Welcome back to CUP O' JOE, the online home of Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, exclusively at CBR. This is where you can find not only a weekly CUP O' Q&A session with fans, but also near-daily updates with all sorts of material, including new Quesada interviews by the CBR staff, exclusive Quesada sketches in CUP O' DOODLES, polls and more.
In this edition of CUP O'JOE, CBR's Kiel Phegley and Jonah Weiland talk with Joe Quesada about a very unusual comics-collecting question from a fan, the nature of the grueling convention season, how second-tier Marvel characters earn new series, and the process behind Marvel's Events storylines. Joe also reveals some new information about the history of Spider-Girl, and Mark Waid stops by to share an unbelievable fan story.
Remember, if you have some questions for Joe Quesada, 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 weekly fan-generatd question-and-answer session with Joe, the next of which will be this Friday, right here at the CUP O' JOE mini-site.
CUP O' JOE is Executive Produced by Jonah Weiland and Produced by Kiel Phegley.
Kiel Phegley: Joe, we received an e-mail this week that we wanted to respond to, but weren't quite sure how. Maybe you can help us out. This is what CBR reader Kristin had to say:
"My brother recently passed away and in the cleaning out of his offices my sister-in-law and I discovered a multitude of comic books with dates spanning over the last sixty odd years. Most of them are in wonderful shape and have been identified for whatever they are worth, though we do not plan to sell them because they were my brother's passion and when his sons are old enough my sister-in-law and I hope to give them the books as a part of their father's legacy.
"But this is not why I am writing. While going through the stacks and stacks of comics, I stumbled upon a random group that he vacuumed sealed. On the outside, they are labeled as being the first 14 issues of Marvel Comics' 'Spider-Girl' series supposedly still in mint condition. I have found very little information about these comics. Perhaps I have just been writing to the wrong people. If you could point me in the right direction to unraveling the mystery as to why my brother would place so much importance on these 14 comics when he surely had others that were of more value, it would be greatly appreciated."
We talked about this and couldn't think of any reason why Kristin's brother would have saved those specific comics in that specific way. Joe, could you tell Kristin a little bit about why you think fans collect the way they do, and a little about the "Spider-Girl" series?
Joe Quesada: Well, first I want to offer Kristin my deepest condolences at the loss of her brother. This is an interesting one, so I'll try to give it my best shot based upon what we know from the facts in her letter.
I often find that the word "collectability" takes on a very bad stigma, and I think a lot of that has to do with how we went through this very, very bad period in the early to mid '90s where it was all about, "Hey, I'm going to keep this comic and put my kid through college with it someday," instead of an affection for the material and the medium. It was all about money and not the love of comics. Luckily for us, most of those speculators left long ago.
For someone like Kristin's brother who was an obvious fan of the medium, there is a whole other aspect to collectability. It sounds to me that he was like so many of us, who keep our comics or collect certain comics because we have an emotional attachment to them and or they remind us of a particular moment in time in our lives. I have a very small collection. It's a collection that isn't particularly worth much money. They're mostly torn up books, not necessarily hallmark issues, but they mean something to me. I have the first three comics that my father bought me. They were three Spider-Man comics, and they're all torn up and in terrible shape. I didn't really keep them very well but I always kept them very close to my heart. They're comics that I will give to my daughter, and hopefully she can give them to her kids if they last that long.
So, with respect to "Spider-Girl," I don't know what the market value is on those books, but it's probably not a lot, but there are readers out there who do treasure May Day's adventures. Perhaps Kristin's brother may have taken extra care preserving them because perhaps those stories had a particular emotional connection with him or he saw something in those books that he wanted to preserve for a later date. Maybe he was saving them for a special moment - perhaps to hand them down to someone he thought might get a lot out of these comics.
Historically speaking, when Spider-Girl was in her heyday, I think there were a lot of fathers buying the comics to share them with their kids simply because at that point in Marvel's publishing history, I believe the company wasn't producing a lot of titles that were geared strictly for kids; comics that you could hand to a child and know that it was totally kid friendly. This was a time when comics really started to shift and became more mature and gritty. Today we do many more books for kids, but if memory serves, back then "Spider-Girl" was the only title we had that was scratching that itch.
That's the only thing I can hypothesize at this juncture. It seems that he had a pretty large and valuable collection, so to really take great care in preserving those particular issues says to me that there was an emotional or historical value to those particular issues.
