joe quesada interview tagged posts

Overstreet Fan Quesada 97 Interview

Overstreet’s Fan
February 1997
Issue #20

Burning Down The House – Ash and Azrael fan the flames
By Arnold T. Blumberg

In 1997, The year of the crossover part 2, comic book readers will witness some of their favorite characters and creators joining forces for the first time. With so much comic history being made, it will be difficult to decide where to look first for action and excitement, but if the logic behind one particular crossover pairing  is any indication, the Ash/Azrael project spearheaded by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti will be one to watch. This one-shot, 48-page prestige format book scheduled for March will bring together the two characters who not only share an artist, but the same affinity for fire. Fan braved the heat to get the scoop from Quesada himself, though our intrepid interviewer seemed to have something else on his mind as well…

I’m going to see Star Trek: First Contact tonight!

Um…nothing. Let’s talk about the Ash/Azrael crossover.
Ok. What you have to look forward to is, without a doubt, the best of all the crossovers.I guarantee it.

Good selling point.
This crossover was based on complete and total logic. Jimmy Palmiotti and myself created Ash, Denny O’Neil and I created Azrael, and I had a hankering for drawing Azrael and Batman again. Since Azrael and ash are both fire based characters, it was a natural thing.

[While playing with a couple Borg figures] How did the project come about?
It started with a phone conversation with [DC Editor] Archie Goodwin. We were catching up, and I said if ever there was an opportunity for Ash and Azrael to meet, and possibly even get Batman involved, I would drop whatever I was doing to do it.

This is your first time back on Azrael since the Borg war of 2366. I mean uh, since you left the title.
Absolutely, and another bonus was coming back to DC. Working for DC remains one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had in the comic book industry. The only other thing that would’ve been cooler is if we’d thrown the Ray in there too. But maybe somewhere down the line…

So what’s the story going to be?
Well, we’ve been discussing this for quite a while, making sure the team behind it was the best quality, and I told Denny I didn’t want to do a story where they meet, fight, and then become friends. So they’re friends from the onset. The book actually opens up with a big fire.

What? Aren’t the fire suppression systems working? I’d better get Geordi on that right away.

Uh, well, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. Anyway, will this crossover involve some sort of temporal rift or spatial distortion?
No, there’s no time portal or anything like that. We start in Gotham City, get a little Batman in there, and then Azrael comes to New York to meet up with Ash. He’s actually sent by Batman to clear his name in Batman’s eyes. Firefly and Oracle are in the book, and we created a new villain to antagonize our heroes.

This crossover arrives right in the midst of a wave of similar projects. Why do you think there’s so much ‘crossover mania’ these days?
I think it has to do with economics. Even the bigger companies are realizing that they should expand their relationships. But it also has to do with people saying, ‘let’s get back to having fun.’ There’s nothing to lose here, and readers finally get what they’ve been asking for all this time. The first set of Amalgam books for example were so much fun!

Yeah, why can’t they do that all year?
It’s almost like they were able to loosen up for a second, and not take it too seriously. I thought they were some of the most brilliant books of 1996.

Well, as we say goodbye to 1996, just what do we have to look forward to in 1997?
We’re committed to getting Ash out monthly. We have a plan that involves Humberto Ramos, Mark Waid, and Brian Augustyn. And this isn’t me abandoning my character. While Humberto is working ahead on Ash and getting momentum going, I’ll be working as well, with a story arc by James Robinson. So there will be Ash out on a monthly basis, and Humberto is kicking it all off for us, allowing me the time to finally get some books in the bag.

It sounds like Event is boldly going where it’s never gone before…schedule wise that is. You also have a lot of big players in the industry lined up to help you.
Whatever you want to call them, I think the most important thing is to roll the dice with these guys, you generally roll sevens 90% of the time in terms of story. In terms of respect, you roll sevens 100% of the time.

(Looks up from tricorder he’s fiddling with) Mm-hmm, sounds like a warp field equation.
I don’t…

(Closing tricorder) Nothing, forget it. When will we see these issues of Ash?
Mark, Brian, and Humberto’s first issue of Ash will probably be in May or June. Mark and Brian will also be working on another ongoing series for us, Painkiller Jane, drawn by Rich Leonardi. Before that comes out though, we have Painkiller Jane/Darkness crossover, a one-shot written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Amanda Conner. So you see again we shoot for the top.

