Happy Anniversary, Joe Quesada

Dear Joe:

(We’ve never met, but it seems like a safe bet that you won’t mind if I call you Joe)

Congratulations! According to a tweet you posted a month ago (a bit hastily, as it turned out) today is your tenth anniversary of taking the helm as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. As I sit here thinking about that decade, I am trying with everything I have in me not to be the seven millionth person to quote the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” to mark an occasion like this, but it looks like I am powerless to stop it:

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Although this milestone is yours, it feels a little like my anniversary as a reader, too. These days, I am the first one through my comic shop’s doors on many Wednesdays, and I’ve written almost 200 columns or articles for iFanboy (how many of them were about your books, I dare not even contemplate) as well as participating in who-knows-how-many sundry podcasts and ill-advised message board kerfuffles. Ten years ago, as you were still setting up your action figures on your new desk, though, I hadn’t been a regular reader of comics for almost a decade. I rarely gave them a second thought. When I look back and try to figure out how I went from being that guy to the guy with the twenty-book-a-week habit again, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that a lot of that is due to you.

Ten years ago, Marvel was still feeling the sting of bankruptcy and the loud pop of the speculator bubble. Ten years ago, it was still not inconceivable that this company—which today is owned by Disney and has its own movie studio—might cease to exist. With you and Bill Jemas at the helm, Marvel started doing the kinds of things you do when you have nothing left to lose, taking big chances and throwing things at the wall to see what stuck. A lot of what you threw out there stuck with me, so I stuck with you, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

I’m already nostalgic for what back then was sort of derisively called Nü Marvel. I kept going back into the shop and finding these new gems that simply never would have been published by Marvel at any other time. Muties and Deadline and Spider-Man’s Tangled Web and Startling Stories. I got weirdly attached to a book called The Craptacular B-Sides that just gets more overdue for a sequel with each passing week.

Then, of course, there was Alias, the book that grabbed me roughly by the shirt collar and kept me in comics for the next ten years. Last week, I handed the Omnibus to a friend of mine who didn’t know Hank Pym from Hank Aaron, and within six chapters it had snagged another new reader ten years later. I’m an unabashed Bendis fanboy, but I think the fact that you hired the quirky, Mamet-influenced crime writer responsible for Alias and handed him the keys to the entire universe will turn out to be the best thing your tenure is known for when the history books are being written.

What else will be in those books? Well, I’m not an insider and have no idea which responsibilities an EiC actually has. I don’t know what was decided by you and what was decided by Bill Jemas or Dan Buckley or a ficus plant possessed by the ghost of Jack Kirby. I do know that in the last decade, these are some of the other things you likely deserve thanks for:

The MAX, Ultimate, and Icon banners. In very different ways, these lines/imprints/whatever-they-are opened the doors for telling new kinds of stories at Marvel, whether that meant killing half your characters in a giant tidal wave or just being able to swear. If you want a creator to be Marvel-exclusive but he has Kick-Ass in him itching to get out, there’s a place for that now that didn’t exist before you got the job.

Brand New Day. For years, you always made it clear that you hated the Spider-marriage even more than I do, and I love you for it. Even if the events of One Moment in Time end up ruining everything putting things back the way they were, I still owe you for the last few years of great Spider-Man stories, as well as for realizing that having one character star in three different books in which three different writers give him three different jobs was hair-pullingly maddening.

More organic crossovers. It didn’t always work (and the failures always seem to be what people remember the most vocally) but I appreciate the notion that the person in the Big Chair is at least trying to keep another Acts of Vengeance or Inferno from being shoehorned into my favorite book. The last few years have seen an attempt to balance the company-wide events with the individual books’ arcs, and I would argue that attempt has largely succeeded. I never felt like I had to read a book I don’t normally buy to figure out what was going on in a book I do, the eternally-cursed X-books notwithstanding. (It always seems like it’s the Peter David book that ends up behind the eightball; what’s up with that?)

More classic runs than you can shake a stick at. This decade saw my bookshelf fill up with a lot of hardcover-worthy books by top notch talent. There was Bendis’ Alias and Daredevil. There was Ed Brubaker’s Captain America… and Daredevil. There was Waid and Weiringo’s Fantastic Four. There were Joss Whedon’s and Grant Morrison’s X-Men. (I still can’t entirely believe Grant Morrison was handed the X-Men.) There was Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways and Matt Fraction’s Iron Man. There’s an awful lot to be proud of there, and I haven’t even gotten into things like Sentinel or Gravity or Mystique or Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

There have been ups and downs, of course. A few years into your tenure, you made the editorial decree that “Dead Means Dead” in an attempt to curtail the cheap deaths and resurrections so common in comics and make creators think a little harder before wielding the scythe. I’m not a big decree aficionado, but that was an outstanding decree. I give that decree four stars. Unfortunately, the promise of that decree has gone largely unfulfilled as the years crept along; this summer in particular has seen major characters and c-listers alike being bulldozed into a mass grave. If you’re thinking about a master plan for your next decade, I’d consider it a personal favor if you at least gave that decree a light dusting off before it becomes your “Read my lips: no new taxes.”

Still! This has been a great few years for comics, and to the extent that you’ve been responsible for that, thank you for taking away all of my money. You have a way to go before catching up to Stan Lee’s near thirty-year run, but if Wikipedia is anything to go by you’ve outlasted just about every other EiC in the history of the company. Well done! Here’s to another ten.


Jim Mroczkowski

P.S. Years ago, when I was feeling particularly entitled and full of myself, I left you a snarky message on Marvel.com asking why you had time to draw variant covers but didn’t have time to finish Daredevil: Father. I didn’t know what the f*** I was talking about, and I still feel bad about it. Sorry again.  -JM


  1. Dear Joe:

    Implement day and date digital comics immediately, please.



