Welcome to the all-new CUP O' JOE on Comic Book Resources! It's with a great deal of excitement that we welcome Marvel's Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada to CBR, where every Friday he will answer the questions asked by you, the fans. But that's not all...
This new CUP O' JOE mini-site will be updated multiple times a week with industry commentary and wisdom directly from Joe Quesada, as well exclusive sketches, doodles and other chicken scratches that Joe produces on almost daily basis. But don't think we'll stop there. New features will be added in the coming months, and of course we welcome your feedback on what else you'd like to see on CUP O' JOE.
In this inaugural entry, Joe Quesada goes in-depth on Marvel's promotion of "Captain America" #600 and "Reborn," the increasing popularity of Deadpool, the trend of renumbering series, and addresses your concerns about Marvel's price increases.
CUP O' JOE is Executive Produced by Jonah Weiland and Produced by Kiel Phegley.
Jonah Weiland: Joe, we're going to start with "Captain America" #600 because that's been all the rage the past three or four weeks -Â specifically with the early release next Monday. There's been a very mixed reaction to from retailers, with some crying foul and shenanigans. Let's go down the timeline for this idea.
Joe Quesada: It's really something that our marketing and sales guys and David Gabriel came up with. With so many of these things, it's always tough. You always find yourself having to split the baby because you don't want to tip your hand with respect to what the story's going to be because the fans, the people who spend money on these books, cry foul because they want to discover the story themselves. The other part of it is that you want to make sure your retail partners have as much information as they possibly can have to purchase our products and have as many in stock as they need -Â without having too many or too few. Ultimately, we do have to do play Solomon and do it as wisely as possible so people get the idea of what may be happening.
Joe Quesada: The biggest problem here is that in the digital and electronic age, information gets out very, very quickly. It's not like the days where you could send something out on hard copy and if it leaked it was contained to a small group of individuals. Nowadays, all it takes is for one person to whisper to another, and before you know it it's on Twitter, it's on Facebook, it's in people's blogs -Â it's everywhere. Unfortunately and fortunately, that's the world we live in. Our responsibility is to make sure our readers are surprised and get the best stories possible. "Cap" #600 just happens to be one of those things.
From the retailer standpoint, what they simply have to observe is the sort of investment we're making in this. We're putting a lot of effort into promoting #600. If we didn't think #600 was going to be something that's going to blow off the stands, we wouldn't be doing this. I can't think of an occasion where we sat here and bait and switched people. "You have to buy this monumental issue. You have to order hundreds of these" -Â and then not have something significant happen in the story.
Now, granted, that doesn't mean that a fan may not like what's in those pages. Or it just might not sell. We can't predict those things. But we internally feel that this is a very significant story with a significant creative team that's going to put asses in the seats...or better yet, asses in the stores. If we feel it's a strong product and we put a lot of our own dollars behind it, it's a safe bet that really believe in what it is that we're producing.
Jonah Weiland: Do you expect it to be as big as "The Death of Captain America," which caught you guys by surprise, did it not?
Joe Quesada: You know, I don't know. I honestly don't know. Yes, "The Death of Captain America" caught us tremendously by surprise. That was lightning in a bottle, and I would hesitate to ever say anything that we do is going to be bigger than that simply because the timing was perfect and the way the news was released was perfect. We think that this is going to be a very, very big selling book within comic book parameters. What happens with the mainstream? We can't predict. We've gotten pretty good at creating marketing that's going to drive the comics-buying public into stores, and I think we've been very successful at that on a pretty consistent basis. What happens with the mainstream is really up to the mainstream. We've got some stuff in our back pocket that's lined up with several mainstream outlets, but what happens with that afterward, who knows?
But even having that mainstream press locked in isn't a guarantee. There's always unexpected news that can cause everything to get drowned out. The day Cap died was a relatively slow news day, as I recall.
Kiel Phegley: You talk a lot about not wanting to spoil things for the readers and letting them discover the surprises on their own, but with "Captain America" #600, you've got a comic where everyone and their mother is assuming that Steve Rogers is coming back from the dead. Additionally, you've also got a Captain America book called "Reborn." How do you address or respond to the assumptions people will be making?
Joe Quesada: Well, there really is no other way to deal with it aside from doing what we feel is right, which is keeping things under wraps and telling the best story we think is possible. I've heard a million different rumors as to what's happening in "Reborn" and what we're going to be revealing in "Reborn." Actually, I think the craziest one was the fact that we were going to announce who was going to be cast as Steve Rogers in the "Captain America" movie in the pages of "Reborn." And I thought, "Wow! That is really amazing that people could go that far with it." And I guess that's part of the fun of it, but at the same time it is the evils of the digital age. Stuff gets out there, and before you know it that information is attributed to somebody from Marvel, and it's off to the races.