Well sure, it’s always best to target the bridge area for maximum effect.
I’m not following…

What I mean is, you’re sticking with just two monthly books?
Yes, we’re not expanding to a thousand titles. Our aspirations are not to be Marvel or DC. We want to keep it small and manageable. It’s the same sort of goals Valiant started with, and when it was manageable it was good. When it became unmanageable it lost it’s charm.

Right, it mushroomed out of control, like a warp core explosion.
…Right. There’s only so many good creators out there, so there’sonly so many good books you can put out.

Why do you think all of these talented people are drawn to work with Event and Ash?
I think the draw has always been there. We’ve always had good relationships with all these creators, it was just a matter of working with everybody’s schedule. A year ago, we wouldn’t have been ready, but now things have started to gel. We’ve made a lot of mistakes at Event, and I’ve been the most guilty party in terms of lateness. When we first started, we solicited for our company before the books were even done. That was a big mistake, and the people who end up getting hurt are te retailers and the fans. I’m tired of blowing my commitment to all of them, so I’m stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘I’m taking the time to put some books in the bag, but I’ll be back. In the meantime, here’s someone who is really friggin’ good to draw the book.’ Plus the fact that me and Humberto have a standing bet –  but we’ll let the fans decide. Humberto swears that he draws Ash better than I do, so we have a little bit of a grudge match going. I’ve already seen how he draws Ash, and I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Sounds like you’ll be in the trenches for a while.
You’ll still here from me, mostly with covers for Ash and editorials, so I’m not disappearing by any stretch of the imagination. The result is that next year, people will see two thigs they’ve never seen before. One, they’re going to see Ash monthly. Second, by the end of the year, they’re going to see me coming out monthly. Now that probably means the end of Western Civilization as we know it, so just hold onto your hats. It’s going to be really crazy.

Any desire to try other projects along the lines of Ash/Azrael with the big boys?
In terms of working with DC or Marvel, it has to have a certain appeal. The Ash/Azrael one was a natural and not just a paycheck. I didn’t know on Marvels’s door asking for an Ash/X-Men crossover.

Oh, that’s something we need.
I have no interest in it. It would be a huge paycheck, but that’s not what we’re about. We want what’s going to read and look best, and what’s going to work best for the characters. Besides, I don’t think that DC would’ve agreed to this if it wasn’t the perfect character matchup.

Besides which, it seems like many creators are rededicating themselves, as you are, to the utmost quality in their work.
I can’t speak for anybody else, but at Event, we’ve always been true to the fans when we guarantee that no book we put out will be of substandard quality. Even our new, creator-owned title that’s coming out Dave Ross’ Thrax, is a magnificent book, and we hope people will pick it up and give it a shot. We always stay true to that commitment.

That’s an admirable notion.
In the recent past, people have been late on books, which is a constant industry problem, especially for the smaller guys, or they’ve been putting gout schlock, for lack of a better…well actually a have a better word, but you know what I mean. We’ve never really stooped to the latter as far as I’m concerned, but we have been late, and I think it’s a case of the industry going through an evolutionary pattern. During the glut, there were a lot of people who really had no right drawing comics. Ten years ago they would’ve still been showing their portfolios around, so the industry is sort of digesting and getting rid of what it doesn’t need, and there were a lot of books that should have never been printed.

Now we’re weeding off the chaff.
Exactly, and I think it’s something that would inevitably make the industry stronger. I think all the publishers are realizing this is a natural progression, and the guys who are left are hopefully the ones who always do good work. Guys like Simonson, Chaykin – they’ll never want for work, and there’s a reason why they’ve been around for all these years. They’re still great.

Let’s alter course for a moment and come about on a bearing of…um, sorry. I’ve had some experience with conventions over the years (shining up his communicator pin), but what was your impression of the convention circuit this year?
It’s always enjoyable, but this was a rough year. Because of the political conventions and the Olympics, every con got slammed together within a week or two around the 4th of July. I was concerned too because I didn’t see kids at the cons up until New York. That was the brightest spot at the convention, the fact that there were little kids again. That was a really good sign to me, and it was a major concern. I talked to a bunch of people at the beginning of the year, and we were all wondering, ‘where are all the kids?’ everybody is sixteen or over, checking out all the half-naked spokesmodels.

