Joe Quesada

Posted: April 16, 2007
Lilja: So, you’re doing The Dark Tower as a comic?

Joe Quesada: Yes, we are.

Lilja: I have read the first issues and I really like what you have done with it.

Joe Quesada: Thank you so much.

Lilja: How did you get involved in the comic?

Joe Quesada: The deal was presented to me by my art publisher here Dan Buckley. Dan was in contact with Mr. King’s agent and they where discussing the possibilities of doing something and The Dark Tower came up. So, Dan asked what I thought. He thought it was a great idea to get in the business to publish Mr. King’s novels in adaptations of the stories. I thought it was great. I mean I always wanted to work with Stephen King so it was kind of a dream come through. And I also saw it as a way to have comics reach out further into the main stream.

Lilja: I understand you said at a Comic Con that you wanted to work with Stephen King and that that was what got the ball rolling.

Joe Quesada: Maybe, I don’t know. I like to think so. It was probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. A fan at a convention, I do panels on all the conventions I go to, and at one of the panels one of the fans asked me “What is the holy grail? If you can have one person do something at Marvel, who would it be?” I said, without a question “Stephen King would be the person I’d want here at Marvel”. Just to do something with him. And shortly after that we started hearing rumors that something was cooking so, I don’t know if one thing lead to another or if we where all thinking likeminded but I’m happy it happened regardless.

Lilja: You later also hinted that, I guess at a later Comic Con, that Marvel and a King would do something and online ramous started that the King it was actually Stephen King.

Joe Quesada: Yes, exactly. That was a fun thing to do because within the comic when you say The King or you say King people immediately think of Jack Kirby who’s known as the King of comics or King Kirby so it was actually an interesting promotional stunt we did because we where also doing a project with the Kirby family. With Jack Kirby’s daughter that involves old concepts that Jack had created before he passed away. So we where working with two Kings at the same time but that ad was really focusing on Stephen King. Then we released the news about the Kirby project and people thought “Well, that was what we were talking about” and then no, no we hit them in the head the second time with the Stephen King announcement.

Lilja: Where you surprised that people where guessing that it was actually Stephen King so fast?

Joe Quesada: No, it’s not a stretch. I think a lot of people thought about it but they said “ah, that couldn’t happen, there’s no way”. We have very ravenous fans that love what it is we do which I think is what’s make it such a wonderful marriage. I know that Stephen King fans are the same as Marvel fans. They wanna gobble up anything that Mr. King creates or has a hand in so somebody is always gonna guess right when you start the guessing game so it didn’t trouble me at all. I was happy there was a buzz going around about the actual possibility of it.

Lilja: It sure was. People where guessing what stories there would be if it was actually Stephen King. Was it Stephen King that suggested The Dark Tower?

Joe Quesada: I’m assuming it came from Mr. King. We began the discussion with his agent but they were probably thinking about The Dark Tower. Mr. King was in the process of writing the last novel so… It was interesting because we at first thought we where doing straight adaptations of the novels. I thought it was cool but Mr. King said “No, no, we’re gonna do some new material, some material that we touch upon in the novels but never went into great details but we will in the comics”. I thought “Wow, that’s it. That’s what’s gonna make this beyond special at this point”. Because now it’s not just…you know if you’re a fan of The Dark Tower you’re like “yeah, let me see what it looks like in comic form”. You may wanna do that or you may not wanna do that but now if you’re a fan of The Dark Tower and you feel like the story is complete your like “now, wait a minute, their telling more stories?”. I think that is a great thing.

Lilja: That is very nice. Are you nervous about when the first arc is done and you’re heading for the new material? How it will be received by the fans?

Joe Quesada: No, I’m not because this all comes from the head of Stephen King. If Mr. King wasn’t involved I’d be a little more nervous because now we’re adapting, we’re trying to get into his head, try to figure out what it is he may want to do. He is so involved in the process. Everything from looking at the art, reading the final scripts after the plot comes in. And also Robin Furth is involved to and I’m sure you’re aware of how important she is to The Dark Tower, so the whole King family is involved in this, and the Marvel family’s involved so I think between what it is that they do well and what we do well and we understand what each one do well and we stand out of each others way. I think it’s a recipe for success. At least I hope so. I hope The Dark Tower fans are happy because I know that the comic fans are really happy. Especially those that haven’t picked up The Dark Tower books are really blown way by it. What I hear from a lot of fans is that “I have to go and pick up this books, this looks really cool”.

