KAPOW 2012: Cup o' Joe

A personal appearance by Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada gave the mostly British audience at the Kapow Comic Con a rare chance to enjoy a traditional Cup o' Joe panel in their home country. Flanked by convention figurehead Mark Millar, Marvel talent scout CB Cebulski and "Uncanny X-Men" writer Kieron Gillen, Quesada welcomed the audience and invited them to discuss anything they needed, be it comics, fashion or relationship advice. Although as it turned out, the success of "The Avengers" movie had left the crowd in the mood for one topic above all others.

Dispensing with the traditional slideshow of teasers, Quesada instead went straight into a Q&A -- though not before Mark Millar excused himself to visit the Men's Room -- a result of a brief spell in the pub prior (a running theme for panels this year).

The movie-centric tone was set early on, with the opening question concerning the likelihood of Quesada making any cameos in future Marvel movies. His response was emphatic: "No! No cameos!" he said, adding that "no-one wants to see me on film" and saying Stan Lee had earned the right to make his cameos, but Quesada wasn't interested in being in front of the camera having already had his fun on Kevin Smith's movies.

Moving on to digital comics, an audience member asked the panel what they thought was interesting and exciting about the format. Quesada took the opportunity to talk about Marvel's "Infinite Comics" initiative, saying that they kept the purity of the comics medium rather than creating a hybrid animation. A returning Mark Millar quipped that focusing on the iPhone crowd was okay, but wanted to know when Marvel would cater to the £20 Nokia crowd, waving his own thrifty-looking handset in the air.

In particular, Quesada noted comics was an unusual retail industry in that it was the only one he could think of where everyone went to buy releases at the same time on the same day, often from one shop. He said that one thing digital comics could soon change was not just where, but also when new comics are bought.

Kieron Gillen added the fairly large town in which he grew up didn't even have a comic shop when he was a teenager (which meant that he didn't read them) and for him the exciting thing about digital comics is that "if you want to buy them, you can."

The next question saw a fan ask about the relationship between Disney and Marvel, and how it was affecting the business. Quesada praised Marvel's new owners, saying Disney had been "exactly what they promised," which meant Marvel largely had autonomy but could also leverage Disney's "international muscle." With a mixture of surprise and glee, he also pointed out that "Marvel now has an animation studio! In its own building!"

As the panel discussed how the power of Disney's marketing was useful in the success of the Avengers movie, Millar pointed out "The Avengers" was actually the first pure Disney/Marvel movie, as both Thor and Captain America were Paramount productions.

A pair of Marvel-themed comics questions concerned Carol Danvers' "promotion" to Captain Marvel, and the current state of Marvelman.

Asked why Danvers was becoming Captain Marvel now after so long, CB Cebulski pointed out the publisher had been waiting two or three years for the right moment to make this change, and that time had simply arrived. She was also described as the "natural inheritor" of the name. Gillen highlighted that Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of the new "Captain Marvel" series had written the "Osborn" miniseries last year, describing it as "fantastic."

As for Marvelman, one fan's various questions about the property were evaded for legal reasons, with Quesada simply assuring the audience that "it is coming."

When asked about the likelihood of an "Avengers Vs. X-Men" crossover movie, Quesada described the chances as "astronomical" due to a rights situation, re-iterating that Sony owns the "Spider-Man" rights while Fox owns "Daredevil," "Fantastic Four" and "X-Men" -- although it was again confirmed the rights to the Punisher have reverted to Marvel. Asked in greater depth which characters could appear where, Quesada said it's normally down to a character's first appearance as to which "family" of rights they belong to, but that there are exceptions. Ultimately, he said that there are lawyers on both sides with big lists -- drawn up before Quesada was really a part of the process -- of what is and isn't allowed, so even he's mostly guessing.

One questioner wondered if the development of sequels to "Iron Man" and "Thor" meant that Marvel was reducing the chance of Marvel Studios spending time on other, smaller characters, and Quesada admitted that there wasn't necessarily the manpower or budget at Marvel Studios right now to spend time on smaller, riskier projects -- although he did say there were several movies in the works right now and he thinks people will be pleasantly surprised when they hear more about what they are. He did actively decline to say anything about "Ant-Man" on the grounds that Disney's lawyers might be listening.

A series of questions also focused on the financial side of Marvel's publishing operations. Asked about which title they were most surprised to have to cancel, Quesada admitted that publishing had been through a rough patch recently which they were just emerging from, and every comic they have to cancel is someone's favorite. Cebulski answered more directly, saying that he was sad they couldn't keep "Runaways" alive.

Questions about Marvel's various imprints led to Quesada admitting that the slow disappearance of Marvel Knights and MAX was "strictly economic," calling the company "a very democratic place" and while he wouldn't rule out a return for those lines, their existence was dependent on sales. Quizzed about the point of the Ultimate line (initially designed to be reader-accessible) now that it has 10 years of history behind it, Quesada described how the function of the line had changed to become more of an ideas proving ground where they could do things that couldn't be done in the regular Marvel universe -- for example, killing Peter Parker.

Asked if the introduction of Miles Morales had invited any racist comments, Quesada said that there were far fewer than you might think, and that he had received more positive emails than anything else, and that the Rawhide Kid MAX series from 2003 had prompted far more hate mail -- so much that one weekend their email servers crashed.

Tying into this, the panel was also asked which ideas they thought were the absolute worst. Quesada related the time Marvel employee Scott "Pondscum" Elmer showed him the collection of crazy submissions, which included a Jesus Christ vs. the Silver Surfer comic, fully-rendered in crayon. Millar simply reminded Quesada of the time he was invited to write "a little comic about Aunt May's first sexual experience" (referring to his 2003 series "Trouble" with Terry Dodson).

One of the panel's various movie questions also asked which niche characters the panel would like to see movies about. Millar settled on "Avengers 2," on the grounds that "no-one's dreaming about a Defenders movie". Cebulski said he'd love to see the "New Mutants" on-screen, while Gillen first joked that he wanted "a sexy Namor movie" before answering "Dr. Strange." Quesada eventually wrapped the panel by choosing the most obscure character, saying he'd love to see a "Killraven" film.

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