Marvel's editor-in-chief Joe Quesada set the tone early during his "Cup of Joe" panel this weekend at Wizard World Texas. Moments after he introduced himself, his cell phone began blaring. After apologizing to the crowd, he answered the phone and quickly told his caller that he couldn't talk now. After hanging up, he off-handedly commented, "That was Paul Levitz from DC. I always tell him it's a bad time." That sarcastic wit and good-natured ribbing of the competition has characterized Quesada's stint as Marvel's editor-in-chief, a period that has seen more than its share of controversy. Quesada opened up the floor for questions spanning the spectrum from such hot-button issues as Bill Jemas and the flailing Epic line, all the way back to his work on Valiant.
On the troubles with Epic: "Regardless of what happens at Epic, we have a dedicated person whose sole job at Marvel is to scout for talent. You can still submit to Marvel, and your chances of getting in are better than ever, because at least your submission isn't being tossed out. Regardless of whether you're brilliant or you're not brilliant, everything is being read. You're either hired on the spot or you get a rejection letter. There are three basic types of rejection letters: one telling you, 'Thanks very much, but this isn't for us'; one telling you that you've got something, keep working at it; and one telling you that you're very, very close, and to keep in touch. Epic is not the problem-or not your problem, if you're a writer."
On the unannounced new writers for "X-Men": "We're closing 'X-Men' down. They don't sell for crap, and nobody likes them. Too many characters. But seriously, you'll know soon enough."
On whatever happened to Event Comics: "What basically happened is, Event became Marvel Knights. The company started doing books for Marvel, and right around that time, most of us in comics were wondering how much longer there were going to be comics. As it became profitable, Marvel gave us more books, and more of our time got sucked up. It was the profitable thing to do, whereas Ash and the other stuff was more risky. While it would have been nice to do some 'Ash' or 'Painkiller Jane' here and there, time wise, it just wasn't cost effective."
On why there was no Marvel Booth at Wizard World Texas: "Basically, the same reason there was no Marvel booth in San Diego this year. Last year, we did more conventions than we ever had, and this year we cut back a little bit. The publishing business is tough right now, and although comics are improving, little by little, conventions are very, very expensive. If I told you the costs of bringing a booth down to San Diego, your head would explode. You could feed a small country. You see all these giant booths, and you're like, 'Wow, we're not making that kind of money in comics yet.' Consequentially, a lot people who had big booths aren't around anymore, or are shrinking them. There are more and more conventions around the country, so we just have to be careful in deciding to spend our money."
On Kevin Smith's long-delayed "Spider-Man/Black Cat" issues: "I received an email from Kevin about three weeks ago, saying, 'Dude, I've got the juices flowing again. You're going to get the last two issues of Black Cat sooner than you expect!' I was like, 'Sooner than I expect? Are you going back in time?'"
On "The Punisher" moving to the MAX line: "It's a very hard-core book with some very serious undertones. Garth wanted to get away from the black humor and get more into serious Punisher justice. It's a much more serious take."
On the upcoming "Punisher" movie: "At Marvel, we work very closely with our West Coast offices, and even if you don't see a comic person involved, there generally is a comic person involved. Although Garth [Ennis] didn't write the screenplay, it is an amazing homage to him and [artist] Steve Dillon."
On Neil Gaiman, post-"1602": "There will be another Neil Gaiman project at Marvel after '1602' is finished, but that's a ways away."
On the editor-in-chief job: "I love the job, but I'm also aware that, outside of Stan Lee, this job hasn't ended real well for anybody. I'd like to someday have the wherewithal to walk out the door before they throw me out. I miss drawing terribly, but this is the greatest job in the world."
On mending fences: "When I became editor-in-chief, there were some creators who were at war with Marvel, or Marvel was at war with them…there just wasn't really an open line of communication. Researching the history of those situations, sometimes the company was right, but in many cases, the company was wrong. Alan Moore was one of those cases, as was Neil Gaiman. I basically just told them, 'This is a new Marvel; it's a new group of people. Whatever happened, if we screwed up, we're going to try to make up for it,' and in a couple of relationships we did. It had nothing to do with whether Alan worked for us or not. If he does something for us, great, but if not, at least I can say, 'When I was editor-in-chief, I fixed this.'"
On Ultimate restraint: "If this were the old Marvel, right now there would be twenty 'Ultimate' titles, and we'd be sitting around wondering why they weren't selling like they used to. We want to build the universe very, very slowly. We don't want to over saturate the market, because then it loses what makes it special."
On perversion and Man-Things: "I'm actually, in a perverse way, looking forward to Man-Thing. I read the screenplay, and man…that's a cool movie. Just a cool, summer horror flick."