(Looks up from a model of the Enterprise that he’s flying toward a Klingon ship, making torpedo sounds) Where?
At the conventions…

And I can’t blame them, but at the New York con, I was the first autograph ever for about three kids, and that’s never happened to me. At the Event booth, I was telling our employees that any kid they see on line who looks to be about seven or younger can cut the line and they each get a free book. These kids are the future of our industry, so we have to plant the seeds again and get it growing.

Is that an influence on what you choose to portray in your comics?
Absolutely, and especially with Ash, we have a certain set of guidelines that we adhere to, sort of our own Event Comics Code for Ash.

Ahh, regulations, excellent. My favorite is the Prime Derective.

Ummmm..So no half-naked spokesmodels for you?
Not in Ash, but maybe at my house later. But that’s beside the point. Our Ash-universe books are a little more family-oriented.  With a fireman superhero there’s a little bit more responsibility I need and want to take. The shame about the industry today is that aside from Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, there really haven’t been any conic characters created in years. As wonderful and successful a book as Spawn is, the mothers of America will never embrace that character, and I think Todd McFarlane knows it. With Ash and our deal with Spielberg’s Dreamworks company to adapt the character to film, we have a good chance to turn it into something that will hopefully last longer than I do.

Yes, something that lives long and prospers. Do you think 1997 will see some positive changes for the comic book industry as a whole?
I’d like to think that things are turning around. There used to be a point where you could predict which books would sell and which books wouldn’t sell. But this has been such a year volatile year, I don’t even want to hypothesize. I’m just wishing everybody well, and I hope it’s a good year for all of us. We’ll just see how it goes.

I agree, we should all just relax and enjoy the infinite diversity of the industry and the ways in which we combine to form meaning, and beauty. (Shows off his IDIC medallion and grins).
Right…I think. We can’t take ourselves so seriously. It’s comic books! It was always meant to be fun. It was fun when I was a kid, and it’s still fun for me today. Even the tactile smell and feel of a brand new comic book, especially on cheesy newsprint, means something to you.

Ahh yes, just like the warm tingle of a transport cycle…
What is with you?

Thanks for your time, and good luck in the new year.
Thank you.

Previews Interview with Joe Quesada

Previews Magazine
June 1993
Volume III, No 6

Bat Man-O-War
Artist Joe Quesada discusses the Dark Knight’s New Suit of Armor
Interview by Michael Smith

Back in 1964, when then editor Julius Schwartz decided to, ‘Shake up,’ the new Batman titles, the Caped Crusader’s ‘New Look,’ amounted to little more than the addition of a bright yellow oval around his traditional, bat-like chest emblem. Years later, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams completely overhauled the character, returning him to his gothic – expressionistic roots. They lengthened Batman’s cape and ears, altered his color scheme (more blacks and greys then blues), darkened his environment, and gave him a sleek, super-stylized Corvette in place of a more traditional Batmobile.
Since then, Batman’s appearance and accessories have changed very little. With the possible exception of the Battle armor found in post-apocryphal stories – The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Vs Predator – the Batman’s costume remains much as it did when it first appeared over 50 years ago.

Of course, that’s all going to change in Batman #500.

Here is what artist Joe Quesada had to say about the enviable – or perhaps unenviable task of re-creating Batman’s image for a new generation of readers.

How did you become Batman’s new costume designer?
It all began with Sword of Azrael. At that time, the whole ‘Knightfall’ saga had been in the works for some time. When the Azrael proposal came across my drawing board, and Dennis [O’Neil] described what they had in store for the character, and that what I would be doing would have a major impact on the Batman mythos…well, I just said, “Absolutely, count me in.”

Is the new costume a logical successor to Azrael’s battle armor?
Definitely. It’s sort of a hybrid between Batman’s costume and Azrael’s armor. In fact, it begins as a fairly simple costume design, and then evolves into something really nasty! As a knight for the Order of St. Dumas, Azrael was trained to be a finely-tuned super-soldier…a sort of ‘vengeance machine.’ In many ways, his conditioning was similar to Bruce Wayne’s, so he’s sympathetic to Batman’s mission and some of his methods. But he also targets some weaknesses in Batman’s costume, and decides to improve it. Basically, he adapts the Bat-costume to reflect his unique crime-fighting methods.

