Tuesday, May 6 at Noon ET

Talking With Joe Quesada of Marvel Comics

(By Amy Sussman -- Getty Images)
Editor in Chief, Marvel Comics
Tuesday, May 6, 2008; 12:00 PM

It was a good weekend for Joe Quesada. The editor in chief of Marvel Comics saw the movie "Iron Man," an adaptation of one of his company's comics, soared to the top of the box office. Next month, a new version of "The Incredible Hulk" also arrives in theaters.

Quesada was online Tuesday, May 6 at noon ET to discuss both of those projects, Marvel's venture into producing its own films and anything else related to the comic book world.

A transcript follows.


Joe Quesada: Hey, folks! Joe Q here. This is the very firs time I'm conducting a Q+A like this so be kind and forgive misspellings and poor grammar. Typing is not my forte ;-)

I'm thrilled to be here so lets have some fun!


Laurel, Md.: Hi Joe! LOVED LOVED LOVED, did I say LOVED "Iron Man!" I'm a 30 year old black woman who had never even read any of the comic books about him, but the previews looked so interesting. Great casting choice in Robert Downey Jr. It felt more like an adult drama than a comic book adaptation. I'm really feeling the idea of these brilliant actors (Ed Norton included) taking on these roles people think they wouldn't or shouldn't take.

Without giving away plot details, what made you guys turn the Hulk red in the upcoming movie?

Joe Quesada: Thanks for the kind words.

The RED Hulk is currently only appearing in our most recent comics. I'm pretty certain that the movie Hulk will be as green as box office dollars!

See what i just did there!


Harrisburg, Pa.: Marvel has so many great characters. What other characters do you think would be best suited to be adapted for film?

Joe Quesada: I think we have way too many if you ask me, but heck, I'm partial.

I do believe that the characters that were announced just yesterday have tremendous potential. That said, to me the holy grail is Cap, I just love the characters so it's a personal fave.


Falls Church, Va.: When should we expect to see a Captain America movie? A good candidate to play Steve Rogers would be John Cena because of his build.

Joe Quesada: When it comes to dates and such, I'm never the best person to answer these types of question. The person to really grill about this is Kevin Feige. Kevin is the all seeing eye of Marvel Studios!


Arlington, Va.: I just read HERO by Perry Moore and heard there have been talks with Stan Lee about a movie version. Think it might happen?

Joe Quesada: I honestly have no idea. Stan has his own production company, POW entertainment, so this would be more in his wheelhouse.

I get a royalty every time I plug a Stan Lee thing ;-)

I wish.


Alexandria, Va.: Movies aside, aren't you always going to be known as the editor who killed Captain America? Kidding. Sort of.

Joe Quesada: Amongst many things, yes. ;-)


Hulk/Wolverine: Will there ever be another Hulk/Wolverine issue? I've been waiting for two years!

Joe Quesada: Yes there will. Damon Lindeloff has finished all but the last script but Leneil Yu is currently drawing SECRET INVASION (You're all reading SECRET INVASION aren't you?). My suspicion is that once Leneil is done with SECRET INVASION, he'll most like jump right on Hulk/Wolvie and at that point Damon will deliver the final script.



Marvel Zombies: What the heck kind of ending was that??!

Joe Quesada: Depends what you're referring to? If you're talking about Iron Man, I think it was the most unexpected (double) ending in the history of super hero movies. If you're talking about the Superman movie, I have no idea.


Springfield, Va.: How will you handle film character crossover? It has the potential to be fun but also the potential to be tacky.

Joe Quesada: Very carefully ;-)

Come on, like you didn't see that answer coming.

The real answer is that in Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige I trust.


Alexandria, Va.: When might we see the Mighty Thor?

Joe Quesada: Again, I'm not the best person to talk about the timing on films, but I know they're working feverishly to get stuff on the screen while at the same time doing everything in their power to get it right.

I think Iron Man shows the kind of love and care that Marvel Studios is going to be placing into these movies.

Check it out folks, a comic book company makes its own movies and it's good, who would have thought?

Always seemed obvious to me.


Woonsocket, R.I.: Congratulations on the success of "Iron Man" - I'm dying to see it (do you know a good babysitter?). I just hope that this means that Marvel understands that a good movie requires good writing and acting. It seems that far too often, intelligent writing is viewed as unnecessary or even antithetical to marketing and slam-blam CGI action. You'd think Hollywood would have learned their lesson by now, but it seems that they constantly forget. Why do you think that is?

Joe Quesada: I'm sure that there are a lot of reasons, we could go on about them forever. Some may just have to do with the business of getting it done, in some cases I'm sure it has to do with just lousy movie making. I will venture to say that most of the time it has to do with people really giving it their all and just failing. Movies like comics are made by humans, if there was a full proof formula, every movie and every comic would be brilliant. It ain't easy, gang.