Lilja: I’m interested in hearing the reaction from people who hasn’t read the books. Do they have any problems following the story?

Joe Quesada: That was the key for when we did the first issue. The Dark Tower is a huge saga with hundreds of characters. We wanted to make sure that the first cast we introduced was hopefully the most important characters going forward from this point. But also, if you have read the books, you’ll notice that we took a lot of time to try to introduce everyone properly. If you’re coming in to this for the first time you’ll understand who the players are and get at least a sense of who they are moving forward.

Lilja: Are you worried at all over the size of this project? There are going to be something like 30 issues, right?

Joe Quesada: No, in the business I’m in we produce approximately 70 to 80 comics a month and about 80 - 90% of those are serialized so 30 comics doesn’t really face me one way or the other. To be honest with you I go like “That’s it? Just 30?” [laugh]

Lilja: [laugh] I’m sure there will be more after those 30.

Joe Quesada: I’d like to think so. We’re having a lot of fun and on our end we’d love to do more but at the end of the day it’s really up to Mr. King.

Lilja: What is your role in creating the comics? Are you supervising every move or…

Joe Quesada: I couldn’t supervise every move of all our books. As the editor in chief I overlook the entire line and make sure that the quality of the books are at the top, at the very best they can be. That the talent that works for us is happy, that we go after the best talent, artist, and writers what ever that may be. So, I’m responsible for all the books. With The Dark Tower I make sure to look over a shoulder every once in a while but the other thing is that The Dark Tower was handed to one of our top editors here, Ralph Macchio who has been at Marvel for over 30 years. And has also read the books through and through. He was lobbying to be the editor on the project, he loves the books.

Lilja: How did you prepare for the project? Had you read the books before or did you have to read up on them?

Joe Quesada: To be honest with you I wasn’t a reader of The Dark Tower. While I had read Stephen King’s books The Dark Tower was one that I hadn’t gotten to. The way that I prepared for the project was very, very simple. During the time that we find out and when I was going to meet Mr. King there were no way I was going to be able to read all the books. So, what I did was that I took the first book… One of the things I wanted to impress Mr. King with is the fact that… If you haven’t picked up a comic book lately, especially over the last five years…the world of comic has really changed considerably. The way the art looks, the quality of the writing. Everything about modern day comics is completely different and much more sophisticated and more beautiful then I think most people remember it. Most people remember it as sort of quaint little art form that was mostly geared toward kids and that’s not really what we’re all about any more…

So, one of the things I wanted to do was…I had taken the first book and was obviously very familiar with the opening lines which is now famous and decided that what I was going to do was create a three page…just do the first three pages of what would be in the comic book if Mr. King wanted us to produce it. So, I broke down that first line, and broke it down to a three page little vignette, which are by the way the three first pages of the book as you see them now. And then took that and presented it to the artist and colorist who we wanted to do the book, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. I said, “Hey guys, when Mr. King comes here he isn’t expecting this but I’m willing to present him with this piece”. So, they did a beautiful job and then we took that and we blow them up to almost like poster size. So when Mr. King came into the office I said “I know we don’t have a deal or anything but I just wanted to show you what’s possible” and I presented him with the artwork and showed it to him and he was floored by it. And I know we had him because when he was leaving the meeting he said “by the way, do you mind if I take those boards?” That was very cool!

Lilja: Yeah, I was very surprised by how good it looked. And I specially like, and I don’t know if this is common in the comics now, how the illustrations go all the way from left to right…

Joe Quesada: That is more a stylistic thing that happens depending on the artist. But yes, it gives a panoramic, cinematic kind of feel to it.

Lilja: Yeah, kind of a widescreen feeling.

Joe Quesada: Exactly.

Lilja: It looks very good.

Joe Quesada: And then the computer coloring, which is now a staple of comic books today. It’s not that flat coloring that most people remember.

Lilja: I read that you originally planned to do two different versions of the comic. One as they are now and one with just Jae’s sketches.

