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

Fri, January 4th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

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The "One More Day" Variant Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
Thus far we've posted four in-depth interviews with Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada about the controversial "One More Day" storyline that has set-up a new status quo for Spider-Man going forward. Today on CBR, in our fifth chat with Quesada, we go in a different direction, but that doesn't mean the "One More Day" interviews are over.

Yup, there's one more interview to come and this time you, the reader, get to drive it. As we revealed yesterday, Quesada has agreed to take questions from the fans. To suggest a question, simply send it to Jonah Weiland with the subject line "One More Day Questions" (please remember to include this) and we here at CBR will choose the 15 best. Please have your questions in by next Tuesday, January 8th.

In the mean time, for part five of our interview with Quesada, after nearly 30 pages of "One More Day" discussion it's time to see a different side of Marvel's EiC as we switch gears and talk with Joe about some of his activities outside of Marvel.

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Joe, as we bring this interview to a close, I wanted to switch gears and move away from "One More Day" and talk about some things you're involved in that's not exactly related to your day-to-day work at Marvel. Some readers may not be aware that for a short time in 2007 you were in the restaurant business.

Yeah, I was a part owner in a local NYC bar. We called it Flatiron Joe's. It was a lot of fun, but when we bought the lease for the location, the building was soon after sold, and the new landlord needed to gut the building in order to rebuild. We were offered a buyout with the option to perhaps reopen in three years when the renovations are done, so we took it. Let's see what happens in three years.

So how long were you guys actually in business? Doesn't sound like a very long time.

Our doors were open for a little over six months over the summer. I wasn't running the place, I left that to my business partner who owns a restaurant and knows what he's doing. However, on occasion, you could've walked in there and caught me laying out pages in my sketchbook, sipping on a club soda.

Were there any Joe Q murals on the walls?

No, but Kevin Nowlan designed our logo and did a piece of artwork that we hired some mural painters to start putting up on an exposed brick wall.

If you reopen in three years, sounds like the bar will play host to one hell of a New York Comic-Con after party.

Yeah, that's kind of the idea. We'll see what happens. Three years is a long time.

Why get into the business of owning a bar?

It was kind of a no-brainer. Owning a bar restaurant was always something I wanted to do, and almost had the opportunity to do several years ago, but it didn't pan out. I'm not much of a drinker -- I'll have the occasional beer -- but it's more the environment of taverns that I've always loved. Anyway, a very good friend of mine owns a fantastic sea food restaurant (Schaffer City, go check it out), and he and I got to talking one day, and we discovered that we had this mutual love of taverns and both always wanted to own one. As these things happen, one very close to both our areas went out of business and was selling its lease. My pal asked me if I wanted to invest and lend my name to it, and it just seemed like a missed opportunity if I said no. My only stipulation was that I couldn't work the restaurant in any capacity as I have a day job and responsibility to Marvel, so in essence I would be a silent partner whose name was on the door. That seemed to work out for everyone. That's one of the reasons why I also didn't do the logo and artwork. That and Kevin Nowlan is so much better than me.

So we had a nice summer run. We were profitable and growing, but welcome to real estate in NYC. Currently, the building is being gutted; they're leaving the exterior, but it's over a hundred years old so they're putting in completely new infrastructure and it's going to take quite a while.

It was a lot of fun and it all culminated with the Mike Wieringo/Hero sketch party which was the last event we held there and a fantastic night.

A wall of guitars in Quesada's home.
Another passion of yours is music. I recalled a recent story in Wizard about your guitar collection. They showed a picture which had seven guitars of various sizes and shapes on a wall, but I'm guessing that's not all of the guitars you have.

Yeah, what happened was that before I moved into our current home, my wife took me into our closet and pointed out the ten guitars in their space consuming hard shell cases. They were all guitars that I had played over my years as a musician and she was wondering what I intended to do with them before we moved. She gave me that look that said, "You can't play them all, so pick two and we're putting the rest in storage." As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so I came up with an idea of using the guitars as artwork in our new place. We designed this cool display case with a built in humidifier and we hung all ten and it looks pretty cool if I say so myself.

