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AICN COMICS Q & @ PART TWO with Marvel EIC Joe Quesada on SPIDER-MAN Brand New Day!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here from AICN Comics. Last Friday we brought you the first part of our “Brand New Day” interview with the people behind the new direction and new status quo for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. The book will now be released thrice monthly with rotating creative teams and focus more on Spidey’s supporting cast and what made Spidey one of the most popular comic book icons ever. The steps made to enact this change, though, has been somewhat controversial. If the Talkbacks from last week’s interview with writer Dan Slott and editor Steve Wacker are any indication of the overall mood of fandom, there are quite a few people up in arms about the whole thing. Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada agreed to answer some burning questions on the hearts and minds of @$$holes and Talkbackers alike. Let’s see what he has to say…
@$$Holes (@):You've made your feelings about Spider-Man well known regarding the changes that come about in "Brand New Day." How do you balance your own personal preferences and beliefs towards a specific project or character with what the writer or the public asks for?

Joe Quesada (JQ): Well, for starters you would have to understand how I manage here at Marvel. I have a lot of personal beliefs about things, some have been implemented, some have not. No decision here at Marvel is made in a vacuum and I certainly have never made a decision here and pulled rank or thrown my weight around demanding that it’s my way or the highway, that’s simply not how I work.
To be clear, the idea that Peter Parker is a better character and that Spider-man stories are much more compelling with a single Peter is not something unique to me. There are many, many people here at Marvel, past and present who know this to be true.
So, like any idea we have here at Marvel, the balancing act is very simple, we ask each other questions, we look at the pros and cons of every idea and then we decide if it’s the best thing to do.
Also, while I completely understand that there will be some that don’t like this decision, it’s not something that was a surprise to us. We knew full well what the reaction was going to be. That said, we have to go by what we feel will actually provide our fans with the best stories possible and with nearly 100% accuracy, these are the things that fandom tends to be the most hostile about. I completely understand of course as all of these things offer change and it’s change that stirs the fanbase, but it’s also change that keeps the universe fresh and our fans engaged.

@: There seems to be something of a conflict between the two phrases "stories that matter" and "illusion of change." The balancing act between the two must be a difficult thing to pull off since one promotes change in order to make a story resonate and be worthwhile, while the other maintains a status quo so that the character doesn't stray too far as to be unrecognizable. How do you walk this tightrope?

JQ: It’s a tough thing to do, but it’s easier to do when you have smart people around you. I have an incredible staff here at Marvel and we discuss things such as this all the time. We get pitched crazy ideas with our characters all the time, but you do have to be cautious. What we try to do is to make sure that the things we do don’t put us in a place where it does damage to a character in a way that is next to impossible to repair. I don’t mind straying from the original concept at times, that’s the sort of thing that makes for a fun storyline, it’s when you go to that place and then find that there’s no good way back that is ultimately damaging. A loose example I’ve used in the past is giving Daredevil back his sight. While that would make for a fun few issues, if we did it in a way that was impossible to retcon, I think people would get quite bored of DD stories after a short while and we would have to consider the character broken.

@: I've noticed recently a lot of creative input coming from editorial, specifically the EIC, on the direction of Spider-Man's ongoing adventures. Have you ever thought of writing the book yourself (other than the last few pages of ASM #545, that is)?

JQ: Not quite sure where you’re getting that from, but Editorial has had no more or less input on this current Brand New Day Spider-Man run than any other time. The only difference is that the book is being written by a team of writers, much like a TV show. So, a lot of the big planning for the book happens in a writers room with the editors present. As matter of fact, I wasn’t even at the last Spider-Man summit if you want to speak about me specifically.
Also, every year we have two to three huge Creative Summits in which creators and editors go off site to work on the big universe wide plans of the Marvel U, but that’s been happening here for years and years.
Regardless, I don’t think I’ve had more or less of a hand in Spider-Man or any other character now than I have in the past. The thing to remember is that even though I wear the EIC hat, I was a creator long before ever doing this job, so I have always been an active participant in the stuff we do and I come to this job with a different skill set and experiences. I think that that’s probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve brought to Marvel in my position along with the fact that I also know what it’s like to be on the other side of the table.
As for writing a story myself, I honestly don’t know, I’ve never thought about writing a Spidey story.