That said, this regime at Marvel has always been about story first and foremost and that has absolutely extended to our movie division.

Will that always guarantee success? Of course not.

But the one thing I can assure you is that we're working and will continue working tirelessly to make every single one of our movies and comics the best that they can be. These are our characters, we're vested in them and our future as a company relies on our care taking them as best we can.


Woodbridge, Va.: Iron Man is the first film that Marvel is financing on its own instead of licensing the character to a studio. While this could lead to greater profit it could also be a disaster if the movie had flopped. What led you to choose Iron Man as your first solo financing?

Joe Quesada: While I can't speak for everyone at Marvel and while many things go into the consideration of what gets made if at all, when and how, Iron Man seemed like the right one. Just the right blend of action, tech and deep character issues that I think drives Tony Stark and Iron Man to have wider appeal with men, woman and internationally.

Looks like that decision paid off pretty well.


Glenside, Pa.: Isn't Iron Man supposed to be one of the smartest guys in the world? How did he wind up locking his keys in his car here over the weekend?

Joe Quesada: Maybe he did it on purpose?


Menomonie, Wis.: I read a story that in the future, instead of selling rights to different movie studios, that Marvel Productions will be doing its own movies. The article said that this will enable different heroes to appear together in the same movie. That being said, how about a "Secret Wars" movie? Pretty please, with spider webs and repulsor rays on top?

Joe Quesada: Well the story is true as Marvel announced several years ago that we were now in the movie business and Iron Man is our very first.

While I suspect that you'll see these movies sharing a single universe, something like Secret War would be very problematic as its a story that hinges on many years of comics continuity and probably off putting and not very accessible to the casual fan.


Seattle: I know a Luke Cage movie is in development, but can you please make a Power Man/Iron Fist movie happen?

Joe Quesada: I'll head out west and stark breaking some fingers.

What's that they say, you can't take the New York out of the boy?


West Hartford, Conn.: Hey Joe, if today's Wall Street Journal can print that an Iron Man sequel is planned for release in spring 2010, a Thor release in summer 2010, and Captain America in 2011, how come you don't know about it?

Joe Quesada: Because while I am aware of many of these things, I don't feel it's appropriate for me to confirm them in stone as I don't run Marvel West.

I'm sure Kevin Feige could answer hundreds of questions about our comics but since it's not his division he would only answer some of the questions in the broadest of term.

Nothing more nothing less, just common courtesy within our company.

Also, I would feel horrible if I got a detail wrong.


Silver Spring, Md.: Do you think any of the Civil War stuff will be used in the upcoming movies?

Joe Quesada: As of this moment, I doubt we would do that as it is a story that would only work if there was a solidified shared universe in our movies, which while we're heading that way, will take some time to establish.


Arlington, Va.: What do you think of the TV show Heroes? Do you feel like they are treading too much on your turf? Do you wish you would have come up with the idea for the show yourself? I enjoy it, although it's lost a little steam.

Joe Quesada: I love Heroes and while it does have ideas that have been common in comics for a very long time, I feel it's done wonders for the mainstreaming of our genre.


Shady Side, Md.: First let me say that I saw Iron Man Friday night and loved it!!! Thought it was one of the finest transitions to screen in awhile. Also loved the cliffhanger after the credits! My question is this. In comics you have crossovers all the time. Different heroes meeting up and or tag teaming villains. Will Marvel Studios be doing that in the movies?

Joe Quesada: Yes, I'm pretty sure that's the idea behind the (SPOILER WARNING) tag right after the credits.

By the way, if you've seen the movie and haven't stuck past the first half of creds, you missed a very cool reveal and hint of things to come.

Joe Quesada: Yes, I'm pretty sure that's the idea behind the (SPOILER WARNING) tag right after the credits.

By the way, if you've seen the movie and haven't stuck past the first half of creds, you missed a very cool reveal and hint of things to come.


Wheaton, Md.: Do you think there will be an Avengers movie in the future? I would love to see a movie with Iron Man, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, etc. together.

Joe Quesada: Yes, there's one coming but as for characters, well, you may be able to guess at a few, but I'm not saying.


Alexandria, Va.: How did Robert Downey Jr. end up getting cast as Iron Man? He seems like such a stretch, at least in theory. I definitely would never have expected to see him in a comic book movie. Yet the reviews have been great. Whose idea was it to cast him?

Joe Quesada: I'm not sure of the whole story as I wasn't present for the final decision. I do know that I was called by Kevin Feige and asked of what I thought of Downey. I told Kev that I thought it was inspired casting as i feel he's the greatest living American actor today and I was a huge fan of his and would see him in anything.

How 'bout this, I'm such a huge Downey fan that i actually watched Ally McBeal because he was on it.

