Marvel's "Gold Standard": EiC Joe Quesada Talks Ultimate Plans

Announced Friday, Marvel Comics will be making some changes to their Ultimate line of comics. Considering these comics to be top flight in all respects, Marvel explained that they want to make sure that fans always notice when these books hit the stands and have implemented their "gold standard" program by adding a gold cover treatment to key books in the Ultimate line.

"This unique signature look to represent the 'Gold Standard' will allow fans to quickly identify new number 1's and the beginnings of story arcs in the Ultimate line" Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley said in a release Friday afternoon. "The next twelve months will be like no other in the Ultimate world and we don't want our loyal readers to miss a thing."

The "Gold Standard" will be introduced this November along with the "Ultimate Vision" backup story by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. This story is a prelude to the "Ultimate Extinction" limited series, which concludes the "Gah Lak Tus" trilogy. "Ultimate Vision" consists of four page backup stories, in six-connected parts, that will appear in the following titles.

    NOVEMBER 2005

    DECEMBER 2005

    Marvel said there are no current plans to make the "Ultimate Vision" story available in a trade collection.

    The publisher also outlined some of their plans for the Ultimate line in 2006:

    • "Ultimate Spider-Man" continues with the original creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, bringing new stories like "Deadpool" in March '06, and "Clone Saga" in September '06 (coinciding with issue #100). Issue #104 is a milestone issue, which sees Bendis and Bagley break Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's "Fantastic Four" record for consecutive issues of a Marvel comic.
    • "Ultimate X-Men's" new scribe, Robert Kirkman, kicks off a new story, "Date Night," in January '06 with Tom Raney on art. This will be followed by a new storyline in April 06 with artist Steve Dillon and then the return of Raney in June.
    • "Ultimate Fantastic Four" will bring us "President Thor" in May, with Mark Millar and Greg Land, followed by the duo's last story for the title, "Frightful."
    • "Ultimate Fantastic Four/X-Men" will conclude the two-part mini epic that begins in December's "Ultimate X-Men/Fantastic Four." That conclusion will be courtesy of writer Mike Carey and artist Pasqual Ferry and delivered in February 2006.
    • The highly anticipated "Ultimates" Volume 3 will make it's debut in October of 2006 with Loeb & Madureira providing story and art.
    • "Ultimate Extinction" invades the Ultimate universe in January, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Brandon Peterson. Marvel says the story will unite all the heroes of the Ultimate Universe against - Gah Lak Tus!
    • Novelist Orson Scott Card will continue his story of the Ultimate Tony Stark in "Ultimate Iron Man 2" with art by Pasqual Ferry.

    • "Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk" begins this December 05, by "Lost" creator Damon Lindelof and Leinil Francis Yu.

    Marvel also noted that the Ultimate Annuals, received well by fans and retailers alike, will be returning to the line in July 2006, with creative teams to be announced shortly.

    CBR News caught up with Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada Thursday morning to get some more details on what this all means for Marvel's Ultimate line of comics.

    OK, talk to us about the Ultimate gold standard. What exactly is this initiative?

    It's pretty simple. We have all these wonderful events in the world of Ultimates and what's become very, very evident over the past five years this line has been around is that it really is the gold standard of super hero comics. It's the imprint everybody is trying to copy, that everybody's trying to emulate and that nobody has been able to because it's the one-and-only original. So, using that as our basis-- the fact we consider it the gold standard-- it's basically our marketing campaign for next year. We have all these wonderful Ultimate events that will be coming out during the course of the year, from the whole "Ultimate Galactus" and "Ultimate Extinction," then with Jeph Loeb & Joe Mad taking over "Ultimates" Vol. 3" to Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley breaking the record on "Ultimate Spider-Man," plus the storyline coming up on "Ultimate Spider-Man," well, there's so much cool stuff. Damon Lindelof coming to the Marvel Universe. And there's more, I don't have the list in front of me right now, but it's pretty exciting. It's our way of focusing on the Ultimates line and letting readers know there's constantly going to be great stuff and upheaval and turmoil happening in the world of Ultimates.

    Does this new initiative change anything editorially within the Ultimates line?

    It doesn't necessarily change anything editorially, but what it does is it reminds us to stop and not take anything for granted with the Ultimates line. For instance, we were really happy when we signed Loeb on. We have Robert Kirkman taking over on "Ultimate X-Men." They're part of that next generation of guys who will take over the line and bring it up to the next level with their style and vision.

