The "One More Day" Interviews with Joe Quesada, Pt. 2 of 5

Mon, December 31st, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

"Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" #24 on sale now
With the "One More Day" storyline now concluded, fan discussion of the massive changes to come for Peter Parker and friends has been very vocal. As such, CBR News spoke exclusively with Marvel Editor-in-Chief and "One More Day" artist Joe Quesada to cover all aspects of "One More Day," including his artwork, the story, and the various controversies that have swirled around the project since it was first announced.

In part one of this five-part interview, Quesada spoke about some of the revelations readers saw at the end of "One More Day" chapter four, as well as his approach to the series' artwork.

Now in part two of our series of interviews, Quesada goes into further detail about his artwork (and those easter eggs he mentioned last time), why the book was plagued with delays, and we delve into Quesada's reaction to writer J. Michael Straczynski's public disagreements with changes made to the original "One More Day" storyline he wrote.

Parts three, four and five of this interview will be published on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively.

SPOILER WARNING -- If you've not read the final chapter of "One More Day" and don't wish it to be spoiled, stop reading right now. The following interview discusses events from the final chapter of "One More Day" in detail.

Story continues below

When last we spoke, you mentioned that you filled "One More Day" with hidden hints and gems; easter eggs.

As I said, I can't discuss all of them because many foretell the future, and also I want to leave some stuff there for the readers to find, but I'll point out a few. Many are subtle and almost symbolic in nature. Take a look at the very last page of chapter 4, for example. This can serve as a road map towards how to find many other things within the series. The toast amongst the friends, new and old, with only their hands and glasses, I think reveals a lot. Peter toasts, but he's the only one with an empty glass, which to me is as it should be. He's lost a lot, while he doesn't know it and remembers nothing, his world right at this point is certainly a lot emptier. The bright side of that is that now his world is just waiting to be filled anew.

In contrast to that, Harry toasts with the whole bottle, which I think speaks for itself and quite telling for a guy who has just comeback from rehab. Flash's glass, while amongst the group, doesn't quite join in. He straddles the line, not quite fitting into the group while not quite being out of it. But Flash has always been a bigger than life character, he's the loudest, perhaps the most outgoing of the group, so his glass of course is filled to the brim. Lilly and Carlie's glasses both point right up at Peter's, almost reaching out to him, and it's Lily's finger that points right at the webshooter, hmmmm, I wonder why?

One thing I'm surprised at is how no one noticed that from the very first time we see her in "OMD," MJ is wearing the exact same outfit that she wore when she first met Peter back in the day. The black top with the purple Capri pants. If there was any one thing that I put in from the very beginning that was telegraphing that this was going to be it for them, that was it.

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff like this in the four issues, some of it dealing with what was going to happen within the series, much of it telling you what's to come. I'm going to let the readers have fun discovering them.

By the way, if you read the last issue backwards while standing on your head, it reads, "I buried, Bendis."

Why did you feel the need to insert these easter eggs throughout the story? Was this just you getting to have some fun, or is it serving a larger story purpose?

Part of it was fun, but I've done stuff like this in the past. The reason I did so much of it in "OMD," more than I ever have is because I had a clear roadmap of what was coming afterwards. Not only was there a significant amount of "Brand New Day" content already created or being created, had been planned nearly a year and a half before we even began "OMD." This made it much easier for me to drop in hints, messages, clues and such, because the ending and the future was so very clear and in many ways written in stone.

Also, to me, it's another one of the tools that we pencilers have, it's our version of subtext, only on a visual level.

Joe Quesada's digital artwork printed on Marvel boards (left), and Danny Mikki's tight inks over Quesada's blue-line pencils
Another surprise in the final chapter is that you inked yourself for eight pages instead of your regular inker, Danny Miki, doing the work.

Well, the truth of the matter is that I actually inked the entire issue, in a way. This entire issue is all done electronically on a Cintiq tablet, there is no original art whatsoever. But, in order to keep consistency, as Danny and I don't ink similarly, I would draw the pages and then send them to Danny as blue lines. Danny would then ink over my blue lines and away we went. For the last nine pages, I was going to change up my style anyway and we were running short on time, so we just went with the pure digital art.

Let me say this, Danny did an incredible job on this series as he does on every project, he's one of the very best inkers of all time.

It's clear you truly enjoyed bringing this story to life. Where does this work rank in your career in terms of creative enjoyment? "Daredevil: Father" was a very personal story for you and I'm sure was at times heart-rending to draw. That might be closest to your heart in the long run, but where does "OMD" stand?

