SXSW: Cebulski and Quesada Talk Marvel

Rumors were flying when the SXSW [South By Southwest Conference] Marvel panel was first announced. Would this be the end of Marvel Comics as we know it? Would Disney be pulling the plug on the publishing side of the company?

Would you believe internet clickbait headlines were 100% wrong?

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Instead of some dramatic bombshell, the capacity crowd that gathered Friday to hear Marvel Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski and Chief Creative Office Joe Quesada got to hear a casual, wide-ranging discussion about the company and its characters. Unsurprisingly, given the SXSW venue, the conversation leaned more toward Marvel’s films rather than comics, though the two men did spend time on the company’s origins.

Cebulski recounted then-publisher Martin Goodman’s reaction to Stan Lee’s original Spider-Man pitch:

“Goodman said, ‘you’re crazy. No one’s going to want to read a story about a bug. You’re supposed to squash bugs. And who wants to read about a story about a kid in high school?’”

Quesada added:

“Peter Parker is the real person. When he puts on the mask, he becomes somebody else… I think that’s what makes these characters so relatable. We can understand the core person who is Peter Parker, or Tony Stark.”

When discussing Lee’s continuing influence, Cebulski said:

“I think not a day goes by when we’re there in meetings or in editorial when Stan’s name is not invoked in some shape or form.”

In fact, “What would Stan Lee do?” is still a question asked around the halls of Marvel, according to Cebulski.

Some other highlights from the SXSW conversation:

  • The best selling single issue of all time is still 1991’s X-Men #1, at more than 8 million copies.
  • Cebulski cited the 1990s X-Men animated series for its strong female characters, and said he’s heard female creators mention that show as a formative part of their fandom.
  • Quesada mentioned Blade as a character better suited for movies than comics, pointing out that he was never a top seller on paper, but helped Hollywood realize “there’s gold in them hills.”
  • The Infinity Gems (as they were known in comics) being renamed Infinity Stones (as they’re now known everywhere) can be credited to the animated Super Hero Squad show.
  • Runaways, both a successful comic and TV series, came from a forgotten old pitch Quesada found when he started as EiC.
  • Quesada shared an amusing anecdote about a pitch for a Daredevil TV show from years ago, which would have featured Daredevil and a canine sidekick. He jokingly called it “Daredevil and Daredog.”
  • An image of Wave, Marvel’s first Filipina superhero, was revealed prior to her first comic appearance in one of the War of the Realms books: New Agents of Atlas. Writer Greg Pak also posted the image on Twitter.

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You can read more about the panel over at Comics Beat.

Even though there was no big “news” broken, did you see anything that surprised you? Leave us a comment!

Kevin Sharp
Kevin Sharp
From alternating Batman & Green Lantern as childhood Halloween costumes, to getting punched in my adolescent heart by Love & Rockets, to playing convention sidekick to the legendary Len Wein, I feel like the comics medium & characters are part of my DNA.