Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge. But today, CBR has a Thanksgiving weekend surprise.
With the “All-New Miracleman Annual” on sale in a little more than a month — Dec. 31 — CBR contacted the man who formerly inhabited the Friday afternoon Q&A slot on this site — Joe Quesada, Marvel’s chief creative officer and Axel Alonso’s predecessor in the EiC chair. The issue will feature the first new Miracleman material in more than 20 years, following seminal work from creators including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Alan Davis, John T. Totleben and Mark Buckingham. For the annual, Quesada has made a rare return to interior pages to draw a nearly 30-year-old Kid Miracleman story written by a very young Grant Morrison. That same issue will include a wholly new story from the “X-Statix” team of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, focusing on the 1950s version of Miracleman.
Quesada talked in detail with CBR about his contribution to the “Miracleman Annual,” working with Morrison and the responsibility that comes with working on the first new Miracleman stories in decades. Additionally, the CCO shares his thoughts on the recent “Death of Wolverine,” Marvel’s recent push towards greater diversity in its comics and its film, and the ambitious Marvel Studios slate announced a few weeks back.
Alonso will return next Friday for your regularly scheduled Axel-In-Charge, addressing the news of the week and answering your questions from the CBR Community.
Albert Ching: Joe, the importance and influence of the mid-’80s to early ’90s “Miracleman” stories is clear. With December’s “Miracleman Annual” bringing the first new stories featuring the character in decades, how much of a responsibility do you — and Marvel as a whole — feel in getting it “right”? You’ve made it very clear over the years how important “Miracleman” was to you as a reader — how significant of a comic is this to you, both as chief creative officer of the company and as the artist of one of the two stories in the annual?
Joe Quesada: There’s no doubt that I personally feel a great sense of responsibility with this. Marvel has certainly demonstrated the same, which I think is evident in the patience and care we’ve shown in relaunching the character and the classic material. The original series had a profound effect on me as a comics reader at the time and then later as a working professional, so there is absolutely a great sense to “get it right,” but I think “don’t eff it up” would be a more accurate summation in my case.
While working on a new Miracleman story is daunting enough, the fact that this story by Grant has a place within the history of the original run has only served to add more pressure than usual and more than I even anticipated when I took on the assignment. Add in the fact that this is the first and only time Grant and I have ever had the opportunity to work together as writer and artist and that sense of “don’t eff it up” is only amplified. Granted, I realize that the pressure is all self-imposed, but it doesn’t make it any easier regardless.
It probably all sounds very silly to those fans who are either coming to the material with fresh eyes or aren’t aware of its historical significance. Not that I could blame them, it’s a hard thing to do if you weren’t there at the time the material was being released. So many great stories have been influenced by this run of comics in one way or another that it’s difficult to truly appreciate the original run in the manner it was viewed while it was being released and breaking new ground.
Not only are these the first “Miracleman” stories in years, this is also the first full story you’ve illustrated since, I believe, 2010. I know you do quite a bit of drawing in your role as CCO not to mention multiple covers a year, but how satisfying was it to return to sequential, interior work for this?
Quesada: It was a blast to get back to telling a sequential story. As much as I love doing covers whenever I have the chance, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to tell a story from start to finish, panel to panel, scene to scene and collaborate with a writer or work on something I’ve written myself. Being a bit OCD (OK, maybe more than a bit) I find every aspect of the process immensely enjoyable; and by every aspect I’m not just referring to the laying out and drawing of the story. There’s also all the research, gathering of reference and decisions on approach that makes someone with my special brand of compulsiveness giddy with pleasure. For this story I decided to take a somewhat European comics approach and I was looking at more than my share of Moebius and Sergio Toppi before getting into it. I traditionally enjoy using a lot of black and shadow in my work, but I intentionally forced myself to work in an open style, which was completely against the grain of anything that I would normally do. You actually don’t see any heavy, blocky blacks enter the story with the exception of one character and that’s by design.
Another satisfying aspect of the project was working on something that was going to be seen by the public. As you mentioned, I’ve been doing mostly cover work because of the little free time available to me, but I’ve also been working on a significant amount of stuff that no one will ever see for our various TV and animation projects. I think comic artists by our very nature love to put ourselves out there and aren’t the kind of people who would prefer to work in anonymity, so doing a project that’s going to get into the hands of fans is really gratifying and a bit scary, but it’s the good kind of scary.
Grant Morrison and Joe Quesada is certainly a high-profile team. Though Morrison’s “New X-Men” certainly was a major part of your early tenure as Marvel editor-in-chief, seeing you work together as writer and artist is something new. Since it is a nearly 30-year-old script, how timeless do you view the story? And though it’s based on an existing script, has Morrison been involved in the production of this issue?
Quesada: The story is timeless in the sense that it was written to be inserted in the original run and it has its place within the original continuity. It’s an unseen story that takes place before the battle over London. I believe it was written when Grant was 19 and I worked off his original manuscript, which can be seen in the bonus material in the back of the issue. Grant was intimately involved with the process as a now older, more seasoned Grant took to editing his 19-year-old self, and that alone seems like a perfectly trippy Morrisonesque kind of thing to have happen which makes me smile.
