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Joe Q: Villain or Menace?

June 14th, 2007 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been putting out vinyl since ’93 and never looked back once
And y’all trying to chase me
You don’t innovate because you can’t innovate
It’s not a choice despite what you might tell your boys
Keep your identity crisis under the table
I always knew who I was and I’ll always be more famous

-El-P, “We’re Famous”

“What the fuck is DC anyway?” Mr. Quesada said, stoking the fires. “They’d be better off calling it AOL Comics. At least people know what AOL is. I mean, they have Batman and Superman, and they don’t know what to do with them. That’s like being a porn star with the biggest dick and you can’t get it up. What the fuck?” (Paul Levitz, DC’s president and publisher, declined to comment for this story through a spokesperson.)
The Observer, 04/28/02

Joe Quesada, EiC of Marvel Comics, gets a lot of crap.

To be honest, a lot of it is deserved. Marvel has done some bone-headed stuff under his rule. Losing Grant Morrison, the Heroes for Hire thing, giving Greg Land work, almost firing Mark Waid, and so on. I’m sure you have a laundry list of reasons to dislike the dude. He’s got a big mouth, too, and doesn’t hesitate to open it.

But, and here is the rub– it’s his fault that comics are so good right now. Let me explain.

There is a philosophy that a president, I think it was President Rickard, used to have. Okay, it was Truman and I was reaching way too hard for the Prez Rickard joke. Anyway, it’s “The buck stops here.” In other words, if you’re the boss, all the bad crap that happens is your fault, whether you had a direct hand in it or not. It’s a way of taking responsibility for things that your organization does. It’s also a way of blaming the head guy in charge for everything and anything.

Turn that around, though. Doesn’t the head guy in charge deserve some credit for the good things, too? I think so.

Joey da Q is not the best guy around, I won’t deny that. Marvel is hardly perfect. But, he’s trying, and I can respect that. Obviously, the credit for these decisions should be shared with his editors, the creators, Bill Jemas, and Dan Buckley, but Joe Q should get a slice of that, as well.

This is pretty long, and I cover a lot of stuff, from comics to sex to race to dissing the competition, so click through.

Fixing Spider-Man

Let’s start early on, okay? This isn’t the first move, but it’s close. It’s the year 2000 and the world, miraculously, didn’t explode. This is back in the Quesada/Jemas era, roundabouts. Marvel is in crap shape and needs a leg up. Amazing Spidey and Peter Parker are floundering hard under Howard Mackie’s pen.

Creative team change ahoy. August 2000, cover-date, at least, Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham (among other artists) take over Peter Parker, Spider-Man. They produce a well-regarded run that focuses on the small moments between Peter Parker and his supporting cast. The stories are smaller in scale, generally, and tend to pack some kind of emotional punch.

Jun 2001 (again, cover-date). J. Michael Stracsynski and John Romita, Jr take over Amazing Spider-Man and produce one of my personal favorite runs on a comic ever. Despite all the talk about spider-totems and all, JMS and JRjr did wonderful work and brought Spidey back to where he should be: the center of attention. They fixed the Peter/MJ marriage and made us believe in it again. They revealed Spidey’s identity to Aunt May in a story that was handled with a deft touch, and gave us a brand new dynamic amongst Pete’s supporting cast: they both know his secret, so the lies are gone. Granted, JMS really only worked with MJ and May, and Detective Lamont, but the stories were good and the character moments were better.

The end result? Spider-Man is a name again, and not just a book that people buy for completion purposes.

Fixing the X-Men

I’ve got six words for you that mean comic book magic: Grant Morrison. Frank Quitely. New X-Men.

And so, the newest chapter in the X-Men soap opera began with a bang and led to a 40-odd issue run of good to excellent quality. Morrison brought a new sensibility to the X-Men, even as he revamped old stories for a new generation. A renewed focus on the X-Mansion as school and the X-Men as the forefront of mutant cool was put into place. He turned Emma Frost into an even cooler character (“What makes you such a bitch, Emma?” “Breeding, darling.”), made Cyclops and Jean’s relationship interesting and realistic, and hit us with a gang of new characters. Fantomex is the sensational character find of the 2000s, and I’m both disappointed and happy that Marvel have dropped him. Not to mention the Cuckoos, Beak, Dust, Xorn… poor, poor Xorn.

For once, the X-Men were new. Marvel put a rock star on New X-Men and it came off pretty well. I’ve got three handsome hardcovers on my shelf, and the X-Men are relevant once again.

X-Statix probably deserves a mention here, as well, as it gave us another angle on the X-Men universe.

Ultimate Marvel

Here’s what you do: take a more or less unknown writer/artist out of Image Comics, give him a much-hyped book with a good artist, and see what happens.

Brian Michael Bendis, meet Marvel Comics. Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up.

Here’s another idea: take a controversial writer who is screaming hot off The Authority, and give him a couple books, too. Toss in Bryan Hitch, a Kubert or two, and stir. Ultimates and Ultimate X-Men.

Putting Brian Bendis on Marvel has led to, what, 110 issues of Ultimate Spidey in around seven years. The majority of that run, I’d say, has been good, with it faltering around the Deadpool arc. Bendis has reimagined Spidey’s universe, and the Marvel U itself, and turned it into something that still feels new. He took Marvel’s second worst crossover and made a good story out of it. He turned Doc Ock into a credible threat, made Venom not annoying, wrote a quality teenage relationship, and churned out like eight hardcovers, or seventeen trades, of new user friendly Spider-Man material. Sales? Sales are good.

Mark Millar, my feelings on his body of work aside, is a Name. Ultimates with Hitch is a beautiful book and it sold bunches. It was a blockbuster, pretty much in every sense of the word.

