With characters given the spotlight in Marvel Comics’ Marvel Knights imprint, Wizard World: Philadelphia celebrated the successful line’s 10th anniversary with the two creative talents that brought content matter such as uncompromising realism and edgy reinterpreting of iconic characters to modern day comics.
Co-founders Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti reminisced about the history of the imprint, how the two started working on comics in the penthouse of Marvel HQ and the resurrection of popular titles.
Quesada himself succinctly put it that Marvel was looking for new and inventive ideas. “Marvel was f#$%ed,” said Quesada, jokingly.
“We were at the time, publishing Event Comics, before Knights, where Marvel did Heroes Reborn, which did ok, so they decided to look around to see which other monkeys they could bring in,” Palmiotti said.
“The thing about Heroes Reborn, it was somewhat successful with sales, but it was a mess at Marvel,” Quesada said. “We did a lot of grass roots stuff.”
Quesada added that with zero money, Marvel was fishing for what the duo could do.
“We love comic books,” Palmiotti said. “We wanted to do things the way we saw it, which is publish our own, so we did a lot of grassroots stuff, like Joe said. We really had to be everywhere.”
He added that for two guys in New York, they seemed to be everywhere. “I think at the end of the day there were two things, we do what we want how we want and we get paid well,” Palmiotti said.
“We had figured out a strategy, we knew there were a couple of diamonds in the rough at Marvel,” Quesada said, referencing Black Panther, the Inhumans and Daredevil.
“We will work from the offices of Marvel, which they found intriguing,” he said.
“They put us on the roof, in the penthouse,” Palmiotti recalled. “We were on the 13th floor with Marvel on 10. At the same time, it was good because no one would come up to check up on us.”
“A lot of editors and staff members would come up to get away from everything and lounge around,” Quesada said.
A collage of different covers to past issues of Marvel Knights was displayed for everyone to see, along with character drawings and layout ideas. “The proudest thing for me is, we were able to bring in some of the top notch writers we got,” Quesada said.
“It’s sort of like with youth, where we knew we were better than what was out there,” Palmiotti said. “The energy is still there, and we still have the energy to say this is the way it should be done.”
Palmiotti complimented Quesada for bringing the same talent to the role of Marvel editor-in-chief. He explained a lot of their ideas came from imaging their favorite writers writing the books on the Knights imprint.
“If they were charging 50 cents more per book, we really labored over them to make sure they were worth it,” Palmiotti said.
“We became the buck between Marvel and the creator,” Quesada admitted. “One of the things Marvel used to do, was take something making money and use that brand on 50 lesser tier projects. We insisted that if we were doing Marvel Knights, then we were keeping it small, we didn’t want to see the imprint everywhere.”
Quesada said about a year passed before the two were accepted by Marvel staffers.
Soon after that, the mood shifted to “hanging out” with the two guys in the penthouse.
“We tried to play ball as best we could,” Palmiotti added.
But why Black Panther? The decision to reinvent a character that did not have much fan-base was risky.
“I had a lot of affection for the character,” said Quesada. “Growing up in New York, and I’m Hispanic, I could instantly relate to the Marvel Universe, with this character of color. The Marvel books are speaking to me.”
“We went for a darker, more adult take on the characters,” Palmiotti said. “We tried to do something nobody else was doing. That’s why the Black Panther was a natural for one of ours.”
The subject shifted to the Punisher, which had been canceled recently during the birth of the Marvel Knights imprint.
“We felt like we had to shake things up with the Punisher title,” Palmiotti said. “It was one of those books that pissed people off, but luckily it pissed off about 10,000 a month. When I think about it, it makes me giggle.”
He said the two took a lot of criticism for the Punisher run, to which they were proud of.
The two then went on to their successful Inhumans comic run.
“Half of our job was to make these freelancers feel like they could do something no one had done before, and we would fight for that,” Palmiotti said.
The two discussed the addition of filmmaker Kevin Smith to the Daredevil series.
“We visited him in Red Bank,” Quesada remembered. “We really just all hit it off, when this came around, we realized we all had the same influence, and Kevin agreed to do it. So we waited, waited, waited and no script came in.”
The two remembered that Smith had initial reluctances, one of which being not being able to compare himself to Frank Miller.
“I felt that he was looking for some tough love or an easy way out,” Palmiotti said, who Quesada said played tough cop to get Smith.
The two, on the set of Smith’s Chasing Amy, eventually talked Smith into writing the first eight issues of a revamped Daredevil, collaborating with Quesada on pencils.
“Daredevil is that character that brings out the best in so many writers,” Quesada said.
“There is not one bad character,” Palmiotti stated, adding that each writer and artist brings their own traits to each individual Marvel character, creating unique distinctions made famous by Marvel Comics