JOE QUESADA's 'Next Step': Directing

On the set of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Credit: Geoffrey Colo (Marvel Television)
Credit: Joe Quesada

Joe Quesada has moved from the artist’s chair to the executive suite, and now the director’s chair.

The longtime Marvel Comics creator, former Editor-In-Chief, and current Chief Creative Officer has added a line to his résumé as the director of the recent Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  spin-off webseries Slingshot.

Slingshot fits in the mid-season break in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s current season, focusing on team-member Yo-Yo Rodriguez (played by Natalie Cordova-Buckley) as she settles an old score. You can see Quesada's storyboards for the episode here.

Newsarama spoke with Quesada about his new endeavor, and what it might portend for the 54-year-old New Yorker's future.

Newsarama: Joe, how long have you had a hankering to do something like this?

Joe Quesada: It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time. With respect to my business and career, I’ve always tried to plan what the next steps are. This was something I was shooting for ever since I was in independent comics, doing directing, doing my own production. When the Marvel job came along, life took a different turn. But it’s something that I always wanted to do.

Even [Marvel Publisher] Dan Buckley was aware as we got into TV production that if an opportunity ever came up that they felt I’d be suitable for to break into as a first-timer, I’d hope they’d consider me. It took a few years, but it finally came up.

Credit: ABC

Nrama: You’re a newbie to directing, so is four minutes just right to get your feet wet, or does it still feel too short?

Quesada: The time didn’t matter to me. It was the experience. And I find that sometimes when you’re given certain limitations, whether it’s story rules, time, or whatever it may be, that you have to think harder and it makes you more creative. So the time didn’t matter.

Credit: Geoffrey Colo (Marvel Television)

And what made it incredibly easy was that I was working with an amazing crew, the whole regular crew that shoots Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Producer Garry Brown was there with me to assist if things got tough. And of course the performers were the actual actors who have been doing the show for several seasons now, so they made the job that much easier. And working with Clark Gregg, who’s a great friend is fun. And Natalia and Chloe [Bennet] were wonderful as well.

Nrama: So many of us learn by adapting behavior, or “monkey see, monkey do.” In your experience in being around directors of Marvel’s movies, are there any tidbits and trick you’ve picked up? Any directors in particular who you’ve been able to take a lesson from?

Quesada: Being a comic artist, doing what we do, it’s very similar to directing. The artists who really know how to tell a story, I would propose that most of them can direct today if they had the opportunity.

When you draw a comic book, you’re really kind of providing the final edit on a movie. Everything’s been shot, and you take the best shots, and you place them into the comic, which is the story. My big lesson was kind of backtracking and learning how to actually shoot those scenes. I did incredibly tight storyboards for this. But getting those shots and shooting through them, and continuing those shots to discover maybe something interesting that wasn’t in those storyboards or getting a performance that you weren’t expecting… that’s the real “get,” and that was the fun learning part for me.

Now I have my favorite directors and that, but to say that I modeled myself after them… I couldn’t even imagine being as talented as some of those people so [laughs] I just did what I did. I put what “my comic book of this” would be on the screen, and let’s hope it works.

Nrama: While we’re here, just what do your duties as Chief Creative Officer entail, and how does something like this dovetail into that macro-picture, if at all?

Quesada: My job as Chief Creative Officer is a tough one to explain, because I do so many things during the course of the day. Aside from the stuff that I need to draw and write, I’m reading scripts, I’m working on designs for our shows, I’m reading outlines for future and upcoming shows, and I’m consulting on the business plan for these things. So I’m involved in a lot of stuff that goes across our animated world, our live show world, digital stuff, and of course, our publishing. That’s good for someone like me, because I’m totally ADD, so when every day is different, it keeps my mind loose. And it’s a lot of fun.

Credit: Geoffrey Colo (Marvel Television)

But to boil it all down, I’m really responsible for the tone and the color of our stories, no matter where they are, and make sure everything continues to look and feel Marvel.

Credit: Marvel Studios/Netflix

Nrama: Chances are, you learned something in this; increased your knowledge base. What did you take away form this experience?

Quesada: You know, when I was a struggling artist trying to get into comics, every time I had a chance to meet a working professional, a guy who might be working for Marvel or DC, I jumped at it. And I would always make it a point to ask them about the things they did that didn’t work. I wanted to learn form others’ mistakes, which is probably the most valuable thing you can learn, because I didn’t want to repeat that.

So in getting into this, I called up [Daredevil actor] Charlie Cox and asked if he’d have lunch with me. I wanted to get the perspective from the actor’s point of view. Aside from the director trying to get the story on the screen, it’s working with the actors, trying to make sure their voices are heard and getting the best performance out of them, that seems the most important part. Talking to Charlie and Clark about that truly was an invaluable experience. Finding out what experiences they’ve had that they didn’t enjoy in the past helped me hopefully avoid some pitfalls and bring something positive to this production. Aside from getting the story on screen and working with the crew, it’s so important for a director to make sure the actors are feeling comfortable to do what they do best.

Slingshot is available now on Marvel.com. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns January 10 on ABC.

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