Joe Quesada has had quite the journey in the world of comics. He first gained acclaim as a fan-favorite artist in the post-Image landscape in the 1990s, before climbing the ranks over at Marvel. His work as a comic book artist includes a high-profile stretch drawing Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil, but eventually Quesada stepped into the role of Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief.
In 2010, Quesada was named Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, and stepped down as Editor-in-Chief the following year. He now helps oversee pretty much every arm of the vast Marvel empire, which seems like a pretty good gig. He took the time to talk to us at the D23 Disney fan expo in Anaheim following a well-attended panel, and we got to pick his brain on a variety of topics.
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about diversity and Marvel. You’ve got Iceman getting his own new comic, and Ms. Marvel has been making waves for a long time. How important to you is diversity and representation in, not just the comics, but all of Marvel?
It’s always been important to us. This goes way beyond me and way before me. This goes back to the time of Stan and Jack and Steve and all those guys. It’s essentially what got me into Marvel Comics. It really established Marvel as the comic book universe that I wanted to be a part of. When I was reading an issue of The Fantastic Four, the Black Panther showed up for the first time. I grew up in a very, very ethnically diverse neighborhood. I’m Cuban. My best friends were Dominican and Columbian and African-American and Italian. It’s crazy. We were from all over the world. When I saw the Black Panther appear in a comic book, which was revolutionary at the time, right, I knew that these were stories that were about my world, about the world that I lived in. If the characters didn’t reflect me directly, they certainly reflected people that I knew directly, and also the fact that Peter Parker lived 15 minutes away from where I lived.
If I’m understanding it correctly, your job is specifically to make sure that the characters are consistent from one medium to the next?
It’s part of my job, absolutely, yeah. It’s really more about Marvel DNA and making sure that that Marvel DNA remains true. While people may inherently feel something that is Marvel, they may not be able to necessarily put it into words or break it down into ways where they can say, “Oh, this is what makes it Marvel.” I think our competitors actually feel that in a lot of ways. They don’t quite understand it, but we at Marvel, we’ve been doing this for a really long time, so we do get it. Yeah, a lot of my job is not just to make sure that the DNA is still true in all mediums, but also, I work on story, I work on art, I work on a lot of different things. My latest venture has been working with WDI [Walt Disney Imagineering] on theme parks and stuff, which has just been fantastic. Even there, you can lose that DNA very, very quickly and it’s a delicate balance but once you hit it, you hit it.