Comic Fodder

After the Cup

Comic Book Resources has an exclusive Q&A session with Marvel�s Editor-in-Chief, Joe Quesada. The latest interview focused mostly on J.M. Straczynski, aka JMS. You can check out the entire article here, but I wanted to comment on the way Quesada painted a certain picture.

First, let me say that I like Joe. I�ve liked some of his comics in the past, and he seems like a likable enough guy. He�s got a ton of fanboys who are always mad at his latest edict or direction, and I have to give him a big black mark for the Mephisto Mistake. But I think he�s doing a fairly good job overall, and his work as a creator gives him the ability to relate to both sides of this job: on one hand, you need to be able to market and sale the books, while at the same time give the creative teams enough leeway to do their thing the way they need to do it. It�s a tough, thankless job.

That said, Quesada does a little politician-like spin that needs to be brought into the light of day.

Before that, let me say that CBR missed out on getting us a status update for The Twelve. It�s so late that all of the characters now have cobwebs, not just the Timely character Black Widow. We know that Hollywood has come knocking, and for all the years that it can take for a movie project to get off the ground, it seems that comic guys who get bit by Hollywood have to pack up their bags and do nothing else for the next one or two years each time. Quesada was quick to point out that JMS was still working on The Twelve, and CBR should have followed up on that to pry something new loose from the floorboards.

Back to the editorial spin. Everyone wants to know why JMS is leaving Thor, and the whole Spider-Man Mephisto Mistake is the first thing that almost everyone assumes is playing a role here. I tend to doubt that, as JMS loves comics, period. No matter how many times he gets disappointed, I tend to believe that he will always try to keep the doors to this industry open so he can come in and play. So forget about past tensions, and forget about him getting into trouble for Twelve-related delays. Marvel will obviously let creative teams get away with murder on the publishing schedule these days, no matter how much damage it can do to a particular series that runs late. No, the reason that is given is that there will be a new big storyline from Marvel, and Thor needs to be involved. JMS was offered the chance to participate, but declined.

If that was all this was, then it could have been left there. But for whatever reason, Quesada went on, and he portrayed things as if reality knocked on the door, and there was no choice but to do things one way. The original deal was to have a number of issues of Thor where JMS could do things his way, without having to worry about a mega-crossover or having to tie into other titles. Quesada acts like the 17 issues went above and beyond this deal, but we all know Thor still managed to make a presence in both Secret Invasion and Dark Reign so far. So Quesada is not being 100% honest when he claims JMS had a free hand for 17 issues. True, the level might have been left to JMS, to choose how much he would show the rest of the Marvel universe reflected in the pages of Thor, but this wasn�t a title that was sealed in a vacuum the whole time.

Another thing to remember is that sales of Thor had not been doing all that great, and the title was closed for repairs. If Quesada really had an issue with one of Marvel�s biggest guns not being involved in events, then why allow Thor to remain in limbo for so long in the first place? The key thing, though, is that Marvel has a map for all of these characters, and as fluid as it is, they decided Thor was going to be crucial for the next big company-wide plot. So Quesada and company let JMS know his title would basically be hijacked, and everything JMS has been building would have to go by the wayside, and it was �unavoidable.� This is when the BS detector goes off, because Quesada tells it as if there was no other choice, when there was.

Digging back through the piles of Previews sales charts from Diamond I have lying around, I found at least nine issues of Thor, and every one of them ranked in the top 15 titles sold for the month. The other major title having great success was Captain America, which has also had a special kind of �hands-off� deal relating to the rest of the Marvel universe to a large extent. Is this type of sales success the thing you want to tamper with, Marvel? The fact is, the big creative brains could have gotten together and told their next story another way, and had the courtesy and grace to let JMS continue his great run and great sales on a revitalized title, and just touch on Thor a little bit.

This is not to say that this decision is necessarily better or worse. I fully understand (and JMS probably knows better than most) that when you�re dealing with property not your own, at some point somebody else is going to be giving the marching orders. Marvel�s event could very well be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and knock the socks off the sales charts. But this was not a �need,� this was a �choice.� Whatever room there was to work around things, JMS obviously felt it wasn�t good enough to salvage the rest of the story he wanted to tell, which means we�ll get an artificial, earlier end-cap to this part of the Thor saga, and it probably won�t be nearly as good. As much as they try to gloss it over, it feels like Spider-Man all over again.

Finally, Quesada rubs salt in the wound by mentioning that this is the last big crossover event that Marvel is planning for the next year or so. But let�s get real for just a minute. Wolverine stars in a dozen books and pops up everywhere on the planet (and some other dimensions) at the same time without skipping a beat, or having any damage happen to magazine sales. Stature and Vision are part of Young Avengers and Mighty Avengers. Osborn is in every comic on every other page, and if Marvel wasn�t resurrecting enough clone stories in other forums, I�d swear that Osborn was using an army of clone and Life Model Decoys to get all of it done. All that, and he has time to have mental breakdowns at the end of every other issue of Dark Avengers and Thunderbolts. Are we really supposed to believe that Marvel in its wonderful creativity could not have let JMS continue his excellent run, let other writers showcase Thor in the event mini-series and other titles, and just chalk it up as another example of the Wolverine Effect? How hard is this?

There are three sides to every story: your side, his side, and the truth. The truth might never come out, and it could well be that Quesada�s ultimatum (no relation to the comic line) gives JMS a convenient excuse to duck out and prevent the same Hollywood attention that has put The Twelve in limbo from affecting Thor any further. In the end, it seems ungraceful for Quesada to imply it was a big favor to let JMS run Thor independent for eight issues when the title wasn�t even in print for the months anyway. It seems like a second insult to a person who has improved sales and helped the popularity of two major characters in your stable, and it seems extra-worse considering the last thing that happened to JMS was the Spider-Man Mephisto Mistake. We keep hearing about how great everyone is at Marvel, and how supportive they are of creators, and how creative all these people are besides. When the Wolverine Effect has been running rampant for 25 years and getting worse lately, all I�m saying is, it would have been nice to see JMS finish his Thor story the way he wanted to do it. And maybe Marvel would have survived. You could have had a monthly series and still had him involved in the bigger story somewhere else. Don�t pretend this was unavoidable. That�s a bitter Cup O� Joe.

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Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop. He has become decidedly more tongue-in-cheek with the new year.

A very well written and informative article,TP. I am glad someone raised the question of the Twelve's lateness. Thanks.

-- Posted by: earl jones at July 22, 2009 9:24 AM

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