    With Robert Kirkman taking over "Ultimate X-Men" next year, what does this mean for current series writer Brian K. Vaughn?

    Brian has told us he's taken the book as far as he can and we've loved his run, but it's time to say au revoir.

    Will Brian be doing anything else Ultimates wise in the mean time?

    There's been talk. He's got one Ultimates project he pitched me a couple of years ago that I think is brilliant. My gut tells me we're going to publish it, but whether we do it this year or next year I'm not sure. On top of all the Ultimate stuff that's going on, we have so much big stuff happening within the Marvel line that you just don't want to over load because you start cannibalizing yourself. We try to time these events properly so that retailers know exactly how to order and what to order.

    You mentioned how in the main Marvel line you've got a lot of stuff happening and a lot of momentum within that. How has all that attention that the Marvel line received made you realize that you have something really strong in place with the Ultimate line and, from a marketing perspective, you need to make sure both lines got the proper attention?

    Absolutely. It's always a part of it. When you're juggling two huge lines like this, then you add in things like the Supreme Power line, you are constantly thinking of ways to keep all of it fresh so that readers don't forget these books are here. That's just the world of publishing.

    From day one when I became Editor-In-Chief, I realized this is the world's greatest plate spinning act. (laughs) Do you remember those guys who used to spin plates on the Ed Sullivan Show?


    Yeah, those guys who would start spinning the plates up on the left end, then you go over to the right and back over to the left before they stop spinning. That's really what it's like! You're just trying to keep all those plates afloat. So, we're trying to keep people interested in what it is we're doing and we've been very lucky at Marvel that we've had a great run with this stuff.

    Talk to us a bit about this change in trade dress for gold standard books in the Ultimate line.

    For books that we consider an event, we're going to treat the books with either gold ink or gold foil. For instance, when Damon Lindelof's first issue of "Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk" comes out, the theory is-- and I say theory because there needs to be a corporate check off on this sort of thing (a little insider knowledge for ya)-- that the first issue would get a gold treatment. Probably the Ultimate bars that come down the side-- that cover treatment we do on all the Ultimate books-- that will probably be set in gold. How, I don't know yet. Basically, this is to signify to fans that this is one of those events we've been talking about. You can pretty much be sure that when "Ultimate Spider-Man" reaches #100, it'll get a gold treatment. And when it hits issue #104-- which breaks the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby record for working together on consecutive issues-- that will get the gold treatment as well. Same with the first issue of "Extinction." This is all to signify to fans that we've started this gold standard program and this is to tell you this is the first issue, don't miss it, it's part of a bigger tapestry that's being interwoven in the Ultimate universe.

    So the Ultimate gold standard is both a nickname for a marketing push, as well as something that's going to be part of the trade dress.

    Right, we're going to visualize it for the fans. So, we're saying it and we're showing it to you.

    Will this come with an increase in price as well?

    I don't believe so. That would make me very unhappy.

    Now, many people consider DC's All Star line of books to be a reaction to the success of the Ultimate line of books…

    (excitedly) Oh, no, come on, absolutely not! They wouldn't copy us in any way, shape or form. I do not believe that for a second!


    … (silence)

    (Laughs) Alright, so considering the way DC's loaded up their "All Star" line with their top-tier talent, how much is this marketing push, if at all, a reaction what DC's been doing with All Star?

    I can't say it's a reaction because we've actually been talking about this for over a year now. We started to look at the Ultimate books and said, "There's going to come a time when we're going to have to refresh the talent and start looking at our books." This is sort of reflecting on what the Ultimate books have done, not just for us here at Marvel, but for the comic industry as a whole. From that the words "gold standard" started to circulate around the office. More than anything, it's a way to help us market the Ultimate Universe in a different way than we're marketing the regular Marvel Universe. The Marvel Universe is all about "House of M" right now and will become about the spin-offs of "House Of M" with "Decimation" and things like that. What's happening with Ultimates is in an effort to keep Ultimates, first of all, affordable and the book count to a minimum. We're not doing those giant, line-wide cross-over things, but what we are doing is significant events like we've done with "Ultimate Secret" that leads into "Ultimate Extinction" and started with "Ultimate Nightmare." So, we've had all these sort of little series that, when you put them together, form a big event. That's a little tougher to market without a flag to stick in the stand, which in this case is our gold standard.

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