This afternoon, Marvel held a press conference about the Epic launch title, Trouble.

Trouble, written by Mark Millar with art by Terry Dodson is reportedly aimed at the teen deomgraphic, and tells the story of May, Ben, Richard, and Mary, which may or may not be Peter Parker's parents and aunt and uncle. According to Marvel EIC Joe Quesada, who spoke about the project at last weekend's Wizard World East, it involves romance, sex, and pregnancy, hinting at May's. Quesada alluded that it was not Marvel's way of being pro-life or pro-choice, but a story to be told.

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In attendance were Bill Jemas, Axel Alonso, Joe Quesada, Mark Millar and Mike Doran.

Jemas opened the call, telling the story behind the story, identifying that the names of the characters are indeed very recognizable to people who are familiar with the Spider-Man mythos. Originally, the name of the book was to be Parents, and was to be about the conception of Spider-Man. However, once the creative team got to the project, the name was changed to Trouble.

As with Origin, Jemas said that Marvel wanted to tell this part of the early-early Spider-Man story before the movies could in any version. "I hope that Marvel readers will be proud to call Trouble the origin of Spider-Man," Jemas said.

"The story is called Trouble, the lead characters are Ben and Richard, two teenage boys and Mary and May, two teenage girls. This sounds like it's gonna turn into the origin of Peter Parker. Marvel is taking the book very seriously - Mark Millar, Terry Dodson, and Axel Alonso are here.

"We also are making this the number one book from Epic, which is very close to our plans for the future - to get an Epic [line] expoding, and we think this is a wonderful way to start. In the beginning, over a year ago, this project was called Parents. At its inception, this was intended to be the story of Parker's conception. But the focus goes from being on the baby to be, to four teenagers who are living the lives of four teenegers. Now the story [revovles] around May and Mary, who make enormous sacrifices in order to do what they need to do. We shifted the name of the book to reflect that.

"This is a very good book. I think it's going to turn out to be a great series. It stands on its own. It still leaves the question, is it the origin of Spider-Man? Right now, we don't know. I don't think the answer to that question should be up to Joe, or Mark, or Terry, or Axel, or me. We think the final answer ought to come from the comic book community, based on the acceptance of the story.

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That's not to say that we don't want this to be the origin of Spider-Man, speaking for Marvel's editorial group and the creative team, we hope that the happy ending to this story will be that there will be millions of teenagers all over the world who read this book as they face simliar situations like the kids in this book face, and that they have some sense how older more experienced people deal with situations like this. We hope that this brings our wonderful graphic stoytelling artwork to to new readers who'd otherwise never read a Spider-Man book, and we hope that the Marvel community will back us on this and be with us every step of the way, and that's why we're leaving this open-ended. I hope that Marvel readers will be proud to call Trouble the origin of Spider-Man.

"That's where we are. There have been a lot of half-rumors and mis-reported stories to the tune that this is really Aunt May, etc, but that's not confirmed because frankly, we don't know for sure. We know it's a great book.

"This policy of not deciding about continuity leaves some enormous problems for our business partners. If you're a retailer, you can't really order Trouble like it's the origin of Wolverine, because we're not calling it the offical origin of Spider-Man, which means that a retailer could get stuck with returnable inventory. But if Trouble does hit like Ultimate Spider-Man #1, and people order it in the lowe numbers that ordered Ultimate Spider-Man #1, then retailers are not going to have enough numbers to keep customers satisfed. We're going to change our overprint policy for this book.

"We met with retailer at the Marvel suite in Phildelphia, and we discussed with our business partners about the no overprint, no reprint policy in general, and the plan for Trouble #1 is that we will print the first edition to order. The final order cutoff date is June 12. We will also print an alternative cover version of the book. If Trouble doesn't sell through, I'll probably keep an issue of it in my office for posterity. If it does, we can ship the alternative cover right away to fill the shelves. But we won't do that until we're comfortable that Trouble #1 is selling through."

"I understand that the perception of Marvel in the comic community is that we do a lot of major lip-marketing, and I couldn't tell you with a straight face that's completely false. We have fun and we make money, and the major lip-marketing is a big part of that. I don't want to see that change, but for the purposes of this, I do want to make one thing clear: 'Made you look" to me is "made you read." We're really not here just for the financial gain. People who work at Marvel at this point in time could go to other places and make more money. We're here because we really do think this is a valuable genre. We think that graphic storytelling has things very unique to offer to the world, and that's important to us. We are putting heart and soul behind Trouble because we believe in the creators of this book and what they have to say to the next generation of kids.

"So yes, this is a little bit of 'made you look,' and people will always say why this can't just be about the kids, and why do we have to have Spider-Man. The chance of this book getting read by millions of people increase a thousand fold if this book ahs a relationship to Peter Parker."

The forum was opened for questions for Millar.

Millar commented on the demographic Trouble is aimed at: "I think what we're trying to do is something new and unique is to not catergorize it, and do something that appeals to everyone instead of just superhero fans or just romance fans. You know that within comics themselves, there might not be a gigantic market for something exclusively romantic, but combined with other successful elements, they get something they might enjoy. It's the first comic I've written that my wife read from page one to page twenty-two and read it and quite enjoyed it," Millar said.

