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Thursday, April 30, 2009 

UK Times' panderfest for Quesada

It may be a month old, but the Times of London's interview with Joe Quesada is well worth picking apart. Let's begin with what Quesada says got him back into comics after losing interest for about a decade:
Turning down a chance to learn from two giants in the field is something he regrets now. “I thought that comics were unsophisticated and way too simple. I didn’t realise that the medium had grown during my absence. So in retrospect it’s like, ‘Aw shucks, that would have been helpful.’ At the age of 25, however, I was reintroduced to comics and it was from those books I picked up — Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns — that my desire to work in comics sprang.”
How is it that the bleaker stuff is what inspires these kind of phonies? What do they have that a good issue of Spidey or Avengers from that time didn't? This serves as an example of how the darker stuff is what they push as the big thing.
Marvel has had a renaissance under Quesada: it’s comics dominate the market, the characters and stories are fresh and Marvel superheroes are huge at the box office — the three Spider-man movies made almost two and a half billion dollars worldwide. In fact, apart from Stan Lee, it’s hard to imagine an editor-in-chief who has had more of an impact. “I see myself as a caretaker, that it’s my job to make sure that the direction the characters take is the proper one, to make sure that the characters are attractive and viable for readers long after I’m gone.”
Perpetuating the lie about sales success again, I see, for the UK press this time. Whatever resurgence they had under Quesada petered out a couple years later. As for direction, appeal and viability, yeah, I'm sure he'll see to that. It could take centuries to repair the damage he does even long after he's left.
Quesada has been helped by the high pedigree of creators he has attracted, writers such as Brian K Vaughan and Damon Lindelof, who produce the TV series Lost, Jeph Loeb, who worked on Heroes, Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire fame, J Michael Straczynski, who received a Bafta nomination for his screenplay for the Clint Eastwood movie The Changeling, and Mark Millar, whose comic Wanted was turned into a movie starring Angelina Jolie.

“Sometimes the best way to find like-minded souls is to sit across the table from them and have a conversation. You'll soon realise that they have the same vibe and that they want to do something fun with these characters. For examaple, when [writer] Ed Brubaker came to Marvel I think he really came into his own. He had been at DC for years but at Marvel he found something, his muse, whatever you call it. Who would think that Ed Brubaker, a crime noir writer, would be the guy to reinvent Captain America. This year there are three or four new writers who I'm starting to get that tingling feeling about. These are voices who are definitely going to be changing things the way Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis did.”
They sure have, and not for the better. Not mentioned is just how overrated those writers are, and that most of them are hired for the built-in audience they've acquired.
The new formula has not made Marvel’s books any less exciting or adventurous. One of the biggest-selling series of Quesada’s tenure has been Civil War, which pitted hero against hero over the introduction of a superhero registration act and featured the sort of action you’d expect in a summer blockbuster. Beneath the epic scrap, however, was a book that subtly commented on post-9/11 America, the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq.

This was daring new territory as political discussion in comic books is a rare thing. Marvel had in the past tackled issues such racism, abuse and drugs but its approach was usually heavy handed. Plots that involve superheroes trying to solve real-world problems, such as when Marvel’s finest banded together to fight famine in Africa during the Eighties, always expose the fairly ridiculous nature of the genre. Some fans reacted angrily to the issues raised by Civil War and lobbied Marvel to sack the series’ writer, Mark Millar, who had publicly criticised America's involvement in Iraq.

The petition didn’t work and Quesada is obviously proud of what the books managed to do — provoke debate: “We used those stories as metaphors for what was happening in the world. We didn’t take a political stance. On Civil War what we wanted to do was pose the argument and let our readers think about what was being said. And that’s exactly what happened. Our readers were vehemently on one side or the other. It would be unfair for Marvel to take a stance because we do have readers who think differently about the issues but I think that it is fair game to talk about the issues in the context of our fun superhero universe.”
So, Civil War was a political allegory after all. No wonder they're so thrilled to be interviewing this pitiful man, who's clearly delighted to have annoyed anyone when he could've avoided it. As for exciting and adventurous, how can they be when they're being submerged in political bias?