  2. Dear Joe:

    Sorry about the terseness of my last letter. I’m eager.

    You have done a wonderful job with the brand and (more importantly) the books.  I’m generally a DC guy, but some of the things you’ve overseen have been fantastic.  I love Civil War.  The Black Panther Secret Invasion issues were exceptional.



    P.S. Seriously, day and date.  The money is burning a hole in my pocket. 

  3. learn from Siege Joe. Short and sweet, events don’t have to go for 8-12 issues and go one for more than 1 year.

    Also,  a prequel to Old Man Logan would be sweet(with McNiven and Mark Millar of course)

  4. @Jesse1125 – I’d read that Old Man Logan prequel, too.

  5. Fantastic letter, Jimski! I have very little to add, other than MAN, you just reminded me how good Waid and ‘Ringo’s FF run was. Boy, that was good. I gotta go get those oversized hardcovers now, don’t I?

    Oh yeah, thanks Joe.

  6. Great article.

    Not to shortchange Joe (he’s done a ton of good things, as mentioned in the article), but I have to wonder how much of Marvel’s turnaround circa 2000 was simply due to stabilization of direct market distribution. In other words, once Marvel stopped playing games with "Heroes World" and went back to Diamond like everyone else, that had a lot to do with orders being filled more reliably. For a few years there, Marvel was contradicting huge amounts month by month simply because of the implosion of the speculator and newsstand markets. Let’s not forget that DC and other publishers rebounded (a bit) the same time Marvel did: to an extent, the market just stabilized on its own after the remaining comic shops could reliably order slightly larger quantities of comics again. Remember, there was a time when Ultimate Spidey #1 was hard to find. For a while, comic shops were afraid to get stuck with a glut of comics, so they made very limited orders.

    But, again, that’s not to shortchange Joe. Obviously you need to put quality comics out there if you want the customers to come back, and Joe definitely made quality a mandate.

  7. ^Oops I meant Marvel’s market was "contracting", not "contradicting". Though I guess their continuity was and still is quite contradicting of itself.

  8. Dear Joe,


    Bring back the marriage of Peter/MJ or give Peter a new gf.



    Sneaking in the $4.00 pricepoint more & more is only hurting yourself & giving more of my money to DC & indies.


  9. Haven’t read "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane?"  That’s the standout book of the bunch you listed there.  Followed by Mystique by Vaughan, which is as good as anything he’s written and a thematic pre-cursor to Ex-Machina.

  10. Well said.  I don’t agree with everything the guy has done or said, including the handling of some of those crossovers and ‘classic runs.’  But you can’t say the guy hasn’t had a huge hand in a lot of interesting/daring/risky changes. 

  11. It was Joe and Jim’s MK imprint that really pumped the comic blood into my heart. I have always "liked" comics, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the love hit me. Daredevil’s relaunch and (the most wanted Marvel oversized hc never made – come on!!!) the Inhumans (Jenkins/Lee).

    Dropping $100 bucks for a #/300 DF personalized sketch-cover of DD#1(vol.2) seemed crazy at the time, but these days it is probably my most cherised comicbook. Especially knowing now that he only completed half of them before Jim went solo with the rest. I normally don’t do the variant, but this seemed like a no-brainer.

    Thanks for a pretty good 10 Joe. Your good way outshines your bad.

  12. That subject line that you added to your e-mail address? Well done.

  13. Joe Q a nice guy and I admire the guts it takes for someone to make the descions he has made over the past 10 years

  14. Unstable Molecules! Ultimates! Ennis and Dillon’s Punisher! Daredevil Yellow! They keep coming back to me as I try to work. These have been good times.

    (and, yes, Trouble and Chuck Austen and U Decide. BUT NONETHELESS!)

  15. True Story: i emailed Joe a Speedball pitch years ago, right before CW, and he actually took the time to send me not one, but three very thoughtful and cool emails encouraging me to finish the script for a complete issue and send it to him the proper way. Class act.

  16. That was a brilliant article! The email link blew my freaking brain!

  17. Good article Jim! I would like to add the Marvel Knights imprint to your list of banners. After Quesada became editor he took what he and Palmiotti started with Marvel Knights and helped transform it to a bad ass limited series imprint.  Several great limited series have come from this.

  18. Marvel Boy! Rucka’s Wolverine! Enemy of the State! Fantastic Four 1234! ("Well, Victor, I’ve been thinking." remains my second-favorite line of all time, right behind page one, panel one of Alias. You know the one.) The Hood (mini series)!  Ennis Punisher, both Knights and Max! Omnibi! Oversized hardcovers! Supreme Power! Criminal! Annihilation! Annihilation Conquest! Shit, everything Abnett and Lanning do! Livewires! Mini Marvels! Marvel Adventures! Marvelkids.com! Immortal Iron Fist! Frankencastle! Marvel Zombies 1 and 2! Milligan and Alred’s X-Force! Strange Tales!

    Good grief. Joe Q. has been a home run. Maybe not a 550 ft. off-the-upper-deck dinger but a four-bagger nonetheless.


    PS: Unstable Molecules is fucking brilliant. Go dig up a copy TODAY.

  19. Yeah, Guy Davis on FF4 is a must have.

  20. what joe brought was relevant comic knowledge to the corporate chair…he has won, lost and tied. What if it was Abnett that was put in the chair or Perez or Waid ? JQ brought "street smarts" to a burning House (of ideas). So good work over the last decade Joe, perhaps its time to bring in the next goldenchild to ensure the house keeps shining.