Jonah Weiland: It sounds like Kristin should open up this vacuum-sealed package and let his kids read the Spider-Girl comics. Maybe there's some story or lesson in there that her brother would have liked to impart to his kids.
Joe Quesada: Yeah. The other thing I'd advise to Kristin - not that I'd ever advocate just selling those comics, but one of the things that I've seen happen with the Hero Initiative charity, which I'm on the board of, is that we've seen people who's family members have passed away donate their old collections to the Hero Initiative because they couldn't think of a better way to honor the medium that their loved one got so much enjoyment out of. If you're not familiar with Hero, it's a charity that raises money for comic creators who have hit a hard time in life or don't have proper insurance. It helps them with medical bills and housing and everything imaginable. It's a fantastic charity for people that love comics. Obviously Kristin's brother has his kids to inherit his collection, but if you're someone out there who has an old collection that you don't know what to do with, think about donating it to The Hero Initiative, It's the best way to give back.
Jonah Weiland: Spider-Girl is a character that really inspires a lot of passion in her fans, just as much as with bigger characters like Wolverine. That loyalty is something special.
Joe Quesada: I've always said internally here at Marvel that I thought the one thing that kept Spider-Girl from becoming a huge success was the fact that she took place in an alternate reality or an alternate future. There was a time where we were trying to boost sales on the book, it had already gone through a few cancelation scares, and I had talked to [series writer] Tom DeFalco offering up an idea where we would bring her from her time period into the current Marvel Universe. But, ultimately I left the decision up to Tom, the book was his baby and I would never have pulled rank and forced his hand on the matter. I left him to percolate over the idea - here's a way to bring May Day into the current Marvel Universe and have it work.
Tom, to his credit, said that he wanted to keep her where she was and that was that. Obviously, the change in location would have made for a different kind of Spider-Girl stories, but I think having her in the Marvel Universe might have boosted sales quite a bit higher. She would have been in the thick of everything including fighting the major villains in the Marvel U and who knows, perhaps alongside her dad. Well, the guy who might have become her dad except that she was now in an alternate reality. And again, I say this with no regrets because Tom got to tell the stories he wanted to tell, and she still has a strong life in our digital comics world.
Kiel Phegley: Switching gears... Joe, the convention season kicked off in a big way two weeks ago with dueling shows in Charlotte and Philly. Because of your work in L.A. you couldn't make either show, but we wanted to talk a little bit about how the con season affects you. How do you decide what shows you're going to hit or pass on? How to you prepare to cover your bases in that regard?
Joe Quesada: Actually, this year I promised myself I would do fewer cons than I have in the past because I think after years and years of doing shows, you simply hit a wall. You hit a wall, and you just have to pull back. This year I'm relegated to maybe two, maybe three shows.
But with respect to preparation, it used to be a lot harder on my end, but now we have a tremendous team here that puts stuff together for the panels. We get ready for shows, and it literally is like putting on a major production. We prepare our announcements. We prepare with the media and get things ready so that when we make our announcements, they have the most impact possible. Especially when San Diego starts rolling around, it's showtime, brother!
Kiel Phegley: Do you try and stay connected and follow the convention news and response online, or do you pretty much wait for folks to get back in the office to hear in person how things went?
Joe Quesada: I used to do that a lot. Nowadays, I try not to go anywhere near the computer on weekends for anything. I just wait for the news to come in on Monday and get the scoop. Obviously, I know what we're going to announce, so basically Monday is getting the feedback. How did those announcements go? How was the attendance at the panel? How was the attendance at the show? What was the general vibe?
Every con has its own distinct flavor and feel, but that can change from year to year. You always know that when you go to Heroes Con in Charlotte, one of my favorite shows, that it's going to be a very family oriented weekend filled with kids and parent as far as the eye can see. But even within the context of that, every year there's a bit of a different feel on the floor and this happens from show to show and town to town. One year may be a very big retailer centric con -retailers moving product like crazy, another year it's all about artists moving sketches. It's just interesting to see what's happening out there and it can tell you a lot about what's happening within the business of comics.
Kiel Phegley: Con season brings a lot of different responsibilities with it, from promotion to talent managing to fan interaction to drinking lots of booze. In general, what's the part of your con job you look most forward to doing each year? What's the part you could do without?