BENDIS!

Daredevil is a much-loved character with kind of a checkered past. He’s defined by his writer more than probably any other character, and each of those writers are compared to Frank Miller. There is pre-Miller DD, Miller’s DD, Nocenti’s DD, Chichester’s DD, Weird ’90s Armor DD, Kevin Smith DD, and Bendis’s DD. The latter two are salient here.

Kevin Smith on Daredevil was probably the start of the “big name from out of comics on a comic” trend, and he was pretty freaking successful. That’s cool, but we’re here to talk about Bendis.

Brian Bendis was joined by Alex Maleev for all but, what, six issues of his DD run? They crafted a story that took Matt Murdock from rock bottom to a peak and back down to rock bottom again. They revealed his identity to the Marvel U at large and actually dealt with the consequences of that. He got a new girlfriend, the blind Milla Donovan, and eventually married her. Later, it was revealed that he was in the middle of a tremendous nervous breakdown, casting doubt on his actions.

Bendis/Maleev on Daredevil is better than or equal to Frank Miller or Nocenti’s DD. They brought the book to a grimy crime level and kept it there. It was grounded and realistic– actions have consequences and Murdock gets to pay all of them. Bullseye was turned into a non-spandexed threat, Murdock’s relationship with Elektra was explored, and Matt gained a supporting cast. Bendis re-established his relationship with Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

Your opinion of Brian Bendis aside, you can’t deny that he’s done some excellent books for Marvel and really raised the bar for storytelling over there.

Joe Q Let Bendis Write Cage

This one isn’t too long. Luke Cage became awesome under Joe Q’s tenure, from MAX to mainline Marvel U. Why? Because Joe Q let Bendis write Luke Cage into Daredevil and Alias over and over.

Luke Cage is awesome.

@#$@

Bye bye comics code, hello MAX Comics!

Marvel’s mature readers line opened with Alias, a book that rivals the best stuff out of Vertigo. Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos told the tale of hero turned private investigator Jessica Jones. She quit being a hero under tagic circumstances, and is content to spiral further into self-destruction.

Alias is about a woman coming to terms with herself. It was a 28 (I believe, I’m working from memory) issue ride that ends in a happy place. It deals with the consequences of heroing, what happens to heroes in the Marvel U, the trials and tribulations of life in the Marvel U, and showed us a few heroes from back in the day, including poor, unloved Speedball. It was a street level book and stayed that way, even when it dipped into fourth-wall breaking Hannibal Lecterism. It was always about Jessica, from first page to last.

The MAX line did its share of juvenile books, yeah, and a few of them were from Garth Ennis. Don’t front like Vertigo didn’t ever publish Vamps or Codename Knockout, though, okay? MAX also gave us Apache Skies, a John Ostrander/Leo Manco western about Apache Kid, his wife (the new Apache Kid, IIRC), and Johnny Bart, the Rawhide Kid.

Garth Ennis did Fury, which was a thoroughly Ennisian book (facial deformities, sex jokes, exploded guts), but he’s also done Punisher. Punisher MAX, with the arguable exception of Barracuda (I don’t agree) hasn’t had a bad story arc yet. No joke– from Born to The Tyger to the main series, Punisher MAX has been Marvel’s single most consistent comic. Yes, it’s Ennis, yes it’s violent, yes it’s about the Punisher– but the story arcs have been excellent and really fleshed Frank out.

Frank isn’t a cipher, but he is kind of our window into his world. The book is, on one level at least, a voyeuristic revenge book. Frank is killing the people that we hate and fear. Mobsters, gangsters, thugs, soldiers, corrupt businessmen, and white slavers. All of them are in his sights. The Wu-Tang Clan used to call their style “the CNN of the streets.” In a way, Punisher MAX is the same thing. He is our window in a world we really only want to see in comics, you know? It’s Rambo, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon in comic form.

I mean, a Punisher comic would be the last place I’d expect to see a responsible story about the effects of white slavery, but Punisher: The Slavers did it, albeit from Frank’s POV. We still manage to get a non-Frank POV through a few very sympathetic main characters. There’s a line in there, after Frank has already started in on wrecking the slaver crew. Keep in mind that this comes after 25+ issues of Frank killing the crap out of hundreds of people. “It was in that moment that I realized something. A dull, blurred feeling I’d had since this whole mess began, all of a sudden crystal clear. It had been a long, long time since I hated anyone the way I hated them.”

Punisher MAX is Ennis’s best work since Hitman.

(I’ll stop gushing now, but I really like that book.)

Newbie Friendly

Joe Q’s Marvel has been, with short stretches of exceptions, very friendly to non-mainstream and new (to Marvel) creators. There’s a new indie anthology on the line for Marvel, but the list of people who worked for Marvel is nuts.

Paul Pope, Darwyn Cooke, Jim Mahfood, Ted McKeever, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Peter Milligan, Jon Totleben, Chynna Clugston, Tom Beland, Dean Haspiel… and that’s just from Spider-Man: Tangled Web, save for Pete Milligan. Marvel has aggressively pushed for new artists and writers. They broke Jason (Other Side, Scalped) Aaron, gave Sean McKeever a higher profile, pushed Bendis hard, and so on. Marvel isn’t afraid to give creators a chance. We got Matt Fraction out of that push, along with Charlie Huston and a bunch of others.

Jacking 4 Beats

On the same note, Marvel will steal your creators out from under you. Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Peter Milligan, Paul Jenkins, Ed Brubaker, Jeph Loeb (despite working at Marvel years ago), Sean Phillips, Mike Carey, Frazer Irving, Simone Bianchi, Pascual Ferry, Yanick Paquette, Garth Ennis, Joe Casey, and others all got their start, or were best known at, DC Comics. This is just the short list, too, right off the top of the head.

