CUP O' Q&A: Tim Gunn, X-Factor & More!

Fri, August 28th, 2009 at 3:35pm PDT | Updated: August 28th, 2009 at 3:46pm

Comic Books
Joe Quesada, Columnist
52

Welcome back to the all-fan Friday of CUP O’ JOE, which we call CUP O’ Q&A. Exclusively here at CBR, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada answers questions posed by you, the readers, in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum.

Of course, we're hot on top of CUP O’ JOE content across our mini-site with new installments of Joe's regular interviews with the CBR staff and of course CUP O' DOODLES, where Joe demonstrates the process by which he drew a series of "Amazing Spider-Man: One More Day" covers for Wizard.

We’ve got a virtual grab bag of fan questions for Joe today, with topics ranging from Marvel’s digital initiatives – including your questions about the “Spider-Woman” motion comic – to Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan’s “Thor” tp some good news for “X-Factor” readers and much, much more.

CUP O' JOE is Executive Produced by Jonah Weiland and Produced by Kiel Phegley.

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Kiel Phegley: Joe, it's been a while since we last caught up on life among the Marvel staffers. You made an oh-so-brief appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” hanging out and watching Sir Paul McCartney's set on the "Late Show's" marquee. Can you tell us about how you got so close to the action? Were you playing hooky from work at the House of Ideas?

Joe Quesada: Well, I have a couple of pals who work over at “Letterman” and an opportunity came up for me to get one of the best spots on the street to see McCartney perform. There really wasn’t more to it than that, other than there is no other performer on planet earth that would entice me to go and stand outdoors in a crowd other than McCartney.

Kiel Phegley: And for any readers who don't know, the offices of DC Comics are directly across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, and all day I saw folks at DC Twittering overhead shots of the McCartney setup and performance. Did you bump into any of the DC crew on the street, or was it an in-and-out kind of thing?

Joe Quesada: I did get a text from [DC Art Director] Mark Chiarello, inviting me up to see it from their perspective. While tempting, I was already in a pretty great spot and I kept thinking that the windows of their building would dilute the sound somewhat. But it was very cool of Mark to offer. I had completely forgot that the DC offices were right across the street from the theater. If I had known, I would have asked Mark and [editor] Mike Carlin to come on down to my vantage point. I know those guys are huge fans like me.

Kiel Phegley: It seems like you've been hitting up a lot of NYC events the past few weeks. First up, you had a 70th Anniversary signing at Barnes & Noble with some of the other Marvel talent. What was the crowd like at that event? At a venue like B&N, did you get more casual fans wondering about the history of Marvel thanks to the news hook, or does venue not matter so much in that the diehard Marvel Zombies will show up to a signing wherever you are?

Joe Quesada: I’ll be honest with you, Kiel, as most people that know me can attest, I hardly go to events at all. The stars have to align just right to get me out after work. I get a ridiculous number of invites for all sorts of events and aside from the fact that it would be impossible for me to go to all of them, I just don’t get out as often as I use too.

As for the B&N event, it was a really nice mixture of both neophytes and hardcore fans, but it was a much more relaxed crowd than you would find at a typical convention panel. I think it was simply because a bookstore, much like a library, tends to cause people to naturally relax and not be as loud or verbose as they normally would. But overall it was a fantastic event and a wonderful panel.

Kiel Phegley: You mentioned that frequent Cup O’ questioner Spidey 616 was there! What was he like? Did he bring a laundry list of questions about obscure Marvel characters to hold his own private Q&A?

Joe Quesada: [laughs] Spidey 616 is our number one fan, he rocks and comes to all of our events. He’s smart as a whip and knows his Marvel. It isn’t an event if Spidey 616 isn’t there. Good guy, that Spidey 616.

"Marvel Super Hero Team-Up" -- is bromance truly dead?

Kiel Phegley: The other event I think those not in NYC were interested to hear about was the Bryant Park talk you participated in. Along with a few other well known comics industry folks, you shared a stage with Chip Kidd and David Mazzucchelli. These are guys with a really high pedigree that stretches beyond their obvious connections to some really great superhero stuff. What was the panel like for you, and did you get to talk with the rest of the panelists outside the official discussion?

Joe Quesada: Lets not forget that blogger supreme and good friend of mine Heidi McDonald was also there. The panel was very much like any other general comics industry panel with the exception that it was outdoors in the park, which made it really cool - but hot as hell. Which really, when you think of it, isn’t much different than any panel at any given convention center. I didn’t get much of a chance to speak to the other panelist after the panel but we did get to chat just a bit before going on. It was just very cool being on the same panel with everyone and to be invited to this series of talks at Bryant Park.

