Archive for Joe Quesada

A History of Violence

I really enjoyed Maxo Romero’s post last week about the current grim-and-gritty trend in comics. It’s too good to excerpt, so go read it, then come back. I’ll wait for ya, don’t worry.

(clips toenails, prepares Bruschetta, builds a stereo cabinet)

Hey, you’re back!

Well, I agreed with a lot of what Maxo had to say. I haven’t seen “Kick-Ass,” and I probably never will. I’m an official member of the “Mark Millar Licks Goats” anti-fan club — and if he wrote the comic version of “Kick-Ass,” I wasn’t much interested in watching the movie, either. The fact that the movie is a flop is the type of thing that puts the sunshine in my orange juice.

I really am expecting Marvel’s “Heroic Age” and DC’s “Brightest Day,” despite their promises of happier, more fun comics, to very quickly devolve back into random bloodletting, cheap and easy character death/resurrection, and general sociopathy.

I hope that readers will react unhappily to this — getting sold a specific bill of goods and picking up something that’s completely different isn’t a good way to keep business healthy in most industries — but I don’t know that the readers will actually react that way. After all, the “Kick-Ass” comic sold very, very well, and it wasn’t just Millar and Joe Quesada buying extra copies.

The reason we get comics that read like they were written by sociopaths is pretty much because we’ve got sociopaths writing comics and sociopaths running the comics companies. If Mark Millar could convince Joe Quesada that he could sell a series that featured Spider-Man raping a baby, the series would get approval in a hot minute. If Judd Winick could convince Dan DiDio to let him take over “Tiny Titans” and turn it into the angst-and-murderfest that the mainstream “Teen Titans” comic is, there’s nothing that’d stop ’em from making it so.

But of course, as should be obvious to anyone familiar with this blog, I read a lot of horror comics, with a lot of violence, gore, death, and dismemberment. I was a fan of “Blackest Night,” which was chock full o’ death and blood and gore. I’m a fan of other comics — and fiction in general — that features violence, sex, cussin’, outright blasphemy, and worser stuff. Am I a hypocrite? Well, I reckon I am, but not about this.

Context really is the big thing here. And not just context-within-story (which is important, but can be bent like crazy in the service of smacktastic awesomeness), but context-within-character. Does Spider-Man work as a character who’d make a deal with the devil? Does Deadman work as a character who’s not dead? Does Prometheus work as a character who’d let an utter schmuck like Green Arrow get the drop on him?

And context-within-artform, too. I accept levels of violence within horror and alt-superhero comics that are entirely inappropriate within mainstream superhero comics. I can deal with mutilation and child death in comics like “Umbrella Academy” or “Crossed,” but not in anything with “Justice League” in the title. You see a title set in the mainstream Marvel or DC universes, and it should be expected that it comes with an unspoken promise that you won’t get something awash in pointless gore and contempt for the audience. Sure, there are exceptions — you can’t have “Blackest Night” without zombies. You can’t have the Punisher without mass murder. You can’t have “Nextwave” without snarking at comics readers. You can’t have Spider-Man without the death of Gwen Stacy.

I’m not saying DC and Marvel comics should all be kid-friendly. There’s a place for all-ages work and a place for more mature work and a place for work that’s drenched in violence, sex, and adult sensibilities — yes, even within mainstream superhero comics. But creators and publishers have to be mature enough to grasp what context they’re writing for — and far too many either can’t do that or are unwilling to make the effort. They’re not interested in writing stories — they’re interested in inflicting their psychoses on the readers.

I’ve got my problems with Alan Moore, but he writes within context. He can write violent comics like “Watchmen” and “From Hell” and “V for Vendetta,” but he knows that you write differently for “Tom Strong” and “Top 10” (which still had death and violence that made sense within the context of the TV police procedural). He knows who he’s writing for, and he respects the characters, the story, and his readers.

Writing within context is something that mature, competent writers do. Writing any blasted thing because “Oy, it’d be radikal and exxxxxtreme!” is something that immature hacks like Mark Millar, Jeph Loeb, and Brian Michael Bendis do.