Marvel bit off four of the Seven Soldiers artists before DC put a stop to it. They aren’t afraid to take your people and use them to make their books better. DC was wasting Brubaker on the Bat-crossovers, so Marvel gives him Cap, Uncanny, and Iron Fist, two of which are excellent and the third is good.

City Name Sports Team

Joe Q brought back the Marvel/DC rivalry with a modern-day twist. He dissed DC multiple times and very frankly, but also with a point. The quote up top about DC Comics is vulgar, but true– how can you not sell Batman and Superman comics? They are the heroes, and having their line falter? Garbage.

Joe Q’s rabble rousing was just what the comics industry needed. People love drama and hate to see their brand dissed. Brand loyalty means that you get to keep a few fans, you know? It gets the juices flowing on the fan side and pisses off your competition at the same time. Now, the competition has to prove you wrong, hopefully by making better books.

You could argue that Identity Crisis was the renaissance moment for DC Comics. They suddenly became relevant again, after War Games and World at Wars and other impotent crossovers. Since then, they’ve been pushing for the top spot and nipping at Marvel’s heels. Identity Crisis was followed by Infinite Crisis, which led into 52, which led into Countdown, and we’ve got another Crisis on the way. DC kind of squandered the relevancy with continuity porn, but what can you do?

Joe Q got the Marvel U into shape and they started flogging DC in sales and interviews. DC had to answer back somehow, and we’ve been in a game of “Can You Top This?” ever since.

ISSUES

While DC has been canceling the good Wonder Woman comic and replacing it with a floundering, drowning mess, Marvel has pushed Storm to the forefront and made her a major player in the political scene of the Marvel U.

While DC has been struggling to keep Manhunter from getting canceled (what’s the word on that, anyway?), Marvel gave Jessica Jones two series, turned her into a big name, and kept her in view in New Avengers.

While DC has been giving us a fun angsty written-by-Jeph-Loeb Supergirl, us Marvel fans have been enjoying the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series.

While DC has been keeping Green Lantern John Stewart undercover and in the background and canceling Firestorm, Marvel has Luke Cage leading the New Avengers and Falcon playing an important role in Captain America.

I guess Marvel and DC have done all right by gay characters, what with Manhunter, Runaways, Young Avengers, and like that.

These are obviously slanted in favor of the point of this post, but I’m having trouble thinking of quality “diversity initiatives” (to borrow a buzzword) out of DC, save for Blue Beetle and… I guess Catwoman? 52 was pretty decent with John Henry, Natasha, and Montoya, I must say.

I guess my point is that Marvel is really pretty progressive, and a lot of it has happened under Joe Q’s watch.

The New Danger

I like a lot of DC Comics. Most of them come out of Vertigo or Wildstorm, granted, but Blue Beetle, Catwoman, and Robin are quite enjoyable. But, in general, I feel like Marvel is much more willing to push the boundaries. Marvel is willing and able to alter their entire universe over the course of a story, like in Civil War or House of M/Decimation.

DC’s Infinite Crisis changed everything… and it still seems like the same place, but now Krypton is crystal or there wasn’t a Superboy or some other inconsequential crap like that. The universe doesn’t feel that different, you know?

The DCU doesn’t feel anywhere near as dangerous or unpredictable as the Marvel Universe does right now. Sure, there are rogue monitors shooting characters full of holes, but who actually cares about Duela Dent or Jason Todd?

Meanwhile, over in Marvel, Bendis is kicking over the Monopoly board (again), Carey and Brubaker are taking the X-Men someplace new, Greg Pak has made the Hulk into a threat and a villain, and these are just the big events!

Nuff Said

Like I said, Marvel isn’t perfect, and they’ve made more than a few crap moves. I try to call them on those things whenever I can, because I’d like to see Marvel grow into a company I can be proud of. But, while calling them out, it’s very easy to lose sight of the good that’s going on. Marvel has a Throw Anything At The Wall mentality that ends up giving out a lot of good. They’ll try anything once, and they aren’t afraid to keep those changes. White Tiger, the new Scorpion, Araña, Hulk in Space, Annihilation, and so on.

Calling out the bad things publishers do is only part of the solution. Call those things out, keep at it, but address the good, as well. No company is wholly good or bad. Every company does stupid things, but every company is trying to do better. Support the good, ignore the bad. Don’t pay for it.

Put your respect where it is due.

To Joe Q, thanks.

Now hook us up with a better Heroes for Hire cover, okay? And let Endangered Species be the last event for at least a year.

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21 comments to “Joe Q: Villain or Menace?”

  1. Strangely, Ennis’ MAX Punisher is more mature than his Marvel Knights Punisher, despite having more freedom for worse sex jokes. I mean that in the sense that there are no Russian-guy’s-head-attached-to-girl-robot-body-with-inflatable-tits in MAX. I hope. Haven’t read it in a while. Wait, no, there was that really weird rogue FBI chick who was sexually obsessed with Frank. Though that’s not nearly as silly as the Russian.

    And Fantomex was used briefly in Mystique (I can’t remember if it was Vaughn or McKeever who used him, however. Or both.)

    And it would be nice if they let Huston (or he would choose to do so, I’m not sure what he’s doing other than novels, since he’s leaving Moon Knight, I think) some more work, because Moon Knight, the Ultimates Annual #2, and his Man Thing one shot were pretty damned good.