"OMD" ranks right up there as one of my faves. It just became a very difficult book to do near the end. The last two issues really took a toll. The fourth issue in particular was really tough. However, after all the things that had to get done, all the stars that had to align at the end of that fourth issue to complete our story, it's probably the one issue I am most proud of doing for both myself and what my staff and creative partners did to get us there.

Joe Quesada's digital artwork printed on Marvel boards (left), and Danny Mikki's tight inks over Quesada's blue-line pencils
"Father" was an emotional rollercoaster and at times painfully intense to work on because of that. "OMD" was exhausting and work intensive, and in the end, something that I look at with great pride, more than anything because we were able to accomplish what we set out to do with it.

You said the last issue in particular was really tough -- what do you mean?

It was tough because the ground shifted in many places as we were well underway with the series. So, from a workload standpoint, it was a bit of an unexpected surprise and caused a few hiccups along the way.

I think this is a good point to talk about the delays the book faced. When the various were announced, most fans' fingers were pointed squarely at you. I think that's most likely because "Daredevil: Father" also shipped quite late. So, let's set the record straight, why so many delays on a story that most assumed was set in stone when it was announced?

Well, let me say this first so that no one accuses me of deflecting or ignoring what happened. There are many reasons "OMD" was delayed near the end, we can speak about them, but in the end, the buck stops with me, so look no further than right here. If the Earth's axis shifted and we were all flung into a night filled eternal winter that caused a title or titles to ship late, at the end of the day --ummm, night-- I'm the one sitting in the EIC chair, so it's ultimately my fault and for that I apologize.

But yes, there were a myriad of things that pushed the last two issues back. Mind you, the third issue was pushed back a month, thus pushing issue four back a month, but the honest truth is that the fact the fourth issue actually shipped in December is a Christmas miracle. The reason I say this is because issue #4 went from being a 22-page comic to 31 pages, with a considerable amount of that last issue rewritten and restructured on the fly, adding additional workload, none of which was planned for when we created the original schedule.

Without a doubt, the fourth issue was the toughest thing I ever had to do as a creator and, in the end, one of the most satisfying.

But this book was announced months in advance -- what happened to all the lead time you guys had?

Well, the reason it was announced months in advance is that with my day job, I can't finish a book in four weeks. Knowing that, we had to build-in the time. And also, what fans don't realize sometimes is that if you miss a deadline by a day, it could cause a book to ship late by several weeks or a month depending on where it falls on the calendar, so with the stuff I have to do during the course of my work week, we wanted to buffer the schedule as much as possible. Ultimately, I missed it and failed.

As the EiC of the largest publishing company in comics, is it realistic to expect that you can produce a monthly comic and have it ship on time?

After this last experience, I don't think so. I'm a pretty positive guy, my wife sometimes looks at me like I'm an idiot because I really do see the glass as half full almost all the time. So, I always go into these things with the best of intentions, but the last two times I've attempted this, the job always catches up with me. With "One More Day," the job was causing me to go slower than I would have liked, but in the end, the unexpected twists and turns we had with the third and fourth issue were the final tipping points. But that's the risks you run when you're cutting it so close to the bone. So, I think looking ahead, the prudent thing for me to do would just to not do any time sensitive projects again, at least while I have the day job.

With that in mind, when do you think we could find you behind the drafting table again working on interiors?

Maybe never, to be honest with you. I'll still do some covers here and there, but I just don't think it's fair to do this again to the fans, our retail partners, my staff and my family. As much as I want to be optimistic and believe that I can keep up the pace of working insane hours, it just takes too much of a toll on everyone around me and ultimately my health and mental state (insert joke here).

Also, to be honest with you, right now I don't think I can be objective about a decision like that because I'm completely burned out on drawing at the moment due to the craziness of the last few months. Maybe with some time and distance I'll be able to look at it more clearly, but speaking from where my head is right now, I honestly can't even imagine it happening.

As much ruckus as the delays caused, fan reaction to the storyline and a letter posted on the Internet from "Amazing Spider-Man" writer J. Michael Straczynski were the greatest controversies that arose during the publication of "One More Day." In a thread posted on Usenet that heavily criticized the storyline, JMS responded to a poster with the following....

Speak of the devil and he shall appear....

For whatever it's worth, the situation is not as clear cut as one might hope. The reality of any writer working for any company, DC or Marvel or Image, is that when you're handed a franchise character, you're basically entrusted with something that the company owns, and the company has final say in what happens to that character, because as a writer, you're only there for a certain amount of time and then the next guy has to come in. Spider-Man belongs to Marvel, not to me, and at the end of the day, however much I may disagree with things, and however much I may make it very CLEAR to all parties that I disagree, I have to honor their position.