Does Azrael construct the costume himself?
I’m not really sure. That’s an editorial decision, so you’ll probably have to ask Dennis.

If the purpose of Batman’s original costume was to, ‘strike fear into the hearts of evil-doers,’ how would you describe the purpose of his new costume?
To make them go in their pants! It also represents a more ‘hands-off’ approach to crime-fighting, which I think is something of a departure for Batman. In designing the costume, I tried to think like Azrael. I mean, he would probably look at Batman’s utility belt and say something like, “Nice idea, but I could probably improve it a little bit, because it takes too much time to fumble for the right gadget, flip the compartment open, push the right button, etc.” So what I did was computerize the armor and make it a little bit more, ‘hi-tech.’ Now, Batman doesn’t have to reach for anything. Everything he needs is at his immediate disposal.

So this thing is loaded with bells and whistles…
You bet. As far as I’m concerned, the gadgets have always been part of Batman’s appeal. Sure, he’s the world’s greatest detective, and a superb physical specimen and athlete, but he’s also a technological marvel. I mean, how many times have you read a Batman story and thought to yourself, “Hey, where did the grappling hook come from anyway?” Batman has always had plenty of gismos stuffed into his utility belt. Now, they’re just a little bit more realistic, simply because we’ve built them into a more technologically sophisticated suit of armor. It’s all part of the fun.

Meaning that Batman is now a ‘Knight,’ in the more traditional sense of the word…
You got it. That’s the point.

Was your costume design at all influenced by any of Batman’s other battle suits, particularly as seen in The Dark Knight Returns or Batman Vs Predator?
Not really. I’ve seen them all of course. I mean, The Dark Knight Returns is like a creative bible to me. But I didn’t want to look at that stuff because I was really looking for a fresh approach. Those were both great designs, but they just wouldn’t have been appropriate to Azrael’s character or purpose.

What guidelines were you given by the Batman editorial team?
They just said, “Go for it.”

It looks like you’ve eliminated Batman’s traditional insignia. What’s the story behind that?
Well, depending on how the costume is drawn, Batman’s body and cape form its own Bat signal. You’ll notice that the peak of the insignia runs down into his chest cavity, so that if the cape is drawn properly, he looks like his old chest emblem, particularly when seen from a distance. We’ve also given him a spotlight (situated just below his cowl), which, when lit, projects its own Bat-signal. Great for scaring the bejeebers out of bad guys!

What other goodies have you built into this thing?
For starters, the cape will be VERY unusual. It’s probably his most deadly weapon. If nothing else, it’s a very dramatic costume element, so artists who enjoyed playing with the cape before can still have fun with it now. Of course, Batman’s cape has always been part of the ongoing artistic battle…you know, the whole question of, “how can he wear a twenty-foot-long cape and not get tangled up in it?” Anyways, I wanted to give artists a nasty looking cape that was open to interpretation. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy drawing his costume as much as they did the old one.

Can Batman fly in this new get-up?
Probably not. He might be able to get some lift out of his cape, and sort of hang-glide a bit, but I don’t think that its cut out for aerial action.

How does it feel to be the guy who helped re-envision the Batman?
Absolutely wonderful! Batman has always been one of my all-time favorite characters. He inspired me to do comics, particularly after I read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Luckily, I landed the Azrael project, and I’ve had a ball ever since. Still, I have to say this: There’s simply no way to really improve on Batman’s original costume, ‘cause it remains one of the greatest superhero outfits ever designed. But the way I look at it…well, it’s sort of like ‘old Coke; new Coke,’ you know? Some people are gonna say, “Hey, you can’t do that.” I just hope that most readers will be pleased with the new look, and I can honestly say that I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m just honored to be a part-if only a small part-of Batman history.

An Interview with Joe Quesada

An Interview with Joe Quesada

By: Jek Tezak

Joe Quesada has designed our hero and the Azrael version of Batman as well. We have some questions for you Joe, related to the creation of Azrael and the Knightfall storylines. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule at Marvel Comics to do this interview.