  2. I think I might (just might) actually give Joey Q some of the credit you say he is due if he, AT ALL, lived up to that “buck stops here”. But I’ve read a few of his Friday publicity “interviews”. And accepting blame for failures? Doesn’t happen…

    He seems to be a good salesman and his DC rivalry hearkens back to Stan the Man. But he’s a bad editor (just look at poorly all the CW crossover titles fit together), and without a firm hand his favorite writers like Bendis and Millar and others, while still able to produce a good moment or two, are floundering and out of control (Skrull!Eletrka? SERIOUSLY?)

    Plus of course Stan Lee had a sense of playfullness and class to the old Marvel/DC rivalry. Joe comes off as mean and petty (both with DC and with criticism). The “frat boy mentality” I’ve seen bandied about seems to fit…

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually buying more Marvel mainstream stuff than I have since Age of Apocalypse (Nova, New Warriors, HB trades of Runaways, Annihilation, Nextwave). But I generally feel dirty for helping fund Joey Q’s paycheck afterwards…


  3. I will give him props to his good things the day that he really accept that the “buck stops here”. If you read Joe Fridays every week, there isn’t a problem that he has denied that exists or shifted the blame at someone else (the artist from the cover of Heroes for Hire, Hitch for the Ultimates lateness even though he already delivered the pages, saying that NYX was always a mini-series even though was originally solicited was ongoing). The guy has a chronic problem of not taking responsability, combined with a petiness (liking undoing completely and in the most horrid way the aforementioned Grant Morrison run… I mean Magneto was Xorn? And don’t blame Claremont, he may had the awful idea but he is not the editor, not even a influencial writer anymore… every “hot” creator that follows him tend to undo anything he does before.) not unlike the arquetipal “comic guy fanboy” that you see trolling in message boards.

    I recognize the relevancy of House of M/Decimation or Civil War the day that they put this changes to good use. No book besides X-Factor mentions the geopolitical impact or give a real sense of the Danger that the “no more mutants” thing represents since it happened. Uncanny X-Men goes back to earth and deal with generic Sentinels instead of Sentinel SQUAD One. I mean, what the point of doing changes if you don’t give them room to breath and don’t coordinate a effort to everyone know and use them? The clock is already ticking for the unmaking of Civil War and it barely happened.

    No. I will not praise someone that doesn’t deserve praise. Because as good as some of the items of your are, they could been better if the editors done their jobs. If the work produced was more important than the ego of the E-i-C.

    So…

    Joe Quesada: You get no cookies from me.


  4. I really wished White Tiger was more of a success than it was, since it delivered on a lot of what people are looking for. Montoya becoming the Question and Batwoman get a lot of buzz and praise, but they’ve practically dropped off the face of the earth since 52.

    I think you’re definitely right about Marvel being more adventurous and experimental with their characters than DC. It’s probably no better illustrated than Marvel giving the Great Lakes Initiative cameos and a mini, while the Teen Titans are beating out JLI for the highest mortality rate. Although to be fair, I’ve been hearing New X-Men is pretty brutal too. So yeah, the egregious errors aren’t limited to one company.


  5. Julio: I’ve seen Joe Q take responsibility more than once. He’s taken his share of the blame for DD: Father and NYX’s lateness, and the late “Big name creator” projects like Young Avengers and Ult Wolverine vs Hulk, among other things. It isn’t like he dodges every chance he gets, if he screws up, he’ll say so. He dodges questions because he works for the company. He can’t just come out and say “Yeah that Heroes for Hire cover sucks.” Plus, given the way Marvel does covers these days, I doubt he was lying about that.

    Marvel’s on record saying that Civil War isn’t going to just be unmade, and I don’t see how undoing Xorn was pettiness. Dead Xorn meant no more Magneto, and Claremont/Marvel wanted to use Magneto again. It was in service of a story. A bad one, but a story nonetheless. It isn’t really pettiness when you undo one thing Morrison did, especially when Scott/Emma, Beak, Dust (I think?), and more than a few other Morrison concepts are still running around.

    Mike Carey’s X-Men has dealt with, and will deal with, No More Mutants quite a bit. And the new Uncanny arc is about what remains of the Morlocks, and possibly Magneto, so I’m not sure what you mean with the generic Sentinel thing?

    And part of my point is that “The buck stops here” isn’t a one-way street– it should not only cover the bad things. That is counter-intuitive, and I can’t think of a reason for that other than some kind of spite.

    LW: Would you agree that Joe’s backed off on the DC shots over the past couple years? The latest thing I can remember him saying is, after a fan asked what to do with all the WWH stuff coming up and hurting his wallet, “Buy fewer DC books!” Which is really kind of tame.

    Plus, I kind of like the space alien twist that you mentioned. Time will tell how long that’s been in place and it’s ramifications, but I’m hooked.

    JLG: Yeah, I just find it interesting that Joe Q and Marvel are this object of fan hatred, where giving up the slightest credit is like pulling teeth. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a Runaways at DC, much less one that was canceled so it could be relaunched with a high profile #1?

    Where is my new Son of Vulcan series?


  6. David — I have a horrible feeling I caused this post.

    I should’ve been a bit clearer on what I was thinking in that Blog@Newsarama thread, I didn’t want anyone to take away “DC is above criticism” (actually, I spend a lot more time criticizing DC than Marvel) but that the trolls were just overly defensive Marvel fans trying to suppress or outyell the criticism before Marvel heard it and changed their policies to accommodate fangirls.

    I really didn’t want to insult regular Marvel fans. I was aiming for the trolls and fired too widely.

    That’s my fault and my itchy typing fingers, and I’m sorry.


  7. No, no no no, this isn’t your fault at all. I’ve been working on this post for a couple of days. I just realized that it was horribly bad timing on my part!

