Joe Quesada Interview
This was originally published in March of 2001. Joe Quesada gave me a great interview. He answered all my questions and then some. I’m glad that he’s had a long run at Marvel Comics as EIC and then got promoted instead of replaced. Despite his position and multiple demands on his time I’ve seen him at conventions drop everything and fully focus on 1 fan who simply wanted to talk to him and not do so in a rushed manor. What I find interesting is all the things that he wanted to do and what did and didn’t happen.
An Interview With Joe Quesada
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last 6 months, you know that Joe Quesada is Marvel’s Editor in Chief. Joe has made much ado about his big plans for Marvel Comics. In this interview he talks about them and a whole lot of subjects within the comic industry.
Jamie: Now that you’ve been EIC for about 6 months, how has it been? Do you miss being a penciler?
Joe Quesada: That’s really my only regret since taking the job is how little time I get to sit behind the drawing board to draw.
Jamie: It’s been said that you write some ‘interesting’ fanfic and e-mail them out to several comic pro’s. Any chance fans will be able to read your writings?
Joe Quesada: Huh? I’ve never written fanfic in my life. I do send out interesting e-mail’s with bizarre sites and such. Nothing i could distribute amongst strangers 😉
Jamie: There has been a long history of Marvel ‘Suits’ and freelancers getting into conflicts here and there. How have you been handling those?
Joe Quesada: Just by dealing with everyone honestly and attacking every problem head on rather than waiting a week to make a call and letting things fester. Usually when a decision comes down regarding how we do our books or business it’s not done with reckless abandon, there is usually a very good, sound reason. I just tell the people that work for me the truth and for the most part they understand. Marvel has been pretty quiet with respect to crises in the last 6 months that I’ve been there and I believe that’s the reason.
Jamie: Traditionally when a conflict between Marvel and freelancers happened, Marvel kept quiet. You’ve been active in telling Marvel’s side of the story in the press. Why?
Joe Quesada: Because, like I said, there is always another side to every argument. Marvel in its fear or in its arrogant silence has taken way too many a black eye in the public forum. Quite frankly. I believe that no one wanted to speak up on Marvel’s behalf. Maybe in the past we felt it didn’t matter since we were the top dog and we could do whatever the hell we wanted. Well, guess what? It hurt us, it hurt us to the point where freelancers (myself included) were in fear of coming and working here. Marvel did itself a grave disservice by turning its back on its freelance community and its fans. And also keep this in mind, if ever a time comes when I feel that we’re in the wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that we screwed up.
Jamie: As of late A lot of people have been speculating what would happen to the Direct Market if Marvel were to stop publishing. Responses range from all out catastrophe to wounded but surviving. What do you think?
Joe Quesada: I think everyone could pretty much pack it up and call it a day, the direct market would most likely die. Bill Jemas and myself have gone out there on a daily basis to squelch these fears. We heard rumors that said that Marvel didn’t intend on publishing in the near future which really freaked us out, especially when we felt like for the first time we’re really starting to behave like a “real” publishing company.
Jamie: Any chance Marvel will break it’s exclusive distribution deal with Diamond when the contract runs out?
Joe Quesada: Oh, man, jeese I don’t know. This is something that would be completely out of my jurisdiction.
Jamie: Will Marvel try different formats other than the 9 1/2 by 6 /14, 32 page comics?
Joe Quesada: If you mean original graphic novels, not right now. It doesn’t make fiscal sense.
Jamie: I was thinking more along the lines of Marvel Backpacks or the Monster Sized and as a regular ongoing title instead of a one shot try out.
Joe Quesada: Yes, we’ll be experimenting in the future but there is no guarantee with ongoing. If the market accepts it then fine, if not we have to move on.
Jamie: Do you see Marvel publishing black and white comics?
Joe Quesada: Quite possibly. I received a concept by Chuck Austen who is drawing Elektra Assassin with Brian Bendis. It has an amazing Manga feel and I would really love to see it in black and white and at a low price point.
Jamie: So is that still up in the air or has it been determined if Electra Assassin will come out in B&W or Color?
Joe Quesada: No, Elektra is a color book. The project I’m referring to hasn’t been publicly discussed.
Jamie: I know you’ve talked about Marvel publishing some non-superhero comics. Do you have any further information, like a date for when that will happen?
Joe Quesada: It all starts in the fall and rolls out during the remainder of the year. Our adult imprint will begin with some super hero related stuff and will branch out into more.
Jamie: Will the new Mature Readers line get a strong TPB priority like DC’s Vertigo Line?
