CUP O' Q&A: DC Execs, Astonishing Ideas & Graphic Violence

Welcome back to another Marvelous installment of CUP O' JOE. Exclusively here at CBR, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada takes the time to tackle the hot topics of the day in regards to Marvel's entire media empire

And while you're brewing up your own quality questions for the Marvel bossman for our CUP O' Q&A feature, we've got 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, Joe tackles a ton of questions from both CBR and from fans on the CBR Message Board's dedicated CUP O' JOE question thread. From the recent news of a new/old regime at DC Comics to reaction to the grisliest moment from Marvel's latest event series, nothing is off limits so read on!

CUP O' JOE is Executive Produced by Jonah Weiland and Produced by Kiel Phegley.

Kiel Phegley: All right, Joe! Before we get into the nitty gritty of recent Marvel news, I think the everyone is wondering what your take on the recent announcement of DC Comics new executive structure is.

Joe Quesada: I'm really happy for Geoff, Jim and Dan. No one knows the DCU better than those guys, and they've all been at DC for a very long time, so they've definitely earned the shot to steer the DC ship. At the end of the day, if they can improve on what DC does, then that makes us better and that makes the entire comics industry that much stronger. In the end, the fans win.

Kiel Phegley: Obviously, having known and worked with (or competed with) a lot of these guys over the years, you must have your opinions on what they bring to the table for a company like DC. What do you think the choice to keep on so many "in house" guys in roles like co-publisher and CCO will mean for the future of the Distinguished Competition? Do you see a lot of change across the street?

Joe Quesada: I'm sure all three each have their own visions of what DC needs to be, so I think it's more than logical to expect some changes, and that should be good for DC. Look, I don't think it's lost on anyone that the new higher-ups looked across town, took a look at how Marvel is doing business, and decided to reverse engineer that formula. The Disney merger may have only served to enhance that desire. To that, while they're longtime DC insiders, Geoff and Jim are also creators. That should help them in the same way that Marvel's philosophy of embracing of so many of our key creators - and myself for that matter - allows us to steer the ship with a strong creative hand, and most definitely improved our product and sales in all areas.

When all's said and done, much like any regime change, it's going to be fun adjusting to the changes and competing. But damn, it use to be so much fun to poke at Levitz... but Geoff, Jim and Dan are pals, I don't know what to do with myself! [laughs]

Kiel Phegley: Well, the DC guys made no secret that their goal is to make their company #1 across the board in sales and in creative energy. We've spoken with you in the past about how competition is good for comics in general, and in recent months, while Marvel has stayed firmly at #1 in the Direct Market, DC has been making big sales gains. "Blackest Night" is by any measurable standard a very big hit. Do you foresee a time in the near future where Marvel might not be the top publisher month in and month out?

Joe Quesada: Well first, if they didn't feel that way, then I would firmly advise them not to take the job. So, of course that's what they need to shoot for, why take on the challenge if that's not your goal? Can I foresee a future when DC surpasses Marvel? Well, we're certainly going to do everything we can to keep that from happening. We've got a few surprises up our sleeve, and we'll be kicking some ass too.

It should be a lot of fun.

Kiel Phegley: Another bit of news that's come over the wire is that you're going to be a guest at Emerald City Comic Con and it's not going to be all comics and panels for you. Word is you'll be playing with Kirby Krackle. What gives?

Joe Quesada: Dude, I'm such a huge fan of Kirby Krackle, and when Jim [Demonakos, the con's organizer] and Kyle [Stevens] laid out the possibility of me jamming with them, I jumped at the chance. I was a musician long before I was ever in the comics biz, so I've dusted off my old guitar and I'm looking forward to playing with the guys. It's going to be a blast, and hopefully I don't make them sound too terrible.

You know, I want to say this before going any further, Stan Lee was arguably the greatest Editor-in-Chief in the history of this industry; he casts a very large shadow. So, when I look at what I've contributed to Marvel or comics in general, anything I do, any decision I make, anything I write or draw pales in comparison to his talents. But there is one thing I can say with great certainty that I'm better at than Stan. I can rock so much harder [Laughs].

So yeah, I'll be joining the Krackle for a few tunes. And for those who haven't ever heard the band, if you like your rock with more than a touch of nerdism and comic book references, pick up their albums, they're just a dynamite group.