    It was prompted by one of the “Marvel is SCREWING THE FANS AGAIN and creatively bankrupt and no new ideas and Captain America is dead blah blah” posts on a message board the other day, and it was probably Newsarama. That, and you should’ve seen this post on a comic shop’s website about how Marvel is practically supporting terrorism with its New Warriors book, which features a group of protestors as heroes and how dare they question the status quo what are they friends of Osama.

    So, apology not accepted because you don’t need to apologize here. It’s just a weird coincidence and bad timing, I promise :)


  8. Actually I believe the reason Joe Q gets hammered all the time is because he doesn’t actually seem to display any judgement of what goes in and what doesn’t. Under Joe Q continuity immediately flew out the window because Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four were all running plots that effected the whole world at once but never had any impact outside their own line. We had the Black Cat and Spiderman series that got put on hold for a year because he didn’t think through all the considerations.

    He hired some great writers who did great plots, and he hired some terrible writers who did plots that defied all comprehension.

    Essentially the impression he gives is that whether any decision he makes is a hit or a miss is completely random. You take enough chances, sooner or later some of them are going to hit.

    So that makes him, as an editor, about as heroic as your average dice, and entitled to as much credit and pay for services rendered.


  9. Well, the lack of continuity thing was a choice, I thought. Pull back on the shared universe for a while so that people could get used to the characters again and come back on. You could read your X-Men without the FF crossing over for ONSLAUGHT COMES BACK II: COMES BACK AGAIN or whatever. It seemed to have succeeded, and now they’ve moved back into a shared universe.

    I think that every editor is hit or miss. I mean, Tom Brevoort, the dude who a lot of editors and creators say is their favorite editor, has had some clunkers. He did a feature on his blog a few months back on the worst books he ever wrote (he said doing the worst he edited would be unfair and unprofessional) and they were bad. Like, bad bad. But, he also had Waid and Ringo on FF. Axel Alonso had a few good Vertigo books and the awesome JMS/JRjr Spidey run, but he also approved Sins Past.

    I think that being willing to take chances with your characters is an important trait for an editor to have. If you play it safe and only put certain names on books to tell certain kinds of stories, you’re just going to stagnate. ’90s Marvel and DC both pulled that stunt.

    As much as I’d like for every comic idea to be a winner, that just can’t happen (unless you’re David Mack, and then I will read anything you write). I can live with a few bad books slipping through, as long as those great writers keep coming in and raising the bar.

    The bad stories we get nowadays, from Austen (easy target) and so on, were par for the course in the ’90s. They were the good stories, what people expected. Now, the good stories are way beyond that because the editors take more chances.


  10. The 90s had the problems with writing for the same reason Joe Q does, just they had the better excuse: Comics were booming and they were in a hurry to maximise their share of the market as fast as possible. They hired a ton of new people then we are still wishing they’d never let Liefeld near a Marvel contract.

    Joe Q’s “risks” that have paid off have been the “smart” ones that weren’t really risks in the first place. He hired Bendis and Ennis to write main titles… after the two of them were already massively acclaimed independent writers. He brought in an adult line, because adult comics were already becoming a huge part of the market.

    Marvel used to suffer from a lack of risk taking when they had Bob Harris yes, because Bob’s #1 goal was to protect the franchise. Under Joe they have much happier creators (they rarely if ever, get anything turned down) but have lost their brand power.

    Nowdays if you buy a Marvel comic, you have no idea what the quality will be, if it will have continuity, if it will even link in any way to titles it’s supposed to be connected to and even the creative team on it is no indicator of quality or content. A major part of Joe’s job is supposed to be to regulate that and nip disasters in the bud. An editor who loves everything his teams propose is about as helpful as film critic who loves everything he sees.

    Every title has its hits and flops, but when the flops are as offensive as Austen was, you have to wonder how much is him exercising his judgement and how much is Joe is simply a sucker for a sales pitch.


  11. I’ve got to say, it seems like after every section, I’m thinking “yeah, but…” Sure, he brought JMS and Paul Jenkins to Spider-Man, but can we really give him credit for MJ and Peter reuniting, given his constant comments about the subject? And then we’ve got things like the editorial-mandated organic web-shooters, and The Other, to worry about.

    Sure, he brought Morrison in on X-Men, but how much of that stuck? Morrison revamped the line and sowed the seeds for an X-Men renaissance. He put an end to the appearance that Magneto is the X-Men’s only foe, and it was undone within six months. He expanded the Mutant society into a subculture and advanced them out of the “persecuted and hunted” allegory they’ve been stuck in since the ’60s, and it was completely undone with House of M. About the only things left from the Morrison run are Beast’s appearance and the Scott/Emma relationship. While we do have to give him credit for bringing Joss Whedon into the fold, we have to recognize that he followed up Morrison’s high-profile status quo-breaking run with Claremont and Austen’s immediate retcons.

    Ultimate Marvel is great, when it comes out. That’s a cheap shot, but it seems like Marvel’s worst problems with lateness are in Ultimates and Ultimate Wolverine v. Hulk. DC’s not much better with the All-Star line.

    Bendis is great, but a bit overexposed. The same can be said for most of Marvel’s big writers; it seems that only Brubaker and Carey are high-quality, high-profile, and low-title count. I may be exaggerating, but it seems like the vast majority of Marvel’s output comes from Bendis, Millar, Ellis, and JMS.

    I remember when MAX first debuted, and in every interview Joe Quesada acted like he was reinventing the wheel, that he was the first person who ever thought of doing an imprint of comics for mature readers. Meanwhile, Vertigo was quietly approaching its 10th anniversary with a wide variety of titles that MAX has never even aspired to. I’ve heard good things about Punisher and Alias, and moderately good things about Supreme Power. Everything else I’ve heard has been about what I’d expect–‘Marvel’s idea of mature is nudity and violence.’ Vertigo’s had its fair share of immature mature titles, but it always has something like Fables or Y running alongside it.