In the Gwen storyline, yes, I wanted it to be Peter's kids, Joe over-rode that, which is his right as EIC. I got the flack for that decision, but them's the breaks.

In the current storyline, there's a lot that I don't agree with, and I made this very clear to everybody within shouting distance at Marvel, especially Joe. I'll be honest: there was a point where I made the decision, and told Joe, that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the OMD arc. Eventually Joe talked me out of that decision because at the end of the day, I don't want to sabotage Joe or Marvel, and I have a lot of respect for both of those. As an executive producer as well as a writer, I've sometimes had to insist that my writers make changes that they did not want to make, often loudly so. They were sure I was wrong. Mostly I was right. Sometimes I was wrong. But whoever sits in the editor's chair, or the executive producer's chair, wears the pointy hat of authority, and as Dave Sim once noted, you can't argue with a pointy hat.

So at the end of the day, all one can do is try to do the best one can with the notes one is given, and try to execute them in a professional way...because who knows, the other guy may be right. The only thing I *can* tell you, with absolute certainty, is that what Joe does with Spidey and all the rest of the Marvel characters, he does out of a genuine love of the character. He's not looking to sabotage anything, he's not looking to piss off the fans, he genuinely believes in the rightness of his views not out of a sense of "I'm the boss" but because he loves these characters and the Marvel universe.

And right or wrong, you have to respect that.

After that was posted, as you might expect, it became fodder for discussion on blogs and forums all over and a lot of questions were raised.

I know. In a way, Joe's post was one of the greatest marketing tools the fourth issue could have had. Someone told me there was some speculation it was all a ruse created by Joe and I to get people talking. That cracked me up beyond belief! I love the fact that we're keeping the fans on their toes and thinking -- it's just fun as hell. But while not beyond the realm of what we're capable of doing, it wasn't an intentional marketing ploy.

You mentioned the final two issues took a number of twists and turns. I'm guessing this is all tied-in together here. To begin with, were you aware JMS would be posting his grievances publicly?

No, I wasn't aware that Joe was going to post that, but Joe doesn't need to give me a heads-up when he's going to post something. Too be honest, I was probably the last person to hear about it. I hadn't been on the net in a couple of months and it was posted when I was working from home for the week, so I didn't hear about it until several days after it was posted. A pal called me to talk to me about it and was floored that he was breaking the news to me.

The funniest thing was when my friend said that based on the reaction of the net, there wasn't anyone who wasn't going to pick up the fourth issue because of the curiosity it ignited.

What's your reaction to what JMS had to say?

Well, there was a lot said, so you'll have to be more specific.

JMS notes there's a lot he disagrees with the storyline. In a way, it sounds like JMS agrees with some fans' negative comments about the storyline and was, in a way, throwing you under the bus. Obviously you knew he was upset about certain items in the story, but taking that public? It's not often you find any writer voicing the fact he vehemently disagreed with a story angle their EiC wanted them to take.

Well, first let me say that I love Joe -- he's one of my favorite people in the biz, both comics and Hollywood. The fact that he disagreed with the story didn't come as a surprise to me; he made that clear to me by the time we were on the third issue and, from his perspective, he had a right to be upset. In the end, we didn't publish the story he wanted to write.

That said, there are two sides to all of these things and as EIC, I'm stuck with the tough task of having to make tough calls, sometimes calls that effect even my dearest friends. In the end, we either accept it professionally, or we don't. Joe was a pro about it -- he wasn't happy about it, but he was a pro and did the best he could.

What had unfortunately happened with Joe's original scripts is that we didn't receive the story and methodology to the resolution that we were all expecting. What made that very problematic is that we had four writers and artists well underway on "Brand New Day" that were expecting and needed "One More Day" to end in the way that we had all agreed it would. Joe's original scripts, especially the fourth, didn't provide that.

I had a Solomon-like decision to make: I could either keep Joe's story as he delivered it, and then tear up tracks on "Brand New Day" and make an entire year's worth of Spider-Man stories worthless and stop shipping the book until we righted the train, or go to very extensive rewrites on Joe's scripts. Unfortunately, we had to go to the rewrites. The fact that we had to ask for the story to move back to its original intent understandably made Joe upset and caused some major delays and page increases in the series.

Also, the science that Joe was going to apply to the retcon of the marriage would have made over 30 years of Spider-Man books worthless, because they never would have had happened. We would have also had a "Crisis" in the Marvel Universe because it would have reset way too many things outside of the Spider-Man titles. We just couldn't go there and in the end we weren't expecting that kind of story.