Kiel Phegley: How long has it been since you last performed live on stage?

Joe Quesada: The last time I held a guitar and rocked a mic was at a CBLDF party during the weekend of the very first Reed Expositions New York Comic Con. So that's going on, what, four years maybe? Chances are high that I'll make a fool of myself.

Oh, and before I forget, here's the deal. Anyone who shows up to the Kirby Krackle show has the chance to possibly walk away with a limited edition Marvel guitar pick that I'm having made up just for the show. I'll only have a hundred, so you'll need to be there to maybe get one.

Kiel Phegley: Cool. Moving into some territory on the Marvel end of things, we got a question off the board on one of the newer project announcements that I thought would make for a fun way to start the discussion. Board member Red Lotus asked, "Joe what are the odds of "Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine" being changed from a mini to an ongoing series?"

Joe Quesada: Yo, Red Lotus! The chances are always high when you combine two of our top characters with two amazing creators like Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert. We all know how amazing Adam's Wolverine is, but he really hasn't had a lot of opportunities to draw Spider-Man. And, on the few occasions that he has, we all sit around telling ourselves, jeez, we really need to get him on a Spidey project. As for Jason, I can't say enough about him. This last creative summit we had, Jason presented some of his concepts for his upcoming titles and the whole room just ignited. He is a brilliantly creative and sick individual [Laughs]. Prepare for him to rocket into red hot superstardom. So, I guess the long and short of it is that I suspect after this initial mini we may see more, but ultimately that's up to you guys out there and how much you like it.

Kiel Phegley: The new lineup of "Astonishing" books certainly offers up some things we haven't always seen at Marvel during the event era - big names working on stand alone stories. What was it that brought this all together? Were you looking to find a space for guys who work at a slower pace to do complete arcs, or was there a need in the publishing line for these kind of stand-alone tales?

Joe Quesada: It was a number of different things. Yes, we needed to slow the pace for at least a year but I also wanted to get back to what we originally did when we rebuilt Marvel earlier in this decade. Self contained stories about our characters that built upon their attributes and what makes them great instead of upon large, intertwined universe events. This is a much harder genie to put back in the bottle than you would think, so we decided looked at Josh and Cass' "Astonishing X-Men" as a template by which to build some books that would give us great, evergreen stories of our characters with high caliber creators that were set firmly in current continuity. And, while they didn't have to tie into a larger event or current storyline, the stories told in the Astonishing books would matter and have lasting effect on the characters in their monthly books. "Astonishing X-Men" took place during a two-week period in X-men history, and when it was done, it affected all the X titles across the board. This is our goal for the Astonishing brand. While "Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine" won't connect directly to stories that are happening in their respective titles, it will occur in the current status quo and will have impact on both characters moving forward in their monthlies.

Granted, could we have constructed these books to become a gigantic across the board crossover event? Yeah, sure. But, we wanted to give our fans something different and something closer to just pure storytelling with few strings attached.

Kiel Phegley: Overall, a lot of what people see in the Astonishing lineup is a kind of outreach for new readers or lapsed readers - a perennial concern for the industry. We've talked in the past about how you don't see the financial or career benefit for Marvel creators doing OGNs, but a few people have drawn comparisons to the Astonishing line and DC's recent Earth-1 announcement. Do you see these books filling a similar role for Marvel in the book stores as anchor books like "Marvels" or "Civil War"?

Joe Quesada: I can't say that as I don't know what's between the covers of DC's initiative. This was more of us looking to a place where I think we need to get back to in order to let this new Marvel Universe status quo settle a bit before blowing it up all over again, and allow our creators to work a bit more autonomously for the next year. We could absolutely have drowned the industry in more gigantic crossovers, but my sense is that it's okay for the short term to not worry if not having a major crossover will give up some market share. To me, this is an important thing for us to do in order to recharge and then unleash what's in our back pocket on the world.

As I've mentioned in previous columns going back to last year, eventually it becomes the law of diminishing returns if you don't pull back and recharge. It's kind of like going to the gym every day and working out without rest until what inevitably happens is that you go from being strong and pumped to breaking down and injured. You need the days of rest in-between to let your muscles heal and get stronger.

Oh, but when we unleash what's in our back pocket further down the road, it's going to be pretty darn sweet.