@: You've ventured into creator owned territory with ASH. Can you describe the differences you've noticed working with a character you've created versus handling a character with forty years of history? How much consideration to continuity do you assign to a specific character with a longterm standing in the public eye?

JQ: Of course you do have to keep an eye on history, but you always do better with longstanding characters if you move forward rather than spending too much time looking back. I firmly believe that when the industry as a whole does too much looking back, it hurts itself. What ends up happening is that you spend way too much writing love letters to the creators who inspired you and not enough attention to the audience that wants stories that belong to them.
There are certainly times when you use continuity as a touchstone and that’s the advantage that long standing characters have. These touchstones can be used as marketing tools to the long time reader, but you have to be careful because if you go back to the well too often you can end up alienating the newer ones. There are certain ways to appease both types of readers, but you have to remain ever cognizant of it. Over the years here at Marvel we’ve referred to it as getting tangled up in our own super hero underwear. It’s something that we point out to one another when we get too mired in our own continuity and start writing too many stories that have nothing to do with the here and now.

@: Going forward with "Brand New Day", how will the writers be dealing with the fact that Peter and Mary Jane are now the kind of people who are willing to quite literally make a deal with the devil? Will the ramifications of that deal have long-term affects on the title going forward, with Peter and Mary Jane trying to cope with it, or was it essentially just a mechanism to get the characters back where you felt they needed to be?

JQ: First, I think you have to look at the circumstances and how this decision we made by Peter and MJ.
Let’s take Aunt May off the table for a second, lets just say it was some random woman.
Mephisto pops up and says to Peter, “See that woman over there, she was hit accidentally by a bullet that was intended for you because you unmasked yourself and someone wanted you dead. Look, I know you don’t know her, a perfect stranger, but I can save her life, I just want your marriage.”
How would we all feel if Peter said, “nah, sorry, let her die.”
While every story is a mechanism to get a character from point A to point B, I think this offered an interesting conundrum and put Peter and MJ in a no win situation but in a situation in which they valued human life above themselves and isn’t that the heroic thing to do? Also, in a lot of ways, this is no different than the fact that Peter allowed the robber to walk free only to find that that self same robber kills his Uncle Ben. Aunt May was shot because of his choosing to unmask in Civil War, wouldn’t one think that the memory of his making a mistake that led to the death of his dear uncle would be fresh in his mind? Would he make the same mistake twice, only this time knowingly?
Moving forward, I don’t think this will be an issue for the two characters as they remember nothing of the deal and we’re going to be spending more time looking forward than back.

@: Quite honestly, if people don't like the changes made to Spider-Man or to the Avengers or the Hulk or whoever, the ultimate way to communicate that distaste is through sales. Under your tenure there have been some pretty dramatic changes to the status quo to many of Marvel's top tier characters. Yet despite the opinions for or against a status quo shaking decision made in any of these titles, sales still seem to be steady and usually (and more accurately) skyrocket. How do you explain this? Are comic book fans (and reviewers) just a bunch of whiners who like to complain no matter what the change?

JQ: LOL! No, that’s not it at all. I love the fact that people are passionate enough about what we do, it means we’re engaging them and ultimately entertaining them. Where I scratch my head is when some accuse us or me personally of wanting to destroy the Marvel U. I mean, lets think about this for a second, why would I want to do that? My sole goal is to keep our fans entertained, to provide them with the best comics experience imaginable. That’s all, nothing more, nothing less.
The one thing to realize is that when you think about every hallmark, watershed moment in the history of comics, whether that be at Marvel, DC or anywhere, they all have one thing in common.
Change to the status quo.
Sometimes that change can be a back to basics, but it’s change nevertheless. Back in the day, DC received tons of fan backlash over Crisis, but it rejuvenated the DCU and brought it back to a place where it was exciting for their readership. I should know, I was a huge fan of DC at the time. But that’s just one example, I’m sure everyone has a favorite comic story. I defy anyone to look at their favorite comic story of all time and tell me that there wasn’t something that happened in that story that didn’t change everything as they knew it. But, it’s that very change that makes these types of stories and events so controversial. And look, I’m a fan, so I get it, I’ve been there, change is scary. While as a fan I love the status quo of the books I read, when I look at it clearly, it’s the shifts to the status quo that are what keep me coming back for more.

