QUESADA INTERVIEW PART I
Waiting For Tommy XXVI
By Richard Johnston
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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.