Kiel Phegley: We're in the midst of another round of Avengers-related teasers this week. Last time, when I tried to get more info on the "Secret Avengers" lineup, I was reminded of the need for patience, and fair enough on that score. But Messager prydeandprejudice brought up an interesting observation on the boards when they asked, "Hey Joe, According to the recent announcements regarding the roster for the upcoming rebooted Avengers books, it appears that only two Marvel ladies made the cut. Not only does this signal the loss or re-assignment of several of my favorite characters from those books, but I feel like the days of one female hero on your flagship teams should be left in the past. I will read both books either way considering the creative teams attached but wondered at the reasoning behind the inequity. p.s. Spiderwoman rocks."

Joe Quesada: Hey, Messager prydeandprejudice, the teaser images released as part of the build-up to these new Avengers launches don't showcase the entirety of the line-ups of any of the titles. So, rest easy, there'll be a suitable number of Heroines counted among Earth's Mightiest Heroes in all their forms.

Kiel Phegley: Moving on to an Avengers issue that's tied to creative changes rather than cast one, someone going by DidioForever wanted to say, "I was shocked and slightly depressed to NOT see a relaunched Avengers title from Dan Slott in May's 'Heroic Age' solicits. Isn't there anything coming around the corner for fans of his Mighty Avengers run, which has been delivering a solid dose of 'Heroic Age' every month since he took over last year?"

Joe Quesada: Hey, DidioForever, does Dan D know you're reading Marvel Comics, no less reading my column and writing in?



Okay, here's the skinny - or in my case, not so skinny. We haven't announced all of our "Avengers" plans just yet, nor all of our Dan Slott plans for the future. Heh, that makes it sound like Dan is a weapon in some super villain's arsenal.

"Yes, you may have won for now, accursed Avengers, but soon I will unleash the Slott upon you all and the world will be mine! BWAHAHAHA!"

Buuuuut, I digress. So, I'm afraid it'd be premature to say anything just yet. But keep an eye peeled for upcoming announcements as we move forward.

Kiel Phegley: An interesting point on the content between the pages of Marvel books came from Dino Pollard who asked, "Joe, Siege #2 featured a two-page spread of a particularly graphic piece of violence. And Deathlok has had quite a bit of blood and gore in its three issues to date.

"Now, I have no problem with violence and gore. But the thing that has me scratching my head is the censorship of swear words. Why is it okay to print violence on par with R-rated films but not okay to have swear words that can be found in most prime time TV shows or PG13 movies? This seems like a very baffling policy. In the case of Deathlok, it makes even less sense given that the book already contains a parental advisory on the cover."

Joe Quesada: Dino, my bud, let me pass a little insider knowledge your way. I'm sure when you see those wingdings in our comics, you fill in your own "adult" language and assume that's what the writer intended to put there. Trust me, you're not even close. See, here's the deal, Brian Bendis is one of the most profane and potty-mouthed people I know. The saltiness of the language that comes out of his brain makes Scarface blush. I mean, you can't imagine the stuff he says. Stuff like "#$%^knuckle" or "Monkey #($*%&^%!" Oh and then there's "Your Mother's @#$%^% cystic #$%^%!" I mean who thinks of these things?

So, after nearly a decade of our editors editing this kind of appalling language from the pages of almost every Bendis comic, Brian has taken to actually submitting the scripts with the wingdings already added to save us the trouble. This makes life a lot easier and leads to significantly less blushing amongst our younger, more innocent assistant editors.

So, as violent as you may feel some of the imagery is, it's nothing compared to when Bendis writes "Fer@##$%^$ stained *&^$%# gurgle."

Ugh, I need a shower.

Kiel Phegley: On the flip side of the Heroic Age stuff that will follow on the heels of "Siege," we've got some X-Men questions coming up. First off, marvell2100 asked about the connection between the mutants and the new branding, saying, "What will the Heroic Age do for mutantkind? Will there be more tolerance towards them? Are they going a little more mainstream? Having a few on teams outside the X-books would be nice."

Joe Quesada: Two big events in the Marvel Universe are going to shape the X-Men's universe, marvell2100. "Siege" and the upcoming X-Men event, "Second Coming." More than anything, these are the stories that will rock your X-Men lovin' tuchas from here to the Savage Land!

