As Marvel’s Joe Quesada rides off into the sunset and closes the book on his decades long Marvel Comics career (okay, it’s inevitable there’s something coming out of the drawer, and probably some new variant covers) here’s a look at some of Quesada’s finest Marvel moments both recent and (sometimes very distant) past:
Ghost Rider #21 cover
Freelance hustlers have to hustle, and back in 1991 when Quesada was just starting in the business, this cover put him on Marvel’s map.
“It was my first maybe real foot-in-the-door at Marvel,” Quesada said. “I did it, and I said to myself, ‘This has to be it, right? This is not a typical Marvel cover, This has to get me noticed there and more work will start coming in, right?’ Well, someone must have liked it, ’cause the phone started ringing.”
Writer Peter David usually gets the lion’s share of the credit for 1993’s offbeat and well-remembered X-Factor #87 (opens in new tab) in which the members of X-Factor go see a psychiatrist, but Quesada, now well established as an artist, more than pulled his own weight as the issue’s artist with innovative layouts, great comedic and dramatic beats, and even a Ren & Stimpy pastiche in the issue.
Launch of Marvel Knights
Quesada and partner Jimmy Palmiotti established their own publisher, Event Comics, in 1994. In 1998, Marvel Comics, trying to emerge from bankruptcy, rolled the dice and contracted with Event for the Marvel Knights line, in which Quesada and Palmiotti relaunched four titles to great acclaim.
Fun fact: Quesada and Palmiotti ran a major bluff on Marvel. They started negotiating for control of the entire Marvel line, figuring Marvel would certainly “settle” for just four titles, which they were looking for all along.
The crown jewel of the Marvel Knights line was the new Daredevil (opens in new tab), written by filmmaker Kevin Smith, with art by Quesada and Palmiotti. Fun fact here: Smith tends to be verbose and had very little experience writing comics.
Smith’s first draft of the Daredevil #1 script was overlong, and Quesada asked him to trim it. Smith refused, so Quesada drew a page, and placed all of Smith’s word balloons and captions on the page. When Smith saw the art was almost all covered up…he got the picture and took a scalpel to the script.
Marvel Knights was a runaway success. Bill Jemas was brought in as a new company president to help Marvel get out of bankruptcy. Jemas asked Quesada how he might start another new line within Marvel that would be exciting and invigorating. Quesada mapped out a plan for bringing new talent to Marvel such as Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar.
Unbeknownst to Quesada, Jemas asked current Marvel editor-in-chief Bob Harras the same question, and Harras came up with a plan involving existing Marvel talent. The writing was on the wall, and by 2000, Harras was dismissed and Joe Quesada became Marvel’s new EiC.
Launch of the Ultimate line
That plan with new-to-Marvel talent that got Quesada the editor-in-chief job? Might as well put it into place! In 2000, the same year Quesada became EiC, Marvel launched the Ultimate Marvel line, with new, younger versions of Spider-Man and the X-Men in a new universe, stripped of continuity, featuring covers by Quesada. The Ultimate books became easy jumping-on points, immediate top sellers, and the talk of the industry.
Fun fact: Brian Michael Bendis was a writer and artist on his own crime fiction books from Image Comics. When Quesada called him to inquire about working for Marvel, Bendis was surprised, expressing that he didn’t think he was a polished enough artist to work for Marvel.
“I agree, your art is terrible,” Quesada said. “But as a writer, you’re brilliant.”
A mere six days after becoming Marvel’s editor-in-chief…Quesada was home sick running a very high fever. Undeterred, he dashed off an email to the staff with dozens of stream-of-consciousness ideas in preparation for an editorial meeting coming up in less than two weeks.
In the memo, Quesada called for the return of Marvel’s trade paperback program, a new read-out system for editorial, making letters pages fun again, and most importantly, bringing assistant editors more into the process, and giving them credit in the books.
Quesada says he barely remembered typing the memo and hitting “send,” but most all the ideas were quickly implemented, and helped Marvel’s growth tremendously.
Cup o’ Joe
Quesada grew up on Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics, and was a huge fan of Stan’s ability to build a rapport with the audience through “Bullpen Bulletins” and “Stan’s Soapbox.”
And so Quesada came up with ‘Cup o’ Joe, his own spin on fan interaction. Through the years, Cup o’ Joe took on life as a column in Marvel books, YouTube videos, a MySpace column (remember MySpace?) and live events at conventions, all giving fans a peek behind the curtain at goings-on at Marvel.
‘Avengers Disassembled’/New Avengers (and what it begat)
By 2004, with the Ultimate line finding success, along with Quesada’s other hot priorities of “fix Spider-Man, fix the X-Men,” the time came to pay attention to the rest of the Marvel Universe, with the Avengers as the focal point.
‘Avengers Disassembled (opens in new tab)‘ cast the team into chaos, and led to their disbanding. The New Avengers (opens in new tab) were born soon thereafter, bringing in some of Marvel’s most commercial characters, notably Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Thing. These characters were thought un-Avenger-able by most fans and longtime staffers, but the mix worked, with massive sales and acclaim. The ‘Disassembled’ event begat Civil War (opens in new tab), which begat Secret Invasion (opens in new tab), and major yearly Marvel tentpole events became part of the publishing plan.
Perhaps even more importantly, the “uniting all things Marvel” concept became a regular occurrence, and a driving force in the then-nascent Marvel Cinematic Universe as well.
Chief creative officer/executive VP and creative director
In 2011, Quesada shed his role as editor-in-chief at Marvel, becoming the company’s chief creative officer. This allowed Quesada to put his fingers in all sorts of new pies, including Marvel theme park rides, stunt shows, TV shows, and even allowing him to direct short webisodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Quesada’s job was later retitled as executive VP and creative director, and it’s the role he remained in until June 1, 2022.