Anyone want to question my fantitude?


Falls Church, Va.: How many more "Iron Man" movies are you all planning to put out? I really liked the movie but I don't want the series to get played out by the time the 3rd one comes around (i.e., Spiderman, Shrek, X-Men, Pirates).

Joe Quesada: I'll be honest with you, the only thing that plays a franchise out are bad sequels. I think that as long as you keep making good ones, fans will respond and feel eager and reenergized to see each installment.


14th Street: Mr. Quesada, just want to let you know that the audience went CRAZY at the special bonus scene at the end of "Iron Man." (I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the movie yet). Is that project in development and is that VERY COOL ACTOR going to play the lead?

Joe Quesada: Hmmm, he might, rabbit, he might.

I know, I suck.


Seattle: After years and years of relatively bad superhero movies (I'm looking specifically at the late 80's/early 90's Captain American and Punisher films), Marvel and DC films have more or less gotten on track. There are still hiccups now and again (thinking about that Travolta Punisher film -- what a dog!), but the success of X-Men, Superman, Spider-Man, new Batman, and now Iron Man films both critically and financially has to feel pretty good.

You've touched on this, but can you describe some of the factors that have made recent superhero films so much better than those of 10-20 years ago?

Joe Quesada: To me the simple answer is staying true to the source material. These characters have been around for forty, fifty, in some cases sixty years, there has to be some reason they stood the test of time to become as iconic as they have.

Yet, sometimes Hollywood looks at them and forget this and thinks that they need to reinvent them for the screen. Either that or they're embarrassed that they're making a comic book movie. Donner understood this when he made the original Superman movie, that's why it was the benchmark for so long.

I would venture to guess that if Spider-man had been made 20 years ago, they wouldn't have gone with the red and blue costume. Meanwhile Sam knew that there was nothing wrong with Spidey, it worked and it's worked for a very long time. Sure, a nip and a tuck has to be done here and there to make it work in less than two hours, but staying close to the source material is key.

Let me add, that the red and blue Spidey suit is like crack for little kids. If you've ever had the pleasure of walking with a child and they see that Spidey suit either on a toy or an item, it's like SHINY PENNY!!!! Look, daddy Spider-man!


Ithaca, N.Y.: Given their box office success, comic book films are clearly mainstream "acceptable." However, comic books themselves are still stigmatized as being for "nerds" or "geeks." As a Marvel editor, does that frustrate you? Or are Marvel's pockets deep enough that those kinds of stigmatizations are unimportant?

Joe Quesada: While I think that was very true several years ago, that stigma has quickly changed and continues to do so as more and more people are reading comics.

Add to that the fact that nerd culture has gotten sexy as well. You know that nerd sitting across from you in biology, well he or she may be the next Bill Gates!

Oh yeah, we nerds RULE!!!!


Understandable...: Too many characters. I did not think of that. Maybe we could just get the Beyonder to appear in Spidey Four, then, eh? Or will be there be a Spidey Four?

Joe Quesada: Spidey is produced by Sony so it's nothing that i could comment on intelligently.

Hey, no intelligence jokes, I hear someone snickering.


Springfield, Va.: On the Itchy and Scratchy CD-ROM, is it possible to get out of the dungeon without using the Wizard Key?

Joe Quesada: No.


Glenside, Pa.: I haven't been to Iron Man yet (I will, I promise) but the teaser after the credits is all over the internet; Yahoo featured it as one of its lead stories today. It's not a "spoiler", it's encouraging to people who enjoyed the movie and those who have been long-time fans.

Actually I have a question - I am a long-time subscriber to Spider-Man (thanks for tripling my cost), more than 15 years. How come some issues of the monthlies, like Hulk, arrive before the comic stores get them and others arrive late? BTW, DC doesn't have this problem, they're always late.

Joe Quesada: The funny thing is that while the bump in the credits is out there on the net, if I had mentioned it hear, someone would have yelled, "how about a spoiler warning, dude?!"

I'll be honest with you, the whole subscription department is just that, a department that I have no idea about.

That said, if you contact me via e-mail I'll send it along to the appropriate people who can answer your question.


Silver Spring, Md.: Iron Man was great, thank you! It made up for X-Men 3! I really worry about a Captain America film being true to the character. I think if you follow the Cap I love from the Jack Kirby era and up to the Civil War Cap, you will risk alienating some Red State fans of the Captain. However, how can you possibly make a film that remains true to a character and appeals to the widest demographic?

In the comics, especially in the Civil War, you guys had to make some tough choices with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers that probably left some people cold but which remained true to the characters and served the overall story. Kirby's Captain America in some small way defined patriotism for me as a child in the 1970s -- perhaps a different kind of patriotism than what that term means now in some quarters. Thanks!

