CUP O' Q&A: Sizing Up The X-Men & Exploring Religion

Welcome back to the all-fan Friday edition of CUP O' JOE, which we call CUP O' Q&A. Exclusively here at CBR, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada answers questions posed by you, the readers, in CBR's Marvel Universe forum.

Of course, we're hot on top of CUP O' JOE content across our mini-site with new installments of Joe's regular interviews with the CBR staff, not to mention last Friday's CUP O' DOODLES, where Joe demonstrated the artistic process involved in his drawing the interconnecting covers of Marvel's upcoming "Siege" event.

This week's fan questions for Joe get into the nitty gritty on the metaphorical pulse of the Marvel Universe, with topics ranging from the size and scope of the X-Men's world to why modern religion doesn't play a stronger role in superhero comics to the announcement of some long-awaited special series and much, much more.

But enough with the jibber-jabber - lets get on with the Q&A, as well as an exclusive sneak peek at art from "Nation X" #2 and future issues of "Amazing Spider-Man"!

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

Kiel Phegley: All right, Joe! Let's start this week's all fan Q&A with a follow up to something we discussed last week from...I'm not sure how to say. timomcshade?

Joe Quesada: I think it's Timo McShade, or it could just be Tim O. McShade.

I think you're correct! I just have no capitalization. timomcshade asked "I have noticed that War Machine appears to be ending at issue #12. I understand the decision but I will say it was one of the more enjoyable titles I read. I loved the throwback nature of the book. Anyway, in keeping with the second features that are starting to appear in various books, would Rhodey's adventure continue in Invincible Iron Man or even Dark Avengers since Ares refers to War Machine as his champion? I hope so."

Well, Timo...here's the news on that. Despite War machine ending at 12, we will be seeing Rhodey, and we're going to be seeing him on a very regular basis after "Siege" wraps up. Unfortunately, I can't reveal where that will be or what book it will be in, because that tips our hand a bit with respect to the end of the Siege of Asgard and what's going to be going on in our books. You can rest assured that if you're a fan of Rhodey and of the last "War Machine" story arc, you're going to be seeing a LOT of him in the future. On a regular basis. Possibly ongoing.

We know that "Siege" is going to break up Marvel's line of books in terms of letting titles run on their own with less crossovers, but can we also assume that parts of the line will get one more major shift in point of view before they run solo?

That's really the unspoken promise of any event. At the end of the day, if you go through these big stories and nothing happens, you really haven't delivered on your promise to the readers. By the end of "Siege," yes, things will have changed, status quos and characters will be in different places, hopefully, in interesting enough places to keep our readers intrigued, if we do our jobs right. That's the fun of the process. It's not just what happens in the event and who punches who or who dies, It's what transforms the characters and where they end up when it's all said and done. If you ask your readers to invest, and promise them a fun ride, if the characters end up in exactly the same place as where they started before the event, well, then I think you asked them to invest upon a false premise.

podmark asked about backups over in the X-Universe, saying, "In regards to backup stories has there been any consideration in giving Uncanny X-Men a regular backup feature? The X-books have such a huge cast right now (which I like BTW) that lots of characters get pretty light screen time and for a while I've been thinking that a regular backup focusing on different characters or plot points that didn't fit into an arc might be a good idea. Could be done in place or in tandem with the semi regular anthology minis we've been getting like 'Nation X' and 'Manifest Destiny?'"

The idea of backups is a good idea, podmark, and the X-Men group is considering that at the moment. It just depends on the story and the characters that we feel fit well with respect to being backups. But if you're talking about a monthly X-title that wraps up loose ends or visits characters we haven't seen in a while - it's not something we're looking to do at the moment, as it takes a solid hook to try to make something like that sell. Backups that allow us to keep in touch with the more tangential characters and storylines within the X-verse are a more feasible option for us right now.

With such a big cast populating "Uncanny" and the other books these days, how different is the X-Franchise today from when there were so many mutants before "House of M" paired down the mutant population? Have those changes held?

