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Joss Whedon - "Astonishing X-Men" Comic Book - Issue 19 - Joe Quesada reveals solicitation copy

Saturday 19 August 2006, by Webmaster

Hmmm... what is there to talk about this week?

We push a couple of comic book hot buttons this time around, with more discussion of Civil War’s scheduling, a closer look at Marvel’s "policy" regarding homosexual characters as series leads, Mark Bagley leaving Ultimate Spider-Man, and more, including your first preview at some of Marvel’s newer or more noteworthy November projects...

Newsarama: Joe, you know what we have to talk about week...

Joe Quesada: I couldn’t imagine what you’re alluding to? But to be honest, I think it’s been talked to death. There’s nothing that I can say here that is going to be new information, so just look back on the info that’s available.

NRAMA: That’s true, and since we’ve already spoken to Tom Brevoort about the specific delays in Civil War, we won’t retread those specific areas, but we do need to revisit this general issue that continues to dog both you and [to be fair] DC, despite some general improvements in this area.

First of all, it really wasn’t fair to ask Tom Brevoort, why this announcement wasn’t made until the day before issue #4 was supposed to come out? Assuming completed books go the printer 20 days before on-sale, you guys knew for a bare minimum of 3 weeks you had a scheduling problem?

JQ: Well, yes, kind of unfair and also inaccurate since this book has been on the bumped book list for two weeks now. The most recent Diamond Shipping Changes had it as coming out on September 6th. So, the announcement was three weeks prior to the on-sale date, and it included information to help retailers and fans budget themselves for the next six months...instead of our just bumping these books week to week, which would have kept the whole thing much quieter, but no less a problem.

NRAMA: Fair enough.

We think on some levels many readers understand and appreciate arguments made by Millar and McNiven, and Bryan Hitch, and even yourself in the past about the sophistication of storytelling and artwork these days, about creative and artistic consistency and vision, and wanting to give readers and retailers the highest quality product in the end. But that’s only half the equation here.

A good portion of the frustration is yes, that the product isn’t monthly, but what exasperates this is what’s viewed as broken promises by the publisher, or at least indifference to fans and retailer expectations.

So to actually get to a question, why do publishers need to, and why do they allow titles to be solicited when at the time there must be some internal indication scheduling could be an issue?

For example, at the time Civil War #6 which will be two months late in December, at least was solicited for release in October, wasn’t there any internal indication the schedule was developing so that making an October ship date was very unlikely?

JQ: There are so many factors that go into all of this stuff but the biggest factor is that at the core of it there are human beings at all ends of the creative and business spectrums of what we do. We go in with the best of intentions and stuff just happens. To even suggest indifference is really insulting.

But look, fans want all of these big events to make sense and coordinate properly in order to keep all elements of the Marvel Universe in lock step with each other, so we do work incredibly hard to accomplish that, but with so many titles depending on one and other, the process becomes exponentially more and more prone to breakdown the bigger it gets in scope. When you deal with a big summer event that has so many ancillary tie-ins, you have to put a flag in the sand and say, "this happens during these publishing months," simply because there are so many moving pieces and behind every moving piece are several human beings working at trying to keep all the plates spinning. You have to make sure that the time selected makes sense for your creators and for the fiscal publishing schedule as well but sometimes you can’t get to one of the plates and when one crashes, there’s a good chance that several will come crashing down as well.

We certainly could have done

Story wise, “MCW” fit into a perfect spot in our creative publishing schedule, the timing seemed right, everyone was excited about it. As you start to plug along there are times when things begin to speed wobble and then there are times when they get back on track. Last’s year’s House of M had gotten off to a horrific start schedule wise, yet we said let’s give the team a shot to get it back on track, and they did in miraculous fashion! The same is true here except that we fell a bit behind but because so much was tied to this project, we had to do the most prudent thing for the whole “MCW” storyline and just push it back in order not to spoil the story.

In the end, the decision was made that for the longevity and future of this project and looking way ahead at trade and hardcover collections, this was the best decision to make. Sometimes those things can seem painful at first because some decide to look at the here and now, but sometimes you also need to look at the larger picture.

But also, in regard to timing, I had someone pull me aside at a con and said that was most intriguing about Civil War was the timing of it. It’s the perfect story for this particular time in our countries history. If it had come out last year or if it were to come out next summer, there’s a very good possibility that it wouldn’t resonate as well as it has right now, especially with all those new faces that are coming into comic shops. I found that to be a fascinating observation and perhaps a very accurate one. While you can never predict these things with any sort of certainty, we felt the time and place for this project was appropriately as we planned it and who knows, perhaps the delay will prove in the future to be fortuitous as well.

