In a city known for its fancy lattes and complex coffees, leave it to Marvel Comics to brew a fresh Cup O’ Joe for the Emerald City ComiCon. At his trademark panel on Saturday, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada put himself directly in the line of fire and attempted to answer any question thrown his way. Though on the stage, he was joined by writers Brian Bendis, C.B. Cebulski, Matt Fraction, and Ed Brubaker, so he did have a "support group" backing him up in this endeavor. And Quesada got things rolling with a little bit of history.
"The simplest way I can explain this panel is that when I was breaking into comics, I wished that I could pick the brains of the head of Marvel and the head of DC on how to break in: what are the things to look out for? What are the things to shoot for? Obviously, I never had that opportunity. Now, I can’t meet with everyone one-on-one, but I figured, 'Why don’t I do a panel which could be a microcosm of that?' So, I’m here and we can talk about anything you want."
Bendis quickly interjected, "But be nice! This isn’t the internet." The audience chuckled and quickly formed a line behind a microphone on the floor so they could do some "brain-picking" with the E-i-C.
The first question was a thoughtful one: what will Marvel – and the comic industry – be like twenty years from now?
Fraction jumped in, "More Hulks."
Brubaker responded, "Less rings."
After the chuckles died down, Quesada replied, "One of our biggest problems right now is getting comics into the hands of readers. That won’t be a problem in the future." To clarify Quesada’s point, Fraction asked the audience how many had iPhones or planned to buy them in the next ten years; many raised their hands. He exclaimed, "See? There’s a newsstand in your pants and everyone’s invited!"
Quesada added to this analogy and said that with the new technologies and options in front of comic readers "we’re like the porn industry. Breaking new ground. We’re at the forefront of a new era."
Of things that won’t change in twenty years, Fraction said, "No matter the technological advances and the changes that occur, the core of our comic characters – their myth – will always be the same."
The next person to the microphone asked a query that seemed to interest many in attendance: are we going to see Marvelman soon?
Quesada smiled and responded, "We’re taking our time; we’re taking a methodical approach. Within the next 30 to 60 days though, you should start to hear his name. The news may be about old stories, new stories, or reprints, but you should hear something." Quesada also added that he got to meet the creator of Marvelman, Mick Anglo, two weeks ago. "He’s ninety-seven years old. We did an interview, and he can’t understand why people are interested in this character he created so long ago, but when we’re done, he’ll see. He’s got quite the salty language too," Quesada laughed. "We’re going to have to edit him down a bit."
A fan of Spider-Woman came up and asked about the status of the character. Bendis informed him that while she will appear in his new "Avengers" book, issue #7 will be the last of her self-titled series. He explained that the motion comic was much more work than artist Alex Maleev had anticipated, and he really needed a break. For those people who have missed Maleev’s art on a more regular basis, Bendis had good news – the two of them will be releasing a book through Marvel’s Icon imprint in the near future.
Given Quesada’s comments at the beginning of this panel, the question asked by the next fan shouldn’t have been much of a surprise: what is the best advice you wish you had been given before breaking into comics? Each person on the panel offered their own nugget of wisdom:
Brubaker – "Do your own comics, and find your own voice."
Bendis – "Write. Do it every day."
Fraction – "Stop thinking about being a writer and write. Don’t wish to be a writer – don’t get caught up in the minutiae of being a writer – write."
Quesada – "Don’t draw that issue of 'Sleepwalker.'"
After the laughter died down from this response, an attendee approached the microphone with a bit of a complaint. He said he enjoys Marvel’s books and likes reading events, but he truly hated "filler" issues – comic issues where "nothing" happens. He stressed, "I love Marvel and Disney – I’m a stockholder for both – but filler issues drive me crazy."
Quesada smiled and countered, "Yeah, but as a stockholder, don’t you appreciate it?" Brubaker and Quesada then proceeded to explain the importance of having high- and low-action beats within the overall story arc…once they and the audience could stop laughing, that is.
The next fan to question Quesada brought up a point that many in the room seemed interested in. The individual mentioned how the "Heroic Age" has been billed as an event that ties up loose ends going back to the beginning of Bendis’ run on the Avengers, so he then asked, "So what about the Scarlet Witch?"
Quesada looked to Bendis who grinned and responded, "We’ll be getting to the Scarlet Witch. There is a cool project coming by people you’ll want to read."
Following this, a struggling artist approached. He mentioned that he likes to draw adult-type action but has a cartoony-style, and wondered if he needed to work on changing his style to work at Marvel.
Quesada looked at him and said that when he was starting out, all the art at Marvel was done in the style of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, and it didn’t make sense to him. So when he got to the other side of the table, he wanted to try and bring in those different styles. Now, 19 out of 20 times, Quesada said the fans didn’t like it, but if it was the right creator on the right project, it was possible. Cebulski agreed and said there was no Marvel "House Style." He said it was all about the storytelling.
The next person complained that they felt there was "too much Deadpool" at present in Marvel. Quesada acknowledged this dilemma but explained, "It’s a double-edged sword – it’s either not enough of a character or too much. There was a time when the title was barely hanging on and people were begging not to cancel it. And when it was gone, people desperately wanted a Deadpool book. Then we finally put out one, and it’s big. We put out another, and sales keep rising. People vote with their dollars and feet, and that’s how we decide."
To wrap things up on a cheery note, the last fan to the microphone mentioned all the great Marvel cartoons – such as X-Men and Spider-Man – they watched as a kid that got them interested in comics. He said these were instrumental because the cartoons were tied into the continuity of the Marvel U, and the fan asked if Marvel was planning on doing any more of those to bring kids in?
To answer this, Quesada pointed to Marvel’s "Super-Hero Squad Show" now airing on Cartoon Network. He said this is the first show to be fully produced by Marvel, it’s aimed directly for kids, and it ties into bits of continuity for those who know it. And while the show is aimed for youngsters, there is also the new "Avengers" cartoon which will be coming soon to Disney XD. He said it ties into the modern-day continuity and has great writing.
And with that, fans applauded and savored Seattle’s first true Cup O’ Joe.
Check back to CBR Monday for more news from Emerald City ComiCon 2010!