Ultimately, my responsibility within publishing is to make sure our creators are telling the best stories possible and that we have the best guys on these books, which we do. I know the actual story of "Reborn" is going to rock, and it's going to be mind-blowing. That's about it. I'll even go so far as to say that some of the cover art is pretty cool, too. [laughs]
Jonah Weiland: This is probably more of a question for next week after whatever happens on Monday happens, but point blank: is Steve Rogers coming back?
Joe Quesada: No, we're actually revealing who's getting cast as Steve Rogers in the Captain America movie.
C'mon man, you gotta read the book! Again, we've worked really hard to keep things under wraps. We do it for the fans and to drive interest. Considering how easily stuff leaks in this world, the walls of Marvel are sealed pretty tight. We've been good about it.
Kiel Phegley: Do you feel the act of promoting a big book like "Captain America" #600 can in and of itself undercut the surprise, whatever it is? By virtue of the heavy promotion, readers are expecting something. Is it possible anymore to have a truly shocking event in a Marvel comic book?
Joe Quesada: We do it from time to time. I remember going back to those halcyon days when I was working on "Daredevil" with Kevin Smith, and we asked -- actually begged -- Marvel not to solicit or give a hint or anything about the death of Karen Page. And there it was. And mind you, it's not anything equal to "The Death of Captain America," but we do that from time to time when we try and keep things under wraps for our readers.
But also we have to sell comics. So we do have to hype it and say, "Listen. Someone dies in these pages. You're either going to love it or hate it, but either way, they're going to die." Or "Someone's going to be resurrected" or "Someone's splitting up or leaving the team." There are all those constant cliches and tropes of comics that started at the dawn of comics history and to this day still work and still drive readers to our books.
Jonah Weiland: Did you see the cover to DC's big release for last week, "Batman & Robin" #1, which had the words "Batman Reborn" across the top of the cover?
Joe Quesada: No. I've got to tell you, it's been a while since I've looked at a DC book, and I think most of fandom can relate to that. Zing! First one of the year on Comic Book Resources! C'mon folks, I can hear you typing on message boards as we speak, let me have it, I can take as good as I give!
You know, I didn't see the cover, but someone e-mailed me about it, and I got a chuckle out of it. I think it's all fair in love and war. I have no problem with it at all, whether intentional or accidental -- which does happen from time to time. They want to poke, they can poke. We can poke. It's all part of the fun of comics and the fun of a rivalry, so I'm cool with it.
And let me interject: sometimes people in the comics industry have to get a sense of humor. Really. And if you're going to be a person who's going to be a weekly reader or a daily reader of this site -Â whatever it grows to be -Â please come to it with a sense of humor. Comics are fun, and whether you're a DC fan or a Marvel fan and you read this because you want to hear what I'm going to say or hate what I'm going to say, understand that we do all this stuff for fun. It's comics, smile, life is way too short.
Jonah Weiland: If you think that's going to keep the cranks on the message board off your butt...
Joe Quesada: Absolutely not! In fact, I rely on the cranks. Although I don't think "crank" is the proper word. To me they're passionate fans and I rely on them greatly-Â particularly the one that gets upset about the stuff I say because ultimately, that's the one who gets the word out. Because they're so infuriated by the stuff I'm saying or the stuff we're doing at Marvel, they go from message board to message board, blog to blog e-mailing their friends and associates and other fans to say, "Can you believe what this idiot said?" Ultimately, they're marketing our product for us, so I love those cats. And again, they pay their money to read these books, and they have the right to voice their opinion.
My problem is when they don't voice their opinion civilly. I'm willing to hear disgruntled opinion all day long. It comes with the job. Let's talk civilly about it, and you'll always get an answer from me and in most cases we learn something from on and other. Just because someone is disgruntled doesn't make them wrong.
Kiel Phegley: Staying on the topic of the rivalry and what gets said about Marvel in the public space, I saw a quote from your counterpart at DC Comics, Dan DiDio, where he was talking about DC's choice to renumber "Adventure Comics" with a new #1 rather than pick up the old numbering. He said something along the lines of "We don't need to make our books get to #600 to make it a big deal."
Now, I bring this up not to start a pissing match, but because when you started as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, you inherited some books that had been rebooted as #1s, and you were willing to cancel and re-launch titles in order to bring more eyes to them. DC was seen as the company that followed tradition more. Now, the roles have been reversed, with Marvel going back to old numbering on everything from "Cap" to "Thor" to "Daredevil." Has your opinion on numbering changed since you originally took this job?