Joe Quesada: Exactly the same priority that our entire line is getting.
Jamie: Will Marvel be overprinting and warehousing these books like DC does?
Joe Quesada: Yes, depending on the project we will be warehousing quite a bit of our TPB overprint.
Jamie: Marvel has announced a number of new TPB’s coming out this year. Will Marvel also be putting sold out TPB’s back into print?
Joe Quesada: Yup!
Jamie: Which TPB’s will you be putting back in print?
Joe Quesada: I don’t have the list in front of me but it’s extensive.
Jamie: Will Marvel gamble on Original Graphic Novels instead of just putting out TPB collections?
Joe Quesada: Probably not right now. As I said, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to us. They make more sense if you can afford a vanity project or two or if you’re interested in winning Eisners, but the reality of life at Marvel right now is that we have to keep growing our profit base in order to get to the vanity stage. One step at a time.
Jamie: As of late some small press/independent books like Safe Area Gorazde, From Hell and Pedro and Me have been getting some mainstream press. Do you think Marvel will ever publish comics with similar critical acclaim?
Joe Quesada: That is the hope. You can’t plan for that, it just has to happen. I will say this, we do have the talent pool to do it now.
Jamie: How well did Ultimate Marvel Magazine #1 and #2 do on the newsstands?
Joe Quesada: Phenomenally well and our exposure base is growing as we gain more accounts! So far the experiment is going well.
Jamie: Do you think they would have sold that well on the newsstands if they were available to comic stores through Diamond?
Joe Quesada: Sure, the fact that we didn’t solicit it through Diamond was a grievous oversight.
Jamie: I noticed in the upcoming Previews Marvel is selling Ultimate Spider-Man #1 that are CGC rated and slabbed. Do you think this is the path Marvel should be following?
Joe Quesada: No absolutely not, and I’m not aware of us doing this. Are you sure this isn’t one of our licensees?
Jamie: It comes from Dynamic Forces, they’re selling “300 Re-Marked Editions” for $69.99.
Joe Quesada: Dynamic Forces is a license, outside of that they have nothing to do with Marvel. I can’t stop them from buying copies of our books and CGC grading the stuff. Part of their license agreement is that they get a page in our section of the catalog.
Jamie: Marvel did reach out during the X-men movie giving away free comics at the theater. What will Marvel be doing when the Spider-Man movie comes out?
Joe Quesada: Hopefully twice as much and hopefully the core books and not just the movie adaptation books will be coherent when the movie comes out.
Jamie: Do you think licensing Marvel characters will increase comic readership?
Joe Quesada: Man, I sure hope so! I’m really hoping that the right promotional push will enable these movies to do something for us!
Jamie: Are you afraid of turning off female readers with a new line of ‘Bad Girls for Fanboys’ comics?
Joe Quesada: Wait and read the books, that was just Bill J’s way of getting everyone’s attention. It worked.
Jamie: Some people have noticed Marvel being more ‘mature’ with their covers and language used inside the books. This despite a CCA stamp being on the cover. Doesn’t this devalue the CCA Stamp?
Joe Quesada: Not really. It’s time for the CCA to grow up with the rest of the real world. They generally bounce words that are perfectly acceptable for Saturday morning cartoons. We may have gone a bit overboard, especially with the Ultimates, but we’re fixing that. With the rest of the line you have to understand that we’re trying to walk a thin line and compete with the rest of the youth entertainment biz. You realize we’re dealing with a 400 million dollar grossing movie and DVD in which every child and adults favorite line is “You’re a dick!”
Jamie: Marvel recently changed the way comics were made by making colorists bid for work. Do you see this expanding to other areas of freelance work?
Joe Quesada: No, the coloring situation was an isolated one. We had one of the best coloring studios come in with a very aggressive bid. It changed the landscape and we had to pursue the possibilities. It also came at the same time that our nearly exclusive contract with a large color vendor came to a close so bids were just flying in and around. The final outcome was that we’re saving money and incrementally the quality of the color will be improving starting in May. It was strictly a business decision, I didn’t feel great doing it but it had to be done and the books will improve because of it. I would have had a larger problem with it had it been a decision made regardless of quality.
Jamie: A while back, someone asked at a Press Conference about the possibility of Marvel including Credits for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko co/created characters. Has anything come from that?
Joe Quesada: I look into it. It’s a bit more difficult than it appears. I really can’t get into the legal mumbo jumbo of it and it’s really silly but it’s not all on our end. I would love to see it happen someday but the stars would all have to line up appropriately.