We’re really sorry for any pains this has caused our retail partners, all we can do right now is work our hardest to get it under control and our best to make up some of the lost revenue for our everyone involved

NRAMA: Joe, finally, before moving on to other topics, we’ve addressed in the past the seeming resentment some fans seem to feel towards “Hollywood” creators in the comic book industry, and to be fair, some of those names have maintained schedules as well as anyone, but at least as many have started projects that have subsequently suffered significant delays.

To play Devil’s Advocate, is there an argument to be made that by choosing these creators name-recognition and/or their level of talent over their ability to maintain a more traditional publishing schedule, that it’s fostering an environment where all talented creators know schedule is not a high priority - sort of the comic book version of the “Broken Window Theory”?

JQ: No I don’t believe this because this comic book lateness thing has been a part of the industry way longer than people care to remember. Does anyone remember the beginning of the Image era? Does anyone remember that both Dark Knight and Watchmen had shipping delays? Does anyone remember that there was a time when unannounced inventory stories and reprints were installed into the monthly runs of books because of creative delays?

What is old is new again. How about the case of Daredevil #1.

Bill Everett the artist on the book was working at a greeting card company at the time as well as moonlighting doing some comic’s work. Daredevil #1 was scheduled to be released in late 1963. By that I mean that within the old system of publishing comics, Marvel had press time reserved for the book and back in the day, if you missed the press time it would cost you tons of money, a bigger sin you could not imagine in the world of comic’s publishing. Well, as luck would have it, Everett was late on the book, so late that Marvel was about to miss it’s press time. But, Martin Goodman the publisher loved Bill Everett’s work so much that he decided to forego the scheduled press time and take the loss in order for Everett to do the book. Daredevil #1 shipped, I believe in April of 1964, at least four to six months from its appointed ship date.

So, folks can play devil’s advocate all you want, but if there’s a “Broken Window” theory, that window was broken a long time ago.

NRAMA: Okay, so here is your last shot to tell readers something about Civil War #4 that will make it worth the wait..?

JQ: Thor kicks some major ass and one of Marvel’s biggest characters has a bad day!

NRAMA: Moving onto other topics, last year you announced author Captain America project, to be published this year.

JQ: Ah, funny that this should come up in the heat of all this conversation. Since this project doesn’t hinge upon continuity or affect the Marvel Universe outright or any other titles in any way, we’re waiting to get a bit more work done on the book before soliciting it. I believe we’re now looking at middle of next year for this project. By the way, I’ve read the first issue and it’s remarkable!

NRAMA: Sometimes just for fun we talk a look at what Amazon.com is listing on their advance schedule, and to be fair, while not 100%, it’s been a pretty good indicator of future projects in the past. X-Men: Deadly Genesis, Nextwave, Black Panther: The Wedding and other titles have been listed there before being officially announced. So here are a couple of listings, can you say anything at all about what they may be, or may have been?

- “On Ice” by Chris Claremont?

- “Book of Ezekiel” by John Romita?

- “Daredevil” by Jimmy Palmiotti?

JQ: I have no idea what these projects are, they sound kind of made up.

NRAMA: Well, all projects are made up at one point...

Okay, so we’re going to have to put you on the spot again about an issue that arose during your Chicago Cup ‘O Joe panel, which was picked up by the gay press and sparked some debate.

Though you made it fairly clear the policy isn’t of your making and that you’re not happy about it yourself (correct us if we’re wrong about that interpretation?), it’s regarding the Marvel Comics policy about any solo series starring a gay or lesbian character would be published as a MAX title.

First of all, we have to ask, is it a true policy in the sense would your higher ups even truly consider publishing a solo series starring a homosexual character and where his or her sexuality played a significant role), considering the negative publicity you cited Marvel as a company is apparently wary of?

It’s one thing to cite a policy saying “this would happen if”, but what is the true likelihood given the circumstances of any project actually being approved if this sensibility exists?

JQ: I’m glad you asked me this, fortunately this question has been raised again and it’s given us the opportunity to spark some internal discussions and revisit this issue especially in light of the fact that we have characters like Freedom Ring (who is the current star of Marvel Team Up without much fanfare mind you) and that we’ve had more gay and lesbian characters appearing in Marvel comics than ever before. In many ways, the old policy over the last few years has just sort of faded away, so let me just say that there is no longer any policy.