Joe Quesada: I think it's a number of things. First of all, I think for me to say "We're not going to do things just to draw attention to our books" would be silly- I didn't read what Dan wrote, so I'm going to assume you're paraphrasing here and take it at face value. The truth of the matter is, it's the equivalent of me saying, "I don't want to do things that will help my books sell." I don't know what the exact quote is, so please forgive me, folks, if I'm going out of context based on what Kiel said here. However, it all sounds really contradictory to me because what do you think giving a comic a big fat #1 is doing? It's bringing attention to it. It's marketing 101 and we created it at Marvel long before I ever sat in this chair. Trust me, you launch "Adventure Comics" with a #504 and it's not going to sell nearly as much as if you launched it with a #1. So I guess, the bottom line is that I don't understand what he's saying?
But, back to the subject at hand. There was a point where we started to realize we were getting up in numbers and that we had a significant history here at Marvel. We wanted to reflect that history. We thought it would be a fun way to draw attention to our books. Look, just because we're the biggest selling company in the comics industry and just because our books sell higher than most, that doesn't mean we have to stop spinning the plates and drawing attention to our books.
So yeah, if "Spider-Man" is getting close to a 600th issue even though he's not near #600 in the modern numbering, I'm going to label that issue #600 because it's going to draw attention to the book and we're going to try to give you a hallmark story at that point. Any place where we can put a big flag on our books and go, "Hey guys! Come here! This is the book you want to buy!" we're going to do it. We're absolutely going to do it. I see no shame in it, and to me it's just a part of the business of comics and trying to sell your books, to get new readers, old readers, lapsed readers -Â whatever it may be -Â to come to our product. Anything other than that is just silly to me. I don't get it.
Kiel Phegley: A lot of fans who have been following the books for years get excited about that legacy aspect, even in the numbering of issues, and DC is going to be hitting #900 pretty soon for "Action Comics." Is there a little bit of competition for you to see how many books you can get up there in numbering in a competitive sense of "Who gets there first?"
Joe Quesada: No. Ultimately, we can't compete with DC at that. They've been publishing for a considerable time longer than we have. So unless we accelerated the publishing on every single one of our books, we couldn't compete on that level. Sometimes we forget at Marvel that we have history too and our characters have been around for a while, even though I think we do a better job of keeping them fresh and more relevant than other people. But every once in a while it's nice to tip your hat to the reader who's been here a long time and the reader who may not be aware of the kind of history we have. Really, there's no way we'd be able to compete with DC on that matter.
But let me ask you, why is DC making a big deal about #900? BAM! See what I just did there! [laughs]
Kiel Phegley: At the same time, we've heard that "Deadpool" may be hitting a milestone 900th issue?
Joe Quesada: [laughs] Yes. And contrary to popular belief, that was not me. That came out of the editorial mind of Axel Alonso. He just came into my office and said, "I want to do this," and I said, "Alright. Go ahead. Knock yourself out." So while I gave it the thumbs up, that bit of evil did not come from my head.
Well, come on, they're using "Reborn" on a cover of "Batman & Robin."
Jonah Weiland: That does make sense. Deadpool is kind of the biggest jerk in the Marvel Universe.
Joe Quesada: Yes. And now Axel Alonso has taken on that persona. Let me add, by the way: I am more than tickled and more than surprised at how Deadpool is very quickly becoming a must-read character. Deadpool fans rejoice because Deadpool is starting to get a little bit of cache, and he's starting to get a little bit of a Wolverine vibe around him where he's really growing in popularity amongst the X-Men books. I'm watching more and more writers and more and more fans gravitate towards the character. Bravo to Rob Liefeld!
Jonah Weiland: Do you think that had anything to do with seeing a version of the character in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine?"
Joe Quesada: Maybe? I just think it's the zeitgeist right now. Something about how he's being written and drawn by the current creative teams that I think is really resonating with fans. It may also have something to do with the fact that it is a quirky, humorous, violent book, and it's totally over the top, absurdist escapism. Right now with the climate of the country, people are looking for that kind of stuff. Maybe the character's resonating more because of that. Whatever it is, it's something that's bubbling and scratching at the back of my neck. I've had enough experience at this job to know when something's starting to heat up a little bit.
Kiel Phegley: Marvel's August solicitations revealed that after the 600th anniversary issue, "The Incredible Hulk" will continue on with #601 with Greg Pak writing the main feature, but the book will also have a "Savage She-Hulk" backup by Fred Van Lente. DC made a very big deal of adding backups to some of their titles that were increasing to $3.99. Is "Incredible Hulk" evidence that Marvel will be doing the same?
