@’s by Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada!!!
JOHNNY DESTRUCTO (JD): Ok, so we're here with Joe Quesada….Qua-saahda..Quesoooda…
JOE QUESADA (JQ): Hey, you say Qua-saada, I say Quesada… but I'm right.
JD: Wellll….that's debatable. (laughs)
JQ: Well. It IS my last name. I may be wrong about other things, but I assure you… (laughs)
MATT ADLER (MA): Ok, my first question for you, Joe-- this is the first time that a Spider-Man animated series has been completely under Marvel's control, is that right?
JQ: Yeah, that's true.
MA: What does that mean for the series? How is this going to be different than other Spider-Man series?
JQ: What it means is that it's probably the truest to the "Marvel DNA". In the past, we've had other people interpreting what Marvel is, and some of these people may have been ex-Marvel writers or employees, or people that are Marvel fans, but ultimately, these are now current Marvel creators involved in the making of these shows. It's like I like to say, "If you're a fan of Marvel, the comics, the movies that we produce, this is the same thing with animation.” It's... you're getting Marvel straight from the tap. Pure, pure Marvel.
JD: I have to say that up until now my favorite [animated series] has been Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. What is the reason for the transition to this show and are there any aspects that you're keeping from Spectacular?
JQ: No, we're not keeping anything from that, and the reason for the transition…that's all internal stuff that I don't get into, but this is really us taking control of our I.P. (Intellectual Property), and saying "Ok, now we're going to start making these shows, and we're going to make them the way that WE feel that they should be made." There was nothing wrong with Spectacular, it was a great show. There have been some great Spider-Man shows over the years and some NOT-so-great shows over the years. Right? We all remember the classic, with the great theme song?
JD: That was awesome, yeah.
JQ: But I think this show is very, very unique in that we start the show from the point of view of Peter Parker, and sort of riding on his shoulders, and almost being Peter Parker's best friend. It's very, very funny, there are some very unique episodes, there's a Hulk episode that I'm very fond of, which has a unique perspective on stuff, I don't want to ruin too much, but you guys will start to see these things start to roll out very, very soon.
JD: When you're talking about being with Peter as much as possible, is that the reasoning behind the approach of the Ferris Bueller-esque, 4th-wall smashing?
JQ: Yeah, absolutely. It's a funny story behind that, because as we were developing this show, I remember sending Jeph Loeb an email, saying "Listen, I have this idea. When we all read these Spider-Man series or the movie or the old cartoons, there's one thing that we get out of Peter Parker, we either feel that we could BE him, that he's very much like us, or we feel like we know someone just like him. So I was thinking why not just have Peter react with us and talk to us?" And almost simultaneously, as I was saying this, we were closing on the deal to get Paul Dini to be part of the team, and Paul had sent Jeph an email, saying almost the exact same idea, so it was something that was in the air. And we just added it to the show and it just seemed to flow naturally and quite frankly, I think that this particular idea that's going to blossom in the show is something that will probably morph its way into other aspects of the world of Spider-Man. Maybe even in the comic books.
MA: So, you mentioned that the comics people are in charge here, but what are the various roles? Because there are so many people involved—you, Paul Dini, Man of Action, Brian Bendis , Jeph Loeb. What are the roles? How does everyone work together on this?
JQ: You know, it's really no different than when we have our Marvel Creative Summits. We all sit in a room, only this is a T.V. writer's room, as opposed to a comic writer's room. So we all sit there and we start beating out the stories. Generally, in a publishing room, for example, someone who's writing Avengers will say "This is kind of what I have planned for Avengers" and then they throw ideas out, and then that person goes and writes Avengers. Like Brian Bendis. But in the TV writer's room, we sit there and pitch ideas for particular episodes. We also have a character sheet, like characters that we definitely want to have guest-starring roles in these episodes. And once we have the kernel of an idea for a story, we'll put those up on the wall, and then the group will beat out the story… so this is what will be happening in the first act, second act, third act, fourth act, and then those will then be assigned to writers who will write the outlines, the scripts and so on and so forth. But the group itself is responsible for creating the story.
MA: So there's, for lack of a better term, a higher level group that works out the broad strokes and then that's handed to the writers? Because I think they said there's something like 15 writers on the writing staff?
JQ: Yeah, about... Joe Kelly would have a better idea about how many people total are doing it. But I know that the Men Of Action themselves are writing episodes, Brian Bendis has written two episodes this season already, I've actually co-written an episode for next season. I wish I could write more, but I just don't have time. So yeah it's all writers in the pool, and it's a very, very collaborative process.
JD: When you were talking earlier about the Ferris Bueller-esque breaking the fourth wall, were there any other ideas you threw out that you hope they stick with?
