Joe Quesada: Marvel's strong man
A few years ago, Joe Quesada could be considered "just another promising artist". However, a lot of things have changed and today he is the man who makes the editorial decisions at Marvel Comics, the largest comic book publisher in the United States.
In the early 90's, Joe Quesada, still at the beginning of his career, created Azrael with living legend Dennis O'Neil, a character that would become the protector of Gotham City as Batman, when Bruce has had his column broken by the villain known as Bane.
Like Azrael, Quesada soared higher than expected. After doing a brilliant work on Marvel Knights, where he helped to revamp minor characters with great histories, he (that a few years ago was "just one more promising artist") got the attention of the big guys at the House of the Ideas.
The next step by Marvel was to invite him to be Editor-in-Chief of all titles, replacing Bob Harras. A bold move that heated the market and gave a new push to all the company's magazines.
In less than six months, Quesada got involved in a few polemics with Todd McFarlane (defying him to go back to drawing, as a way to help strengthen the marketplace), John Byrne (due to the canceling of X-Men: Hidden Years) and David Choe (that disagreed with the paused status of project NYX, a title that should be released in the adult line of the publisher, and harshly offended him).
Even so, to the comic industry majority, Quesada had more hits than misses. And something can't be denied about him: he is excellent at marketing! His statements and acts (like inviting Alan Moore to work at Marvel, even knowing the dispute of the British author with the publisher) always make waves and thus attracting the reader's attention to his products.
The 39 years old Quesada gives, for the first time, an EXCLUSIVE interview for the Brazilian site Universo HQ, where he talks about his career, his ascension as Editor-in-Chief and several of the company's projects (even though he still kept some of them as a mystery).
Universo HQ, proudly presents: Joe Quesada, Marvel's strong man!
Universo HQ: How did you get interested in Comics? When did that happen?
Joe Quesada: Very early on, my Dad brought me my first comic! I must have been about 8 years old.
UHQ: You created Azrael, with Danny O'Neil, for DC Comics. How was to work for them?
Quesada: I enjoyed my time working with DC and Denny. It was early on in my career and Denny was very helpful.
UHQ: Your relationship with Marvel became closer when you became the responsible person, beside Jimmy Palmiotti, for the Marvel Knights. How did that happen?
Quesada: It's a very long story. Marvel liked the way that we promoted our books with very little money. They also liked the quality of our books and our ideas. After a few meetings with then President of the company, Joe Calamari, the offer eventually crossed our path and we jumped at it.
UHQ: How did you got invited to the position of editor in chef of Marvel? Which are the difficulties to have this job after been an artist? The Marvel Knights' success was a decisive point in this?
Quesada: Of course Marvel Knights was decisive. Marvel saw what we were able to do with minor characters and wanted me to do that line wide. I don't see many difficulties coming to the position as an artist, if anything it's a distinct advantage. I have a knowledge of the medium plus first hand experience as a freelancer dealing with Marvel.
UHQ: A lot of changes happened starting from the moment that you became EIC. The main ones were in the Spider-man and X-Men books. Is the need of changes still necessary in another Marvel's books? Which?
Quesada: Of course. I don't think we'll stop until every book is being produced to its highest quality level.
UHQ: How is the work of the team that will take care of the Spider-man's books? According to rumors in Internet, Peter was the victim of sexual abuse from Uncle Ben in the childhood, and the accident that gave his powers wouldn't have been really an accident... this is true?
Quesada: Well, as you can see right now many of those rumors were false. Some of them created by me! About what is coming, we will maintain the suspense!
UHQ: All the X-titles are going through a big change. How is the work of Morrison, Casey and company?
Quesada: They have been a charm to work with. It's easy to work with creators who are exploding with ideas. They make your job easier and make you look brilliant in return!
UHQ: What will happen in the first months of this changes? You said that Morrison will kill, in one page, more mutants than already happened in the whole history of Marvel. How will that happen?
Quesada: I really can't tell you. Wait and see what is coming!
UHQ: The Brotherhood is the new mutant book, that will be release in May. A lot has been talked about it, because the writer is anonymous, being called X ". Will his (or her) identity be revealed? What can be said about that? What sort of magazine it will be?
Quesada: I think it's very obvious by the solicitations and press we've concocted for the book that it will deal with the darker side of the mutant experience. Do you want to know what it's really like to be a down trodden mutant? Well, here it is. I hope X's identity never surfaces. Heck, I'm glad I don't know who it is.
UHQ: What is the reason of so many delays with Daredevil? The book already has a new regular creative team?
Quesada: Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev. The book is in the process of getting back on schedule and as you can see we've announced bi-weekly shipping later this year, for the months of July, August and September.
UHQ: Later last year, you challenged Todd McFarlane to produce a crossover between Spider-man and Spawn, what caused a lot of furor on the industry. Does the contact with McFarlane continue? Do the rumors that circulate in the Internet about this crossover have something true?
Quesada: It probably won't happen. On my end I still like Todd and have tremendous respect for him. I just wish he would do a little more for our industry with respect to the creative side of his persona. He had that magic something when he drew. Quite frankly as a fan I miss it.