NRAMA: Okay, just so we’re clear about this - a character’s sexual orientation is no longer a factor in determining the rating of a potential title starring that character? So Freedom Ring - to use your example - could star in a non-MAX/Marvel Universe title - even if the character’s sexual orientation was a factor in the story?

JQ: Yes and Freedom Ring is already the star of Marvel Team Up.

NRAMA: And this is a new policy, or more accurately, the policy that may have prevented that the last few years is newly no longer in effect?

JQ: Correct.

NRAMA: Can you give interested parties any insight into the circumstances of this change?

JQ: It’s pretty simple, the topic really hasn’t come up in quite some time, we discussed it and decided it was no longer necessary.

NRAMA: Okay then. This next question won’t have the same tenor it originally would have, but we’re going to ask it anyway...

Marvel is a publicly traded company with a board and shareholders to answer to, and a good percentage of your readers are children. But from a more personal standpoint, both as a creator and minority yourself, and as your company’s most visible/vocal spokesperson, what do you feel is - if any - Marvel’s social responsibility here?

JQ: Our responsibility is to entertain and to reflect the world around us as best we can while keeping in mind that our readers come in many shapes and sizes and beliefs. What I think people seem to lose sight of is that it’s not like we didn’t publish Rawhide Kid. We went out there and we did it, we just did it in a way that we felt was most prudent with the climate of our world at the time. Perhaps some would disagree with that, but hey, that’s cool, I understand.

The job I have demands that I answer to many and have to take much into consideration before making certain decisions and while for some those decisions may seem black and white, there are many more shades of grey involved than you could ever imagine and no decision will ever be met with 100% approval by fandom.

That said, people can say what they want, but I know that Marvel is the most diverse comic’s company anywhere, we always have been. The simple reason for that is that one of the core rules for creating stories for Marvel and our Universe is to reflect the world around us to the best of our abilities and that is where our true responsibility lies. Diversity happens as a natural byproduct of our creative process and we have never done anything during my tenure to prevent or discourage that.

NRAMA: Okay, to wrap up this week on a completely different note, this week Mark Bagley confirmed his exit from Ultimate Spider-Man with issue #110. Any thoughts on the matter?

JQ: Well, we’ve known for quite some time, we were just holding onto the information in order to make a large release but Mark had to go and leak it early. Darn you Mark Bagley!!!

NRAMA: Any thoughts you can share with readers as to who might take his place, or what kind of artist you’ll be looking for?

JQ: Since Mark went and leaked part of the news prematurely (I love busting Mark’s chops about this) I’ll keep readers guessing on this new artist front for now. We do have a replacement, it’s a brilliant artists who I think will add their own flavor to the book while still appealing to all the hardcore Ultimate Spider-Man fans and will be able to keep up with the books scheduling.

NRAMA: Ack, let’s not bring up scheduling again... But conversely, any insight on what Bagley will be doing next, or what sort of project would be right for him?

JQ: Well, unless Mark decides to leak some more information, everyone will just have to sit tight and wait for all the announcements. For now, just kick back and enjoy the brilliant work he’s doing on Ultimate Spider-Man.

NRAMA: Finally Joe, in keeping with our ’Friday-before-solicitations’ format, please pick out some big new or interesting projects coming out in November and give readers a preview..?

JQ: Sure!

BULLET POINTS #1 (OF 5) Written by J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI Pencils and Cover by TOMMY LEE EDWARDS World War II. America needs a super soldier. Only one man possesses the formula to create the perfect fighting machine from volunteer Steve Rogers. But when a deadly bullet kills Dr. Erskine along with his bodyguard, M.P. Ben Parker, Steve’s destiny-and that of the Marvel Universe-is changed forever. 32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

