CBR TV @ SDCC: Joe Quesada on Marvel, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” & Artistic Growth
CBR Executive Producer left the water for a roving interview aboard the CBR Golf Cart at Comic-Con International in San Diego, and joining him on this special voyage was none other than Marvel Entertainment CCO Joe Quesada. The pair discussed Quesada’s creative duties at Marvel after leaving his longtime role as Editor-in-Chief, the possible risks of Marvel’s foray into television with “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, Quesada’s eternal optimism, “Painkiller Jane” joining Marvel Icon, how Quesada pushes himself as an artist and more.
On letting go after his tenure as Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief: I am so ridiculously busy with what I’m doing, I have no choice but to let go. I’m still involved in publishing, but we have a great Editor-in-Chief now in Axel [Alonso] so that makes it easy. If we had somebody who was weak at the position, who was not doing a good job of it, it would probably be very very difficult for me not to say, “Wait wait wait wait wait!” Axel has been — we’ve been working together for years and years and years, so he knows the deal. He knows what it means to be Editor-in-Chief and what to do when you’re Editor-in-Chief, and he’s doing a great job of it. But yeah, there are times that I certainly miss it. I certainly do miss being in the thick of things and knowing everything that’s happening in every one of our comic books, but I just don’t have the time for that anymore.
On the different creative challenges of his new role: They’re very much the same. One of the beauties about Marvel as we’ve grown as an entertainment company is that — Alan Fine, who is our president; I guess that’s Alan’s title, he’s everywhere — when he first came back to Marvel he sat in our big editorial meetings to see how we ran editorial. He was fascinated by it and thought it was a great way of running our business — our creative business — and as we started to become a movie studio and television studio that same philosophy applied. We have creative summits, we have creative meetings, we have a Marvel committee where we talk about everything that’s happening in our universe. A lot of our philosophy really comes out of a publishing philosophy and how we run that part of our creative business.
On Marvel Studios’ first foray into television with “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the potential failure of future projects: I’ve often been called an internal optimist at Marvel because I don’t look at things as, “Boy, what happens if this fails?” I just can’t. I look at these things as opportunities, we all look at them as opportunities. Look, we’re putting our best foot forward. We got an incredible cast, we got an incredible guy in writer and director Joss Whedon, we’ve got the best writing crew on the planet. We’re putting the best of the best on it so hopefully we’re successful with it and I think it’s gonna do really, really well. I just don’t look at things that way. I can’t sit here and say, “Oh my god, what if it doesn’t work?” It has to work, it’s going to work. There’s no doubt in my mind that it will.
On where he draws his inspiration and how he pushes himself further as an artist: The one thing is, I don’t look back. Every once in a while somebody will hand me a, “Hey, here’s a hardcover, some of your old work.” I don’t look back on it. I very rarely scan those pages and go back. I just like to move forward. I take inspiration from everything, like any artist, you just gotta take it from everything that’s outside, and all forms of entertainment. Whether it’s music, movies that you watch, TV shows that you see, novels that you read — everything is an inspiration. Any artist that tells you that they’re not looking at other artists’ work is lying to you because we all are inspired by each other.
On whether technology and other tools make him more neurotic about his work: I used to be neurotic about my work when I was much younger, you know when I really started out in the industry. These days it’s funny because there’s that — what’s that Malcolm Gladwell book? — “The Outliers,” where he talks about 10,000 hours of work. … There was a day where I was drawing at my board and I wasn’t sweating it. I wasn’t thinking — stuff was just happening, the storytelling was just happening. I wasn’t worried about, “How does one shot relate to the other?” It just, things were — and I’m like, “Wait a minute…” and I started doing the math — “Son of a gun, I think I’ve done over 10,000 hours of work.” And you do get to that point where you just, if you’ve done the work, if you’ve really studied your craft, it will just come to you. There comes a point where — I hate to use an athlete’s metaphor, I’m a big fan of baseball — if you think about hitting the baseball you’re never gonna hit the baseball. It’s something that it’s muscle memory, you’re in sort of another state, and I think the same thing happens for artists. You get into that other state where you’re just doing. And If you can do, it just comes to you that way. It doesn’t happen when you’re young and you’re starting out. You really have to learn and struggle and sweat at it. But yeah, so I don’t sweat it anymore I just try to do it.