Joe Quesada: My favorite part, without a doubt, are the panels. I love doing the panels, I especially love doing the Cup O' Joe panel. Those are pretty out of control. At the end of the day, the panels and the Cup O' Joe panel are really only as good as the audience is. If the fans are into it and revved, the panels become pure mayhem and are fantastic and a lot of fun. So, that's one of the highlights. I also enjoy signing for the fans and meeting them at the booth. That's something I enjoy doing, so stop by and say, "Hi."
Believe it or not, the hardest part of it for me these days is going to the functions. After a while, one party runs into the next party runs into the next function. And you find that you're at these different functions with the exact same group of people, so there really isn't a lot of new business that's being drummed up and very little new stuff to be said. But while that gets to be tedious after a while, I think the worst part of it is the traveling. It just gets to be a drag. I used to really enjoy traveling, but I've done enough of it now that it's simply a necessary evil -getting to the con, getting to the hotel room unpacking and all of it. All of that stuff is a huge drag and pain in the ass. I'm a real big homebody part and just like sitting by the drawing table or the TV and calling it a day.
Jonah Weiland: Mark Waid was Tweeting this week about traveling and how he hates it, and he posted something to the effect of, "God, I hope I don't get sat next to a fan." We asked him if that had ever happened, and he said, "Yes. For six hours from New York to San Diego who wanted to talk the entire time." Have you ever been in a situation like that?
Joe Quesada: No. I haven't had a situation like that at all, and Mark actually has some of the best stories. If you ever speak to Mark, and I don't want to tell his stories for him, but he's got the best story about this store signing he was hired to do that turned out to be something entirely different. It is an all time classic story and should be made into a major motion picture. The question is, who should play Mark Waid? Will Ferrell, Seth Rogan?
Jonah Weiland: Through the magic of the Internet, we've got Mark Waid to share that story with CUP O' JOE readers. Tell us what happened, Mark!
Several years ago, I had done an over-the-phone college radio interview with a couple of guys in Vermont. Chat went fine, I remembered to mention what a genius Alex Ross is the requisite nine times, and we probably moved some trade paperbacks in the process. So once the interview was done, one of them explained that they ran a store in one of Vermont's largish towns and asked if I'd be interested in doing an in-person signing. "Sure," I said. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn, so it would be a short flight, and I'd never been to Vermont before. Fly up late on a Saturday morning, home on Sunday morning, see the sights, meet some fans. "Great," I said. Set me up."
The flight--on one of those twin-engine jobs where they discount your ticket if you bring your own helmet--was, despite the tiny cabin, spectacular. Honestly. There wasn't a cloud in the sky at any point during the trip, and I just stared out the window at the beautiful farmland below. Landed around noon. My hosts were there to pick me up. They were a little younger than I'd figured they were going to be, but at least they were there at the gate like they'd promised they'd be and, besides, I've never been very good at picking up on Giant Red Flags.
Emma Rios cCaracter designs for Mark Waid's "Strange"
So they piled me into their 1932 Hupmobile and, though we didn't have a whole lot of time before the signing was scheduled to begin, they decided they wanted to give me a tour of the city. "Here's the college," they remarked as we drove past.
"Cool. Store's probably nearby, right? Where's the store?"
"And here's the business district. This is the downtown area. And over here is restaurant row."
"Nice. Very pretty. Very picturesque. So where's the store?"
"Now, down here is the old mill. Been closed for a while, but it's still a big tourist draw."
"That is something. Yes, sir. So where's the store?"
"Well, Mr. Waid...about that..."
There was no store.
Let me repeat that.
There was no store.
There. Was. No. Store. Instead, there were, in this town, two comics fans who had pooled their lawnmowing money to pay for a LaGuardia-to-Vermont plane ticket for their very-soon-not-to-be-favorite writer so they could meet him and own him for a day.
There. Was. No. Store.
I've seen the movie Misery. I'm ahead of you. I've told this story often enough that I know exactly what your response to that is. You want to know how quickly I reached from the back seat of the Hupmobile, snapped their necks, and took the first plane back to New York. That is a perfectly reasonable thing to wonder, but you have the dual benefits of hindsight and perspective. I had neither. For me that afternoon, it was just such a surreal, slow-dawn unfolding of the bizarre that the indignant neck-snapper in me was internally at war with my analytical-writer side, and I was forced to fully assess the situation rather than follow my murderous instincts. The arguments against Hulking out were compelling. First, I was completely dependent on these guys for transportation, and we were so far from the airport that finding, much less paying for, a taxicab was out of the question. Second, I already knew for a fact that there were no more flights back to New York that day. Third, this was long before I had a cellphone in my pocket at all times so, on the off-chance the cops would be able to fingerprint these guys' necks before I could hitchhike over the state line, I had no easy way of letting my friends and family know whatever became of me. And...and, I admit, this was the single most pertinent factor...the morbidly curious part of me, the part that loves a good story, was dying to know what was going to happen next.