Is there a solution for that? Heck if I know. You can’t talk sense to Quesada or DiDio — they both believe they were put on Earth to publish bad comic books. But maybe the only real solution is time — high quality work has a tendency to last — people remember it, recommend it, and help ensure that it sticks around. Low quality work is eventually either forgotten or held up for justified contempt and derision. How well is Rob Liefeld regarded today? That’s what Millar and his cohorts have to look forward to.

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(exasperated groan)

So Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada apologized because the teabaggers got added into an issue of “Captain America,” and for some reason, the teabaggers got mad, possibly because all they ever do is get mad, so Joe apologized because — I don’t know why.

Quesada hasn’t apologized to me yet for having Spider-Man sell his soul to the devil, or for cancelling “She-Hulk” and “Captain Britain” and “Marvel Adventures: The Avengers”… but all the crazy screaming people get apologized to because they got put into a comic book? No big surprise they’re yelling that his apology isn’t enough. I’m not sure what they want him to do — kill himself? Kill the writer? Blow up a federal building? Did Joe think the teabaggers were gonna go out and buy some comic books? Methinks not, man — once you’re the focus of the Two Minutes Hate, you never get back on their good side again.

So here’s my open letter to Big Joe Q — I’m sure he’ll be keen to read it. As long as he’s paying attention to tiny fringe groups with questionable sanity, I’m sure he’ll want to bookmark me and read me all the time:

“Dear Joe,

Please stop apologizing to the angry screaming people who hang teabags on their hats.

Ignore them, and they’ll forget about you as soon as they get distracted by whatever random object enrages them next. When you give them the attention they crave, they write your name down in their ‘These Guys Are Easy Marks Who We Can Get to Pay Attention to Us’ book, and they’ll just keep screaming at you.

P.S.: Jeph Loeb and Brian Bendis aren’t as great as you think they are. Please stop giving them so much work. Or any work. Good luck with the ‘Heroic Age’ stuff, but betwixt you and me, I reckon y’all will be right back to killing off B-list superheroes before the end of the year.

Hugs and kisses,
That Dude Who Writes ‘Hero Sandwich'”

I’d share with y’all my open letter to Dan DiDio at DC, but I don’t think y’all want to be exposed to quite that many F-bombs…

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A New Year of Horror

Well, it’s 2009. Not really feeling thrilled about it. One thing I learned long ago — every year is always worse than the last. There’s no reason to celebrate the new year — it’s just a reminder that time keeps passing, and that all our hopeful dreams for the future will inevitably end up as ashes and dust.

I came up with some predictions last year at this time, and they were generally wildly off-base, as most predictions are. The problem was that I tried to mix some optimism in with the pessimism, which isn’t a mistake I’ll make again.

Short-and-simple predictions:

Dan DiDio will stay on at DC, and Joe Quesada will stay on at Marvel. They’ll continue to make rotten comics, because their movies will make money, and their stockholders only care about how much money the movies make, not whether the comics are any good or not. Movies are big business — comics are small business.

More comics cancellations on the way, all for comics that don’t suck. Readers seem to hate comics that are good, and with the worsening economy, the publishers won’t be willing to stick with comics that don’t sell.

More giant crossovers on the way. Because the last thing you need in a rotten economy is a giant crossover that forces readers to spend their dwindling leisure dollars on badly-written crossovers that will be ignored next year anyway.

Bankruptcies ahoy. DC may be safe, because they’re part of Time-Warner. Marvel is a smaller fish, so they may be on shakier ground — on the other hand, the movies make lots of money, so that may help a lot. Lots of smaller publishers are probably on the verge already. I have no idea which ones, ’cause for some reason, they won’t let me look at their budgets and account info. But I think we’ll see some of them go belly-up.

Is that enough predictions? Probably so. Let’s hit a couple quick reviews. And just to stick with the bleak, depressing, pessimistic, staring-doom-in-the-face mood I’ve been working with, let’s look at a couple horror comics.