In "Second Coming" several years' worth of X-Men stories are coming to a climax when Hope, the so-called "Messiah Child," finally returns to the present, triggering the biggest threat that the mutant race has ever faced.

For real.

But here's the thing... is Hope mutantkind's salvation, their ruin, or both?

No seriously, I'm askin' 'cause I don't know, Axel Alonso won't tell me.

Ever since he and Tom Brevoort got promoted to Editorial VPs, they walk around the halls of Marvel referring to themselves in the third person.

Anyway, I guess we'll all find out together. That said, I hear it's an epic story that will present the X-Men - particularly Cyclops - with some of the toughest choices they've ever had to make, and not everyone will make it out alive. [Cue dramatic music accents].

Kiel Phegley: Beyond that, we know that a lot of what the future holds in store for all mutants will come with the "Second Coming" family event. But Marvel released a pretty oblique teaser ad for what was on tap in July, simply stating "We Are The X-Men" and having some blood spattered on the logo. I know you don't want to do anything to spoil the upcoming stories, but at the same time, what exactly are fans supposed to get or infer out of that image? Can we expect a shakeup to the team? A change in the publishing slate similar to what's going on in Avengers? Some more death and decimation?

Joe Quesada: I love the tone of that question! You sound upset that we're teasing you. It's called a "teaser"! You're supposed to have a lot of questions. But since I like you, here are some answers. The blood splatter actually has two meanings. The first can be found in "Second Coming" - a story that will strengthen the bond that unites them. Well, those who survive it, anyway. The second, well, it has to do with the X-Books post-"Second Coming," and we'll be announcing more very soon. Blood factors heavily into the X-Men's future.

Boo-yahh! See what I just did there? I answered your teaser question with another teaser... ah, never mind. This is wasted on you.

Kiel Phegley: Always! Let's wrap out this installment with some focused Cup O' Q&A from the boards. I like it when people ask after some of their own favorite characters, creators and projects, and I like it even better when a message boarder has a slew of fun questions, including countryfan2004 who had four queries about some current goings on. To start, they asked, "I loved Dark Reign: Elektra. The absence of dialogue from Elektra was perfect, and Clay Mann's artistic storytelling made this book truly outstanding. So what are plans for Elektra? Does she have a role in Marvel post-Seige? I would love to see at least a limited series."

Joe Quesada: countryfan2004, the simple answer to that is yes! Who's your best friend?

Kiel Phegley: Second round from countryfan2004 was, "On a related note, will Clay Mann be spending more time on X-Men Legacy after Greg Land draws it in April? His representation of women is fantastic, and his Rogue and Psylocke are beautiful."

Joe Quesada: Clay Mann isn't going anywhere. You'll see an X-Centric announcement coming about him some time very soon! I take a lot of pride in seeing a kid like Clay progress through our system and grow as an artist and in popularity. I remember meeting him some time ago at a convention. He was incredibly shy, but so immensely talented that we wanted him here at Marvel as we knew his future would be very bright.

Kiel Phegley: Third round! "Is an artist assigned to an arc to fit the characters and storyline on X-Men Legacy? Acuna was fantastic for the ethereal element of the Emplate arc."

Joe Quesada: We definitely take characters and mood into consideration when choosing artists for books and thought Daniel Acuña was perfect for the Emplate arc as well. We miss him on "Legacy," but can't wait to see his "Black Widow"!

Kiel Phegley: And finally (and this is something a few people have mentioned on the boards of late: "And the boards have generated a lot of buzz about the return of Husk. It's made a lot of people happy, so the question is, will she be used more often with the positive reaction to her appearance in Legacy? Could we maybe even get a one-shot featuring the living members of Generation X?"

Joe Quesada: We couldn't be happier that the boards were all a-twitter about Husk being back. Heck I think Twitter is all a-board about it too.

See what I did there?

That's one of the reasons we were happy Mike Carey wanted to use her there. I can't promise that she'll be headlining much, but I'll do what I can. Remember, this is VP Executive Editor Axel Alonso I have to deal with here.

Kiel Phegley: Well, Joe, I guess that about wraps...hey, is that your phone?

Joe Quesada: Yeah, hang on it's my cell.

That was Stan, he says he just took his Flying V out of storage and he's ready to shred.

Damn you Leeeeeee!

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-generated question-and-answer session with Joe on Fridays, so get crackin!

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