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Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2001


Here's a transcription of Marvel's bi-weekly press conference on Thursday:

Bill Jemas: Sometimes I throw out something controversial just to see what will happen and that's what we're going to do today. We can get into the genesis of the idea later, but actually I think maybe it's a good idea if I should get into the genesis now. Joe and I have been a little bit spoiled - Joe his whole career and me for the past year or so - in that the first time we ever see really great comic books is usually is penciled, inked and color. What are we get are these full, pristine pages. And for some of the books, it's absolute magic. And the storytelling of just the graphics as plotted by our top writers is just spectacular.

We think it's a good idea to share that with the comic book fans. An we also think that it was good a opportunity, as I would say, for the best writers and artists in the business to show me something -- to see how they are storytelling without the words. So this December every monthly book in the Marvel line will go out in a program that I'm just calling for right now, 'Show me something' in that it will be written to be penciled, inked, and colored without word balloons or narration,. We think that this is going to be a lot of fun. When we thought of the idea, we expected sort of a mixed bag from creators, but honestly we have yet to speak to an artist or writer who didn't get that glint in their eye. So this will be the entire month of December. Right now the working title is Show Time.

Quesada: Basically, I think this is a wonderful exercise for Marvel and for its artists and writers. I've always been a big proponent of quality storytelling, so when Bill came up with the idea I was at first taken aback a little bit, then realized that this could be something very, very cool to show off our craft. The beauty of it is that it's in essence a company-wide crossover without anything really crossing over. It's just something very, very cool that I think the readers and fans and new fans might get a kick out of.

The one thing that I have to sort of protest is that I can't stand any of the names that Bill's come up with for this. So, I will issue a challenge right now to members of the press and fans who will get to here this news, we are looking for a name for this particular program because I know you can come up with something better. We'll announce a prize or something, but I figured we might as well run a contest, and if somebody can come up with something better than Show Me Something or Show Time, I'll be more than happy to provide a wonderful gift and credit towards this, because I just really, really cringe every time I hear Bill say these things.

That's really my beef with this, but aside from that, it's really going to be a lot of fun. With respect to the creators, I haven't heard anybody really complain. We've gotten a bunch of raised eyebrows, especially from competitors, who say, "That's a lot of work."

Question: Is Colossus actually dead?

Quesada: He is gone and goodbye. I don't want to give away further details of the story because we'd be given away plot points. I'm really a proponent here, and I've told editors, "If you're going to kill off characters, please, No. 1, let it have a lot of meaning, and No. 2, try to make it as permanent as possible. I've always really despised the fact that the characters seem to keep come back, especially one that makes a sacrifice like this and a death like this by a character completely meaningless in the long run. You sit back and say, "Oh he died, but he'll be back." So, if I had my druthers, guys, it is quite a sacrifice. But again I don't want to give more away of the story than what's been told so far.

Question: So we're getting near the final tie-up on this 10-year thing with the Legacy Virus?

Quesada: Yeah, I'd love to tie up every 10-year arc. Whether it's tying up or never mentioning them again. Come May with the X-Men line, we're starting from ground zero and moving forward. Pretty much myself and the X-Men editors, we have discussed a lot of these story elements. When it comes down to telling stories that are based in the past, if it comes in front of me, you can pretty much be sure it's been vetoed by me at this point. And if I didn't get to it, Bill's probably gotten to it. Yeah, you can pretty much say this thing is over.

Question: Any creative changes involving the main line of books?

Quesada: We're working on things in several stages, in several steps. Some things, obviously, are taking priority over others. When I first got here and Bill hired me, the first two things I said we were going to try to fix were X-Men and Spider-Man. On paper, it looks fixed to me, but come April and May we'll really know for sure. The mainline books are certainly on the list, but I think more importantly on the list right now are several things for me personally with regards to publishing. One of them is the mature readers imprint, which dovetails into the creator imprint. Both can be one and the same. And with that also, we're aggressively attacking and looking into our foreign royalty problems, which, obviously as a creator, is something I've always known has been a problem here at Marvel. And it might be a problem we might be able to overcome with mature readers and a creator-owned imprint. Those are things that right now, for me, are taking a little more precedence than the mainline books. I think the mainline books are, for the most part, doing what they're supposed to be doing - some pretty good stories. Can we tweak and change some things? Sure. I'm sure we can. We can do that all day long. But everything in their good time.