    While Marvel’s been good at stealing DC creators, the Distinguished Competition has been snatching up quite a few people themselves. And while I notice at least a few of the people on your list there aren’t under exclusive contracts (unless something’s changed with Mike Carey, for instance), I can’t think of many of the new blood creators at DC who haven’t been given cushy exclusive contracts. DC picked up Morrison and Rucka, exclusivized Johns and Waid, and gave them all cushy quasi-editorial positions.

    The rivalry thing is what I most disagree with you about. Marvel under Quesada has been characterized by a petulant, whiny, sour-grapes, “you’re old, nyah nyah” attitude toward the competition. The quotation about Superman is a good example; it continues through the miserable trainwreck that was “Marville,” the grisly and unnecessary death of “Terri Kidder,” the Superman-turned-murderer in MK Spider-Man (as I recall), and the ridiculously inappropriate JMS dialogue about how Warner’s stock fell due to lack of creativity in their graphic publishing division. Yeah, the trend has tapered off in the last few years, but in my mind it reflected incredibly poorly on Quesada and his lack of professionalism. He’s a far cry from Mark Gruenwald and the days where Marvel and DC’s rivalry was jovial, when they could get together and do crazy-awesome stunts like Amalgam Comics. Even Stan Lee, for all his bombast, knew that you had to keep the “asshole” private.

    Excuse the snark for the “issues” portion:
    Storm pushed to the forefront? I guess you mean “right behind Black Panther.” At least Black Canary is going to share title space when she hooks up with Green Arrow.

    DC struggled to keep a book like Manhunter, with an unknown creative team and a relatively unknown creator, and an irreverent cast and subject matter, from being canceled. But they succeeded, twice. How’s Nextwave, under one of Marvel’s superstars, doing these days?

    While Marvel’s been suffering under an angst-filled crossover-bloated universe, DC’s been publishing fun in-continuity comics like Blue Beetle and Brave and the Bold. Both companies have their fun titles and their angsty ones.

    Yeah, it’s a shame what’s been happening lately with John Stewart, especially given his prominence in JLU. Meanwhile, Vixen and Black Lightning have joined the JLA, Firestorm is supposed to be joining a high-profile team soon, you mentioned Steel and Natasha Irons (who will soon be leading Infinity Inc.). As far as gay characters go, I think the Quesada “against policy” brouhaha and Freedom Ring would tend to count against Marvel’s fairness.

    Marvel is pretty progressive, in some areas, and DC has matched them or surpassed them blow for blow. Compare Birds of Prey to Heroes for Hire. Compare Batwoman, Obsidian, Pied Piper (another character in a starring position these days), and Montoya to Karolina and Xavin. I’d say that despite Firestorm’s cancellation, DC’s been doing as well as Marvel with African-American characters; two black people on the JLA, until recently Mr. Terrific was leading the JSA and now he (and Amanda Waller) have major positions in Checkmate, and none of them (so far) have appeared on covers as the subject of tentacle rape.

    I agree that it seems like Marvel is more willing to shake things up, but they also seem to be more worried about conforming to their external media (i.e., changing the comics to match the movies). And one thing they don’t seem willing to do is take a damn break…Avengers Disassembled kicked off a non-stop crossover with no end in sight. At some point, you ought to be able to buy an issue of Spider-Man without feeling like you need to buy twelve other comics that week to understand it. Marvel Adventures and the Ultimate line are great for being accessible and self-contained, but while DC has been slowly increasing the number of titles it has which tell self-contained single-issue stories, Marvel seems to be limiting that sort of thing to their outside-continuity titles.

    You’re right, they’ve done a lot of good and a lot of bad, and Joe Q probably gets a good deal of undeserved flak. But with his attitude in interviews, when his first reaction to criticism is almost always to deflect, defend, or ridicule, he brings a lot of that flak on himself. He makes himself a big, loud target.

    Sorry for the loud and snarky comment, it is a good article and you make a good case, but I think it would feel more genuine if you didn’t seem like you were cherry-picking Marvel’s good ideas so much.


  12. Would you agree that Joe’s backed off on the DC shots over the past couple years?

    Not that I’ve seen. And thats from his Friday newsarama thing from the last two months…


  13. One last thing:

    Marvel’s on record saying that Civil War isn’t going to just be unmade,

    Marvel’s also on-record saying that “dead means dead,” that “Speedball is dead, dead, dead,” that none of the Mutants would get their powers back after House of M, etc. Being on-record with things hasn’t stopped Marvel from breaking them.

    Not that it necessarily should, but it seems to demonstrate that “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” sentiment that people talked about above with Quesada’s job as Editor, and therefore coordinator. When you say “dead means dead,” you shouldn’t immediately bring back Colossus, Magneto, and Hawkeye. When you say “there won’t be a gay protagonist in any non-MAX book,” you’d better be aware that at least one of your non-MAX books has a gay protagonist. And when you later proclaim that there was no such policy and point to that non-MAX character, you ought to know whether or not that character will be penetrated to death in the next issue. Marvel has been all flash and no focus for some time now, and I blame Quesada and Brevoort for a lot of it. When Brevoort (as I recall) comes out and says “I don’t edit the pages until the lettering stage,” he’s essentially saying “I’m not doing my job right, and I’m to blame for a lot of the continuity and characterization and consistency problems going on right now.”


  14. Heh. I would contest some of you rebuttals but all the other commentators did better than I could.
    But some things still must be said:

    Yeah. He may took some responsability for NYX, but at the same time said repeatedly that was a mini-series from the beginning even though was solicited as a ongoing. Joe Q, you can retcon comics, but you can’t retcon reality.