Emma Rios character designs for Mark Waid's "Strange"
Here's what happened next: Nothing.
I don't mean, like, nothing bad. I mean, like, nothing. We drove around some more. I answered a lot of questions about what Alan Moore and Paul Levitz were really like. I signed a few of their comics, I lied about being hungry and made them change our dinner reservation from 7:30 to 5:00, I met their nineteen fanboy pals at the restaurant, I inhaled my food, and I was finally alone at the Sav-On-Inn by six.
There was no cable TV. I spent most of the next several hours watching fishing shows.
The next morning, they and all nineteen of their friends--each and every one of them holding in his trembling hands a mini-series proposal for the resurrection of some obscure DC character no one will ever, ever, ever care about--swung the Hupmobile by to grab me for breakfast before the flight home. I begged off on the meal, asked politely but firmly that they simply get me to the airport, and then, once I was there, where there were plenty of Federal marshals around to keep any of us from doing anything regretful, I politely read these guys the riot act. I explained how so very uncool this was, how it was flattering and their hearts were in the right place but how freakish this whole experience had been, and that before I would ever even consider referring any other comics pro to them, comic books would no longer exist. They got it. I saw in their sad, puppy-dog eyes that they got it. There was no question that they got it.
Six months later, another pro called me for info. He remembered that I'd been invited to Vermont and he was interested in taking a trip there if they'd fly him in. He'd tried calling ahead, but for some reason, directory assistance didn't have any comics stores listed in the area.
Kiel Phegley: Getting back to the subject of conventions, we had a lot of response to some of the Marvel news on the message boards and what it means for the future of their favorite characters. Announced at recent shows was the one-shot "War of Kings: Who Will Rule" as well as some info on the make up of the Guardians of the Galaxy going back to its "classic" lineup.
AdamWarlock and marvell2100 want to know, "What's in store for the Guardians of the Galaxy and the rest of the cosmic side of Marvel after 'War of Kings' finishes?" Is there a big next step planned?
Joe Quesada: We've got plans, AdamWarlock. Bill Rosemann, who is managing the line for us along with [Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning] and all the other creators hatched some incredible stuff during the last Marvel summit, and we were like, "Wow!" Even for me, and I've admitted on many occasions that I'm not a guy who's really crazy about the cosmic stuff. I get it. I understand it. But it's not really my favorite milieu. But Bill pitched some stuff where as a non-cosmic kind of guy, I'm really looking forward to reading it and seeing where it goes. If I was a customer, I'd have to spend my money on that. There's stuff coming up that, again, is too soon to reveal, but it's going to be a lot of fun.
Kiel Phegley: DasPoppen asks, "Unfortunately, both 'Nova' and 'GotG' are performing at the lower end of the sales charts. Are they safe? Please say yes!! I so want to see GotG #50."
Joe Quesada: DasPoppen, as far as we know right now, they're both safe, and all I can advise fans to do is buy some more. They're great books, so pick them up.
Kiel Phegley: Steven F. points out how most past Events have led to expansion when he asks, "I just want to say how much I love the Marvel Cosmic titles, and wonder if we can look forward to a new title debuting out of 'WoK' as we had with 'Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest.'"
Joe Quesada: There are talks of other titles - there definitely are - and of giving certain characters that haven't had a title of their own, a shot at perhaps at least a mini series and maybe more. But once again, a little too soon to announce that. But there have been talks.
Kiel Phegley: Finally, steveg887 asks, "Joe, what can we expect to see from Noh-Varr in that upcoming weeks and months? Anything special planned?" The character's popping up in Jason Aaron's "The List: Wolverine" one-shot. Is he sliding back towards the X-Men universe or will he continue to be a part of the cosmic story line?
Joe Quesada: There are big plans for Noh-Varr. Very, very big plans. I would expect to find him knee deep in the core Marvel Universe more than anywhere else.
