Wizard World LA, Day 1: "Cup o' Joe" with Joe Quesada

Sat, March 19th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

Joe Quesada set the tone of yet another of his "Cup o' Joe" chats with a serious announcement. "People are always asking me why Marvel books are so good," he said gravely, looking over the crowd. "Why do we keep kicking DC's butt? Well, I can admit it now. I took steroids. I've personally injected Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar ..."

After the laughter subsided, Quesada shut down two persistent questions quickly. "I do not know when 'Black Cat' will be out," he said, referring to the "Battle Chasers"-esque tardiness of "Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do," "and "Daredevil: Father' will be out this year."

Quesada hit a wide variety of points, from publishing philosophy to specifics of this year's releases, and even brushed on his Event Comics past. He was joined by Marvel talent liason C.B. Cebulski and marketing guru John Dokes, and deferred to them a great deal for limits and answers.

From the world of the "ooh" announcement, he talked about Warren Ellis' third Ultimate mini-series, "Ultimate Extinction," which will feature the debut of both Ultimate Captain Marvel and Ultimate Galactus. J. Michael Stracynski will have a June debut for a one-shot creator owned project on Marvel's Icon imprint called "Dream Police," and be joined by "Thor: Loki" artist Essad Ribic on a five-issue prestige mini-series about the Silver Surfer. Neil Gaiman apparently will have another project at Marvel this winter, and has approved a sequel to his historical series "1602," a six-issue mini called "1602: The New World," with Greg Pak writing and Greg Tocchini handling the art chores. "Ghost Rider" will be relaunching as a Marvel Knights title, boasting the creative team of Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain, doing all-digital art for the title. The filming of Joss Whedon's "Serenity" film necessitates a "hiatus" after the first twelve issues of "Astonishing X-Men" and a planned second twelve issues from the same creative team.

The biggest possible spoiler, however, came from a question in the audience, that practically silenced the panel. A man talked about Mark Millar discussing "Ultimate Extinction" and speaking of a Ultimate Marvel Universe crossover with the "Earth-616" Marvel we all know and love. "I think you've said too much," Quesada said with something of a shaky smile.

Quesada handled more traditional housekeeping and hype styled questions, promising a huge "House of M" announcement on Saturday, ("It's the biggest comic book event of the year. Without a doubt. Trust me."), and that Madrox will be involved. He also said, "I will tell you right now, a year ahead of time, Warren Ellis has created a teen book for us that's gonna be the next cool thing. I got the first script, and this book is my new favorite project coming out in the next year or so." Speaking of Ellis, there are delays on the "Iron Man" book, and Quesada said, "It's really time consuming, Adi didn't anticipate how long it was going to take. It's worth the wait." Cebulski confirmed that issue #3 is done. The X-Men will cross over with Black Panther in the pages of "X-Men" #175-176 and "Black Panther" #8-9, and "Black Panther" #7 will feature a "House of M" tie in. Art is already in for the last issue of "Spectacular Spider-Man," with a touching "Calvin and Hobbes" homage between Peter and Uncle Ben. Art was shown for "Journey into Mystery" premieres for the new Scorpion (an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and "Vampire By Night," "Machine Teen" by Mark Sumerak and Mike Hawthorne (BMOC is a cyborg), "Gravity" (a midwestern teen moves to New York to become a superhero), "Spellbinders" with Mike Carey and Mike Perkins (the children of Avengers villains the Salem Seven band together), and covers for "Daredevil: Decalogue," the final issues for Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev on the title. "Brian and Alex are secretly planning something, and they won't tell me what, which always worries me, especially when Brian goes into those 'roid rages," Quesada joked.

Orson Scott Card will be continuing on "Ultimate Iron Man," Quesada said, because Card "is having a blast. He was going to take the story to a certian point and leave it for another writer, but he was so thrilled with the purity of vision, he really wanted to take the story to the next step. Because he's decided to do more, he's decided to slow down the pace of the story, get more into Tony's childhood. Orson's having fun, the book is selling like crazy."