    I agree with other commentators that he word is as good as nothing since he promise things that are almost immediately broken and commits to company-wide (like the status of the X-Men created by Morrison) for as long as the attention spam of a goldfish. He appears underprepared and misinformed about the products that his company produces and about the market at large (tentacle rape? What is that? I don’t even know what manga is!)

    Yeah, is he is as consistente a d20-dice and rolled his fair share of critical failures.

    So, no. Some things at Marvel are good despite him, not because of him. On the entire world of comics, as much as I dislike a lot of writers and their creative choices, I don’t think there is a person less deserving of praise than Joe Quesada as a editor.


  15. This might end up sounding more like a rivalry thing than I want to, but I kept thinking “Yeah, but…” while reading your comment, Tom. I think a lot of what you criticize Marvel for can be said for DC too. It’s more that both are struggling and have their good and bad things.

    I mean, DC may not have had a tentacle rape cover, but, dude, Countdown’s Dead Baby Monster. It’s like both companies are trying to top each other in being “mature” and “extreme.”

    “While Marvel’s been suffering under an angst-filled crossover-bloated universe…”

    And DC isn’t?

    DC and Marvel both haven’t taken a break from the cataclysmic events. Just as Avengers:Disassembled kicked off Marvel’s events, so did Identity Crisis. 52 lead right into another big weekly event comic. Teen Titans has been shook up and run through so many times it’s a mystery why no one’s shut down the team. And I don’t know about DC having more self-contained, single-issue stories. There’s Amazon Attack and Countdown tie-ins, and the only single-issue format I’ve heard of is Dini’s Batman.

    I’m not quite sure DC is better at diversity. I remember reading criticisms that Obsidian hardly ever appeared in JSA, and was usually pushed to the sidelines. I don’t know if Batwoman is the best example, she hasn’t really done much outside of 52 and a common criticism is that her character hasn’t been defined beyond the hype.

    DC does deserve praise for Montoya, but they really need to carry that momentum from 52. Pied Piper also sounds like a good move. But note that Runaway’s Karolina and Xavin is pretty complex given the situation and Xavin’s shapeshifting (it’s not just about homosexuality, it’s raising issues about transgender identity), and Marvel also has Hulking and Wiccan on Young Avengers.

    I think Marvel has tried to keep She-Hulk alive like with Manhunter. And while sinking NextWave as an ongoing series, supposedly they’ll do minis for it in the future. It’s my unscientific feeling that Marvel really tries more to take advantage of and develop their lesser known characters. If anything, GLI and the Dead Girl mini is proof of that.

    DC, though, has been making some slick moves in hiring creators away from Marvel. Nabbing Sean McKeever and (while I disagree with his strict “Dead is Dead” policy he’s going to be taking) putting him on Teen Titans is a brilliant move.


  16. Sorry for the loud and snarky comment, it is a good article and you make a good case, but I think it would feel more genuine if you didn’t seem like you were cherry-picking Marvel’s good ideas so much.

    Tom, that’s pretty much the point of the piece. It’s an article about the good ideas, and I acknowledge more than a few of Marvel’s missteps. “I come not to bury Joe Q, but to praise him,” to go a bit pretentious. I could do one for Didio about Blue Beetle, Renato Guedes, and 52 and it would read the same. Dick Hyacinth called it a panegyric, a label which I’ll readily accept. I didn’t set out to detail Marvel’s screwups, and there are many, in this one. It was about the good that Joe Q has at least in part spearheaded.

    “Dead means dead” has been run into the ground and is an entirely different animal than “Reset Civil War.” “Dead means dead” has already been dealt with, and I think the explanation was basically “Stop killing characters unless you have a good reason.” Changing that is a matter of getting a story worth breaking the rule for. Plus, Colossus came back, what, four years after Q stated “dead means dead?” “Dead means dead” is practically on catchphrase status right now.

    Resetting Civil War, though, would require invalidating the past year and upcoming year of Marvel stories. There is a fundamental difference between the two.

    Speedball is Dead and Mary Jane Sucks! are both marketing. The “Speedball is dead!” built a ton of hype for Civil War and launched Penance into the spotlight, for better or for worse. The Mary Jane thing? Well, my guess is that it bears directly on JMS and Q’s One More Day. These are swerves and hype, not promises.


  17. I mean, DC may not have had a tentacle rape cover, but, dude, Countdown’s Dead Baby Monster. It’s like both companies are trying to top each other in being “mature” and “extreme.”
    Yeah, the dead baby monster was weird, and there are quite a few awful Mary Marvel covers in the pipeline. Still, for near-hentai to make it past all the editors, on the cover of the book, and to try to justify it with ignorance, cultural miscommunication, and “fans are missing that these tied-up, submissively-posed girls are badass ass-kickers” was ridiculous. The dead baby demon was tacky, but it wasn’t pornographic.

    And DC isn’t?

    DC and Marvel both haven’t taken a break from the cataclysmic events. Just as Avengers:Disassembled kicked off Marvel’s events, so did Identity Crisis. 52 lead right into another big weekly event comic. Teen Titans has been shook up and run through so many times it’s a mystery why no one’s shut down the team. And I don’t know about DC having more self-contained, single-issue stories. There’s Amazon Attack and Countdown tie-ins, and the only single-issue format I’ve heard of is Dini’s Batman.

