VISITING MARVEL (PART TWO)Enlarge
Continuing where we left off two Tuesdays ago...
I sat with Stuart Moore and Axel Alonso after lunch and talked about a bunch of different things. They're really excited to be at Marvel. It's difficult to tell how much of that is just the honeymoon period talking, but we'll find out in the long run. (It's pretty standard that when you start a new job it's going to be something you love. The cracks show up a little later down the road. The same could be said for Marvel as a whole right now, actually.) They're excited about the freewheeling and more open nature that Marvel has right now. Alonso likens Marvel to the "Wild West."
I asked them about Warren Ellis' "banned" HELLBLAZER story, "Shoot." Alonso -- who was the original editor of the story -- said he thinks it's not completely out of the question that the story could see print somewhere down the line. He asserted that DC's decision not to publish the story was not an issue of censorship, but of unfortunate timing in the highly volatile political climate post-Columbine. Once the heat dies down a bit in a year or two, Alonso thought there was a good argument for publishing the story -- possibly in a trade paperback collection of Ellis's HELLBLAZER, along with additional commentary (from perhaps Ellis himself or maybe DC President Jenette Kahn) about the real-life incidents it portrays.
When Moore suggested that Paul Levitz didn't change his mind so easily on his decisions, Alonso cited the change in Kyle Baker's "Letitia Lerner" story, now scheduled to see print in an upcoming hardcover volume, and the controversial "Red Romance" short story by Joe Lansdale and Bruce Timm, which was originally scheduled to appear in the HEART THROBS anthology, but eventually saw print in the horror anthology FLINCH. According to Alonso, Levitz will reverse a decision if he feels an editor can provide the company with the right context for a story.
After lunch, I adjourned to Joe Quesada's office for some comics discussion. (Well, it had to wait while he conducted a phone interview, mostly about the X-MEN movie, it seems.)
I asked him first about the Todd McFarlane $1,000 challenge. Yes, he's serious about this. He explained that it would bring a new excitement to comics. Using the example of the announcement of Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, he speculated as to what a return to McFarlane-drawn comics would do. You can argue about his technical proficiency all you want, but there are plenty of comics fans out there who would love to see this. And with McFarlane's name recognition outside of comics now, too, it might bring some new faces in with him.
Quesada understands full well that he'd have to back the truck up to McFarlane's offices to get him to draw Spider-Man, but maybe he could talk him into a Spawn/Spidey crossover or some middle ground. He doesn't think a McFarlane-drawn SPAWN is enough to do it. It needs to be some sort of event book.
But it is a dead serious proposition. Yes, it brings some more publicity and controversy to the House of Ideas, but that's not the point. And, no, there is no back room deal between Quesada and McFarlane on this. This is all on the level.
And it's not over yet! Quesada promises to up the ante soon...Note: I wrote this last week. On Wednesday Quesada did, indeed, up the ante convincingly through an open letter released on Fandom.com. I know I'm excited at the prospect of something like this happening. I really hope Todd bites on this one. The thought of Todd drawing Spidey again gets me excited. And I know there are people out there who left comics a decade ago who might come back for that. Heck, I can name you one right now: Phil Volltrauer. He's a fellow at work who hasn't read comics since around the time of Image's formation. But he was such a big McFarlane fan that he'd walk right into a comics shop for this book. If Todd can get him that far, I'll take care of the rest in getting the right trade paperbacks into his hands after that.
Quesada is quite serious about drawing his half of the challenge, also. When I asked him what was on his drawing board, he sighed a bit and said, "nothing." He told me that he'd like to be drawing more, but that nobody's pitching anything to him right now. With his new job and, I'd guess, the track record on DAREDEVIL, it seems nobody's throwing any scripts his way to look at. So, let me say it for him: If you're a writer with a one shot or a special or something smaller with a long lead time and looking for someone to draw it, contact Quesada today.
The other thing that Quesada brought up that actually surprised me was a new business decision. Marvel is going to stop overprinting their books by as much as they have been.
"When we overprint, we don't sell all of the books," Quesada explained. "The money that was spent on those extra copies could have been better used for other creative marketing programs."
While I find it hard to argue with the logic there, I'm afraid this might hurt books in situations like ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1. There are certain books which you can take a guess at are being underordered. Those books should still have a larger overprint. I can understand not wanting to be stuck with hundreds or thousands of spare copies of CAPTAIN AMERICA or FANTASTIC FOUR, but when you have a book with great buzz behind it and low orders, wouldn't it be worth the risk to overprint those? I grant you, it's impossible to guess at these things properly, but it would be worth it for those rare occasions when it happens. Plus, there are geniuses in marketing who can fairly accurately guess sales figures. It's an odd, arcane, and somewhat mystical art, but it's there. Use that.
Finally, a thought on the stuff going on at Marvel right now -- as much excitement and energy that's coming into the offices right now, the real wait is for the spring of 2001. That's when everything changes. That's when the Spider-Man books get back on track, and when the X-Men titles start in their new direction. Shortly thereafter, there's a chance that the creator-owned or mature readers lineup will start up. The problem with comics is the lead time. They take months to get going. By the time you commission a script to the time the final film is done takes months. Granted, with the increasing computerization of everything, a lot of that time has been cut out of the schedule. Axel Alonso and Stuart Moore talked at lunch about how convenient the computer lettering is. While it may not necessarily be their preference, it makes things so much easier to handle. By eliminating FedEx and just sending .jpg's around from one artist to the next, much of the delayed time can be made up. Still, though, the Marvel offices are littered with used FedEx books. You can look down the hallway in editors row and see the castaway boxes outside doors, just to help ease the tension inside the offices.
Wow, that paragraph went spinning away from me.
The point is -- everything that Joe Quesada and his new team has been working for from Day One will finally be in full swing come the spring. The books will be on the shelves and it'll be sink or swim time. The general air, though, is that the books will swim. Looking at their lineups an announced intentions, it's hard to disagree with them. We'll see what the books look like then, though.
One last thing: Millie the Model. It's not just a joke anymore. heh heh heh
IN THE PIPELINE FOR TUESDAYSure, Monday is a holiday. But that doesn't stop anything here at Pipeline Headquarters! I'll be burning the Yuletide Oil to bring you yet another column fresh on Tuesday morning. It'll be the monthly look through PREVIEWS. This time, come see what's shipping in March 2001. Take a spin through over 400 pages of solicitations and see what catches my eye and what should be catching yours!
For those celebrating, Merry Christmas or Happy Channukah! For those of you who aren't -- enjoy the nice long weekend and wear red and green just to confuse your friends!