Crossed #2

We follow our small pack of survivors as they continue to try to avoid the attention of the Crossed — people who have become infected with a condition that turns them into psychotic, sadistic serial killers. The only way to tell one of the Crossed from a normal person is the bloody cross-shaped rash that develops on their faces. Anyway, our survivors make a narrow escape from a group of gun-slinging Crossed in which one of their number are injured by gunfire. They also discover two things about their adversaries: first, that the Crossed sometimes turn on each other when they can’t find anyone else to kill, and second, that the Crossed aren’t just giggling zombies — they can think, they can plan, and their strategies are, while twisted, dangerously effective.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Have I warned y’all before that this is not a comic for kids? I’ll do it again. Parents, feel free to enjoy this comic for all its horrifying, depressing beauty, but don’t go thinking all comics are for kids and leave it with your child’s Archie books. There’s nudity here, there’s a great deal of violence, there’s adult content galore. I’m not saying it’s a bad comic — this is an absolutely excellent comic. It has everything you want in horror, and one of these days, it’s going to get made into an outstanding horror movie. I highly recommend it for adults. I just don’t think you should give it to the kiddies.


Necronomicon #4

Well, I missed several issues of this one, but it looks like innocent collegian Henry Said is in over his head. The people he thinks of as his friends have captured an eldritch elder horror and plan to torture it to learn of its masters’ plans for the Earth. Henry’s compassionate nature leads him to wait ’til no one’s looking, then he frees the creature. This sets the Miskatonic University crew against him, and the creatures may still try to destroy them, despite Henry’s kindness. And more trouble is on the way — Henry’s football-loving friend Maxey may have been co-opted, the horrendous Mi-Go are still active, and the girl Henry loves, Rachel, is slated to have her brain removed and transported to another planet. Can Henry survive when a war between the Mi-Go and the shoggoths erupts around him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It really is a tribute to the writing on this that I was still able to catch on to what was going on and enjoy the heck out of it, even though I’d missed the entire middle of the story. You’ll get the most out of this story if you’re already pretty familiar with the pulp horror of H.P. Lovecraft, but if you aren’t, the story and plotline are still pretty clear. (And if you’re not familiar with Lovecraft’s cosmic horror yet — get ye to your local library or bookstore and start reading his stuff!)

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Shout at the Devil


Well! Spider-Man! “One More Day!”

What a screwup that was, huh?

For you non-comics people in the audience, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada decided that he didn’t like Spider-Man being married to Mary Jane Watson. They’ve been married since 1987, and a bunch of Marvel insiders decided pretty quickly that they didn’t like Spidey being married. They felt like it made him too domestic, less of a sad-sack hero. I don’t agree, but I guess they’re entitled to their opinions, no matter who wrong-headed they are.

So Marvel was stuck with a married Spider-Man for 20 years. In all that time, they couldn’t think of any way to make Spidey un-married. It never occurred to them that they could have the characters divorce. Can you believe that? Frankly, there are times I suspect that comic book creators have something wrong with their brains.

Anyway, finally, Marvel decides they’ve got the perfect way to un-marry their most popular character, and they kick off a four-issue storyarc called “One More Day” to get the job done. What did they do? What was their surefire, perfect, can’t-fail idea?

They had Spider-Man make a deal with the devil.

The background is that Spidey had revealed his secret identity as Peter Parker to the whole world. Someone tried to kill him and shot his Aunt May by accident. Peter couldn’t accept that his aunt could die, and Mephisto — Marvel’s version of Old Scratch himself — shows up and offers to save her life, in exchange for retroactively nullifying their marriage. And they actually agree to it. “Oh, sure, we’ll potentially damn our immortal souls just to give Peter’s elderly aunt a few more years of life. What could possibly be the downside to that?”

Let me repeat: There are times I suspect that comic book creators have something wrong with their brains.

So now, Peter and Mary Jane aren’t married. Peter’s a 30-year-old unemployed loser living in Aunt May’s house, and he’s got his secret identity back.