Which is currently your favorite guitar?

That changes from year to year, but I really enjoy playing my scale neck, Rickenbacker 325C. I just love the sound and feel of the guitar.

How often do you and your band Idle Chatter get together and jam these days? When was the last time you played live?

Usually, we play about three times a year strictly at charity functions, but this last year I did a considerable amount of traveling that conflicted with all of this years charity gigs. So, believe it or not, the last time I played with the band was when we recorded last year's Christmas song.

I noticed there was no Christmas song this year.

I actually had one written and I was prepared to record it. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted after OMD and had spent so little time with my family during that time, that I just couldn't do it and live with myself. Those Christmas recordings take several days and incredibly long hours; I had to be smart about it.

I have a number of friends who are musicians and there's one topic that seems to cause a disproportionate amount of consternation amongst them when brought up – Guitar Hero. I'd say about half are wildly against the idea, feeling if people just played an actual guitar there'd be a lot more casual musicians out there. And they're just adamantly against the whole concept. The other set just thinks it's the greatest thing and hopes it turns some of those people into musicians themselves. First, have you played and if so, what camp do you fall in?

True confessions time: I haven't owned a video game system in quite a while. I purchased an Xbox when it first came out, played it for a week, and now it just gathers dust. I sometimes feel like a recovering alcoholic when I hold a game controller. I'm going to digress again, so feel free to skip this answer if you like.

I use to work at FAO Schwartz, the famous toy store here in NYC, back in my twenties, way before I was even reintroduced to the world of comics with "The Dark Knight" and "Watchmen." I was a salesman in the "Games Department," and the store expert on strategy games like Avalon Hill. I also had to learn how to play nearly every board game on the shelves because back in those days. FAO really prided themselves on their sales people being experts in what they were selling, especially since so many of their clients were high rollers and celebrities (the stories I could tell). Over in the darkest corner of the department, we had old Atari consoles and games gathering dust that we were selling for dirt; the video game boom was dead and buried.

In one day comes this very nice gentlemen. He'd spoken to our store manager who directed him towards me. He said that he was representing this company called Nintendo out of Japan and now with headquarters in Seattle, and he wanted to show me this new video game system, the NES. My eyes rolled back into my head and he laughed because he said that was exactly the response my store manager gave him. He handed me the very original NES system, the one that had the robot and the gun for the "Duck Hunt" game. He told me to take it home and to try it out free of charge, so I did. It was my understanding that FAO would be the first store to carry the game based on my say-so and outside of perhaps focus-group testing. I may have been the first layperson in the US, at least in NYC to play with the unit. I could be wrong, but if I'm remembering correctly, I don't even think it was seen in trade shows yet at that point. Hey, it's my fantasy, let me have it.

I went home and was blown away by it. I went back to my managers and told them that we had to invest deeply in the system, they thought I was crazy, people didn't want video games after the crash, but they took a flyer, put some trust in me and went for it. That Christmas, there was interest from consumers but the toughest hurdle was the time I had to spend, literally explaining to every customer how this was not like Atari, how this was special. In some cases, I even had to tell one of my regular costumers that I would take the unit back if they didn't like it. It was only a matter of time, but slowly word started to go around about the system and I started to see more and more people coming back to FAO for the unit and before we knew it, we couldn't keep it in stock. We were also the exclusive store for that time period, if I recall correctly, so there was nowhere else in NYC to get it.

Once the game went into other stores, my pal from Nintendo game back and offered me another opportunity to test-drive another product. It was this game called "Legend of Zelda," he said it would rock my world.

It did.