Kiel Phegley: Moving on to some actual Marvel news, a lot of people online have noted the change in title for what was once the tongue-in-cheek "Marvel Bromance" collection. With a fun name that might draw the attention of some non-traditional comics readers, or at least bring in-store attention to what is otherwise a potpourri trade paperback of team-up tales, why the change in title to the more straightforward "Marvel Super Hero Team-Up?"

Joe Quesada: To be honest with you, the buck stops with me on this one. While I really liked the “Bromance” title and laughed out loud when I read it, I had reservations about using it as the title of a book. While the term “Bromance” is a fun one, I couldn’t help but feel that it’s one of those things that a few years from now we’ll be looking at as silly and dated slang. I could just imagine five or six years down the road seeing the book on shelves and wondering, “What were we thinking?” But like all these decisions, I don’t pull rank and just say kill it. I asked the question of several key people in editorial and we reached a consensus that it was just too goofy a name. Heck, it’s almost dated now.

Kiel Phegley: The other topic that's been getting people jawing of late is the announcement of the new "Thor" creative team of Kieron Gillen and Billy Tan. While that's great news for fans who have been wondering who will take over from J. Michael Straczynski, the run is only listed as six issues right now. What's the status there? Are Gillen and Tan only on board for one arc? Are there some more announcements we should be looking for in regards to the long terms status of the Thunder God?

Joe Quesada: Yes, there are more announcements coming. Kieron and Billy are stepping in to help us out with these six issues and then soon afterwards the new regular team will take over. Who that is will be announced in due time. In the meantime, I’m thrilled that Kieron and Billy are doing this six issues, they’re going to keep the momentum on the book soaring and help us get it back on schedule while the new team gears up.

"Thor" #604 begins Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan's six-issue run

Kiel Phegley: On a creative note, Gillen is a writer who's been getting more and more Marvel work over the past six months even though he comes from a background of indie comics like "Phonogram" that don't share too much in common with your standard superhero books. In that respect, he resembles other recent Marvel breakouts like Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman. In general, what do you feel comics writers who come from outside the superhero mainstream bring to the Marvel Universe, and what about Gillen's writing specifically made him a good fit for "Thor?"

Joe Quesada: This is where I think people go off on the wrong track. To me, a great writer is a great writer. Take a look at a guy like Stephen King, for the longest time people only knew him as the horror guy, yet he wrote “Stand By Me,” amongst other non-horror genre stories. We’re always looking for brilliant writers from any walk of life and from any genre. That’s why to me a guy like Kieron, much like Hickman, is someone that we absolutely love giving a shot at writing some of our stuff if it’s something they’d like to do. People seem to forget that Brian Bendis was Mr. Indie for the longest time, and now look at him! He’s able to walk the line between both worlds.

Kiel Phegley: The last big piece of Marvel news from the past week or so was “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn making his way into the Marvel offices as part of a promotional push for September 9's "Models Inc." series. I know this was exciting for a lot of folks within the office, and Gunn carried his love of comics out onto shows such as "Regis & Kelly" and "The Daily Show" while promoting the season debut of "Project Runway."

But beyond a general sense of fun that comes with having a media personality like Gunn embracing Marvel, what does this really do to help get comics out there? Marvel withheld the launch of "Models Inc." to synch up better with Gunn's availability, but all this promotion is still coming past the point where retailers can bump orders, if I'm not mistaken. Have celebrities like Gunn or TV tie-ins like "The Colbert Report" or "Guiding Light" really helped get more comics into people's hands, or does this just keep the Marvel brand in the mind of the general public more or less?

Joe Quesada: It’s a huge help, and breaks down barriers and stereotypes that people may have about comics. Especially when you see how enthusiastic someone like Tim Gunn is over the medium. The truth of the matter is that sometimes those same prejudices exist within the comics community itself. Some hardcores hear Tim Gunn and “Models Inc.” and roll their eyes, but sometimes a book like “Models Inc.” -- while it might not set your local comics shop on fire -- does wonders for Marvel and the comics industry as a whole with respect to reaching out to new readers and the perception of the medium.

By the way, I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Gunn. He’s extremely cool and was out-of his-mind excited about the comic and his cameo.

Tim Gunn: evangelical comic book fan

Kiel Phegley: We've spoken in the past about con life and how you balance that out with your other responsibilities. This weekend, you're heading north for Toronto's Fan Expo show.

Joe Quesada: Fan Expo is just one of those great shows that really captures the spirit of comic conventions. Just a great, welcome atmosphere. I’ll be doing signings at the Marvel Booth (Booth 538, stop on by!) along with a bunch of our great writers and artists. We’ve got some amazing panels scheduled, including discussing Dark Reign, our upcoming plans on motion comics (have you seen the awesome “Spider-Woman” by Bendis and Maleev yet?), a look at the “Super Hero Squad” animated series, and of course there’s the Cup O’ Joe panel. So things I’ve got scheduled? Let’s see; panels, signings, interviews… oh, yeah. Maybe an hour or two of sleep.