Question: Any updates on the Marvel Feature-type title?

Quesada: We're moving ahead with that. We just have announced the name of that. We already have creative teams on board and stuff like that, but it's a little too early.

Question: There have been reports that people can find Ultimate Marvel magazine. Is that a concern for you?

Jemas: This is weird. We printed five times more of these books than we do of any typical monthly book. It's a new SKU, it's tied up in warehouses, it's going to get out to market on a reasonable time basis. It's not intended to be a collectible. It could theoretically be a collectible. God knows that 150,000 is certainly not a limiting unit for collectibility. This is just, I think, an anomaly in the distribution system. I can also say that the IDS system and the scanning data for newsstands is archaic if you go through distributors like we do, so we don't have any crisp data. Matt Ragone has spent the better part of two days trying to find it. I sense when all is said and done, this will just be a tempest in a teapot. It's a new book, it's sort of a new thing, and once the smoke clears and the distributors get a hold of it, it will just get racked where it's supposed to get racked. It certainly wasn't short printed. The numbers that we printed - I said five times more than the normal Spider-Man book - were enough to cover the marketplace and leave a reasonable allowance for return.

Question: Are you pleased with the numbers being sold?

Jemas: All you'll ever see are the wholesale reports that 100 percent have been sold. Then nine months later, you'll find out. What we found out, just from collateral calls, is that the rate of sales seems to be pretty good. For reasons we don't need to go into right now, we decided not to sell the first issue to the direct market. I admit that was a mistake. The company will sell the second issue to the direct market.

Question: Will the Show Time books have the regular creative teams?

Quesada: Right now, as it's scheduled, it's the regular creative teams --barring the natural order of fill-ins. All the writers have been spoken to, and they're all on board. You can be sure it will be Grant Morrison writing a silent issue, it will be (J. Michael) Straczynski, it will be Jeph Loeb, it will all be the core writers. For the artists, it's just a matter if they are 12-issues-a-year guys or 8-issues-a-year-guys and where it falls into the schedule.

Question: There are rumors about a fifth Ultimate title. Will there be one?

Jemas: I can 100 percent confirm there are rumors. I can confirm that there are no plans. We are constantly looking at to develop, create and get out there characters to groups of families that are to teens living now. Marvel was built by teens living now when the now was 1960, 70 and 80. And in a sense, were going back to that, our roots in history.

A lot of what people talk about where these creative projects go is to look at some of the things that worked in the Ultimates. When you read J. Michael Straczynski, or Grant Morrison's initial take on what the would do with the X-Men, it sounded very much like the marketing pitch I presented to the organization when I walked in the door to get people excited about Ultimates. Believe me, it's working better for them than it did for me. But that same sense of contemporary and now, and dealing with dead-on issues with younger characters that appeal to younger readers â¤| a lot of what you're hearing sounds like it's Ultimate.

But there's no plans. I can say four books, 10 bucks - it sure sounds about right for a kid.

Question: Will the silent books in December be a mandatory thing?

Quesada: It will be a mandatory thing - with the exception of mini-series. And we're still debating whether the Ultimate books will fall into the fray. But for the most part, it's line-wide for all the monthlies. And, quite frankly, I say mandatory, but every editor, writer and artist has pretty much jumped on board willingly to do it.

We're really looking at this, the silent issues, as a celebration of the art form of sequential story-telling. I believe it might have been Neil Gaiman who was quoted at one point, "You can write words and they can be considered literature and you can draw pictures and it can be considered art, but put the two together and all of sudden people look at it as a child's medium. We're sort of branching out and showing people the beauty of what it is we do in comics. It isn't always necessarily mean words. We can tell these stories in pantomime.