I think they've absolutely held, and a lot of the stories we're telling today we wouldn't have been able to tell without "House of M." It's not so much about how many particular X-Men characters appear on a page. It's more about what's going on tonally in the world of X-Men where they're supposed to be a minority - part of a downtrodden race who is feared and loathed. That particular core metaphor at the heart of X-Men starts to resonate less and less when you bump into mutants around every corner of the Marvel Universe.

There was a time when it felt like, as a reader, you were bumping into mutants everywhere, in every Marvel book. It felt like there were fewer normal people than there were mutants in the world. I mean, I get it, the X franchise is huge, and the temptation is to create more and more mutant characters, but at the end of the day, you still want to create the feeling that they are a small minority, a blip on the screen of the world populace. It's tough to tell stories about what is supposedly an endangered species when they keep popping up everywhere.

The idea was to whittle it down so that the core metaphor, which has always been perfect from the day it was created, could work properly again. Once in place, it allows us to tell stories that put the cast within its own ticking evolutionary clock. So, regardless of whether you see one or ten mutants within an issue, or even a page, tonally the world has been reset to make the reader (again, if we've done our job right) feel like these mutants are scarce and truly struggling for survival. They are still a very small minority and have to watch each others' backs. That's what we wanted to get to, and I think it still stands. If anything, I think Axel and his group have managed to amplify that feeling even more.

Mad_Man_Moon asked a question a while ago that I've wanted to get to, which was, "I'm interminably curious about this subject and how it's addressed at Marvel...Gods, and Christianity, Muslim, Judaism (etc, etc) in particular. The many different pantheons and beliefs are played out multiple times, and yet the Christian God and Devil are never seen (unless I'm mistaken*) in modern times. It seems odd that we acknowledge many gods and see depictions of them (more often than not), but the Christian, Muslim, Jewish (etc, etc) gods never come in to play. Why is this?"

I think there are probably multiple layers to this, Mad_Man_Moon. First of all, the gods of mythology lend themselves more to the superhero genre. They're much more colorful, they are imperfect and their exploits were really more akin to the exploits we've seen done by heroes like those within the Marvel U. All the classic heroes we see in many ways share many traits with the gods of mythology, so it's an easier transition. Also, in most monotheistic religions, you're dealing with an all powerful and infallible deity, which, from a dramatic storytelling point of view, really handcuffs you because of their perfection and ability to solve problems as they desire.

And there is the sensitivity issue. These are religions that are practiced by the majority of the planet, regardless of where you fall, whereas the gods of mythology are not. I think it's a sensitive issue, but more than anything, it's just that the construct of the mythological gods makes for better dramatic storytelling within the pages of a comic book.

That said, from time to time, some aspects of today's modern religions do find themselves into modern comics. I created the Santerians which are characters based upon the Orisha from the religion of Santeria. The Orisha lend themselves beautifully to the comic genre, as does the idea that priests who practice Santeria can become possessed by Orishas. Still, knowing that, I had to be very careful in creating them, because I wanted to be sensitive to those who follow the religion and I wanted to portray the characters in a way that wouldn't be found offensive, but more aspirational. And, while we aren't publishing them, I do know that there are comics out there that use aspects of Islam and Hinduism.

It does seem that there's a little bit of crossover, particularly with characters based on the devil. Something like "One More Day" is built on the folklore aspect of monotheistic religions in stories like "The Devil And Daniel Webster."

Yes it is. In OMD, it's built around the classic Faustian pact.

However, Mephisto is an interesting character within Marvel, I remember reading Stan's account of creating Mephisto. And while he had some of the trappings of Lucifer or Beelzebub, he is not meant to be Satan or have any religious implications. Stan built Mephisto as a super villain, but used the archetypes of the traditional iconography of the devil from classical literature and illustration. He always stopped short of making or naming him Lucifer, Satan or Mephistopheles or saying he was the devil. I get why he would create a character like this; it's low hanging fruit. The devil, or the idea of a devil, has been one of the greatest villains and mischief makers in literature for centuries. But, Stan most likely didn't want to start digging in and entrenching this super villain character that would interact inside a superhero universe within Christianity or any other religion. Also, there were probably greater sensitivities to doing this during the '60s than there would be later, as we created characters in the '70s like Daimon Hellstrom: Son of Satan - who incidentally is not Mephisto's kid. So, while some may look at a character like Mephisto and say, "Hey, he's Lucifer," I would venture to say that he is something else.