As to whether there was market research aside from the cover, which is a spitting image of books like Gossip Girl, Millar said he did some background reading on the romance genre, joking that he read a lot, lot of Olsen Twins novels.

"I actually did have a good look at these," Millar said. "When I first saw the covers, I wasn't sure of what to make of them, until I walked into a bookstore and saw that's what these covers look like. It was interesting seeing the comic book reaction, because people were saying it looked like pornography, but it's not pornography - it's exactly what twelve year old girls read, and what their eyes fixate on when they walk into a bookshop. What kind of excited me was that this was somehting that could be stacked alongside those as well as stacked alongside Origin and Kingdom Come and Marvels, something that has a place in Marvel history. But even as good as those books are, not everyone has interest in them or wants to pick them up. So this unique because it's not quite one and not quite the other - it's a catalyst between the two genres. I did read a lot of those novels, most are absolute rubbish, but this difference is that this is quite good."

As to where the story came from, Millar added: "We sat in a bar and for the first hour or so it made perfect sense, but as the night went on I can't remember what happened, but at the end we had a concept that had all of us, Axel as well, really excited. It started as a nutshell idea that Bill and Joe had, and they asked if I was interested in developing," Millar said. "Such a radical idea in such an unusual format, as a writer I found it quite different from what I've been working on."

"They had a vision of the kind fo book they were interested in. Geenrally, I'm not really interested if smeoone comes to me with an idea, becasue quite often it's quite difficult to articulate it as well as the guy that came up with the idea. But this time, the idea is such an interesting one, and it just felt like we were placing a marker down in comics history by doing this."

When asked whether or not he viewed this as the origin of Peter Parker and related continuity issues, Millar said: "I think the idea at the moment is that we believe this is what going on, and if people like the story, they can think that too," Millar said. "Marvel's quite interesting in that people were saying 'Aunt May grew up in the twenties!' But I think that Marvel has been quite celverly vague about that for 40 years. Peter Parker doesn't become Spider-Man in the early '60s, he became Spider-Man ten or twelve years ago. In 50 years' time, he'll just have become Spider-Man ten or twelve years ago. So in that sense, this story is set and then ends nine months before Peter Parker enters the world."

At the end, Millar is just hoping people realize it's a good story, regardless of whether or not they accept it as the origin of Peter Parker. "Just enjoy it for what it is," Millar said. "Take it for what it is. The same thing is gonna happen with this too. And at the end take something away from it."

As to what makes it an Epic book, Millar was quick to answer. "It doesn't feel like a Marvel superhero book, so it doesn't fit in the MArvel universe, and it has no adult content or violence or language, so we wanted something that would appeal to people in the same way that Spider-Man appeals to people in that you can read it when your nine or when you're an adult," Millar said. "Because Epic is experimental, it seems like the perfect place for it."

As to whether the book might be over the head of, or appropriate for nine year olds, given that one could take away the idea that Peter Parker was an illegitimate child, Millar disagreed. "I remember one of my earliest comics was the Stan Lee drug issues of Spider-Man," Millar said. "At the time, I remember saying to my Dad, 'Why are Harry Osborn's eyes funny?' And he had to explain it to me. I think comics are fantastic in that sense and are a safe introduction to the real world. Illegitimacy happens - I'm illegitimate, as are two or three people in my family. Something like 30 or 40% of kids born last year are as well. There's no stigma as such as there was in the 1960s, or at the time this story is set, but I think you find your nine year old kids know other kids in their calss who may be in this kind of situation that the kids find themselves in. It's not done distastefully, it's just done realistically, so there's nothing people would have to worry about their child reading it. "

When asked if, when he realized this could be the story of Peter Parker, he added in any more ties to the Marvel Universe, Millar confessed that his inner fanboy wanted to have Reed Richards drive by, but he didn't. The only reference he kept was an old fortune teller named Mrs. Grey. "I've really tried to focus and make this a story that stands on its own, so there's less in-jokes and more things that a general audience will appreciate," Millar said. "It works different muscles for you as a writer - writing the Ultimates is very differnt from writing a Marvel Universe or DC book, because you can't rely on all the little catchphrases and things that make those universes so rich - you have to make things up from scratch. Writing this was very much like writing a movie, as opposed to writign a comic book."

Millar said that the idea of doing a romance book appealed to him especially post-Authority, given that everyone was offering him superhero books. "Suddenly everyone's offering me superhero team books," Millar said. "I love the Ultimates, but I thought it would be interesting to do something different. There are a lot of creator-owned projects I have coming out around the end of the year, and this book is far from the Ultimates as you can get."

Millar explained his take on the book in regards to someone unfamiliar with Spider-Man as well as new readers in general. "Well, it's interesting that the number of women at conventions has risen dramatically over the last three years," Millar said. "I found thi on my website as well. There are so many women involved, particularly younger women. A lot of them were asking if they had to keep reading the same kind of material. I have nieces that are 11 and 12 years old, and hte kind fo thing that draw me to a comic aren't the things that draw them. They quite often want to read comics, and they come to my house to read something that interests them, but often they can't find anything. I thought it would be interested to do somehting that would lure them in. Iron Man lures me in to a comic, but that doesn't lure them. I wanted to find something that they were interested in, and hopefully introduce them to the comic form that way. Maybe people who don't normally pick up a Marvel or DC book will pick this up."