UHQ: What if Todd agrees, how much will you pay for him? :-)
Quesada: I promised him the gigantic sum of $1100 American dollars ;-)
UHQ: Marvel will release a new Elektra series. What are the plans? Is this the first book of the diversification that Marvel wants to do to take new readers, like women? What are the plans for this?
Quesada: Wait and see it's an absolutely stunning visual book and incredibly respectful to Frank's vision of the character.
UHQ: As soon as you took the new office, you said that crossovers with other publishers wasn't in the Marvel's plans. However, now we know that you tried to discover why had never had a story with the Avengers and JLA. Why this crossover had never happened before, although all Comics fans of the world wanted? How were the negotiations?
Quesada: I said that I didn't want to do senseless crossovers. JLA/Avengers is something that as a fan I wanted to see oh so may years ago. So I made it one of my top priorities to get negotiations working with DC again. Once we made the call it was all pretty easy.
UHQ: When the mini-series will be release? What do you expect for the story?
Quesada: I have no idea what to expect, but I know it's going to be great! I would predict the first issue coming out on late 2001.
UHQ: Can this be the beginning of others crossovers between Marvel and DC?
Quesada: Possibly, if they make sense.
UHQ: You announced, for August, the release of a magazine that will be the most controversial of the history of Marvel. Some rumors mention that would be an event similar to Crisis on the Infinite Earths. Others say that the characters will suffer radical changes, as Spider-Man and Captain America, that it will go to Marvel Knights and, perhaps, become a black man. What does really have true about that? Can you talk something about that mysterious project?
Quesada: Nope, I can't say anything at all about that yet!
UHQ: One of the great news this year will be the release of an adult comic line. How will it be called? Will the stories with Marvel Universe super-heroes be part of the continuity?
Quesada: There will be some super hero stuff but it will be out of continuity, but I can't tell you the name yet. The first books will be released in September.
UHQ: Talking about that, what exactly happened with NYX, that it would be the first adult Comics, but the project was canceled?
Quesada: No, it wouldn't have been the first. The concept for NYX is still out there, we're just waiting for a new proposal to come down the line.
UHQ: How does the "Silent December " event, when no monthly books will have words? Will that be a great challenge for the writers, right?
Quesada: Of course it will but I think that all will be able to pull it off. Especially with the wonderful talent we have working for us!
UHQ: And what can you say about the project called "The Last"? Which the creators will be involved, and when will be the release?
Quesada: You mean "The End?" You'll hear more about that as we move onward with the year
UHQ: Writers that readers never thought to see working for Marvel, are with you right now. You even made contact with Alan Moore. How do you see that? Are other creators being invited? Which names can still join to the team? Let's say... Neil Gaiman? :-)
Quesada: We have an open invite out to everyone.
UHQ: How is the Ultimate Marvel? Have the sales in newsstands been the expected? Rumors about a fourth book, written by Mark Millar, are everywhere. How is this new book, and when is the release?
Quesada: We're still in the basic planning stages so it's hard to say..
UHQ: Is true that Ultimate will substitute the continuity of the current Marvel Universe?
Quesada: I don't know?
UHQ: You made contact with Stan Lee. He will writes something for Marvel again? If so, what? Which character?
Quesada: Stan is writing a short Daredevil story in issue #20.
UHQ: What is the next news from Marvel to the readers? Can you tell us something?
Quesada: There will be a weekly comic coming out of the adult line. 12 issues in 3 months.
UHQ: Marvel has been exploring new medias, mainly the movies. What is your opinion about this new strategy? And how is films like Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men 2 and Fantastic Four?
Quesada: I think it's great and long overdue.
UHQ: Marvel profits for last year (2000) were smaller than the previous year (1999), and the company was even in the red for some months. Does this worry you? How do you see this reduction of the market?
Quesada: I'm not worried because my division (publishing) is extremely profitable!
UHQ: You are EIC for six months now. What is your analysis of that period? What did happen for good and for bad? Is everything happening like you want?
Quesada: I've been surprised at how much support I've gotten from the company and how great everyone has been to work with!
UHQ: And what is your perspective for this year?
Quesada: I'm just hoping that we can grow our fanbase and get some new readers through the door.
UHQ: How is Event Comics and Ash? Do you still have plans for them? Can Ash go to Marvel?
Quesada: Ash remains with Event.
UHQ: Joe, which is your favorite character (doesn't need to be only Marvel's character)?
Quesada: I still love DD!
UHQ: Did you know that Marvel have a great legion of fans in Brazil? What do you know about our publications?
Quesada: I'm not that familiar with them.
UHQ: In your opinion, who are the best people working with comics at the present time?
Quesada: That's tough to say because there are so many and I'm happy to say the we have most of them!
UHQ: Besides the super-heroes, are you interested in other comics, like manga and European? If so, which the ones what more admires?
Quesada: I love the work of Moebius and Manara.
UHQ: Which message would you give for the readers, not only Brazilian, but all those that are looking the changes in Marvel?
Quesada: Stay with us, I believe we're on the cusp of something special!
Universo HQ: Joe, thank you very much for the interview, and good luck for you and for Marvel. 2001 will be the year that the market reacts and grow again!
Quesada: Thank you!