Speaking of ultimate villains and their role, Altercator asked about Norman Osborn's future, saying, "However long the Siege or 'The Gauntlet' will last, will Spider-Man ever, in some way, kick Norman's ass [to come] full circle? C'mon, it makes sense. Magneto gets his by Wolverine and the X-Men at the end of 'House of M.' Why not Norm & Pete?"

I don't know why Pete can't, Altercator. I guess you'll have to read the books to find out if he does! [Laughs] I'm not going to tell you what happens!

Though, in a story sense, can Spidey ever "win" and still be Spidey?

Peter always has his little victories along the way, but like everything in any of our lives, his life will never be perfect. And it shouldn't be perfect, because then you'd have no stories to tell. You'd have a boring character that would just walk off into the sunset, so there always has to be dramatic conflict. And the thing about Peter is that he is that loveable loser, but he's not a sad sack, per se. That's the beauty of Peter Parker: even though things don't always go 100% right (which they don't in life), he's able to pick himself up by the bootstraps and always see his glass as half full. Even on his worst day. You'll see some bad moments, and life will suck, but he'll get back up again. And I think that's what people love about Peter Parker, whether they know it or not. Even through all the hardship and losses, he still remains Peter Parker at heart. He does what he does for the greater good and for the people he loves. That's what we admire and what makes him a great hero. Once you give him the trappings of a great and perfect life, he becomes less interesting with each of those things.

Hopefully Azure had this book in his hands since last week, but we're just now getting to when he asked, "What lies ahead for The Winter Guard? Are there any plans for them beyond the bound-to-be-brilliant one-shot?"

As I've always said: comics are very democratic. There's always a good chance that fans will respond to the book, and the book sells. But you can see the members of the Winter Guard in last weeks "Iron Man Vs. Whiplash" and also in "Black Widow: Deadly Origin," so they are showing up in other places. This is all up to the fans like Azure, so stay tuned. If you dig it, you will be seeing more and more Winter Guard. I guarantee it.

Consistent question asker Spidey616 is back again this week, and I'm sure some board folks bristle as his frequent success rate, but he asks great questions that no one else thinks of!

He does! He knows his Marvel. What can I tell you? I've often cited Spidey616 as our #1 fan. He comes to all the events. He's at every convention. He's a great guy, and he knows his Marvel stuff.

This week, he asked, "I was wondering what the status was of Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan's 'Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers' mini that was announced last summer since it hasn't been solicited yet?"

That's going to be out this April of 2010. It's four issues by Reggie Hudlin, Denys Cowan and inked by Klaus Janson. Look for it!

Vinnie Maphia inquired on the status of another gestating project, asking, "Whatever happened to 'Punisher: The People v Frank Castle' that Marc Guggenheim and Lenil Yu were doing back in 2006? Did it go the way of 'Punisher/Nick Fury: Rules of the Game' or somethin'?"

Vinnie, this is actually coming out. We're looking for it in March of 2010. It will have a new title, and it's two issues as planned.

To wrap with one more question on that European original project people have heard about but are waiting for real word on, Excelsior asked, "Hey Joe, I just read the solicit for GLI INCREDIBILI X-MEN - RAGAZZE IN FUGA by [Milo] Manara and [Chris] Claremont. Will you be importing that book to the states with English translation?"

Excelsior! We will absolutely be printing it here in the States. You can look for a big announcement about that coming up shortly. We haven't talked much about it yet, but you can expect it to be translated, and it is absolutely gorgeous and a great story to boot.

And while we're on the line, Joe, I wanted to enlist your help. I'm talking to Stan Lee in about a half an hour for the site. Anything I should ask him?

Just ask Stan how he remains so gosh darn good lookin'! Does he have any tips for me? I'm starting to look pretty haggard here. [Laughter]

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. And be sure to check back next week for an extra-special Q&A between Joe and CBR!

Discussion about today's feature may take place at the link immediately below.

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