I also find their assertion that past political allegories were "heavy-handed" more of a silly put-down of times when, even if they weren't perfect, the writers were usually more sincere, and not as pretentious about what they were trying as the Times is implying. And to say that political discussion is rare is also exaggerated.

Now here's where they contradict the claim that Quesada is trying to make sure that the direction the heroes take is the proper and viable one, when he gets around to discussing the erasure of Spidey's marriage:
Quesada is not one to shy away from controversial decisions nor is he reluctant to defend himself. One story that had the fans raging across the internet was Spider-man One More Day, in which Spider-man makes a deal with the devil — Mephisto in the Marvel universe — to save his Aunt May from death. The price was not his soul but his marriage to his soulmate Mary Jane. No, this wasn’t a quickie divorce the devil was pressing for but a complete removal of Spidey’s marriage from history. At the end of the book Spider-man wakes up single, his aunt is alive and a la Dallas, it’s as if his marriage had never happened (the book’s writer, J Michael Straczynski, humorously has Spider-man reference the infamous plot device used by the soap).

This end result was something Marvel chiefs had been trying to achieve for years. The feeling was that Spider-man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson in 1987 had limited the character. “Ultimately that was the sole goal of doing One More Day. We knew from the beginning that this story would be a poisoned chalice, that it would cause a tremendous amount of controversy. Since the inception of Spider-man’s marriage, every editor-in-chief prior to me had tried to or thought about undoing it but never had the story or wanted to deal with the slings and arrows that would go with it.

"The marriage was something that had always bothered me, even as a reader. For the longest time I had been thinking, boy I’d really like to undo this, and once I got the story, I said, hey let’s do it, let’s pull off the bandage. I knew that for a year or two we’d be dealing with online chatter but realistically the story hasn’t hurt sales. If anything, Spider-man is a more viable publishing entity today than ever before. But that’s part of the job of being a caretaker of these characters and making sure that they are there for the next generation.”

Quesada said that the idea “came out of a e-mail conversation between myself, Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, Jeph Loeb, Joe Straczynski and Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso, two executive editors here. We were all batting around the idea of how to do this, and one idea fed into the next and into the next and eventually we came up with the machinations of how to do this. But the story is not done yet. There’s still a lot to tell that we haven’t revealed yet. I think that’s partially one of the reasons why a certain contingency of fans have been up in arms about it. There’s been misinformation put out there that 23 years of Spider-man continuity has been wiped out when in fact that’s not the case. But, as I said before, there’s still some unanswered questions and I can promise readers that the answers to them are coming — they just have to be a little bit patient.”

Unlike many in the top spot, Quesada refused to pass the buck and ended up doing the art himself “because I knew it was something that Spider-man readers were either going to love or they were going to hate. I figured, I’ve gotta be the one who puts himself on the line. It would be a tough thing for any creator to sit there and take, plus it was my initiative to begin with.”
Boy, this certainly tells a lot about just how confused he is, not to mention dishonest in the extreme, and a bit about what went on behind the scenes. He says he's playing caretaker and he forces Spidey to make a deal with the devil. He lies about viability and especially sales. And while the audience just might have the patience for answers, I don't think they have the patience to deal with Quesada. Certainly not me. No matter what they've got in store, it's clear that for as long as he's in charge of Marvel's output, no one with sense should pay their money to fill his pockets.
Quesada has been one of Marvel’s longest-serving editor-in-chiefs and I ask him if he has any plans to step down soon. “I do believe there is an expiration date on this job, that there comes a time to step back and make room for someone else,” he says. “In the past, with the exception of Stan Lee, Marvel has always made that decision for the editor-in-chief. I’m really hoping that I have the wherewithal to say, it’s time for me to move on, either to go back to drawing or do something else within the company. I can’t say that that's going to be next year or the year after.”

It’s heartening to realise that the man in charge of Marvel still dreams of doing other things and that he still hankers for his days of freedom and independence.
I've got a sad feeling there's every chance he doesn't, and is quite happy with the job he's got, for as long as he can hang onto it. That's one more reason why the audience can't keep letting him fool them into buying products that will always be tainted with his terrible recipes for as long as he is there - because the longer they do, the longer he'll remain.

I guess the American MSM must've tired of him, so he's now turning to the British MSM for unneeded attention.

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