    Actually, I’m going to dispute that. Identity Crisis, 52, and Countdown aren’t crossover books. Event books, sure. And there are books that tie into them, or spin out of them, but they aren’t crossovers like Infinite Crisis or Civil War, where the vast majority of the universe is affected by the events in the series week after week. You could make the case that Amazons Attack isn’t really a crossover either, though it’s certainly closer to one than any of the others I listed above. Countdown is primarily responding to events that happen in other titles, as well as telling its own story, 52 was more or less off in its own little corner of the universe, and Identity Crisis had ideas picked up in JLA and Flash, but stayed relatively confined to its 7-issue title.

    Marvel, on the other hand, has been interspersing large universe-wide crossovers (Disassembled, House of M, Civil War, World War Hulk) with smaller character-wide crossovers (Decimation, The Other, Planet Hulk, Back in Black, Annihilation) without stopping.

    As far as done-in-one stories go, there’s Detective Comics (as you mentioned), Jonah Hex (though I understand it’s had some multiple-issue stories lately), Brave and the Bold (there’s an overarching story, but each issue is complete), and (accidentally) most recent issues of Action Comics and Superman. I haven’t been keeping up with Aquaman, but I hear that Williams might be doing similar things there too.

    Obsidian and Batwoman certainly haven’t gotten enough exposure, but the promise of Todd’s return in Manhunter (when the title’s off hiatus) suggests that we’ll be seeing more of him than “JSA doorman.” Batwoman hasn’t appeared much outside of 52, but 52 only ended a little over a month ago, and until then there was a moratorium on using her. If the LitG rumors from months ago are true, we’ll be seeing solicits for her solo title soon.

    I love Karolina and Xavin, don’t get me wrong, and besides exploring gender issues all around, there’s also the alien angle (and the inevitable test of trust when news of the Skrull invasion breaks). I was under the impression that Young Avengers had been canceled or was on extended hiatus, leaving Hulkling and Wiccan somewhat in limbo. If they’re still around and active, then they ought to be added to the list.

    I’m not necessarily saying in any of these situations that DC is doing better than Marvel, I’m countering your points that there hasn’t been a successful diversity drive at DC, or that Marvel is doing significantly better than their competition in some of these areas. Overall, I think both companies have good and bad areas, and in the case of things like diversity and crossover fatigue, both companies have many of the same problems. I think DC’s doing better at addressing the problems than Marvel, but then again, I still have a bad taste in my mouth from Civil War and all that nonsense.

    It’s my unscientific feeling that Marvel really tries more to take advantage of and develop their lesser known characters. If anything, GLI and the Dead Girl mini is proof of that.

    And 52 isn’t? DC’s done quite a lot for lesser-known characters in the last several years. 52 was full of them, as is Countdown. Two years ago, ongoing titles for Booster Gold and Blue Beetle would be absurd. A weekly series starring the Question, Steel, and the Elongated Man would be ridiculous. And then there are minis, poorly-conceived or not, featuring Captain Comet and the Weird, Dr. Thirteen, Son of Vulcan, etc.

    I understand that you’re trying to point out all the good that has come under Quesada, I just think it undermines your position when a good half, if not more, of the things you mention were immediately undone, also under Quesada. It seems as silly as if I were to praise Dan DiDio for making Ted Kord an interesting character and making Max Lord an intriguing villain. Does it really count if it was undone several pages later?

    As far as “dead is dead,” I may be mistaken in remembering it as a mantra, but I seem to recall hearing it after Hawkeye’s death in particular. His first one, recently.

    I’m not sure how much I would consider “outright lying” to be “marketing.” People were buying Frontline before Speedball was revealed to be alive; did saying he was dead really spike sales on the book? People actively dislike Quesada’s stance on the Mary Jane issue, and I somehow doubt that it’s just marketing when he says he’d prefer Peter to be single so he can be involved in love triangles again, because marriage is boring. I’m not sure who he’s trying to market to with remarks like that. Unless he’s of the “as long as you piss people off, they’re going to keep buying” school of marketing, it seems inane to balk at marriage when I’d bet that a large portion of the folks buying Spider-Man are married. It’s possible that he’s trying to market-through-controversy, but when he’s trying to stir up controversy over every title every week, I think it’d tend to lessen the impact.


  18. You are right about 52, although what sticks out in my mind is that they still had Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman make significant appearances.

    I remember the fallout from Identity Crisis bleeding into the Titans, too. I’d argue World War III and Amazons Attack do count for minor crossovers, since they did affect a number of titles and characters. If you wanted to get any sort of idea what the Titans went through during the missing year, you had to read 52. Not to mention 52 brought back the multiverse. Amazons Attack is crossing over into Titans and Supergirl. 52 and Countdown kinda exist in some nebulous area, I guess. It features the characters, it affects them (Duela Dent and the Titans and whoever else is left to kill next).

    Young Avengers was derailed by Heinberg’s infamous work habits, but apparently it’s still in the works with a co-writer taking most of the load. So I don’t think Hulking and Wiccan are going to be forgotten, there was the Civil War crossover with Runaways.

    But, yeah, I understand where you’re coming from, though I’m coming at it from the other side – my disgust was with Infinite Crisis.


  19. […] The 4th Letter talks about Joe Quesada, points to how he’d done wrong by attacking DC Comics by saying they should be called “AOL Comics”. And yet, there’s a lot here that I simply cannot agree with. Bendis, for example, may have shown promise on Daredevil, but since then has done little more than mess up the Avengers, and insult fans in the process, proving himself to be just overrated. […]


  20. What I dislike is Joe Q’s contempt for the fans. He really does act like a college fratboy who dosen’t listen to anyone.

    I think Didio is worse though, because he claims diveristy, even as there is a lack of diversity in his universe (where the heck is Empress?)


  21. […] once wrote a love letter to Joe Quesada. Joe Q is a guy that half of the fans out there want dunked in acid for “ruining Spider-Man […]