As has become a tradition at most all the major comic conventions, Joe Quesada held court in a Q&A free-for-all at this year's MegaCon in Orlando, Florida. While this particular edition of the Marvel Editor-In-Chief's forum was less confrontational that is sometimes seen at the larger summer cons, there was one ever-present enemy -- the loud anime exhibition room next door. Regardless, many fans turned out to hear and be heard.
The first topic of discussion was the fate of a beloved Marvel mainstay. "If our plans are correct, then we will see Thor near the end of this year," said Quesada. "I keep promising Thor fans there is a reason for the wait and it is a great reason. We know that Ragnarok has happened, the Gods are dead and the cycle has to begin again."
Another character's fate was also addressed. "There is a good possibility that She-Hulk will be paused, not cancelled," said Quesada on the topic of when the jade giantess will return to her own title.
Quesada also spoke on the near future of Marvel's flagship character. "There will be big changes to the status quo of Spider-Man. All fun stuff, less tragic. It's going to be a whole new world for him. I will be meeting with the writers in two weeks to iron out plans."
"Why restart the 'Avengers' with the title 'New Avengers?'" asked one convention-goer.
"So, I can release an 'Avengers' #1, next year." Quesada hastened to add, "I'm kidding!"
He went on to say, "It's something we did with the X-Men. It's just a word the way I see it. We want to be respectful of what came before, but this is a new take on the Avengers."
The topic stayed with Marvel's new hit as one attendee asked about the selection of New Avengers members, saying the initial core cast was decided when a bunch of Marvel creators go together to discuss the future of the title.
"We really are very much a family, especially a lot of the core creators here. A lot of us started out at the same time. We will sit around and it's like fantasy baseball or fantasy editor-in-chief and in the middle of that some cool stuff gets accepted and some crazy stuff get rejected. [Brian Michael Bendis] then selects the characters he needs. As writer he needs to figure out the cast he needs to tell the story."
Quesada added, "I had an incredible amount of passion and glee when I saw the Sentry join the Avengers. The time is right, now, for the Sentry. That's my favorite part of the New Avengers."
The next topic of discussion was the rumors surrounding the delay of "Wha huh…?," the parody version of the "What If…?" books/ "The delay on 'Wha' huh…?' has nothing to do with Marvel and DC," Quesada remarked, addressing rumors that some pokes at DC may have been too much for DC's legal department. "This is one of those things I can't comment on. It is an internal issue, but it will be out soon. Anything you see poking fun at something outside of Marvel -- we sent the scripts out, made calls, and got 100 percent approval."
The next topic was that of the Marvel's MAX mature readers line. "I think it is a great imprint," said Quesada. "People see Marvel do something like the MAX line as an answer to Vertigo. That's not what it is…it is there to give creators the opportunity to tell the kinds of stories that can not have the Marvel slug on it."
Also on the topic of marvel's imprints, Quesada mentioned that there would be two new titles coming from Marvel's Icon line which provides a creator-owned outlet for Marvel's established creators.
A question was raised about the rise and return of variant covers, both at Marvel and elsewhere, and if Quesada was concerned about their proliferation.
"Yes, I am very concerned," he responded. "We just had a strategy meeting about that. We have a chart that shows where we can have variant covers and where we shouldn't. We are being very judicious in deciding where to do this, but we have no control over what happens at other publishers."
Quesada continued, "I am not a great fan of variant covers, but I am a business man at the same time. The fans are saying they want this and will spend money on this. Am I gonna cut my nose off to spite my face and leave that money on the table?"
Another concern brought up by fans was that of stretching characters too thin. Wolverine's regular appearance in several ongoing monthlies was cited as an example.
"There are certain characters that drive publishers' business," Quesada answered. "We are taking a good, hard look at it and we are going to review some of that. The Marvel line is getting so strong that we can pull Spider-Man and Wolverine back a little bit. 'Young Avengers,' 'She-Hulk' and 'Black Panther' are getting hot and that relieves tension on the remainder of the Marvel cast."
One attendee brought up the death of Gwen Stacy in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" title and if Mary Jane was ever a target for death as many readers had suspected.
"If there hadn't been this kazillion dollar 'Spider-Man' movie..." Quesada continued that "there was no way MJ was going to get it. I was surprised when Brian killed Gwen, though."
On the topic of attracting younger readers, Quesada said "…if we don't start cultivating young readers, we will have stretched the direct market as far as it will go." He went on to say "We have some stuff going, but it is pretty hush hush right now."
When the topic of how to compete with video games was raised, Quesada responded, "Someone has to create a compelling book that kids want to read before they get to their video game." He added, "We recently did some market research, one of the things that was very evident...if a kid hasn't picked up a comic at around eight or ten [years of age], chances are by the time they are 12, they aren't going to be interested. It takes a compelling book. If we can do that, there will be a huge influx of readers coming in."
"Original graphic novels are a weird thing," Quesada said when the topic was raised. "They don't make fiscal sense for us at Marvel. Let's say Joe Straczynski has a 200-page story. We could put it out as a graphic novel and it will only sell limited numbers, but if we have broken it down to singles over six to eight months, we would make a significant amount of money and we put it out as a trade and make money from it again, then as a hardcover and we make money again. Also, not everyone can afford 50 bucks and then the work is not getting exposed, only people with enough bank can get the thing."
Lastly, on the subject of one of Marvel's newest characters, Quesada remarked "I have not gotten the kind of media response [before] that I have gotten for Arana," referring to the teen girl with a Spider-Man flavor. "This little Latin girl hero has touched a nerve. This has been non-stop. Then, when the American press is done with it, the Latin American press wants to know more about it."