Joe Quesada: We definitely talked about that internally when we went up to the $3.99 price point on some of our books. We did talk about backup content in several titles. So it is something you're going to see happening, and it's something we decided months and months ago. We just didn't go into a whole public thing about it because we're not quite sure what books it's going to land on yet. I can't guarantee it's going to happen across the board, but you will start seeing that in more books later this year.
Jonah Weiland: Speaking of $3.99, we've got to talk about something that blew up a couple of weeks ago. Marvel's General Counsel John Turitzin commented at a recent conference on the price increases seen at Marvel Comics and said, "We're always testing our pricing on our comic books to see to the extent to which it is inelastic, and we can increase our profit in that business," and followed that up with, "We're just looking to maximize our profits for that business while not alienating our own fan base by making them feel that they're gouged, which I hope you don't feel."
The comments he made seem to be counter to previous comments from Marvel, which were that the price increases were a consequence of various cost increases. Fans were angered by Turitzin's remarks. What can you say about this apparent conflict in the reasons for Marvel's $3.99 price increases?
Joe Quesada: Here's the thing: I read the blog entry in which those quotes appeared. And by the way, you have to re-read the blog entry because a lot of it had paraphrasing in there. There were some actual quotes supposedly, but I haven't seen a real hard transcript of the thing. And there was some interjection by the blogger as to what Marvel's intent was in this. So I would go back and read it a little more carefully because the thing that's important here is that John did not say, "This is not because of an increase in cost." I don't think that was asked to him. He's talking to a group of investors. He's talking to a different kind of audience, and he's delivering a particular message about how our books sell. He's there to sell Marvel and say, "Yes, Marvel makes money." But he's not there necessarily to talk about how costs increase, and nobody asked him that question.
When people say he's conflicting what we're saying -Â I read that thing second hand after someone sent me the blog post and heard it was inciting people to anger, and when I read it I thought, "I don't quite see where the discrepancy is." John never conflicted on that and said, "Oh no! It has nothing to do with our costs!" If he'd said that, we could talk about that, but that's not what was said.
So again, I'd urge people to re-read the blogger's posting. And no slight to the blogger. He was posting and editorializing as well, and that was his job. He asked a question, got an answer and editorialized from his point of view as to what it was all about. I didn't see anything there that conflicted with what we were saying because the truth of the matter is that costs have gone up. If anyone has been living in this particular world for...forget the last 20 years, how about the last year? If they don't think for a second that costs have gone up on stuff, you're kidding yourself because, really, costs have gone up on everything. Not just what we do here at Marvel. I know people want to get angry at stuff like that, but let's look at it more carefully.
Jonah Weiland: You're right, at no point were costs brought up in the conversation with Turitzin, but it was this quote that really set people off: "We're always testing our pricing on our comic books to see to the extent to which it is inelastic."
Joe Quesada: And by the way, that's true. We do test our costing, but to me, my interpretation of that is that we understand $3.99 is a steep price, but we do have to test it. We do. We have overhead here. If we weren't testing it, every book across the board would have gone to $3.99, and we would have gone, "Okay. We're done." We're trying different pricing based upon the different kinds of content and the different readers we have. Our young readers books are priced differently than our MAX books are priced. It is something that anyone in the business world does with pricing. Look at iTunes, for example. iTunes now has various pricing as well. Does that mean they're milking the people that buy their music? No. They have costs as well, and they're trying to price things accordingly to desire, necessity and covering whatever their ultimate nut is. That's my take on this thing. Because we have sat here and talked about, for a very long time, how our prices needed to go up to $3.99 at one point. We held that line for a very long time as well, and finally we had to say, "You know what, we do have to go up in price, but we won't do it across the line, and we'll test it out on other product." That's what we're doing.
And John did say, "If $3.99 proves to be too much..." John was asked that and whether we'd go down in price, and he said, "Yes, we'd have to go down in price." But understand this: if we did that, the quality of the book would go down as well. There's no question about that. I can promise you that just because the book costs what it costs to make. If we cut prices then everything from paper stock to coloring to the creative teams on these books [would be cut too.] I've talked about this publicly before, if people want comics to be $0.25 again or if we burned them down to a dollar, I'm sure every major creator who works in the comics industry would be working somewhere else other than comics. We wouldn't be able to pay them what they'd make working in animation, working in movies...
Jonah Weiland: Video games.
Joe Quesada: Anywhere! As it is, we can't compete with those industries. We try to get as close as possible.