I also think fans are misreading what Joe meant by disagreeing with the story. When we came up with the idea and methodology behind "One More Day," Joe was a part of the group that came up with the story. When we were done and felt we had it nailed, Joe told me that he was going to cycle off of "Amazing Spider-Man" and that he wanted to move on to other stuff. I told Joe that it was his call: He could close out his "Amazing Spider-Man" run however he wanted, or he could end it with the story we all created for "One More Day." He said he really wanted to write "One More Day." So Joe never said anything that indicated he disagreed with Peter and MJ's marriage being dissolved. If he had disagreed with the idea, he certainly would have told us and he certainly would not have asked to write the story. So like I said, I think people were reading into his on-line comments as opposed what I believe he was saying.

Just to make sure we're all on the same page, you're saying that it's more that JMS disagreed with how the story ultimately played out, not the basic plot and purpose of "One More Day?"

Right. Joe signed on to do "One More Day" and he was a part of the creative sessions that helped create the idea of it. How it played out in the end -- the science behind it -- was where we disagreed. I mean if Joe had disagreed with the idea of removing the marriage, he would have absolutely refused to write the story, which would have been fine either way. After so many brilliant years on Spider-Man, Joe had earned the right to end his run whichever way he wanted. "One More Day" is a story we could have told once Joe was off the title; the fact that he wanted to tell it was, the way we saw it, just an added bonus.

JMS said he wanted his name taken off the final two issues, but that you convinced him not to. That said, in the fourth chapter, the story is credited to both of you, not just JMS -- as was the case with the rest of "OMD." How much of the story in the final two chapters is you and how much of it is JMS?

Well, to be completely clear, the idea for "OMD" was actually created by a room full of people. From the very first day I was in the EIC chair, I made no secret of the fact that I felt that a married Peter Parker wasn't the best thing for an ongoing Spider-Man universe. The problem was that we never had a decent methodology to get ourselves out of it. I always said that if we ever found a way to do it, I would pursue the avenues to get us there.

Close to two years ago at one of our creative summits, the seeds of that idea began to blossom. Those ideas were then taken and a two week long e-mail chain began where we started to throw around ideas until we got the story kind of where we wanted it to be. The guys involved in all of this from the beginning were Joe, Bendis, Millar, Loeb, Tom Brevoort, Axel Alonso and myself. It then all carried over to the next summit, at which Ed Brubaker and Dan Slott also had some stuff to add. It was at one of these summits that JMS said the methodology we were using was more akin to the movie "Sliding Doors" than "Back to the Future." Rather than a single incident not happening that causes a huge domino effect across the timeline, he explained it was more like one door that wasn't taken or opened that only changed the subtlest of things.

In the end, knowing what that story was going to be is what allowed us to go ahead with the unmasking of Spider-Man in "Civil War" -- we had our "way out" ahead of time, it was a great place to be. The only thing we kept vacillating on was Gwen Stacy; we had a debate as to whether to bring her back. In the end, Joe and I wanted Gwen back. Several months later, several of my editors and some of the creators spoke to me and lobbied to keep her dead and in the end, much to Joe's and my disappointment, we had to leave her be. Ultimately, I felt that the arguments I was hearing for keeping her dead were stronger than my reasoning for bringing her back.

So, in the end, the plot and idea behind the story was really driven by a group of creators and a few editors.

In the fourth issue, the reason the credits read the way they do is because, along with Axel and Tom and using portions of Joe's original fourth issue, we tried to bring the story back to the original concept that we all discussed over a year prior. Let me add that JMS specifically asked for the credits to be amended in this issue because there were others involved with it. The one place that's all me are the last nine pages, the "Brand New Day" sequence. There were specific things that needed to happen in that sequence for "Brand New Day" to make sense.

But like I said, because we had to make all those changes, I can certainly see why Joe would be upset and disagree with what we were doing; it wasn't the same story he handed in. What hurts me to this very moment, is that we had to do this on Joe's final story arc on the character. He's done so many fantastic stories with Spidey, that it really wasn't how we wanted to send him off on the title. I wish in my heart of hearts that it could have been different, but unfortunately, I had to make a very hard and painful call.

CBR News continues its discussion with Quesada on Wednesday as we get the answer to the above question, how "One More Day" does effect the last 20 years of Spider-Man comics, what this has meant for Quesada and Straczynski's friendship and begin discussion of one of the most controversial Spider-Man storylines of all time.

Previously
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 1 of 5

Now discuss this story in CBR's Spider-Man forum.

 
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