Joe Fridays are back - for one night only.
Marvel Entertainment's Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada recently reorganized his schedule to spend more time inside the comic book division and the offices in New York City. At the same time, he's coming back with eight years on the job as Marvel's CCO, adding to the 10 years before that as Marvel Comics' Editor-In-Chief. A lot has changed since then, but as Quesada tells Newsarama, "change is constant" at Marvel.
Picking up from Newsarama's well-remembered, long-running "Joe Fridays" Q&A series during his tenure as Marvel E-i-C, Quesada opens up about the current state of Marvel Comics - a publisher that has grown into a multimedia empire with pressures, goals, and opportunities vastly different from when he began and served as Editor-in-Chief.
Newsarama: Joe, in the past few months I'm told you're back to working full time out of Marvel's NYC offices. How's that been - and how's that commute?
Joe Quesada: Wait, wait, hold up a sec, first let me say that it’s great to be back in the saddle doing one of these “Joe Fridays” style interviews. How many years has it been? Miss me? I missed you guys. [Laughs] Okay maybe not so much you guys, but I’ve certainly missed speaking with fans in this manner on a regular basis.
Back to your question: because of my CCO responsibilities, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time these last few years working on stuff outside of comics which required a lot of traveling on my part. While it’s always a blast working on TV, animation, theme parks, and other fun projects, I always feel the consistent gravitational pull of comics calling me back. So, while I’m still traveling, I’ve managed to cut down a bit and can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to be more involved with the publishing side of things again and enjoying my physical office as opposed to constantly working out of a remote one or hotel room.
Nrama: You started comics working alone, then found friends to work with like Jimmy Palmiotti, then went to working out of Marvel, then back to working all over the place. What's it like physically working shoulder-to-shoulder in some cases with other people doing comics, five days a week, once again?
Quesada: It’s not like I ever stopped, I just had to bifurcate my time between working in comics with working with incredibly talented folk in other mediums which isn't all that different. That said, comics is where I cut my teeth so it’s like putting on my most comfortable clothes. I guess the biggest difference is that comics offers an immediacy that you don’t get in other industries.
You can work on a TV show for months and then have to wait a year to see it hit screens, or worse yet, spend a ton of time working on something that never goes beyond the pilot or test phase. Comics are turnkey, the time between the spark of an idea to the time it hits the stands is minuscule when compared to the rest of the entertainment world aside from news, sports and talk shows, and I’ve always personally gravitated to that aspect of it. I hate waiting for my endorphin rush.
Nrama: Marvel editorial is in the middle of a renewal process, with C.B. Cebulski taking over for Axel Alonso and you said to be taking a more active role in certain areas. Meanwhile, Jordan D. White is taking over the X-titles, Mark Paniccia is now handling Star Wars, and you have Tom Brevoort once again editing a Fantastic Four book. How would you describe this new editorial page-turn C.B. and others are doing now, big picture?
Quesada: I describe it as simply business as usual. Change, creatively and editorially, is a constant in comics or any entertainment media, especially when you’re dealing with iconic properties that have been around for decades. That said, I’m incredibly excited to see what C.B.’s tenure brings as well as anxious to see what Jordan does with X-Men and Mark with Star Wars. And that young up-and-comer Brevoort is someone to definitely keep an eye on, I think that kid’s going places, but he really needs to shave that beard.
Let me also say that when I sat in the E-i-C chair I was fortunate enough to have a murderer’s row of editorial talent. That team made me look much better than I ever would have been without them and C.B. was an integral part of it. Now that he’s sitting in the chair I want to be there to support him and his success in the same way he was there for me.
Nrama: Newsarama used to talk with you every Friday as part of your time as Editor-In-Chief. Now that you're on the outside seeing the demands of the E-i-C on C.B., how would you say the job has changed?
Quesada: Not all that much from my point-of-view, it’s still as daunting as ever. [Laughs]
I was the first E-I-C to sit in the chair when social media really started to become a thing, and that was a lot of fun because it gave us an even more direct line of communicating with our fans. And, while social has become bigger, it’s still a ton of fun to speak to the fans and have that immediate one on one. C.B. is great on social, so he’s going to continue that tradition of Marvel speaking with directly with our fans, inclusiveness and fun.