Kiel Phegley: Speaking of Canada, perhaps the most frequently asked question on the CUP O’ JOE megathread on the CBR boards is when it will be time to announce a new "Alpha Flight" series? Any chances of that happening this weekend?

Joe Quesada: Nope, sorry to say it won’t. However, if we were to have done it, Toronto would have been the place.

Kiel Phegley: Moving on to some fan questions regarding current Marvel hot topics, board member Marvelito asked, "I've been a Digital Comcis Unlimited subscriber since the get go. Has the DCU performed to Marvel's expectations? Can you comment on whether newer books will be available sooner than they currently are? Why aren't the books released chronologically or at least in more of a regular way? Sometimes I'll be left hanging, waiting for the final issue of an arc. How do you guys come up with the release schedule?"

Joe Quesada: Hey, Marvelito, while Marvel Digital is a whole other department than the one I run, I’ll do my best to answer your question. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited has absolutely performed to our expectations and then some. It’s a great service and we think fans understand the incredible value they’re getting. Over 6,000 comics with dozens added every week for under $10 a month (or under $60 a year with an annual subscription!).

More to the point, when we launched the service back in November 2007, we announced that we would impose a six-month window before previously published comics appeared on the site. In a rare instance or two, we’ve published a bit earlier than that. But it’s a rule that for the time being we think makes sense for everyone involved and we’ll be sticking with that for now. Our release schedule—featuring more than two dozen freshly digitized books each week—actually does have a pattern to it. The five free books we offer every week coincide with an upcoming on-sale date for a print comic. We release them for free to get people excited about those upcoming print titles.

Additionally, every single day of the week has a character associated with it in Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. We bunch comics featuring those characters on those days – you can see the full schedule here: http://marvel.com/digitalcomics/calendar/

Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited: "Performed to our expectations and then some"

As for not seeing the final issue of an arc, this is one of the things we hear a lot from our subscribers. Just so everyone knows, we’ve been actively filling gaps so we can have more and more complete storylines available via Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. In fact, we just added 120 new titles above and beyond our weekly 25 to fill the gaps on some key issues including “Annihilation” titles, “Runaways,” “Deadpool,” “Civil War: X-Men” and more.

But at the end of the day, this is a brave new world and with any new initiative, there are always things that you look to improve upon. But it’s tough to do that without starting somewhere. Every week that goes by, the Marvel digital experience gets better and better and I think in years to come we’ll be looking at it as the standard and roadmap of how to build a digital comics library.

Kiel Phegley: UK board member Captain Fur also had some questions about the digital end of the Marvel spectrum. "Last Wednesday I turned on my computer with the vain hope of purchasing the new Spider-Woman motion comic. I was really looking forward to it since the first announcement, but I found out that it's only available for the US iTunes Store, making it impossible for me to buy it. Don't you think that this is a little counter-productive when trying to implement a new product? Without knowing how many purchases it had this week, how many do you think you've lost because of this restriction? Your recent announcement regarding comic books for the PSP system already noted that those books will be available soon for stores in different countries, so what's the deal with motion comics?”

Joe Quesada: Captain Fur, believe me, regarding the “Spider-Woman” motion comic, we heard all of you in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and so many other locales who were frustrated about not being able to purchase “Spider-Woman” in your respective countries on its initial US release date.

Marvel is actively working to make the "Spider-Woman" motion comic available beyond the U.S.

So here’s the truth. The global distribution of this product is not as simple as everyone would like to think it is. Though iTunes operates globally, each division for each country must be dealt with separately. Right now, Marvel’s Digital Media group is actively and aggressively pursuing deals in many countries beyond the U.S. The best thing to do is keep your eyes on Marvel.com because as the deals get signed, we’ll be announcing them there. Believe me, I want everyone to see our motion comics—quite simply, there’s nothing out there like them and it’s an awesome experience. If you think you’ve seen a motion comic and you haven’t seen a Marvel motion comic yet, you haven’t seen a motion comic. Once you have the opportunity to download them outside the U.S., I hope you’ll agree. Apologies for the delay, but we’re doing our best to get them to you.

Kiel Phegley: Marvel has its fingers in a lot of pies when it comes to the digital world. Now we've got motion comics, the Digital Comics Unlimited program and this just announced deal with PSP for comics content. How is Marvel planning on keeping all these things in sync with each other? Will fans be seeing some comics released on one format before others, or will DCU subscribers be getting the same content as PSP folks for the most part?