JQ: You know, there's a lot of stuff... the spider-sense, the tech that Peter is going to be using... some of it may work well, some of it may not! 'Cause I know some people are like "What does Spider-Man need tech for?" But now that he's part of SHIELD, there's toys everywhere. And Peter is a scientific kid at heart. So he's going to want to play with things. And some of this stuff may work great, some of it may not, and that's always the fun about being Peter Parker. So there's a lot of different things that we're throwing into the show. There are Spidey's imaginative alter-ego's that will come in and out, and his conscience will show up every once in a while and try to steer him in one direction or another. 'Cause the thing about Spider-Man is, he's always learning on the job. So sometimes he may not give himself, or his conscience may not give him, always the best advice.
MA: He's kind of wracked with guilt a lot.
MA: Disney has been interested in Marvel animation even before Marvel became part of Disney; they’ve been running Marvel animated series on their channels for quite a while. So what role does Marvel animation plays in their goals and plans? How does it factor in for them?
JQ: Well, the way it factors in for them is that we're going to be creating more and more content. And I think the marriage of Marvel Universe animation and Disney XD is going to be a fantastic one. I think tomorrow is going to be a great kickoff. But they have been so encouraging. The guys at DXD have been fantastic to work with, because they come with all of this incredible experience. We have a lot of experience at Marvel; we know what our characters are supposed to be like, but they really know this world of kids' animation, kids' TV. So we're able to sort of tap into that, all their knowledge, all the research that they've done, and it's really helped us to hone these shows, so that not only is it quintessentially Marvel, but we're also going to be speaking to hopefully the audience that we want to get to, and we'll be able to reach out and grab them and bring them into Marvel. So it's been a really, really great marriage. I can't say enough about the guys at DXD, they've been fantastic to work with. And just Disney as a whole; they give us muscle that we never had.
MA: The distribution alone, right?
JQ: It's insane. We've gone from... you know, people perceived Marvel as being this big company before we were part of Disney, and yes, we were a large company, but not a mega...
MA: Not global.
JQ: Yeah. And now with Disney behind us, it changes our outlook completely, as with these last few weeks, we're starting to roll out everything... here comes the Marvel Universe on DXD, here comes the Avengers movie. I think it's become this Marvel media blitz that we've been holding onto for a little bit until things were ready, and now things are ready, here we go.
JD: With the future projects that you're going to be dipping into, is there going to be sort of the cross-pollination that went on with the movie franchises? Like, will we see crossovers between shows?
JQ: Currently, there aren't crossovers like that planned. You will see some characters appear in other shows, so we're trying to keep a consistency so that the Peter Parker you see in one show is the same Peter Parker you see in another show. But you won't really see things tying in with that sort of cross-continuity. It's difficult, in the episodic TV world for kids, to do those kinds of tie-ins, because you don't know when these episodes are going to air. So you try to keep them told-in-one as much as possible and try to keep the continuity clean as much as possible. But if you're watching all the shows, you'll understand that it is a shared universe, and that's the overall thing-- you want to feel like it's all Marvel.
MA: Because you can have Iron Man here in the Spider-Man cartoon.
MA: Do you ever think the movies will reach that point, where Spider-Man can be part of the Avengers?
JQ: That would be great, right? But Spider-Man lives in the world of Sony, as X-Men lives in the world of Fox. We can only control what we control. So we have a great plan for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yes, I know a LOT of it, and I can't tell you ANY of it! Hey, you've got the Avengers to cross first! So there's a lot of stuff that we're working on, in our shared universe... but that's the scary thing. That's the place where people can fall down, if you get too mired in the shared universe. You have to understand that each one of these individual movies, individual cartoon shows, has to stand on their own. You can't be as intertwined as you get to be with the comics, because you will alienate a lot of people.
MA: So why do you think Marvel's approach has worked, where the Distinguished Competition has not had as much success in building that kind of a movie universe?
JQ: You know, I can't speak for the other guys; I can only speak for ourselves, and I think the reason it's worked for us is because we've kept it within Marvel. Kevin Feige, at Marvel Studios, is just a genius. He's absolutely brilliant at what he does. We have this small group that's called the Marvel Creative Committee, and we meet on every outline, every script, every draft of that particular script, for every one of our movies, to make sure that Marvel DNA is there, to make sure that we don't fall into the traps. We're very, very cognizant. A big job of that group is to say, "Stop, stop. Remember how this was a problem for that particular franchise?" And hopefully, knock on wood, if we do our jobs right, we'll continue having that kind of success. I think the Avengers is going to be a great testimonial to the creative committee, in terms of what Kevin's done, and what Joss Whedon has done, in the sense that hopefully, if you've never seen any of the other Marvel movies, you will walk into the Avengers, and you will feel perfectly fine, and perfectly welcome, like you're starting at the start, and you'll have the ride of your life.
MA: I love the movies because there are those Easter Eggs in them, where if you don't know the characters and their history, you won't notice those things, but if you do, you'll appreciate them.