Question: Will promotions such as those in Ultimate Marvel magazine not be successful considering that by the time people get to comics stores, with the push on no re-orders and printing to order, the issues are sold out?

Quesada: We're not printing to order. The actual back stock is a little more limited than it used to be. But we're not printing to order. I've heard that misquote many, many a time. We still have stock on these books. There's a million different reasons for this strategy. As a company like Marvel which has been in financial growing pains for quite a while â¤| the comparisons I use in a lot of respects, is that as a company in financial dire straits, when yearly raises come around, I'm told that I can only increase certain people by X number of percent. But when we look at our overprint, it's like five times the amount we get to spread to people's salaries here. In one respect, we're hemorrhaging, and in another respect, we're sort of bending our belts. I think the truth of the matter is that, as a company, we have to tighten our belts in a bunch of different ways. And the overprint is just one of those ways.

But the books are available. We do go back to press for small compilations of 1's, 2's and 3's. Anything that sells out in a remarkable amount of time, we are now going right online and providing the materials for free. So this stuff is out there.

Jemas: First of all I agree with everything Joe said. But I think you might have been asking a slightly different question. "Gee, those ads might have been chosen better." OK, yes, absolutely.

Question: Does the inspiration for Showtime have anything to do with the silent issue of G.I. Joe?

Jemas: No, I was a stickball player. I didn't get corrupted by comics until way, way later. I got inspired for this by the work Adam Kubert did with Mark Millar on Ultimate (X-Men) and getting a tear from the first look at Ultimate Spidey by Brian (Bendis) and Mark Bagley, without seeing a word. I had never heard of that issue. Joe and I can tell you, there's a level of recognition and realization that people get when they look at this project, and everybody from this world that I missed growing up looks back at this issue, as one of their most favored, prized issues. So it didn't have a lot to do with the inspiration for the original idea. But in terms of people getting behind it and knowing this project is going to be great, absolutely.

Question: About the Black Panther website, what did you see in this character to do a website?

Quesada: Actually, this is the second time we've done this. Having a personal stake in Black Panther because it originally launched from Marvel Knights, it is consistently my favorite monthly book. I read it. I happen to be a very big (Christopher) Priest fan; he and I go back quite a while. When Tom Brevoort and I were looking at numbers and realizing that the book could very well be headed toward the wrong direction, we wanted to do something and we wanted to do it quickly. And one of the things that came up was that there was that Save Deadpool campaign from a couple of years ago. So we put the wheels in motion, and Tom's done a great job getting it together. It's a great book. It's in need of wider recognition, it really is.

Question: Will there be more Black Panther trade paperbacks?

Quesada: (Issues) 1-5 right now and we're going to look at the rest of the content and take it one step at a time. We've got so many trades coming out right now and we want to spread the wealth.

Question: How do the letterers feel about Show Time?

Quesada: Just so you know, when we came up with the idea, I called Richard Starkings, who's in Comicraft and they letter a significant portion of our books - I made sure to give him a call ahead of time and say, "Listen, you guys are going to have a bad month in December." Richard took it all in stride; he's of good humor. And I'm assuming all the rest of our letterers have been informed by their editors that it's just going to be a month without books.

Question: Will these books stay in continuity?

Quesada: They should absolutely continue story arcs.

Question: Are you concerned fans might react negatively to it, much like when DC did the Zero Hour when they had three pages were just white pages?

Quesada: How many of you guys remember the classic G.I. Joe story? Any complaints? The bottom line is this: If we do it well, I don't foresee there being complaints. The books may end up being quicker readers than usual. Will Eisner made a living out of this sort of stuff. If it's done well, it's done well. That's really what we're looking to do here. It's not sort of an event, I also see it as a challenge to our artists. Let's really get down to the craft. It's even more of a challenge to our writers because the writers have to think in that sort of visual manner. And consequentially, it's going to be very hard to write in Marvel style. Writers may actually have to write something that's in between a Marvel style and in between a full script. Obviously, there is no script, but the pantomime has to be there.

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