Joe Quesada: First off, thanks for noticing! We are indeed sticking our fingers into many, many digital pies and we hope you’re finding it as delicious as we are! For right now, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will have the most complete and widest selection of comics. PSP comics will have its own growing library, but even though the comics that will be offered on PSP will all be available on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Motion Comics will have its own distribution and library – it’s a completely separate product and service from Digital Comics.

Kiel Phegley: Beyond the Beyonder wondered, "I was unhappy to hear that ‘Agents of Atlas’ is being cancelled, but I'm so glad you're keeping it around as a back-up in ‘Incredible Hercules.’ I think that's actually going to give me the impetus to start buying ‘Hercules’ each month. Now how about we continue ‘Captain Britain and MI13’ as a back up in ‘Thor,’ or ‘Iron Man,’ or one of the X-books? Maybe even in ‘Runaways?’ I feel this is one of the best new superhero books of the decade, and it deserves to live on!"

Joe Quesada: Hey, Beyond the Beyonder, that’s a good suggestion. I can’t promise anything, but I can promise I’ll bring it up in our next editorial meeting.

Klaus Janson returns in "Daredevil: End of Days"

Kiel Phegley: And on another bit of cancelled comics rumor control, CBR forum member Raptor wrote in, “'Exiles' is being cancelled after a run shorter than 'New Exiles.' 'X-Factor' has no solicits beyond issue #50. The question I am getting at is will 'X-Factor' be cancelled soon? Also, I like many of the characters in both of these books. Namely Blink (‘Exiles’), Siryn, M, and Strong Guy (‘X-Factor’). Are there plans to utilize these characters when/if the books they star in are cancelled?"

Joe Quesada: Don’t worry, Raptor, “X-Factor” is far from cancelled. Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the future of the series at the Toronto Fan Expo. And as for Blink, lets just say that there’s a very good possibility that you’ll see her pop up somewhere down the road.

Kiel Phegley: Moving on to some creator and franchise-specific questions, prismablue asked, "I know everybody is crazy about John Romita, Jr. working on Spidey but I really miss his take on Daredevil and his supporting cast, especially when aided by Al Williamson. Any chance we could be seeing John return to Hell's Kitchen for awhile?"

Joe Quesada: Prismablue, I too love Johnny’s DD! It was a huge inspiration to me as an artist, but we have some other big plans for Mr. Romita. And while they don’t involve DD, they do involve a major Marvel icon by the name of … oooooh that was so close! You almost had me.

Kiel Phegley: prismablue followed up with, "I know Marvel keeps Klaus Janson very busy inking these days but is there any chance that Klaus Janson could return to inking his own pencils on a Marvel project in the near future? I was reading 'Batman: Death and the Maidens' and he is truly a master storyteller as well as being one of the best inkers around."

Joe Quesada: That’s always a possibility. Aside from Klaus being one of our industry’s greatest talents he’s also one of its classiest and most giving professionals. I could talk to Klaus about storytelling until the cows come home. He’s one of the good guys and one of my favorite people in the industry. So, as for Klaus inking his own pencils, sure, absolutely, it’s just a matter of having the right project and Klaus wanting to do it.

Klaus Janson returns in "Daredevil: End of Days"

To whet you’re appetite a bit, Klaus did pencil and ink two pages in “Daredevil” #500. This is of course just to hold you over, as you’ll eventually get to see some of Klaus’ incredible pencil work in the upcoming DD project “Daredevil: End of Days,” working alongside some amazing talent like Brian Bendis, David Mack, and Bill Sienkiewicz! Then we’ll top that off with Klaus penciling and inking a two-part Spider-Man project with novelist extraordinaire, David Morrell.

Kiel Phegley: Getting towards the future plans for tie-ins with Marvel Films, bloc-op asked, "With the coming of 'Iron Man 2' is there any chance to see a trade paperback or an omnibus of the work of Bob Layton and David Michelinie on ‘Iron Man’ during the '80's? These great artists created the best characters in the Iron Man mythology like Spymaster and Justin Hammer just to name a couple. I think their great work should be in a big hardcover."

Joe Quesada: We’re not yet ready to announce plans for classic collections for “Iron Man 2” at this time bloc-op, but there are a lot on the horizon. With Iron Man’s great history to draw from, I think you’ll be happy!

Have some questions for Joe Quesada? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It is from this dedicated thread that CBR's staff will pull questions for our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer session with Joe, which will be this Friday.

Discussion about today's feature may take place at the link immediately below.

Discuss this story in CBR's Marvel Universe forum.  |  52 Comments

TAGS:  cup o' joe, marvel comics, marvel digital comics, spider-woman, models inc.

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