Joe Quesada: I won't argue with you, it's definitely going to be tricky, but at the end of the day it's going to have to rely completely on story and great writing.

Cap is a man from a different time and I think that the things that he stood for back in the forties are still ideals that we all pretty much admire to this day, so from that standpoint, I think we need to hold true to that aspect of his character in order to make sure he has the widest possible appeal.


Gambrills, Md.: I'm over 40 so forgive me if I'm more out of touch with story lines than when I was a kid, but in the DVD Ultimate Avengers, Thor is portrayed as an environmentalist, Greenpeace-lovin', ale-swillin' Thunder God who almost kicks Hulk back to you know where. Is that the way his character has developed over the years and is that what we can expect from a Thor movie? If so, I'm there!

Joe Quesada: That's how he has been portrayed in the Ultimate Universe. In the regular Marvel Universe, Thor is more akin to the classic version. As for the movie, while there will be tweaks, I suspect you'll see more of the traditional Marvel U version.


Woonsocket, R.I.: Any thoughts on the possibility of a cross-over movie with DC some day? Has this ever been discussed at Marvel?

Joe Quesada: I don't see this happening any time soon.


Washington, D.C.: I have a vague idea of what's going on in the Marvel universe and pick up a few issues here and there (like the Civil War series). A friend told me that a powerful executive at Marvel who shall remain nameless came up with a story line in which Spider Man's no-longer-secret identity became secret again in return for Peter Parker's marriage being erased from history. Say it isn't so, Joe. If so, why?

Joe Quesada: Oh it's so.

I've done numerous articles and interviews on the subject and quite honestly I just don't have the time to go through it again here. But you can check out my five part interview that I did earlier this year on Comic Book Resources or check out my weekly Myspace Column, MyCup of Joe.

The short answer: Spidey works best as a single character than a married one.


Comics Boy: Did you see the article on Cracked.com regarding Unnecessary Laws All Comic Book Movies Must Follow? #8: In the first movie, the origin must take up half the film, then the story you want to see begins. That was true in Iron Man.

Joe Quesada: Well, if Crack published a set of rules, then we must be golden.

Formula doesn't matter to me. Shakespeare followed classical structure in his writing as did the Beatles in their music, it's what you do within it that makes it work or not.


Atlanta, Ga.: I'm a long time Iron Man fan and absolutely loved the movie. Using Stane/Iron Monger was definitely a blast from the past! I have to ask though, if anyone had second thoughts about using the stereotypical Arab terrorists as villains? It seemed a little too easy, and brought to mind all of those 80's era us vs. the Commies action movies. Thanks

Joe Quesada: I heard the comment about Arabs in a few places, but if you listen to Yinsin early on the movie, he mentions the fact that they speak dozen of languages implying, quite clearly, that their captors are all made up many nations.

Also, when you look at who the ultimate bad guy was, it was an American named Obadiah.


Alexandria, Va.: Spider-Man One More Day! A lot of people talk negative about One More Day and Brand New Day but I like to look at the positive! I get to save about $10 a month now I can either pocket or spend on other comics!

Seriously, I still don't see what you were thinking...

Joe Quesada: Sorry you feel that way.

That said, Brand New Day is selling like gangbusters, you're missing out on some great Spidey stories.

What i don't understands is that nothing has changed in Spider-Man outside of the fact that he isn't married anymore (MJ isn't dead) and that there is so much more soap opera and drama in his life.


Alexandria, Va.: If you think about it, Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Starks is not stretch. Boozy, womanizing, playboy. He's had real life experience!

Joe Quesada: We all have a past ;-)

I've met Robert on several occasions and let me add to his list, he is a hell of a nice guy and completely genuine. he's also completely into Iron Man


Wheaton, Md.: Joe, I have to ask - why wouldn't Marvel ever let Iron Man join the Justice League? Can you imagine how unstoppable they would have been - the '27 Yankees of the superhero world! For shame, sir!

Joe Quesada: Because based on how well Marvel comics and movies do next to the competition, that's an arrangement that would only work in DC's favor ;-)

Stop me now, I'm out of control!


Silver Spring, Md.: Do you see the Internet changing the distribution of the comics the way it has changed newspapers, i.e. more of an online subscription base?

Joe Quesada: Yes, I think it will help broaden the fan base and get comics out to more people who perhaps don't have access to or live hundreds of miles away from a comic retailer.

By the way, if you've found me so informative and charming that you're just dying to check out what all of this comic book hub bub is about and you're wondering where your nearest comic retailer is located, call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK for the store nearest you.


Joe Quesada: Okay, gang, I'm out, i had a blast chatting with all of you but I have some very important meetings to run to.

Doctor Doom hates being kept waiting in reception.

Be well and I'll see you in the funnybooks!



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