INCREDIBLE HULK #100 Written by GREG PAK Penciled by CARLO PAGULAYAN & GARY FRANK Cover by LADRÍNN Variant cover by MIKE TURNER A special, HULK-sized issue commemorating 100 issues of gamma-irradiated goodness with two big stories: Planet Hulk, Allegiance, Part 1 - Is he the Sakaarson, destined to save the planet from its greatest enemies, or the Worldbreaker, the legendary destroyer of everything? The HULK continues his epic story on Planet Sakaar. In this issue, the HULK and Caiera the Oldstrong lead their warriors in an all-out battle against the horrifying Spikes. But even with the Hulk growing stronger, how can he and his warriors prevail against an enemy that consumes and possesses everything it touches? Featuring another shocking development in the story of Miek - and further hints about the identity of the Sakaarson - and the Worldbreaker. Plus, a 12-page back-up featuring the return of one of HULK’s greatest artists, Gary Frank, as someone discovers that the Illuminati were responsible for sending the Hulk into space! Also reprints Incredible Hulk (vol. 1) #152 and #300! 104 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1 Written by ED BRUBAKER AND MATT FRACTION Pencils and Cover by DAVID AJA Many years ago, in the mystical city of Kun’ Lun, young Danny Rand stared at a suit behind glass — the garb of “the Immortal Iron Fist” — and knew that he was destined to wear it. But where did this costume come from? Why did it wait for Danny all those years like a shadow of his future? The answer to those questions will stun both him and his readers, as Danny Rand leaps from the pages of his breakout hit in DAREDEVIL to his own series - a history-spanning kung-fu epic that will shatter every perception of what it means to be the Immortal Iron Fist! Brought to you by top-ten writer Ed Brubaker and breakout talent Matt Fraction (Punisher War Journal), with action-packed art by David Aja (Daredevil, Giant-Size Wolverine). 32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

WHITE TIGER #1 (of 6) Written by TAMORA PIERCE & TIMOTHY LIEBE Penciled by PHIL BRIONES Covers by DAVID MACK A HERO’S COMPULSION Roaring out of the pages of Daredevil, the new White Tiger makes a ferocious debut, courtesy of the dynamic scripting of NY Times best-selling fantasy author Tamora Pierce (Trickster’s Queen, The Will of the Empress) and masterful penciling of rising star Phil Briones (La Geste des Chevaliers-Dragons, Les Seigneurs d’Agartha). Angela del Toro knows pain: Her uncle Hector Ayala, the former White Tiger, killed. Her FBI partner, murdered. Her career, ruined. Her mentor, Matt Murdock, jailed. And the hurt is just beginning....The Yakuza’s bloodthirsty Sano Orii returns, a genocidal shadow organization appears, and a new-but-old super-powered madman is looking to put the squeeze on White Tiger. Armed with mystical amulets---and finally in costume---White Tiger demands answers! But will she survive long enough to ask the right questions? 32 PGS. NO ADS/Parental Advisory ...$2.99

ONSLAUGHT REBORN #1 (of 5) Written by JEPH LOEB Pencils and Cover by ROB LIEFELD 50/50 Variant Cover by MICHAEL TURNER Marvel’s greatest heroes sacrificed themselves to save the world from the deadliest threat they had ever faced-Onslaught! The lives of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers were saved only when Franklin Richards created a parallel universe, where we found those heroes, reborn! But this world has long since merged back into our own, and the evil Onslaught-forged from the most vile parts of Magneto’s and Professor X’s psyches-has been presumed long dead... but now he, himself, is reborn-and he’s bringing fragments of the other universe with him! Join comics superstars Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld in this no-holds-barred, all-out action extravaganza-celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the event that changed Marvel history-as Onslaught, the Marvel Universe, and the Heroes Reborn Universe collide in this massive crossover! A significant portion of the proceeds from ONSLAUGHT REBORN #1-5 will be donated to The Sam Loeb College Scholarship Fund.” 32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END #1 & 2 (of 6) Written by ALAN DAVIS Pencils and Cover by ALAN DAVIS Alan Davis writes and pencils the final story of Marvel’s first family! Even the strongest family can be torn apart by tragedy-and in the futuristic world of tomorrow, the members of the once-Fantastic Four are divided and vulnerable to opponents from their past. What events could have caused the FF to go their separate ways, and how does their disbanding set the stage for a conflict that will send shockwaves across the galaxy and beyond? 32 PGS. (each)/Rated T+ ...$2.99 (each)

Also Available: Rough Cut Edition of #1!

ASTONISHING X-MEN #19 Written by JOSS WHEDON Pencils and Cover by JOHN CASSADAY 50/50 Variant cover by JOHN CASSADAY "UNSTOPPABLE!" Part 1 (of 6) Strap yourselves in, folks! It’s the beginning of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s final arc on Astonishing X-Men! After the shocking and brain-smashing events of last issue, the X-Men are off to protect the Earth from its destruction at the hands of the Breakworld. And when it’s all over, nothing will ever be the same! No really, we mean it! Whedon & Cassaday prove they are more than Astonishing: They are UNSTOPPABLE! 32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99