All three chimed in to talk about "Ultimate July," with Millar and Greg Land taking over "Ultimate Fantastic Four," Ultimate Moon Knight making an appearance in "Ultimate Spider-Man," and the escape and return of Magneto in "Ultimate X-Men" #61-66. Juan Bobillo will return as penciller on "She Hulk," Mike Carey and Jae Lee will do a two-issue story in "Ultimate Fantastic Four" before Millar and Land take over, that Northstar will be back and "pissed off," with a tag line" "for Northstar, death was only the beginning." "Ultimates" #5 will feature the Son of Satan, Reginald Hudlin will start "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" with Billy Tan as of issue #13. "Captain America and The Falcon" will end with issue #14, Cebulski noted the possibility of more happening with the concept down the line, and both Dokes and Quesada dodged a direct question about what's next with Christopher Priest, as the writer has hinted something's afoot on his blog. A Taskmaster figure is coming out even though no comics feature the character, X-23 will be coming to "New X-Men: Academy X," and "What If" will return in December, with "Wha Huh?" finally out in August, without "changes," according to Cebulski. Finally, when asked if Garth Ennis would be leaving "Punisher," Quesada happily replied "there's no end in sight. It's the character he was born to write."

In the "vague" announcement category, there was an abundance of riches. He asked fans to "stick around" for Moon Knight and Thor ("we're taking our time because we wanna do it right"). When a fan asked if "District X" was going to be cancelled, Quesada replied, "cancelled is the wrong word, but I can't give it away without telling more about 'House of M.'" The success of "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest heroes" has the company talking about a sequel and other "behind the scenes" styled minis as a tip of the hat to fans who remember those stories. When asked about Frank Cho, Quesada said, "stand by, we've got big plans for him. He's got a very cool dream project, and it's got a girl in it." A huge Spider-Man event is planned after "The House of M," with Stracynski on "Amazing," Reginald Hudlin on "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" and Mark Waid on an as-yet-undisclosed Spider-Man title looking at Spidey's interaction with the rest of the Marvel universe, all together telling more "unified" stories about Peter Parker. Quesada also said they've "plotted out the next two years for Spider-Man."

On a more personal side, Quesada noted that the two-hour pilot of "Painkiller Jane" just finished filming for the Sci-Fi Network. A questioner also asked why so many creative teams shared the same first name (Greg Pak and Greg Tocchini, Mike Carey and Mike Perkins, etc.) and Cebulski muttered, "They've figured out the secret!"

Finally, Quesada hit on points of publishing philosophy, eschewing the idea that trades damage sales of single issues, and saying "Epic was one of those experiments that didn't take off. It wasn't doing what it was supposed to do." Having the most impact for the company as a whole is what Quesada characterized as "getting more to a cohesive universe at Marvel."

When asked, "why now?" Quesada replied, "It's the timing. When myself and this management team took over, one of the thiings we needed to do was get down to core essence of character. If we have to take 'em out of custume, do it. All iof this was done with the idea we'd get back to the colorful heroics. After the age of over rendered big shoulder pad heroes, it was time to break it down again. Who really is Cable? Now, as we move beyond that period -- you always have to shift in publishing. This year you're seeing more of a cohesive universe. Come next year. we'll have a different idea. Marvel is launching new characters ('Gravity,' 'Machine Teen,' 'X-23,' 'Arana,' 'Spellbinders,' 'Runaways') ... a lot of new stuff, and when you look back, since the speculator glut it's been next to impossible for a company to launch new characters. It's getting better out there, we're finding you guys are more receptive to new characters." It's apparently a victory for the continuity pundits in the world. He also said that Marvel Knights books are in official continuity. "It's the same continuity, it's just a darker, more urban approach to Marvel universe." In a telling statement, after being asked about expanding the All-Ages line, Quesada admitted, "in today's climate, we need to make books that are safer for kids."

No DC executives storming in, no bruhahas of any sort, just a good natured chat with Marvel's top dog and all the fans.

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