@: We've been told the deal with Mephisto simply made everyone forget Peter is Spider-Man. How does people forgetting who Spidey is bring Harry Osborn back from the dead? How does it eliminate organic shooters and other physical powers, restoring him to just mechanical shooters and spidey-sense? Are we going to see any of this addressed in ASM, or is it best to just accept the new status quo, not think about it, and go from there?


@: Can you tell us how this new status quo is going to affect Spider-Man's status on the New Avengers? Do you encourage or require collaboration between the staff of two books that share the same character?

JQ: Yes, absolutely we encourage that and keep in mind that now Spidey and the Avengers are all in the same editorial office, so this type of coordination and collaboration will naturally happen.
First off, it’s all one office, so there shouldn’t be a whole lot of coordination problems. I’m genuinely quite baffled by people who are asking if this means that Spidey can’t be a member of the New Avengers, though. It’s all fodder for stories. In point of fact, at one point Brian had written a scene in NEW AVENGERS dealing with the fact that the other Avengers suddenly didn’t know who Spidey was anymore, but the delays on “One More Day” caused us to scrap it. Maybe if Brian is cool with it, I could dig it out and we could give it to AICN as a special bonus or something.

@: The unmasking storyline of the last 18 months was supposed to be a huge deal for the character, but in the end it was only a big deal because of the media hubbub. Now it's clear it was never intended to last, since "Brand New Day" has been in the works for about as long.
This, in conjunction with so many other big changes over the last two or three years with Spidey, leads one to wonder how permanent his new status is. Can you assure us the new status quo will remain in place long term, or is it just as disposable as everything else we've seen recently?

JQ: I can assure you it’s going to remain in place for the long term.

@: Comic book fans can be a pretty fickle crowd and aren't afraid to let you know when they aren't happy (at least on the internet, that is). How do you manage working with characters that mean so much to so many, knowing that you're bound to piss off someone with ANY decision you make?

JQ: My first week as EIC, Tom Defalco (EIC from 1987-1994) stopped into my office and gave me the best advice I’ve ever had with respect to this position at Marvel. He said, “Joe, you’ll need to have a broad back for this job.” And he’s absolutely right, when I took this position I realized that from day one there would be a big target painted on my back, but that’s what comes with the territory.
What I go through here is no different than any EIC before me, the only big difference is that I’m the first to really have the world of the internet as a forum to work with and to contend with. While the net was certainly around before I took this job, it wasn’t as widespread in households as it is today. As for how do we manage to work with these characters? There’s really only one way, you have to do what you feel will make for the best stories possible. If you solely worry about fan reaction on the net or otherwise, before you know it, you may look around and wonder why your books aren’t selling.

@: I know you guys have been planning "Brand New Day" for a long time, and the delays with "One More Day" meant you could get even farther ahead on stories and art, which can help guarantee you meet your shipping schedule. I've heard you're several months ahead on everything, which is refreshing to hear. Are you viewing the team approach as an experiment for a year or so, to be reassessed later? If not, how do you go about keeping the quality of the writers and artists up to snuff long-term over the next four or five years?

JQ: That’s a great question. This is a huge experiment for us, while big props go out to DC for their handling of 52 and Countdown, the way this is different is that those are finite stories whereas Amazing Spider-Man is not. Ultimately, this thrice-monthly experiment is really exciting from that standpoint, because we’re not entering this with a date in mind where we can stop and take a breather. In the end, we’ll have to wait and see what happens, it’s not just about sales, it’s also man hours and manpower and possible exhaustion that we’ll have to evaluate down the road.
As far as talent goes, I think that if we rotate our teams properly, we’ll be able to keep the freshness and excitement up. If we don’t then I can simply fire Editor Steve Wacker and pass the blame onto him ;-)
That said, even if we’re able to keep the creators from feeling overwhelmed, which currently seems to be going well, it’s our staff that will always feel the pressure because they’re not taking issues off, they have to keep on plugging away.
Like I said, it’s going to be interesting to see where it takes us, my gut tells me it’s going to be completely AMAZING!

@: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

JQ: Thank you!
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