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Waiting For Tommy XXVI
By Richard Johnston
 
THE JOE QUESADA INTERVIEW PART I

It started off so easily as well. An interview, with emails back and forth between myself and Joe. It soon turned into a Byzantine thread with sentences forming their own spin-off threads, mistakes, misreads and mental collapses on both our parts.

I could cut it into something more sensible, but no, let's just do the whole thing.

Yes, including the bit where I totally lost control and Joe started interviewing me, and where I just left statements hang because I found them telling, rather than continue down a line of questioning.

Either that or I'm just darned lazy, as Joe accuses me of being later in this piece.

Just before the interview started, the memo detailing DC's decision to fire editors Dan Raspler and Andy Helfer, to demote Mike Carlin to and to have Dan Didio take over his duties had done the rounds. And already the rumours had started. And with other reports coming in from Marvel creatives, I had an idea what I was going to ask Joe.

Turns out I had no idea how it would go.

RICHARD JOHNSTON: Joe, Helfer and Raspler fired, with DC staffers telling me that it's reportedly due to creative talent being unwilling to work with them. Dan Didio taking control of the DC Universe, with a gung-ho style more reminiscent of you and Bill, reports of him going after Marvel A-list artists and opening up the chequebook, with the financial support of Paul Levitz and Warner Brothers behind him.

Concerned at all?

SPIDER-MAN/DAREDEVIL PREMIERE LITHOGRAPH
JOE QUESADA: Well, first let's address that it sucks when people get let go. I've been in several situations like this at Marvel and it's always hard so my best goes out to those let go. As for Dan Didio, he's a friend of mine and I'm glad he's up there, doing well and getting a chance to make a difference. If you remember a while back we were doing a lot of poking at the guys cross-town. Some of it was to promote our product and our new mandate towards creative and creators, but the other part of it was to wake and shake them up a bit. Dan is someone who has been trying to answer that call and the truth of the matter is that it doesn't concern me at all, it excites me! Competition is great for all of us and especially the industry in general.

Bill and I both come from a sports background, we're very competitive and there is nothing more exciting to competitive people than a great opponent, because a great opponent brings out the best in you and you in them. Ultimately the fans are the winners! But when I hear things like 'opening of checkbooks' and stuff, that doesn't bother or concern me because it's not like they haven't paid better than us for certain talents; this is nothing new and I'm sure Dan knows as well as anybody that the checkbook only gets you so far. Sure there are talents that only care about how much you can pay them, but those aren't the people that you build your franchise around, those are the guys that bounce back and forth, do a big project here and there and give you a nice momentary spike. Yeah it's nice and god bless, but you can't build the long term success of your business like that. There's more to it than money and I believe we provide that at Marvel, that's why we have such a murderer's row of talent and creative ideas. The other thing is that now at Marvel we're so locked in and ahead of the curve, and believe me it's taken 2 years to get there, that we are now in the position that our competition was in 15 years ago, we're now actively developing and seeking the next wave of great creators. Fifteen years ago while Marvel was cruising on the backs of popular artists working on stories written by editors, DC was looking for new writers and successfully finding quite a few. Very quietly in the last 6 months we have been searching and developing new talent that you'll see blossom in the next year or so. You'll also see and hear in the next few weeks how this search has been intensified and about our steps forward, towards helping writing talent get discovered. Let's face it, we all know how hard it is for writers to get discovered and yet writers are our future. We're going to try to make the discovering process easier than it's ever been.

RICHARD: So what happens when these new writers get dissatisfied or see their work changed by Marvel? Right now, and I'm not talking about the established high profile stars of Marvels top books, but on the second or third echelons, a number of those new talents you're talking about are getting dissatisfied. They're seeing their work mangled, changed. to the extent that some just leave the titles or feel forced off. 'Creative differences' is a phrase we've been hearing more often at Marvel. Whether that's Gail Simone, Brian Wood, Joe Casey, Mike Grell, Darko Macan, Steve Uy or others. You once said that the trick of a good editor is to choose the right talent and then let go. So, has the wrong talent been chosen of late for certain projects, or has Marvel editorial been unable to let go?

JOE: Didn't you ask Bill this before? First, let's look at how many issues we publish over the course of a year, then times that by the almost 3 years I've been here, don't you think that our track record is pretty amazing with respect to creator satisfaction to be bringing up the slight few cases when it might not have work out? How many times during the course of your day do things not work out? Quite a few I'd venture to say. I work in a very creative field and in that world things are subject to different peoples opinions, sensibilities and feelings. Here's breaking news, sometimes people are not going to see eye to eye! However, I can't think of any case where work was changed that the talent wasn't aware it was going to happen. But since you want to focus on the negative for this question lets do that.

Brian Wood, gee now you're going back nearly 3 years, why not bring up John Byrne if you want to get people talking. He submitted a pitch and script, it didn't work; he went his way, we went ours.

Joe Casey- One of Joe's major complaints about the X office before I was EIC was that they changed his work all the time. I told him that would not happen under my watch and we took great care never to change any of Joe's work.

If he's dissatisfied by that, then that's news to me.

Darko Macan- It's my understanding since English isn't Darko's first language, that some tweaking had to be done to his scripts from time to time, but I never heard of him being rewritten without his knowledge.

Steve Uy was well aware that we were rescripting his work, if not we couldn't print it, that was the understanding between us. He agreed, then later decided to complain publicly.

Gail Simone and Mike Grell are just examples where the creative wasn't working one way or another. Whether it was on their end or ours is really no ones business and it's not like they won't, or aren't, working at Marvel again. Finally, with respect to new and up and coming talent, part of being new and up and coming is that you're also working at Marvel to learn how to improve your craft for the commercial side of the medium. I had to live with advice and changes when I was coming up and so have all of us established pros, why should any new talent be immune from that. It's not like we rewrite stuff, we just offer more guidance, because for the most part, a new talent is going to need more guidance. No matter who you are, when you start a new job those senior to you have to help you get acclimated and learn the ropes, comics are no different. Talk to [Brian Michael] Bendis about his beginnings here at Marvel, he put up with a lot of notes and suggestions but he knew it wasn't to interfere with his work, but to make him better at his craft. Kevin Smith had to deal with a very heavy editorial hand by me personally during his first 3 issues of Daredevil, he never complained. The truth is, Rich, that any new person off the street giving you attitude from day one about learning stuff is going to be someone you don't want to work with in the long run. It seems that your question implies that Marvel is not allowed to make any creative decisions that don't work in favor of the talent. This is still a business and it's very much about casting and sales. Sometimes you cast people on certain books and sometimes you get something great and many times it just doesn't work out. When it's working you have to know how to step out of the way, you would be surprised at how many people want to screw with something even when it's successful. When it's not working out is when you have to step in and offer some guidance, if that works, great, everyone is happy, if it doesn't, then people see it as editorial interference when all you're trying to do is save a book and its creators.

Continued Here...

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