Joe Quesada Talks Captain Britain, Event Fatigue

Wed, June 17th, 2009 at 3:23pm PDT

Comic Books
Joe Quesada, Columnist

Welcome to the latest edition of CUP O’ JOE, the online home of Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, exclusively on CBR.

In his inaugural entry, Quesada opined on the promotion of Marvel’s latest Captain America projects, the increasing popularity of Deadpool, the renumbering trend and fan concerns about comic book price hikes. Joe followed up with an in-depth discussion of “Captain America: Reborn.” Of course, Quesada got his start in the business as a popular illustrator, and shared a step-by-step guide to his creation of a Spider-Man cover. Later, Joe gave us a peak behind the scenes of the Hollywood operations of Marvel, specifically with respect to Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man 2” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor.”

In this edition of CUP O’ JOE, Quesada speaks with CBR’s Jonah Weiland and Kiel Phegley about the unfortunate cancelations of "Captain Britain & MI13" and "Spider-Girl," Marvel's slightly unusual summer event plans, and, of course, Event Fatigue.

NOTE: Be sure to come back on Friday at 2:00PM PST for the first fan question-and-answer session of CUP O' JOE at CBR!

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Jonah Weiland: As we close out our first week of CUP O’ JOE questions, let's get to a subject that’s very dear to a lot of fans: the cancelation of Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk’s "Captain Britain and MI13”. How do you account for this development, where its sales were going down over time despite the huge amount of buzz generated by this title?

Joe Quesada: I love "Captain Britain." I really do love it. Unfortunately, there weren't enough people buying the book to keep us printing it. But this has always been the case. The lower circulating books, once they get close to that point of cancellation, the outcry from fans makes you feel like the book is doing "X-Men" numbers.

"Captain Britain & MI13" concludes in July's #15

With "Captain Britain," now that it's gone, people want to write in. They want to save it. I appreciate that. Look, "Spider-Girl" had a tremendous life because of fan writing campaigns. Every once in a while, we tried to cancel it, and fans would rally around the book and try to up sales and it worked for some time. All I can say to these fans is, "More than writing in and more than posting that we suck because we're canceling 'Captain Britain,' get more people to buy the book." Comics are a democracy. We don't have it out for "Captain Britain." We love the book. We love the creative team on it. Buy two or three copies for your friends. Get people buying and reading "Captain Britain." If we see the numbers go up, we'll do another series. We'll come back. Right now, it's fiscally not possible.

Kiel Phegley: You bring up "Spider-Girl" as the example of a book with a charmed life, and now those characters have moved over into the digital space and are getting new stories online before seeing print later. Is there any chance "Captain Britain" could bounce back as a digital comics project?

Joe Quesada: Yeah. It's always a possibility. It's absolutely always a possibility, and I'm sure it's something that will come up at one of our editorial meetings. That is the beautiful thing about the digital world is that some of these titles may be able to continue later on in other forms different than print.

Jonah Weiland: Marvel has been dominating the sales charts for a long time, but something unusual happened recently: DC had the top two spots with "The Flash Rebirth" and "Detective Comics." Does that do anything to you as Editor-in-Chief? Does it increase your level of competitiveness?

Joe Quesada: I'm always competitive. I'm always looking to beat the pants off the competition regardless of whether it's DC or someone else. By the way, as should they. They should be looking to do the same thing. Although it's interesting, ever since I've been here, I don't think we've dominated the top spot for 12 straight months. I don't think that's ever happened. DC's always got something that comes in one or two months here where the beat us -- as they should! They're trying to kick our asses and trying to put out good product. They've got good creators over there. So when they put out a good product, guess what? The fans respond. Does it concern me? Not really because I know what we have lined up and I’m coming back in the next few months swinging hard and I’m sure they’ll counter. And while I take great joy in kicking their ass more often than not since I’ve been here, my one responsibility and goal is to bring our readers the best books possible. It’s by doing that that I feel they respond in kind by wanting to read our books and help keep us number one.

Jonah Weiland: People always look at the big summer competition between Marvel and DC, and that's probably not really fair because summer events lead into the fall and go on for months. But in terms of upcoming events, it's a little different than it's been in the past. You have Dark Reign, which is an overarching tone to the entire Marvel Universe. You don't have a single mega-event like Secret Invasion, with an anchor book and a beginning, middle and end. DC Comics has Blackest Night, which will be in a more traditional format and drive their superhero titles for the next eight to ten months. Marvel does have a few mini-events that are sort of connected and sort of disconnected. You've got "Reborn" and the "Dark Avenger/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia" story. Do you have a big event planned for next year?

"Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia" is one of Marvel's big summer books

Joe Quesada: This is all part of a plan. We listen to our readership and hear the things that they're looking for and some of the things that they want or that they're tired of. We're very turnkey at Marvel, there is no spoon and now we’re shifting gears, and I think you can expect a bigger shift in gears come next year. We've already started planning next year and the year after that, and I think you're going to see an interesting marketing campaign from us where even the tone of Marvel Comics will be changing in a big sense. What you're seeing right now is just the tip of the iceberg of where we're headed, but it's all very much within the realm of the plans.

Here's the thing. The easy button to push, the very easy button to push is the button that says “Big time summer event. Everyone in the pool. Everyone ties-in.” But you can only do that for so long, it becomes the laugh of diminishing returns. Sometimes you need to pull back a breath. And sometimes that little restraint helps you for later on when you decide you want to do it again. So for us, I think you’re going to see some interesting new approaches and ideas, especially next year. That doesn't mean we don't have big stories coming out. We have several different big stories coming out within different lines and different books and character families, I wish I could say more about it, but it’s way too soon. Either way, it's going to be pretty amazing ride for all our fans.

Jonah Weiland: So this a reaction to cries of "event fatigue?"

Joe Quesada: It's more than just the cries of fans of event fatigue. We're fatigued. [laughs] Internally and creatively, while events are fun and yes they drive a lot of revenue, they take a toll. They take a toll on the editorial level. People begin to snap at each other. Trust me, Tom Brevoort is a bear. And it takes a toll on our creators. It gets difficult to do for an extended period when everything has to tie-in to everything else, and sometimes it does hamstring you from telling a particular story you want to tell in a particular kind of way. And it's exhausting. It's keeping plates spinning for a very long time. Sometimes you need to step away, refresh your batteries and let fans refresh their batteries and show them what's special about the individual titles and character families.

Be sure to come back on Friday at 2:00PM PST for the first fan question-and-answer session of CUP O' JOE at CBR!

TAGS:  captain britain, joe quesada, dark reign, spider-girl, marvel comics

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