Let me also note that "The List" is not a crossover. It's eight connected one-shots, but each one can be read on its own. It's not a typical 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 crossover at all.
Kiel Phegley: Speaking of "The List," you've spoken recently about cutting down on the major crossover events. With Dark Reign still running strong with new tie-in books including "The List," the new "Moon Knight" series and "Dark Avengers: Ares" all getting in on the action, can Marvel slow down on the kinds of connected, massive investment event stories of the past few years while so much seems to need to be tied up in these story points to work?
Joe Quesada: You can. You absolutely can and we have to. There are natural break points in things, and what we're going to do is that we're going to see for the next year rather than one, gigantic story line that encompasses every book in the Marvel U, more character family constructed events and storylines. These will be huge stories, just rather than see the same single story across out entire line, you're going to see several huge stories across a smaller group of titles.
Variety will be the order of the day, but all of it important to the overall tapestry of the Marvel U. So you will get a very large story that takes place within the X-Men books and another across the Avengers. If you've been following my CUP O' DOODLES sketches you'll know that I just came from a big Hulk summit, and I know that they have huge plans for the Hulk family of books.
There's going to be huge stuff happening all over the Marvel Universe. Our goal is to give our fans so much variety and so many incredible choices that they're going to have to just pick up all out books, I'm not kidding, our creators are bringing their A+ game, this was our challenge to them and they are delivering in spades. There's going to be significant life altering storylines for our characters even in places you may not have expected.
For example, Daredevil is going to be in the middle of some unexpected happenings and the center of his own eventful storyline that will encompass a number of books that are within his family. Fans have been clamoring for some event relief and for stories that are a bit more centric to individual titles and families, so we've hard them and we're going to change gears for a while and see if we can create something cool and new with respect to how we handle stories that tie together.
So, hold on to your seats because it's going to be a crazy ride. We have stuff planned for Avengers, X-Men and solo characters like Thor that are going to blow your freakin' mind!
Jonah Weiland: In other news, message boarder CSG asks, "The new 'Strange' mini written by Mark Waid is the best news I have ever heard this month! I know that all Dr. Strange books are tough sells, but if the mini sells well, will it warrant another ongoing?"
Joe Quesada: Yes! If any sort of mini sells well, you can be certain we're going to come back with a second mini or at least entertain the idea of a monthly title. That's a really the easy answer no matter who the character is.
Jonah Weiland: With characters like Dr. Strange that tend to be a harder sell, is the only way to bring them to prominence using someone of the caliber of Mark Waid? Or can you still launch a second tier character or a character that's not as popular with a less well-known creator?
Joe Quesada: I think you absolutely can. He's not lesser known now, but you look at a guy like Greg Pak. Not only did Greg do great things with Hulk, but he created a whole new character in Skaar that is now a significant player in the Marvel Universe. That happens a lot, and those are the ones that make me feel the best - when you get that combination of a writer and artist and a character where you're expecting good things and you get amazing things. So, yes, I think it's very, very possible. It happens more often than people think.
Kiel Phegley: Marvel also has two series coming up starring Psylocke and Brother Voodoo. There are so many characters in the Marvel U and so many smaller ones that have big fan followings, when it comes to picking a character to break out on their own, how can you tell when a character's time has come?
Joe Quesada: So much of that is done by feel. I think it was [DC Comics editor] Mike Carlin who actually coined the phrase of a character being radioactive, which really describes it perfectly. Sometimes when you try to relaunch a character, if the launch doesn't hit or if you botch it completely, then really you've got to put that character away for on average about three years. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but tends to be truer than not. They'll remain radioactive, and fans won't respond, and retailers won't respond with the memory of the past botched attempt.
Of course after some time in limbo, absence makes the heart grow fonder. With a character like Psylocke, we get pitches on her all the time, and it just didn't feel right and that goes for timing as well as pitches. Now it does. With respect to Brother Voodoo, he's been an also-ran character for a long time, and then at a recent Marvel creative summit his name came up in some very, very cool and interesting ways that really made sense in this current Marvel U and that really felt like they would help revive the character with a modern sensibility. When the stars line up like that, it makes pulling the trigger easy, after that, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that our fans respond in kind.
Have some questions for Joe Quesada? 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 weekly fan-generatd question-and-answer session with Joe, which will be this Friday.
Discussion about today's feature may take place at the link immediately below.