Love him or hate him, criticize him or praise him, you've got to admit that Joe Quesada is one accessible editor in chief.
Marvel's EIC fielded questions from a standing-room-only crowd for 90 minutes Saturday afternoon during the second day of the Wizard World: Chicago convention. He answered queries about the controversial "Origin" mini-series, trade paperbacks, Internet critics and a variety of other subjects. No topic was off limits.
"This is your time," Quesada told the crowd. "This is your hour and a half. I will answer every question as brutally honest as I can. It may not be what you want to hear, but it will be the truth."
One of the first questions concerned Marvel's unsuccessful effort to get late-night TV host Jay Leno to promote comics on "The Tonight Show." Fan-favorite writer Kevin Smith was booked on the program specifically to plug his "Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do" mini-series, and an illustrated version of Leno himself teamed with Spider-Man in short inserts in Marvel books a few months back - but Leno failed to give either project much of a mention.
Marvel worked closely with Leno to develop the inserts in the hopes that the comic-turned-TV-host would talk about comics to his substantial national audience, but the expected promotion never came to pass.
"We were hoping Jay would hold the comic up, but he never did," Quesada said. "These things happen."
As for Smith's recent appearance on "The Tonight Show," the writer/filmmaker talked with Leno about a variety of subjects - except the book he was there to promote.
"Jay asked every question except the one he was supposed to ask that would lead into 'Black Cat,'" Quesada said. "But that's show biz."
Quesada spoke for a while about "Origin," the recent six-issue mini-series that was supposed to be the definitive story about Wolverine's early days. In actuality, the story - by Paul Jenkins and Andy Kubert - told very little about the hero's origin. That was deliberate, Quesada said, because it leaves room for a sequel that eventually will be published - and possibly several others.
Whether fans will find "Origin II" at their comic shops anytime soon hasn't been decided, Quesada said.
"Bill (Jemas, Marvel's president) wants to do it tomorrow, but I want to let 'Origin' sit a while," Quesada said. "If it was up to me, I'd wait 10 years. If it was up to Bill, we'd see it next year."
Quesada has been the target of some vicious Internet criticism since he took over as EIC in 2000, but the barbs don't bother him a bit. He's just happy people are talking - or typing - about comics.
"I love it," he said earnestly. "I'd rather have people talking about me than not talking about me. Pros or cons, let's talk about comics one way or the other. Because ultimately, silence is death. And the more people do this (mimes typing at a computer) correlates directly with whether a book will be a hit."
Although he may adhere to the saying that there's no such thing as bad publicity, one Internet custom that aggravates Quesada is the practice on some message boards of calling comics "pamphlets," as if the medium's traditional format is inferior to thicker hardcover or paperback volumes.
"I hate that. Hate that!" Quesada said. "I love the monthly format, and I love the trade-paperback format - and I think there's room for both."