The big problem for Marvel is that this was an unbelievably bad idea. Fine, fine, they don’t want Spider-Man to be married — but in that case, just divorce him. There’s absolutely no reason to have your most popular, most marketed character shaking hands with the Prince of Darkness. Heck, Marvel’s even sanitized Ghost Rider to get rid of his demonic origins (True story — they now say he turns into a biker with a flaming skull because he’s possessed by an angel. Wha?!) so why have kid-friendly Spider-Man cutting deals with the Adversary?

Possibly worse, from a comic-book standpoint, is that it throws a major kink into Marvel’s continuity — and Quesada himself had bragged that the loss of Spidey’s secret ID was going to be permanent, with long-lasting effects. Now, not only is the secret identity back, but 20 years’ worth of stories may have disappeared into the Gulfs. Marvel claims everything turned out mostly the same, but it’s not like Mary Jane spent the last two decades sitting around doing nothing, and writers who aren’t familiar with the subtle differences between pre-Mephisto and post-Mephisto are going to make some pretty big mistakes pretty soon. And the last time someone did a major retroactive refit of Spider-Man’s continuity, they called it the Clone Saga — the least popular storyline of any Spider-Man comic ever.

The assumption going ’round with most Spidey-fans is that, as soon as Quesada gets shown the door, someone will work out some way to undo “One More Day” — they may not bring back the marriage, but they’ll certainly work out some way to erase the deal-with-the-devil aspects of the story and just give them a normal, mundane divorce.

And it’s gotten a lot more people talking about Joe Quesada — and not in any good ways either. People are saying a screwup this monumental is proof that he’s been running the company for too long. I expect him to announce his retirement sooner, rather than later. Sure, they’ll say he’s leaving “to explore other storytelling opportunities” and “to spend more time with his family.” But everyone will know the truth.

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Predictions for the Future


“Gee, Scott, why illustrate your New Year’s post with something as grim as ‘House of Mystery?’ Couldn’t you have found a happier cover?”

Well, let’s just say that, the way I view 2008, that’s the most optimistic illustration I could use.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis: It’ll suck less, but it’ll still suck. And it’s going to lead into…

Infinite Crisis: …which is going to suuuuuck. Yes, even with Grant Morrison attached. Any changes made will be undone as soon as people start realizing how awful the changes are.

After Infinite Crisis: They’ll start planning for “Even Bigger Infinite Crisis.”

Spider-Man comics: Now that “One More Day” has thrown 20 years of Marvel’s continuity onto the trashheap, is there anything to look forward to? Actually, yes. We can look forward to, some morning in the next few months, when Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada looks at his sales figures and his shredded continuity and realizes just how badly he’s screwed things up. On that day, I hope to be looking in his window, laughing loudly. And then I’ll hit him with a brick.

Other people I hope to hit with a brick in 2008: DC bigwigs Dan DiDio and Paul Levitz, hack artists Rob Liefeld and Greg Land, neo-nazi thugs in general, and that guy who stole all my other bricks.

Blue Beetle: I think it’s gonna get cancelled. Very bad news, but the sales numbers are weak, and DC’s already stuck with the title much longer than it normally would. Read it while you can, people. And if you’re enjoying other low-selling titles, enjoy them while they can. I’m thinking there’s gonna be a bloodbath of cancellations later this year.

Secret Invasion: One or two A-list characters will be revealed to be Skrulls, along with several dozen Z-list characters. The invasion will fail after killing another few Z-list characters. Joe Quesada will be revealed to be a Skrull, and Marvel will bring back Spider-Man’s marriage. The series will end with a warning that the Skrulls are still out there, and everyone must continue to be paranoid… and then it will never be referred to again.

Non-comics predictions: My same prediction as every year — things will get worse and worse and worse. More disasters, worse economy, more things to make you wanna hammer yer head against a wall. The worst candidates will get the nominations, and whoever wins will get busy making sure that 2009 is even worse than 2008. And yes, I tend to be right on these predictions a lot more often than I’m wrong. I’m not a pessimist — I’m a realist.

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