Today marks the anniversary of an event that has surely shaped the direction of the comics industry over the last decade.
Ten years ago, on Aug. 30, 2000, Joe Quesada was appointed Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics.
The artist had worked his way up through Marvel's editorial by bringing in new talent to give the company's comics and characters a much-needed overhaul. It's a process he continued after his appointment to Marvel E-i-C, and his leadership at the publisher has impressed the folks at Marvel enough to make him the longest serving E-i-C since Stan Lee.
For this edition of "The Q," where we ask questions of several professionals in the comic book industry, we went to people who have worked with Quesada in various capacities to gather their thoughts on the editor's last 10 years.
- What do you think is Joe Quesada's legacy at Marvel after 10 years as E-i-C?
Spearheading the story-first philosophy up here at Marvel. There have been more truly great and groundbreaking Marvel comics in his tenure than anyone other than Stan. Think about it. Ultimates, Runaways, Civil War, Daredevil: Guardian Devil, Bendis and Maleev’s Daredevil run, Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men, Invincible Iron Fist, X-Statix, Morrison’s New X-Men, Nextwave, Punisher Max… and I’m sure there are a few that I’ll kick myself for not mentioning here. And I’m not saying that Joe was soley responsible for all of these, but they are the product of the environment he helped create and has nurtured up here.
Doesn't matter what I think, the results are obvious. Just compare where Marvel was before to where it is now.
I think first and foremost he helped save the company from bankruptcy. Given that his tenure started at the end of the dismal 1990s -- a period which effected the entire industry -- there's an argument to be made that the bankruptcy he saved Marvel from was creative as well as financial.
Joe's a tremendous creative force in the industry and someone I deeply respect and admire. He's truly helped move Marvel into the 21st Century and I look forward to seeing where he takes them next. As I've said before, the only downside to Joe being at Marvel is completely selfish of me -- I'd love to work with him artist-to-writer on a project.
I honestly think Joe will be remembered as one of the best leaders Marvel ever had. It's no mistake he's lasted this long.
There are a few things to come to mind…and most important is the quality control of the titles, the accessibility of the characters to the main stream and keeping it all together to become part of the media giant that Disney is. On a personal note, I just think Joe put a good, intelligent face on the company and its product and has kept the books in the spotlight for all the right reasons. For me, looking after all those titles and editors and freelancers is a huge achievement for anyone.
I think Joe was there to usher Marvel from the brink of non-existence to becoming a multi-media giant. He took timeless characters and helped bring them to the mainstream audience. Without his enthusiasm and dedication, things would have been very different.
I don't think it's a coincidence that under an artist EIC, Marvel has gradually pulled in most of the best artists working in the industry today. To me that's a huge contribution. You'd be surprised how many people don't value the artist that much in comics.
I mean, the entire landscape of comics is totally changed today because of Joe’s leadership at Marvel. Scratch that – the entire entertainment landscape has changed, from movies, to TV, to video games. If Joe hadn’t taken over at Marvel, then comic book storytelling (meaning the art as well as the writing) wouldn’t have
been the same, influencing every other medium on the planet. Okay, fine: maybe not conceptual music/light art installations… though I’m sure even a couple of those have been based on Marvel characters.
Joe, with the support of visionaries like Dan Buckley and Alan Fine, created a powerhouse comic company that embraced top industry talent and raised the profile of faltering properties, transforming them into the blockbuster icons they are now. Joe couldn't do this without the tremendous faith and backing of Marvel and I don't think Marvel would have experienced this growth and dominance without him.
- What do you think is his greatest accomplishment, and what has been his biggest challenge?
Joe's greatest accomplishment has been to show the rest of the work what comics fans have know for a long time, that Marvel's characters are complex, interesting and relevant today. He's shown that great stories can be enjoyed by the masses. His biggest challenge has been and still is to break the stigma of comic books and their fans while reaching out and bringing in new readers with all-ages comics.
It's a little abstract, but I think Joe's big accomplishment is his eye for talent (both creative and editorial) and his good sense to trust his creators and editorial staff and not "stir the pot" too much himself. That doesn't mean he's uninvolved, but that he doesn't micromanage every creative bit.
I think there have been a number of things, like getting Stephen King and other notable authors to work on the books, to give the colorists not only the attention they deserve, which we started with Marvel Knights, but to share in royalties as well…and so on. There are a lot of things that were done because an artist mind was behind them and I think that’s what always came through to me. Joe's and anyone’s biggest challenge will always be trying to please all the people all the time and it will never happen. Joe’s accomplishments have been many and staying at the job for 10 years in itself is a big achievement. Anyone that meets and knows Joe understands that he loves what he does and that comes through in everything he does.