I became so obsessed with "Legend of Zelda" that suddenly both my girlfriend at the time and I found ourselves thinking of nothing but the game. We didn't go out, we barely ate. It got to the point where I found myself showing up to work late and, in some cases, not showing up at all because I had to figure out the game -- it was insane. Needless to say, I knew that Nintendo had another hit on its hands, but I had to ultimately give my unit away because I was an addict. When the Nintendo rep came back in, I told him that I was going to inform my managers to stock to the rafters with "Zelda," but that I never wanted to see the game again. As an aside, I asked the rep how he became involved with Nintendo and he told me that he was one of the guys who originally bought the rights from Nintendo to license "Donkey Kong" as an arcade game in all of North America. I was blown away -- not only was this guy a multi-millionaire, but he was still going store to store selling Nintendo product. I wish I could remember his name, he was a tremendously nice guy.

So about "Guitar Hero."

Right, "Guitar Hero." The great debate!

Well, I finally broke down, I actually went out and bought a Wii for the family this Christmas. Yes, it's come around full circle and we're having a blast with it. I haven't played "Guitar Hero" as of yet, but ultimately I think it's a silly argument. Those that want to learn how to play a real instrument will eventually do so. It's hard work to be able to learn how to play any instrument so it takes a certain desire to do so. I honestly don't think a videogame will satisfy the desire to play the real thing. What it will do is satisfy a fantasy of playing the guitar. But let's look at it in a Darwinian manner. If I know how to play the guitar, better for me if it weeds out the wannabes from those that actually do. It makes me that much more unique because I actually know how to play and there are fewer of us around.

As we close things up, this is the first major interview you've done online in months. I think it was right before Comic-Con that we saw something from you. You used to be very visible online, but not as much anymore. Why's that?

It was totally based on my work schedule and OMD. Doing a weekly column that dealt with as many questions as "Joe Fridays" did, was incredibly time consuming, sometimes taking several days to finish while also performing my EIC duties. So, something had to give and "Joe Fridays" had to be put on hiatus. I also refrained from doing as many interviews as possible during that time. I did a few here and there, but for the most part I forced myself off the net and away from doing marketing and press.

But, fret not, I'm back and can't wait to get back to talking, haggling, wrestling and playing with the fans. I love doing it and I want to continue making myself available to them.

Hey, and while we're at it, and since we're talking about getting the word out there, check out the launch of our new Marvel Kids site! There's an animated Marvel Adventures Advervideo that was written by Craig Kyle and I with the help of Tim Miller (or Tom as I like to call him) and the amazing folks at Blur. It's a fun little thing we did that I think fans will dig and will want to look at very closely.

With your schedule now a little freer, will 2008 bring you back online a bit more?

You bet, I'm planning on it. Sure, there's always a loud contingency of internet fans who rally against just about everything we do, but in the end, that's great because it means that we have them engaged and vested in our books and stories and, in the end, that's what's important. People can have whatever opinion of me that they want -- that's cool, it comes with the job. The one thing that I never want them to feel is that I'm inaccessible to them.

Joe, thanks for taking the time to talk so extensively over the Holiday's here. Happy New Year and best of luck with 2008. Got any resolutions for 2008?

I lost 90 pounds since last November and I'm shooting for another 30. That alone should keep me pretty busy. Outside of that, I'm having a blast doing what I'm doing, I've been here at Marvel for 10 years, if you count Marvel Knights and 8 as EIC, and it's been the best time of my life. When this crew and I started this journey, Marvel Comics was in pretty bad shape as was the industry. To see it rebound and to be, in some small way, a part of that rebound has been incredibly rewarding. I've been blessed in too many ways to count, so my only real resolution is to continue working as hard as I can to keep our fans interested and engaged and feeling as passionate about all the stuff we're doing as they have been for the last 10 years!

And while I'm at it, let me take the time out to wish everyone the absolute best, safest and healthiest of New Years!

Previously

The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 4 of 5
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 3 of 5
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 2 of 5
The "One More Day Interviews" with Joe Quesada, Pt. 1 of 5

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