic universe. The hope is that we capitalize on that and the high profile of Iron Man, get readers interested in this single story and from there, if they want to purchase more or purchase that issue, they are directed to comic shops. So it's a sales and marketing test and just one of a few we have coming up. Keep in mind that prior to this, we were already receiving reports of new readers coming into comic shops shortly after the announcement of the Marvel App a few months ago.
Kiel Phegley: Marvel has often spoken about how important brick and mortar retailers remain to the company, even as aggressive digital distribution plans continue to grow. Is there a way that this day-and-date release won't be seen as product being released in direct competition with physical retailers for the same readership?
Joe Quesada: Whether folks choose to believe it or not, the direct market is always our first concern and keeping them in great product and healthy, as well as driving new customers into their stores, is our primary goal in everything we do in comics. As I mentioned, we chose the Annual for a few reasons. In this case, and it's just a fact of our industry today, annuals tend to have lower circulation in the direct market then the monthly title it's connected to. So, even if this were to take any customer away, the effects would be quite minimal. In fact, the hope would be that by testing a high profile writer, like Matt Fraction, on a high profile character like Iron Man, anyone who tries out the digital comic will most certainly want to go pick up his latest Iron Man issue and then perhaps his latest X-Men work and/or past collections. The place that they would do that and get directed properly to all of this would be at their local comic shops. That's why the comic shop locator is integral to the Marvel App; to make it easy for folks to find a comic store near them.
Again, let me reiterate, so far there is no evidence to show that people are stopping their purchasing of print comics for digital, and in fact most of what we have learned has shown that we're capturing new and lapsed readers and sending them back into comic shops, a fact that has been confirmed by several direct market retailers.
Kiel Phegley: We've spoken in the past on sales issues where you're able, and I know the big question floating over the Iron Man annual has been how much the full story will cost online versus its print version. Can you confirm how much the book will cost in each format?
Joe Quesada: The Iron Man comic is over 60 pages, and in print it's priced at $4.99, but on average for that kind of page count, we would have priced it at $5.99 or broken it up into three $2.99 issues. Our comics on the Marvel App are priced at $1.99 and the way the annual is written it breaks up nicely into three chapters perfectly, so that's how we'll break It up in the app. So, when you do the math on this one, the direct market comic shop has the advantage in price on this one, and we've already received word from retailers that they feel this is the best way to set this test up.
Kiel Phegley: Back to content questions, what kinds of products do you expect you'll continue with on this path in the future? Will we see more Marvel books hitting online and in stores together, or will you be looking to create content just for devices like the iPad in the same way you've done for Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited?
Joe Quesada: Wherever we see the opportunity to use the Marvel App and its contents as a tool to drive new customers into comic shops to pick up single issue comics trades, and any other product, we'll take it. We have more test runs coming up over the next few months covering different aspects of our publishing line in order to test the waters. There are those guys who are saying we're moving too fast, but I don't feel that's true. We're slowly testing every scenario we can think of to find out what the best plan of attack is going to be. What generally happens when we do these things is the entire industry will benefit from our successes and mistakes. I mean, we could have gone slower and not have entered the App World at all, but in the end no one benefits from that. Since we're really on the cutting edge of all of this, not only will retailers benefit from this, but so will creators, and just as importantly other publishers who will benefit by what it is that we do. But this is nothing new to us at Marvel, we've been leading the charge for a long time now.
Kiel Phegley: Let's move on to questions from the fans! Hooking up on a cross-media idea that you might be able to speak to as CCO, Hypestyle asked, "Reading through some mid-90s back issues, I see where Marvel at one point had plans for a 'Marvel Music' line based on various popular music artists, putting them in adventure scenarios. I don't recall that any actually came out, however. Do you know anything about that aborted project, and could it be revived, with today's music stars?"
Joe Quesada: Hey, Hypestyle, no sorry,I don't really know much about that project other than it's not happening to my knowledge. That said, our motion picture, animation and publishing divisions are already very involved with music when you look at things like our film, animation and Motion Comics slate.
But hey, maybe somewhere down the line we'll be able to produce more classics like this.
Kiel Phegley: And MIMIC616 wanted to know, "Will we see any more Marvel Animated Movies in 2010? Like Annihilation, Captain Britain with MI13, or Dark X-Men?"
Joe Quesada: Yo, MIMIC616, no, there aren't any new Marvel Animated Movies scheduled for 2010.
Kiel Phegley: nightwing45 had three questions, starting with: "1. Mark Millar mentioned he was working on a Spider-Man related project on BBC radio, I don't know how long ago. Can you tell us what it is about? Or is it too soon?"
Joe Quesada: Well, nightwing45, I don't believe it was a Spider-Man project he was referring to, but a Marvel Universe project. Anyway, why don't we go right to the door of his little hobbit house and ask the crazy Scotsman himself!
Mark Millar: Ah, I'm glad you brought this up because I've been putting together notes on this for months and I'm getting very excited about it. I like the idea of jumping back and forth between creator-owned books and Marvel projects. It just appeals to me creatively, and when I've run out of juice on one thing I can jump over to the other, feeling completely rejuvenated again. I've a wave of Millarworld things either out now or coming out soon with "Nemesis," "Superior" and of course "Kick-Ass 2" starting in August, but then it's straight back into a Marvel mega project for me to exercise the other side of my brain. In the meantime, you have the amazing Leinil,Yu drawing Ghost Rider, Punisher, our new Hulk and all your favourites in "Ultimate Avengers 2" (with Steve Dillon already hard at work on "Ultimate Avengers 3" featuring Blade and my brand new Daredevil). But between now and Christmas I'm getting serious on this highly classified Marvel project and hope to come out to New York soon to talk to the guys in a little more detail. It's way to soon for spoilers and so a hint is probably best at this stage, even if it's only a letter. Let me see. What letter could I spill from the title? "X," perhaps?
Kiel Phegley: He goes on to ask, "2. Will we see any reconciliation at some point between Xavier and the X-Men? I'm a big fan of the Claremont/Byrne era, and while I understand the need for this direction. I miss that team dynamic."
Joe Quesada: There isn't really anything to reconcile. Xavier is with the X-Men. He's not their leader anymore, that's Cyclops. But he's coming to terms with that fact. It's hard to go back somewhere you used to run the show and have a subservient role. But don't expect that to change anytime soon. Scott's in charge now - his consiglieres include Emma, Namor and Magneto - and Xavier needs to make peace with that.
Kiel Phegley: And finally, he wonders, "3. Could you name drop three books I should be reading?"