In creating the Azrael character in the visual sense, what things helped you design the character?
When I received the assignment I went that very same day to a military bookstore here in NYC called Sky Books, heck I don’t even know if they’re still around? Anyway, I picked up as many books as I could find on mediaeval warfare and knights and such and started my visual work there. All I was told by Denny and Archie with respect to art direction was that we needed an old Azrael and a new Azrael so when the son takes over the mantle. Oh, and Denny wanted a this guy to have a flaming sword!

What costume did you design first: Azrael/Batman Knightsend, Azrael/Batman Knightquest, Azrael updated, or Azrael ancient version?
Ancient Azrael came first because I wanted to work in sequence and I wanted to design the modern version in a logical fashion. Once the Ancient design was complete, I would then look at ways of streamlining and modernizing it for the young Knight of the Order of Saint Dumas on the go. After that was done, Denny’s art direction with respect to AzBat was to design the most outrageously over the top, near impossible Batman war machine costume that I could think of. He wanted me to go nuts but the costume had to be modular so that there was a bare bones version that could have gear added onto it as Jean Paul started to lose a grip on being Batman. I don’t know how many people know that the costume was designed to echo his mental state or rather the breaking down of his mental state. So, my approach on AzBats was opposite of Azrael. I design the final version and then broke it down to the bare bones version which was going to be the first version seen by the fans.

I noticed that the final Azrael/Batman costume changed during Knightquest. It was a different look than what we seen in the Wizard magazines. Did you redesign the helmet and suit of Knightsend Batman?
See above, it was designed to grow with Jean Paul. What was funny about the costume is that it was design to suit my art style and a lot of other artist had trouble with it. It was too complex in many ways to draw economically panel after panel. I swear I could hear Batman artists across America cursing my name for those designs.

How many different designs did you have of the new Batman?
Here’s a little history. At that time in my life, all the top artist were going to Image or were living at Marvel, all I wanted to do was draw Batman. I wanted to be one of the regular guys on one of the regular Batman titles at the time. I told Denny and everyone there that I would make Batman a top 10 book if they gave me the gig. Well, they didn’t but what they offered me was Azrael which wasn’t going to have too much Batman in it. What it did have to offer was three things, Denny was writing it, Archie was editing it and if I took the job, I would get to design the new Batman! Then we got Kevin Nowlan and I couldn’t say no. So, all the while that I was drawing the Az series, I knew that I was going to be designing the AzBats war machine and all the while I was working it out in my head. I do most of my work like that. By the time it came time to design AzBat I was pretty much set on the design. There might have been some sketchy throw-away stuff but most of the work was done in a few passes.

Did you know what you wanted Azrael and the new Batman to look like before you started?
Azrael took research and AzBats, as I said, was in the works mentally.

I heard stories about how involved you were with the creation of Azrael. I’ve heard that you suggested inkers, colorists, and letterers. Tell us a little bit on how your bosses reacted to your enthusiasm.
Well, if you folks know me now, I wasn’t any less enthusiastic then. I love what I do and it’s always been fun for me. I remember suggesting Kevin Nowlan, which at the time was like suggesting the King of England. At that time in Kevin’s career, he was amazingly respected as an artist and designer but Kevin wasn’t doing much in comics that we were aware of. He was one of those geniuses that graced our industry for a tiny bit and was too slow to produce regular work. Therefore, I believe that most people were skittish about using him. They also figured why would a master like Kevin lower himself to ink some punk like me? Truth be told, I thought the same. Still, the major concern was would Kevin deliver on his deadlines especially over a newcomer who wasn’t great with them either. I had Kevin ink a couple of pin-ups I did at Marvel a few months earlier and my attitude was that it couldn’t hurt to call the guy! So when Kevin accepted we were off and rolling. I believe that Archie recommended the rest of the team but I was reasonably involved in all aspects of process. Since Denny was working full script, I also marked balloon placements since I was designing the artwork to work around them.

Do you have any little known facts or secrets that fans don’t know about the Bat-summit meetings or the creation of Azrael/Knightfall?
You mean aside from all the stuff I just revealed? Okay, I’ll tell you three stories I don’t think I’ve ever told publicly.

