New Joe Fridays Week 26

December 23rd, 2006 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


I’m a Joe Quesada fan. There, I said it. I love reading his interviews because he combines straight shooting with marvelous hype. He said something in the latest NJF that, to me, highlights the difference between Marvel and DC.

Superman was the first, no one is arguing that. He was the very first to put on his underwear outside of his pants. He is the Elvis of comics. Sure, was his creation influenced by other sci-fi and classic stories that came before, of course it was, Elvis was influenced by early rhythm and blues. Much like Elvis, Superman and his compatriots shook up the comics world, in essence created it. He flew over tall buildings, he was the model on which every thing else would be built. Elvis shook his leg, greased back his pomp, and created the blueprint for what was to become Rock n’ Roll.

While Elvis had some incredible hits, as did Superman, the music was simple, quaint in many ways. Almost every Elvis song can be boiled down to three chords. We call it a 1-4-5 progression. They would just change the key, tempo, feel or melody in order to decorate it differently. Still, it was the music of its time and it was beautiful. Then in the 60s came this little group called the Beatles, they were funny, articulate, socially conscious and they spoke to us on a whole different level. The core of the relationship between the music and the listener was much deeper, more relatable.

More importantly however, they brought something else into the music. While they themselves worshipped Elvis and had their share of very early singles with the simple 1-4-5 progressions, they learned from their predecessor and built upon it. Suddenly, we were getting songs with minor chords, diminished sevenths, before you could even get accustomed to all of that, they layered harmonies and added orchestras to their compositions, it was a whole new world that was much more sophisticated than what Elvis had first presented. That’s no slight on Elvis, it’s what happens when art moves on.

To me, the creation of the Marvel hero is very much like this. It took what Superman and other DC greats made famous, in many cases lifted whole parts, and added layers never before seen. Heroes with problems, heroes with Achilles heels, heroes who didn’t always make the right decisions, heck, sometimes they didn’t even beat the bad guy. This was a huge variation in the theme, the defining moment for everything.

Today, we can listen to Elvis songs, and they sound great, but because of the simple quaintness of them, I don’t believe they hold up to today’s younger listeners in the same way that the songs of the Beatles and those that followed hold up. Yes, much like Superman, every once in a while, someone does a great cover of an Elvis tune, but, it’s more nostalgia than anything else. I think the Superman movie proved that as well. You watch that movie and put it up against either of the Spidey movies and it feels like the difference between introducing a kid to Pong vs. Wii.

There’s a reason Batman is the greatest DC hero, he’s the closest to the Marvel formula, but the rest of the DC universe I feel suffers from the same flaws as Superman. In his time, Superman spoke of the immigrant experience which was very important in America at the time, but he’s also a paternal figure where as Spider-Man is us. At his core, Superman is also actually a dishonest character in his make up. He has to create a persona in order to be accepted by the people around him, the same for Batman. That’s also an intrinsic difference between the Marvel and DC characters. Spider-Man is the façade, he’s the mask, Peter Parker is the real deal and if we could actually be superheroes, that’s exactly how it would happen and by virtue of that, makes Spider-Man truer.

By the way, if you disagree with this, that’s cool, but then you would have to argue as to why DC, since the inception of the Marvel Universe, has been trying to Marvelize their characters.

The Elvis/Beatles comparison is a good one, I think. Read the rest of the interview, it’s pretty good and has some nice teases.

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5 comments to “New Joe Fridays Week 26”

  1. I agree on Marvel being the Beatles to DC’s Elvis back in the day, but nowadays, I think they’ve slipped to somewhere around the level of the Rolling Stones.

  2. I actually like Joe Quesada, too, despite his ability, sometimes, to put his foot in his mouth. I’m not as big of a Marvel fan as a DC fan and I’m not that crazy about Civil War, but I do have to say that there have been lots of smaller titles, such as White Tiger, Agents of Atlas, Daughters of the Dragon, and so on. In fact, I find my Marvel pull list growing all the time. So, there must be something he’s doing right, right?

  3. Oh, Quesada is excellent at putting his foot into his mouth. He’s a regular mushmouth, and I think that’s why I like him. He seems very un-corporate, if that makes sense.

    However, he’s also good at owning up to when Marvel screws up. The Rawhide Kid’s sexuality question comes to mind, where a Handbook says one thing. He straight up said, “No, that isn’t right. It was a mistake, and he is definitely gay.” He’s been pretty frank, within reason at least, about Civil War, too.

    He isn’t quite the character that Stan Lee is, but you can tell he loves his comics. Plus, he can tease plots like no one else.

    I’m leaning toward “No” regarding Civil War, but Marvel is putting out good books regardless. Immortal Iron Fist and Punisher War Journal, both by Matt Fraction (IIF co-written with Brubaker) immediately come to mind.

  4. […] There is an interesting bit of discussion going on over at Blog@Newsarama over the very same comments Joe Q made that I linked a couple days ago. Click over and read it. The comments thread is more interesting than the Bendis Board reports, because a couple interesting tangents have popped up. I’m reproducing a response of my own here because, 1) just spent a long bloody time typing it up while sitting in bed, 2) I kind of like it, and 3) “Joe Questrawman” is positively inspired at this time of day night and I feel like patting myself on the back for thinking of it in my addled state. […]

  5. Fuck the Beatles. There, I said it.