Joe Quesada: That’s something Jae wanted at one point. He had never really been digitally painted. He was just of the traditional pen and ink method in comics. And I was the one pushing Jae to try the digital painting, I’m gonna give you the best guy in the business Richard Isanove who has digitally painted me in the past. And Jae said “OK but I want a second version with the ink” and I said “yeah, OK fine”. Then when he saw the digital painting he was like “Wow, forget the other version, this is the version I want out there”. So, that’s the way Jae tells the story.

Lilja: And you actually did one of the covers?

Joe Quesada: Yes, I did one of the covers.

Lilja: Did you actually do the cover yourself?

Joe Quesada: Yeah, I draw it and it was digitally painted by Richard Isanove as well.

Lilja: It’s very nice. I really like it.

Joe Quesada: Thank you.

Lilja: I understand that at the beginning it was only meant to be different covers for the first issue and just one cover for the rest?

Joe Quesada: I don’t know about that. You have to ask our marketing people. I don’t know what the plan was with that.

Lilja: Are you worried at all that some people may think that different covers are just a way for Marvel to squeeze more money out of this?

Joe Quesada: You know the alternative covers phenomenon has been with comics for the last 20 years. The people that really appreciate those are our retail partners who hold them as premiums. But at the end of the day we’re not forcing anyone to buy anything. We just put them out there and some people really enjoy collecting the multiple covers. And the truth of the matter is that those additional covers are mostly for the comic book shops. When these books are compiled and sent to the bookstores they’ll go out like regular books and they’ll probably have the additional covers on the inside where you can see them if you want to see what they were all about.

Lilja: It’s very nice to see the different covers because, as far as I have seen, they are very different from each other.

Joe Quesada: Yeah. The other thing is that we have so many artists. So many of our top artists at Marvel are such huge fans of Stephen King and The Dark Tower that they were all a bit jealous that we figured, here is a chance to get a bunch of them to do some covers as well.

Lilja: Your also releasing something called Gunslingers Guidebook.

Joe Quesada: Right.

Lilja: Can you tell me what that is?

Joe Quesada: It’s particularly for the fans that are not really aware of The Dark Tower, that are learning about it for the first time. It’s just a guide book that shows you who the characters are, the world of The Dark Tower, just more emerging into the world.

Lilja: Is it something like Robin’s The Dark Tower Concordance?

Joe Quesada: Yeah, it’s very similar to that only with significant more illustrations.

Lilja: Are you gonna do more special issues like the Guidebook?

Joe Quesada: Again, I’m not 100% sure. I think we take it one at a time and see how it goes.

Lilja: Also, at the last Comic Con you mentioned that you might try The Stand next as a comic.

Joe Quesada: That was actually Mr. King. He said “you know I’m having fun with these guys let’s do The Stand”. And he said it in the middle of the panel and the crowd got crazy.

Lilja: Is there any truth to it or is it just something he said?

Joe Quesada: As far as he’s concerned it’s the truth and when he said it to me I’m like “let’s go! If you wanna do it, let’s go.” You know I love working with Stephen King and I love the guy, he is a great guy. It’s a joy hanging out with him.

Lilja: Do you think you can convince him to do something original for you, something that hasn’t been published before?

Joe Quesada: You know that is putting the cart way before the horse. We have one issue of The Dark Tower now, he’s talking about possible doing The Stand, I’m happy with what we’re getting but believe me, if he ever want to write or release a story, an original story as a comic book first I don’t think we would have a problem with that. [laugh]

Lilja: So your not gonna say “No”? [laugh]

Joe Quesada: No! [laugh]

Lilja: OK, it was very nice talking to you. Can you leave me with any scoop?

Joe Quesada: I will say this. One of the things I found most fascinating was at our first meeting with Mr. King. Again, I have sat across the table from many of the best writers in the business but there was something about Mr. King. When he started talking stories and he was creating some material for The Dark Tower. He sort of just sat there, he sort of looked up at the ceiling and it was almost as if the ideas was floating in front of him and he was plucking them out of mid air. And he just sat there and recited a story for us that he just made up on the spot. And it had the structure of a middle, beginning and end, a satisfying end. He sat there and like “is that good?” and we’re like “Yeah!” I have never seen anyone do anything like that, I mean he was really…it was magical. It’s the only way I can describe it. Absolutely magical.

Lilja: Yeah, he is very talented.

Joe Quesada: I would think that is an understatement [laugh]

Lilja: Yeah. [laugh] OK, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Joe Quesada: Thanks man, take care.