Nrama: And you're eight years in your role as Marvel's Chief Creative Officer. How would you describe your role, now that you're into the groove of it?
Quesada: It’s really a jack of all trades kind of gig, every day is completely different. Some days I’m reading scripts, others I’m drawing, and then there are days like today where I’m doing several interviews. For someone with the attention span of a chihuahua like myself, it’s a perfect gig!
Nrama: Do you miss working 24/7 just on comics as an editor/writer/artist?
Quesada: Yes, I do. More than that, I miss the days when Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, and I were just sitting around concocting all sorts of craziness without a clue as to how it would be received or where it would take us. Bill Jemas was in that mix as well early on and the energy was insane and fearless. That’s what’s exciting me so much about this new era, I’m sensing a very similar energy between Editorial and this new group of artist and writers we have. Something’s brewing, not sure how it’ll be received and where it will take us, but it’s that feeling that makes it exciting to get to the drawing board in the mornings.
Nrama: Marvel Studios is on the eve of their 10th year with Avengers: Infinity War. What kind of opportunity/challenge does that give to the comics division where all these ideas began?
Quesada: It’s the same challenge we’ve always had: our job is to create the best possible Marvel stories we can create. If we’re doing our jobs right, we’re the R&D division for all the other divisions of Marvel. Our challenge is to keep creating fantastic fantasies so that Marvel Studios, TV, Animation, Games, etc. have plenty of stuff to cherry pick and adapt for their own specific needs. Marvel is this big hungry beast that runs on content like coal in a furnace. While comics don’t drive the most significant revenue within the company, it provides that coal that runs the bigger engines that do.
Comics as an industry are an idea factory where if you fail, you’re out thousands of dollars. If a movie or TV show fails, you’re out a lot more than that, so having the comics as a way of testing ideas and gauging fan interest is what makes our job so important. Now mind you, we don’t go into it with that in mind. We just want to make good comics, we want to give the fans a little escapism, a little fun and a good yarn. If we do that, we’ve contributed in unmeasurable ways to Marvel as a whole.
Look no further than Infinity War - not only does it hearken back to material created in the 70s, but it also mixes and matches with other eras as clearly demonstrated by the introduction of the Black Order which was created Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena, and Jimmy Cheung just a few years ago.
Nrama: Do you still dive into the early copies of upcoming Marvel books that are given out to editors/staff on Friday? If so, what's standing out to you?
Quesada: I’m starting to get caught up, but it’s slow going as I have to fit it in between reading scripts and proposals for non-comic book related things. But, okay, out of stuff I read this week I’d say Old Man Hawkeye #4 and Venom #1. Mind you I hate saying this because both Ethan Sacks and Donny Cates have insanely huge egos and they’re probably taking screenshots of this interview right now and pinning it to their mirrors.
Nrama: I have to ask - Kevin Nowlan inked your Marvel Legacy #1 cover - and it looked amazing. How'd that come about, and could we see more of you two in the future?
Quesada: Thanks, that’s very kind of you. I was simply asked if I had time to do it… but because that’s way too short an answer for this kind of interview I’ll give you a bit insight as to how these things happen.
My standard policy, because I’m an employee of Marvel, is to always ask why I’m the right person to be doing a particular assignment. If the editor or the person in marketing gives me a reasonable answer, and I have the time, then I have no issue doing the piece. There have been many occasion where I turn covers down because I know there’s someone better to do the particular piece or a creator who has more of a legacy (pardon the pun) with a particular character.
Does that make sense? I try to be as agnostic as I can with these assignments. Anyway, once I agreed to do the cover, I did something stupid as I’m prone to do, I had this silly thought, what if it was a big four-cover connecting piece instead of just one cover…
Yes, I have my moments of self-loathing.
Nrama: So what are your plans for 2018... as CCO, as a comics creator, and as a fan?
Quesada: I’ll give you the same answer when Newsarama Senior Editor Mike Doran first asked me a similar question sometime around 2000-2001 when we were doing “Joe Fridays” on Newsarama… complete and utter world domination!