Jonah Weiland: As we're wrapping up here, I'd like to formally welcome you to CBR. I hope we have a long, fruitful relationship here. I think we're going to have some fun.
Joe Quesada: I want to thank you guys for the gold watch. It's very nice. [laughs] You know, CBR, it's feeling like a nice, comfortable shirt. I like the way it feels. Not too snug and plenty of room to move around in and grow -- no fat jokes please.
Shall we talk about what fans can expect coming up?
Jonah Weiland: We're going to evolve CUP O' JOE constantly. When we first started talking about this project, I told you and your team we would be honored to host the weekly Q&A with fans, but that we really wanted to evolve CUP O' JOE a bit with content that would publish more than just once a week. This is going to be an ongoing process and we're always going to try and come up with new ideas. Tell us some of what you're excited about.
Joe Quesada: First of all, we want to let the fans that come to this site know we're just starting out right now, and there's going to be some bugs and kinks to work out. The site is evolving. We're going to figure out how to get the information out there in the best way possible and to make sure to get to all the questions that are on everyone's minds. Give us a little time. It won't be perfect the first month or so, but we're going to try and make this your go-to comic spots.
The reason I started doing this, oh so many years ago, was because I always loved Stan's Soap Box as a kid and I loved his direct line to the fans. Today, the net offers me a unique opportunity of not only talking directly to the fans, but having them talk directly to me as well on an almost instantaneous basis. Marvel is all about inclusion and letting people see how it all works behind the curtain, warts and all and for me that's the fun of it and I think it resonates with all our readers out there.
So, yeah, we'll be adding on bells and whistles as we go. For example, I'm going to put up sketches and art and who knows what else - either things I'm working on currently or just doodling during the course of the day. I have a knack, or better yet, an obsession, with constantly sketching during meetings. For whatever reason, when I stop sketching I don't listen as well. [laughs] So I'm always drawing, and while most are chicken scratches, some are a little more fully realized. More often than not, they're preliminary sketches for a cover that I'll be doing in the future, or an idea I may have for a character design of story concept. So from time to time you might see hints of Marvel's future within the hieroglyphics of my sketches.
We're also working on a poll, right? A weekly item where people can "touch my poll" or whatever you guys want to call it. [laughs] Any complaints about the title of this segment please write to Jonah Weiland c/o CBR.
Jonah Weiland: Yes, we're going to ask our visitors to CLICK JOE'S POLL!
Joe Quesada: I blush at the thought of it. Hopefully, CUP O' JOE here on CBR will be a fun and entertaining romp for fans everywhere. I promise I'll can be extra obnoxious and extremely truthful and candid, and hopefully people prefer me that way. I've come to learn that fans seem to like that, for better or worse. It's all part of the fun of CUP O' JOE and getting into the swing of things.
Also, we're going to be doing fan questions. So guys, post your stuff on the forums. We've got ideas. We can't implement every single one of them right away, but soon CBR will be dominating the world.
Jonah Weiland: We'll have a question thread from which we'll be pulling fan questions every week. Follow the link at the bottom of this article and get to it.
A brief digressions here for a moment. Co-producing this feature on CBR is Staff Writer Kiel Phegley, who'll be the one tasked with going through those forum threads to find your best questions for the Weekly Q&A. Welcome aboard, Kiel!
Kiel Phegley: Yaaaaaaay.
Joe Quesada: My ego takes great solace in knowing that it takes two people to actually interview me these days.
Jonah Weiland: Joe, another thing you mentioned in our early discussion regarding the message boards is that we want feedback from readers as well. We want to know what they want from CUP O' JOE. This is a lot of heavy lifting for everybody, and if there are really good ideas that are solid, we want to implement them.
Joe Quesada: Absolutely. I want to encourage fans to send in their suggestions as to what they want to see on CUP O' JOE @ CBR. I think that's incredibly helpful, and as fans of my old Friday columns know, there are many times where a fan will give us a suggestion and we'll implement it. If it's a great idea, it's a great idea, and we'll use it. That's great bragging rights for the fan in question. We're going to be doing some fun stuff. It'll be morphing, so send your cards and letters. Oh yeah, and I love nutty questions. One of my favorite things in the world is where people ask insane questions, so I think we should do something with those as well. All in due time.
Jonah Weiland: As we conclude here, I think the message should be sent to all our readers that you never know what you're going to get here, and make sure to stop by http://cupojoe.comicbookresources.com on a regular basis. The one suggestion we won't go for is "Less Joe."
Joe Quesada: Unless of course I give you that suggestion.