JQ: And we're doing that in the animation world too... you'll notice, I think in the first half of the premiere episode, there's a moment in his bedroom where Peter's having a crisis of conscience, and he's sort of standing there, looking in the mirror...and if you guys remember that classic Spider-Man rock album cover, we do a little homage to that. And it's the kind of thing that you guys are gonna go "Oh yeah, yeah!" but to a six or eight-year old kid, it's not gonna matter. It's just Peter in his room. But we do a bunch of that stuff, a lot of winks to the audience, as much as we can without alienating the people we're trying to attract.
JD: You were talking about guest stars earlier... White Tiger, Power Man, Iron Fist... why these specific characters for a Spider-Man cartoon?
JQ: You know, they were the ones that really added the most to the cast. And they were characters that we also wanted to elevate. We have huge plans for Nova, we have huge plans for Iron Fist and Power Man, and White Tiger is a female character that we'd love to put some focus on.
MA: So did the decision to include these characters originate in that room you mentioned, where you and the other creative people plan the series out?
JQ: It happened in a smaller room... as we started to talk about this, we started to design the right kind of characters for the show. We can't just throw the Avengers into Spider-Man, because they have an Avengers show. So we had to make sure they're characters we wanted to elevate, and at the same time they're characters that are free and clear to be able to tell the adventures that we want to tell without messing up another show. So those are the dances that we have to dance, but I think it worked out really, really well. And I think as we start to try to elevate some of our other characters, it's always a great plan to do that by attaching them to some of our better-known characters. This is the success that we had with the Avengers franchise, when Bendis took over. People balked at the idea-- "Why are Spider-Man and Wolverine on that book?" Well, and here you go-- it became the #1 franchise. So there's always a plan behind these things, but behind that plan is also a lot of creativity. We do sit there, and for every idea that we accept, there are 30 ideas that we reject, because the first thing that comes to mind is "Will our fans accept this?" No? Okay, we move on. There've been a lot of those things where we're like "No, we can't, that is a bridge too far, that character doesn't fit, the storyline doesn't work at all."
MA: Let me ask you about the casting-- whose terrific idea was it to bring back J.K. Simmons?
JQ: You know, I think that was almost all of us! We throw out a lot of names, and then of course once you throw the name out, it's like "Well is it possible to get that person?" Alright, well, we'll try. And J.K. was first on the list.
MA: Everyone's excited about the new Spider-Man movie, but the one thing I keep hearing is, "What, no J.K. Simmons?!"
JQ: Yeah, and we just asked if he wanted to do it. And it was the same with Clark Gregg; we were just like, "Wouldn't it be great, we'd love to have Agent Coulson in the story, we want to elevate Agent Coulson. And we asked, and he said yes!
JD: And I love that it looks like him.
JQ: That was another thing; could we get likeness approval? And we did.
MA: Is there a conscious effort to have some synergy between the animated series and the movies?
JQ: A little bit. But in the case of Agent Coulson, inside of Marvel, we just love Coulson, and he's one of the very few characters that I could think of that did not originate in the comic books that we loved so much that we wanted to bring in to the rest of the world of Marvel, right? I think H.E.R.B.I.E. was one of those...
JD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
JQ: And we all embraced him! But there are very few characters like that...
MA: Wasn't she first in an animated series?
JQ: No, she was an idea that Craig Kyle had, but she was always meant for the comics.
MA: Oh, ok, I thought...
JQ: Wait no, you're right, you're right... Craig developed her for X-Men Evolution, and he pitched me the character, and said "What do you think?" and I said "I love it. Can we premiere her in the comics first?" But again, X-23 originated from a comics guy... it was a comics guy working on one of our shows. But again, those types of things are very few and far between... but who doesn't love Agent Coulson?
MA: Oh, I just thought of another one from a Spider-Man cartoon... Firestar! Originated in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends.
JQ: I guess so... that was before my time!
MA: Any chance she'll appear here?
JQ: Ah... season one? No. Not that I know of, and I know all the episodes, so...
JD: Talking about the actors... Chi McBride, and J.K. Simmons.... did they have to audition for these parts, or was it just like, "Ok, you've got it! Go!"?
JQ: Ah, no, they didn't have to audition for this. (laughs)
JD: Ok, so it was like "If we can get them, then yes."
JQ: Yeah. There's certain people you just know, if you ask, and they say yes... "Ok! We're done! Thanks!"
MA: Well, that's it for us.
JD: Thank you so much, Joe.
JQ: Thanks guys.
Watch for THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Animated Series now playing! And for those of you who don’t like all that readin’, check out this interview on YouTube below
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD. He is also now co-hosting another Comic Book discussion show on Party934.com alongside Bohdi Zen. They discuss comics and play music, check it out live every Saturday from 4-5pm.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G