The other story in the annual is by the beloved “X-Force”/”X-Statix” team of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, and stars the ’50s version of Miracleman. What do you find intriguing about their approach to that story, and its pairing in the issue with the one you’re illustrating?
Quesada: It’s Milligan and Allred, how can that not be amazing? Those two just have a fantastic collaboration that’s visible on every page. I love their story, it’s got the magic of the classic material, but there’s a wonderful, foreshadowing, and somewhat ominous wink as well. It’s really charming, funny and smart. The story totally disarms you and then you get to… well, I shouldn’t spoil it.
Though there are many famous comics characters even older than Miracleman still in circulation, since it has been so long since there’s been any new Miracleman material, it’s an unknown as to how the character truly fits into today’s comics world going forward. What’s exciting to you about the challenges of telling new stories starring this character in the current climate?
Quesada: The excitement for me is to see where other creators will take the character. There are some characters that just bring out the best in many writers and artists. I think in our library Daredevil is very much that character. I believe that Miracleman, because of his incredible legacy of past creators, is going to be very much the same. As a creator you can’t help but be aware of the history that a character like Miracleman has, and you can’t help but want to live up to that.
Also wanted to get your take on a few other pieces of major Marvel news since the last time we talked. Let’s start with another big publishing initiative: the recently wrapped “Death of Wolverine.” What are your thoughts on Wolverine — a character known for appearing in sometimes potentially dozens of comics a month — being off the publishing playing field for at least the immediate future? How do you see the impact of that compared to some other notable Marvel character deaths in recent history?
Quesada: We’ve had a very good track record over the last decade or so with character deaths and resurrections. I think they’ve provided some amazing stories that have given us new insight into the characters, as well as renewed life for others (ah, the irony). Some fans will always moan about Wolvie being in too many books, but it’s not an accurate gauge of what the reality is. Which is he’s in all those books because the majority of fans love the character and love reading his stories. When you see a character appearing in multiple titles it’s not because fans don’t want to see it and aren’t buying those appearances. It’s quite the opposite. But alas poor Logan met his demise and who knows if we’ll ever bring him back.
I remember when we killed off Captain America and replaced him with Bucky, there was what would have appeared on the surface to be a huge outcry that it was a terrible idea and that Cap would be back in a few months. “Huge” being the operative word here because on the Internet a few voices can sometimes fool you into thinking it’s what the majority of fans are thinking, especially when you read posts that say, “all us fans hate/love (fill in the blank).” About six months into Bucky’s run as Cap, I was doing a Cup O’ Joe panel at a convention, it was standing room only and I asked the audience, “How many people would like to see Steve Rogers back as Captain America?” Half the room, maybe a little less, raised their hands. Then I asked, “How many would like to see Bucky continue?” You can figure out the rest. It was mind blowing to see how fandom had embraced Bucky, which more than anything, had to do with the magnificent story that Ed Brubaker was writing. If you do it well these deaths can be exciting storytelling mechanisms. Do it poorly and suddenly it’s, “all character deaths suck!” I think “Death of Wolverine” is going to give fans some wonderful stories and surprises — and let’s face it, sometimes you can’t truly appreciate someone until they’re gone.
Then there’s the massive slate of Marvel movies announced by Kevin Feige a few weeks back, stretching all the way to 2019. Obviously the success of Marvel Studios isn’t a new story, but for you as someone who’s been a major Marvel representative since years before the first “Iron Man,” does seeing that packed schedule stretching out five years into the future galvanize a feeling of further confidence in the brand — and the type of long-term storytelling previously only seen in comics?
Quesada: If you go back into the old Cup O’ Joe archives you might just find that I’ve been asked on more than one occasion what my future hopes were for Marvel. I always responded the same way, “Total and complete world domination!” The growing movie slate makes me incredibly proud because it’s a testimonial to all the hard work and creative energies of all the people who work here and work with us, whether present or past. We’ve managed to create something that resonates with the world at large and in that sense we’ve been very blessed and fortunate. I’m thrilled to have been here to watch it happen, and maybe contribute in some small way.
Much has been noted lately on the increasing diversity in the leads of Marvel’s comics, with more female and minority solo titles, such as Kamala Kahn in “Ms. Marvel” and more. Then there’s the significance of both “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” solo films on Marvel Studios’ schedule. From your position, how important is the continued focus on diverse representation in all aspects of Marvel? And how much more work do you think is left to do in this area?
Quesada: It’s incredibly important and has always been important to Marvel since the creation of the Black Panther in 1966. We’ve had a long history of diversity and it’s not something that we ever intend on stopping. Could we do better? Absolutely. We could always do better, but that’s the case with everything we do from story to art to any aspect of our business. There’s always going to be room to improve. The day you stop feeling that way is the day you’re destined to go out of business. It’s no different to me than when I’m drawing a project like this Miracleman story for the annual. As I’m doing it I think it’s turning out OK, but when I’m done I look back on the pages and cringe because there’s so much I could have done better. It doesn’t mean that what I’ve done wasn’t to the best of my abilities, it just means that I can’t help but feel that there’s room for improvement.
That’s what’s always been great about working at Marvel. Even with all the recent success, there’s an incredible humility and self-deprecating humor to the people that work here. No one takes themselves too seriously and that comes from the feeling that we can always improve and make our product stronger and a desire to always strive towards that goal.
Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!
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