Wednesday Marvel Conference Call wrap-up

[Marvel]Wednesday afternoon Marvel Comics held another one of their semi-regular conference calls and the comics media assembled, hoping to hear the latest juicy bits from EIC Joe Quesada, Publisher Bill Jemas, Marketing Guy/'Deadline' writer Bill Rosemann and editor Axel Alonso. The conference lasted only 38 minutes, but much was covered during in that period.

With the "Spider-Man" feature film only a few short weeks away you'd expect the topic of conversation would naturally move in that direction, and it did. During the conference it was announced that MTv will air a "Spider-Man" movie special which talks about both the comics and the movie. Rosemann characterized the comic book portion of the special as being "rather lengthy." The program features interviews with John Romita Jr. and John Romita Sr., Quesada, Alonso, and Avi Arad. The air dates are:

  • Sunday, April 28, 9 p.m.
  • Monday, April 29, 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 1, 12:00 p.m.
  • Friday, May 3, 3 p.m.

All times are Eastern Daylight Time. If the program proves popular there will be additional airings of this special.

This past weekend Newsarama reported that Marvel had signed "Amazing Spider-Man" writer J. Michael Straczynski and "Spider-Man/Black Cat" writer Kevin Smith to exclusive contracts. The deal has Smith taking over the chores on "Amazing Spider-Man" with JMS taking the reigns on an all-new, ongoing Spider-Man series tentatively titled "Spider-Man."

Of these exclusives Quesada said it's "great for comics in general that these two guys will be working on the #1 icon in the world at this point."

With these announced changes the question remains what happens to current "Peter Parker, Spider-Man" writer Paul Jenkins. Alonso said that we should be rest assured that Jenkins will be doing a monthly Spider-Man, but stopped short of saying in what form. Quesada said he hoped that Jenkins wouldn't be overshadowed with all the Smith and JMS news going around noting that he's a terrific writer and a good friend. The door at Marvel is always open to him, but that Jenkins is "streamlining his life" right now.

"Paul is going to continue doing Spider-man," said Quesada. "We have some special stuff up our sleeves and we can't let the cat out of the bag."

Alonso continued, "Why do 3 Spider-Man books? We intend to have very good reasons."

When asked about the possibility of working on another Daredevil project with Smith, Quesada said he had indeed spoken to Smith about a return to the character. They've even spoken about a particular story for the book, too. Quesada said the problem with the idea is his and Smith's busy schedule. On their first run together scheduling became an issue and considering how dramatically both creators lives have changed since that first series, this could become an issue again. Quesada characterized it as their "swan song" on the character, and that he'd like to see it as an original graphic novel done up in the tabloid European size. "It's something we want to do," said Quesada. He also mentioned that it's something they'd like to do whether Smith is under contract or not. Quesada noted that in order for a new series to happen Smith would have to write the whole thing first, so that the script is on his desk and Quesada can work on it between meetings.

Getting back to Spider-Man, Rosemann mentioned that Marvel went back to print on the majority of their Spider-Man trade paperbacks and urged retailers to call their Diamond representatives to fill store stock in time for the movies release and Free Comic Book Day on May 4th.

Speaking of FCBD, Jemas mentioned that 750,000 "Ultimate Spider-Man #1" reprints were ordered by retailers for FCBD, and then added, "The retail community really stepped up to the plate on this promotion." Rosemann characterized it as the #1 best selling comic book for the month of May to which Jemas quipped, "Diamond will find some way to make 'Transformers' #1 for May!"

The recent release of "Startling Stories: The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man" by indie favorite Peter Bagge was a big success and Alonso would like to see that vision of Marvel's icon continue. "I know Bill will kill me, but I'd like to do a 'Megalomaniacal Hulk.' We had a lot of fun with that project... I'd love to work [again] with Pete."

As for the upcoming MTV Spider-Man animated series, Jemas said that there would not be a comic book tie-in for the series, saying that "Ultimate Spider-Man" is the media tie-in for everything, meaning the movie and series.

The conversation steered to the status of Marvel's newly launched hard cover reprint initiative and early reaction to these volumes. Marvel pushed very hard to get hard covers of Spider-Man product on shelves in advance of the movie.

"The hardcover program has been very well received and we've gotten some nice words of encouragement in terms of the content of the book, said Jemas referring to the extras in books like the "Ultimate Spider-Man" hard cover. "Sell-through has been strong, but on a new product sell-through is always strong." He said the telling point would be how the books were selling a year from now. He did characterize the sales as "better than expectations," but cautioned that they've also far featured the current "#1 icon", Spider-Man.

"We're happy, but there are no conclusions yet," added Jemas.

Moving onto another oft talked about subject with Marvel is the current state of the future of "Black Panther." Marvel is obviously interested in keeping the title alive if possible and Quesada said they were looking at making the book accessible from ground zero today and not in reprinting the past 30 issues so that new readers could start from #1 and work their way up.One idea is to move the book away from being so heavily referenced to the Marvel Universe.

"It would warm the cockles of my heart to see it get up to [issue number] 100," said Quesada, the book's original editor under the Marvel Knights imprint.

CBR Staff Writer Augie De Blieck Jr. contributed to this story.

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