Doran said that as a response to the negative response to high profile press Marvel books got earlier in the year (well before the book was available) received from retailers, Trouble will be featured in an in-house ad in all of the July Marvel books, reviews will be appearing online, Wizard and CBG will feature stories on the title, and Marvel is working with other media outlets in the mainstream press, such as Entertainment Weekly, and The Washington Post, in which it is slated to appear.

When asked if this book was a response to the success of TokyoPop and shojo manga titles aimed at younger, female readers, Jemas said that while Marvel has been working to catch up with the manga market, even if Japan didn't exist, they would be doing this series.

When marketing the book, the decision on book placement in bookstores is something that is being discussed. The Mary Jane novel has helped pave the way for Trouble's future in bookstores.

"Some of you guys may know David Gabriel, our new bookstore representative, but I'm not going to put him on the spot," Jemas said. "We've made some very significant inroads with the YA buyers at all the major chains. We suspect that these two products will help each other, and in the long haul, a lot of teh Tsunami content will find its way there as well. We think we'll be able to fish where the fish are. It's not very easy to do, you tend to get pigeonholed at retail, but we understadn what we need to do, and we're going to try and get it done."

Jemas said that the ordering from the mass bookstore market on Mary Jane has been significant, and the novel will ahve significant display in many chain bookstores.

When asked if Marvel had done any advertising specifically aimed at the teen audience, Doran said that Marvel's publicity firm, Bender-Helper have been working to get information about the books placed in the teen market.

Quesada and Alonso spoke about working with Millar and Dodson. "The scripts are come in great, and he knows what he wants - this is my first outing with Mark, our virgin ride," Alonso said.

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We were deciding who was the perfect artist and unanimously the name Terry Dodson came up, and he also accepted. I can't think of someone who draws people in a modern day sensibility that also hearkens back to the great romance books of the past. I wanna give him a tip of the hat, becasue we're not talking about him here."

While some bookstores may carry single issues, but the major bookstore push will involve the graphic novel, collected edition of Trouble. "The graphic novel will be heavily promoted in bookstores, the single issues, generally speaking, we reserve them for comic book shops. If otherwise, we'll let you know," Jemas said. "There's some bookstores that take them, but it's a shifting thing."

In regards to expanding into a female audience, Jemas said that the book he is most anticipating and is in progress is 15-Love, a tennis-themed book aimed at young female readers, which he described as "Millie the Model meets Anna Kournikova."

Jemas conceded that the concept/possibility of Peter Parker being illegitimate was a risk that Marvel would be taking with licensing partners who may not like the idea that Parker is a child born out of wedlock. Earlier in the conference, Millar admitted that he was illegitimate, and Jemas cited that as something that the publisher could point to as a defense - that illegitimacy is an issue that teens must deal with in today's world.

Jemas commented on expectations as well. "It's interesting. The closest analogy I can think of is the Stan Lee drug issue. The company got a lot of heat from partners, everyone and their brother. That was a story, knowing what we know, that was twenty years ahead of its time and not a moment too soon. The reaction we could have and we would be willing to withstand, are marketing partners saying 'how could Peter Parker be illegitimate?' We live on a tight rope as a youth publisher. We can either become irrelevant to children by hiding significant issues from children, or we can stay relevant to children and ruffle the feathers of moms about things that they don't think their children at quite the same ages the child thinks they should be reading it."

"That's life in this chair at Marvel and that's what we live for. I think this is a wonderful story. Marvel notwithstanding, this is one of the best things I've ever read. Our hope is that people have the same view we do. The heroes go through tremendous sacrifices and use their powers responsibly. I'd be disappointed if people don't feel the same way. Some people like to wrap stories in barb wire, but we don't care. The important reaction is from the people who are looking for the industry to grow and will welcome 100,000 new readers. We hope the book will bring readers who will otherwise not pick up the book."

"We've given a way of information, this weekend, this book still has a beginning middle and end we haven't talked about," Doran said, hinting that the story has many surprises.

When asked about the suspension of no overprint, and the cover of the second edition, Doran said that the title of the second edition will probably be called Trouble #1: The Second Chances Edition and will have a cover by Frank Cho. Jemas said that if the suspension of no overprint works on this title, Marvel will look at doing it again when needed. Jemas added that Marvel will not go "alternate cover happy" though. He added that he anticipates that the first edition of Trouble #1 will sell out without two weeks, and Marvel would be able to ship the second issue within two weeks, at the latest.

"We'll learn from our experiences," Jemas said in regards to future overprinted books. "If this works, and retailers seem to think it is...There are a lot of people who like the collectability of the monthly book. But both sides agree making to order with the first edition and then having the alternate cover. I don't think we'll go alternate cover happy. We're hoping the additional book will be for people who missed it the first time around."

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