When Denny suggested the flaming sword of Azrael he was expecting both versions to have long flaming broad swords. When he and Archie saw Ancient Azrael first they loved him and said, “Looks great, let’s see the dad’s costume!” I was like, “Uh, guys, this is the dad.” When I whipped out the design for young Azrael, I think Denny more than anyone was a bit disappointed, not because I think he didn’t like the way it looked but because it looked different than what he expected or perhaps had in his minds eye. Still, I think it grew on him over time. I thought it was the most inspirational part of the design and really worked around the idea. The idea of course sprung from the concept behind Wolverine’s claws which always gave the character a great iconic profile but never made sense to me in execution. How can he bend his arms at the elbow when those things are retracted? So I thought about how cool something like Wolvie’s claws would be on fire and in a contraption that made sense. I’m still very proud of the Azrael costume, I think even to this day it looks like nothing else out there.

Then there was the Wizard AzBat cover! I received a call from Wizard asking me to do a cover with the new AzBat costume on it. I was thrilled and the person I was dealing with said that it was all cleared. I killed myself on that cover and I was pretty happy with it at the time. But something was nagging me and I called Patty Jeres, who is one of my favorite people up there. I said, “Patty, you gave Wizard approval to show AzBat right? I was told you guys approved the assignment?” As it turned out both parties had their signals crossed and stuff was approved but not quite what I was assigned to draw.. So I got Wizard to send me the cover back and I had to do it all in silhouette which still looked pretty good.

The other never before told AzBat story happens right around the time I hand in the final pencil designs for the new AzBat war machine. I hand delivered them by hand and I’m not sure if I gave them to Denny or Archie, probably Denny. Regardless, I was given a crappy faded Xerox copy of my pencils and they kept the originals. Well, some time goes by, and please keep in mind that Batman and Daredevil are my absolute favorite characters, and for some reason even though I called editors I can’t seem to get any Batman work. Also, a weird thing happens around this time, let me preface this by saying that this was right around the time of multiple distributors. There was Diamond, Capital and many smaller ones. So, one day I hear that some distributor, I believe in Hawaii has leaked the AzBat design in their catalog, this floored me because we were guarding this stuff like it was plans for a safe, clean nuclear reactor. I was pretty surprised by this but just figured some intern must have gotten a hold of the stuff off of someone’s desk and faxed it around. Okay, now here I am trying to get Batman work and it doesn’t come for at least a year.

A year later I get a Batman gig, I forget what the assignment was, perhaps a cover or a pin-up piece, I’ve forgotten. Anyway, when I handed in the piece an officer of the company asked me if I was glad the ban was finally over. I said, “Ban? Over? What are you talking about?” This person then proceeded to show me a document signed by someone in the Sales and Marketing department, who shall remain nameless, saying that I was to be prohibited from working on any Bat related things for a certain amount of time. It stated that I had leaked the designs to a distributor and they had placed it in their catalog. Now, what really kills me is not the ban, because if I had actually done what they said I had done then I would have understood and accepted my punishment. What killed me aside from the fact that I didn’t do it was that no one called me to ask if I did. No one even called me to tell me I was being punished, I just was.

You would think that someone like me who understood the importance of secrets and who had proven it by not revealing that Azrael was going to become Batman, that Batman was going to have his back broken and held on to that secret for a year and a half, could certainly keep themselves from faxing off drawings of the top secret redesigned Batman. The truth of the matter is that those drawings were probably sent off or ordered to be sent off by the same idiot in Sales and Marketing that had me banned in the first place. Realizing their mistake they needed a fall guy and I was fairly convenient. And, yes, this person is still there and they’ve probably been wondering for the last couple of years why I hate them so. Maybe now they’ll understand why.

Who created the symbol for the new Batman?
That would be me! I was so thrilled when I saw that on a T-shirt!

Did you suggest ideas where Azrael could go in terms of story direction?
Only slightly. I was too new to the game and too respectful of Denny and Archie to get into their business. My job was to tell the story in the clearest manner possible. Working with Denny and Archie was one of the highlights of my career, I can’t tell you how much I learned about story and story telling from those guys. To this day, my experience with Archie has help me create the template and the basis for my editorial vision at Marvel Knights and Marvel.