Joe was able to help prevent Marvel from going into obscurity with crazy, maverick shennanigans that made the news, put the company back in the spotlight and brought readers back to the racks. The challenge was keeping them there and navigating the new waters that came with the following success, making sure that the creators had freedom and that editorial concentrated on making good and commercial product that fans would keep coming back for more.
When Joe came on board Marvel 10 years ago, he was facing a flailing comic book industry, and a company that was about to go under. His greatest accomplishment is undoubtedly building that company back into the unbeatable industry leader it is today. (I mean, jeez, look at those sales charts.) His biggest challenge? Right now, he’s facing a flailing comic industry going through the throes of the digital revolution. Marvel may no longer be struggling, but like any company publishing print, it’s having problems transitioning into the next decade. I think Joe has the right idea, and Marvel has made a lot of progress into the digital arena – but there’s still a long way to go before it can be a salient business model. Joe has to figure out how to get Marvel there (along with, you know, his staff).
Surviving. Marvel E.I.C's start the job with a bullseye painted on their backs.
He rode out the dark days of bankruptcy, and survived Jemas while doing it! I think that was the challenge and the accomplishment.
I think his greatest accomplishment has been the talent pool he's built over his tenure. Marvel has a remarkably deep bench in terms of talent and I think you've got to give a lot of credit to Joe for that.
Greatest Accomplishment - It’s tough to answer this in the middle of his tenure. The Heroes book? Making Marvel a place where the best creators wanted to go? Biggest challenge - Changing the running philosophy that was going on when he took over.
- Any personal anecdotes to illustrate your comment on his 10th anniversary?
I remember from the Marvel Knights days, Joe and I talking over a couple of beers about what we saw ourselves doing in the future…this was during the height of our launch of titles. I said I wanted to create and work on only my own characters and Joe simply said, “ I would like to be editor in chief of marvel comics one day.” Well, we all know how that story ended.
I've known Joe as far back as when he was a colorist at Valiant. I remember being in an editor's office and that editor showing me some samples from Joe. I told him I liked them and Joe was hired to do some work. So, I want to take credit for getting Joe his start at Marvel! Also, the fact that Joe has remained the same person now as he was back then and still as driven, says a lot.
To accomplish what Joe has, there are a lot of hard dicisions that need to be made. At the first creative summit where Greg Pak and I brought our World War Hulk plan, the idea of Marvel's Civil War came up, and Joe recognized that it was much better and organic if the incidents fed off of each other. He decided that the story where Hulk gets exiled into space could better lead up to tenstions that, compounded with other elements, resulted in Civil War. And once you thought the fighting was over on earth, BAM! Hulk was back with his buddies for World War Hulk. It took WWH off the table as the big event for that season, but we saw that Joe was looking at a much larger pitcure, one that all the ideas and character were going to get the maximum benefit. It's that kind of instinct that's kept Marvel in the top spot for so long.
I will always be extremely appreciative to Joe for soliciting my opinion on whether he should appear on the Colbert Report during the WGA strike. I was especially appreciative that he offered to wear my strike solidarity wristband on air. Though, come to think of it, I never got it back...
One time I was driving in for 2 on the layup, and JQ totally rejected my junk, and I jammed my finger. He plays hard ball! Congrats on 10 years, Chief!
Joe and Nanci Dakesian were the people who originally hired me at Marvel Knights. 1602 was one of the first projects that I assisted on and Joe was looking for a cover artist. I took it upon myself to think about it and found Scott McKowen’s scratchboard work. When I brought it to Joe, he liked it and suggested sending it to Neil Gaiman to get his thoughts. Not every editor would respond like this to a totally green and new assistant editor. Joe is incredibly empowering to people who are passionate about what they do and that has been an amazing thing to learn from him.
I met Joe when I was an editor at Valiant Comics and Joe was doing Ninjak with Jimmy Palmiotti. At the time I already thought he was one of the top 5 pencilers in the biz. Then came Bob Layton's birthday party and Joe's band was the entertainment -- which I fully expected to suck. I was amazed to find Joe was a better musician than penciler! I never underestimated that guy again.
Well, he shot my uncle once. Just to watch him die.
We were interviewing Brian Michael Bendis for Newsarama during New York Comic-Con, I think, three years ago, having a serious discussion about Skrulls, or something like that, when suddenly this blur runs in the door, kisses Bendis on the top of his head, knocks down a microphone, and runs out. And that blur was Former US President Richard Nixon. Kidding, it was Joe. Point is: there’s not many EICs, I think, who are great at business, and also good at goofing off – in the right way. Joe is one of the rare ones.What do you think Joe Quesada's legacy is so far?