The Passing of the Guard
Joe Quesada is stepping away from Marvel Comics.
For some it is a day of jubilation. The man did a ton for Marvel Comics. But he also did one thing that, at one time, made him the most hated person in comics. For me, at the time, I was very angry. He touched the one thing that was so sacred to me. So let's provide some context.
Anyone that knows me knows about my lifelong love of comic books. They might be familiar with my introductions to Spider-Man, my love of Stan Lee and my love of Marvel. My first comic book I truly feel in love with was Spider-Man. Unlike the Batman and Superman comics I was reading, Spider-Man was written for me. He wasn't a billionaire, he wasn't an alien. He was a kid with alot of the same problems many of us had. He was broke, he was a nerd, he was bullied, yet he had these powers that were weird and strange. I really identified with Spider-Man, and Stan Lee's writing really cemented my love of the character. And Steve Ditko, and later Buscema, Romita, and Byrne, visualized how my own artistic brain saw things. Spider-Man was that perfect storm, blending everything I loved about art and writing in one book.
My own writing took from Spider-Man in many of my own works, establishing the main character that just wasn't that cool, just wasn't that popular and kept reflecting my own position in life. And the older I got, the more I was like Peter Parker, with my own secret power: creativity. I was making stories: a lot of them. There were overarching stories, planned out over years, with character progression and evolution. I was always creating. And I was always keeping it secret. I tried to keep secret that I wrote and drew my own stories. Only my inner circle knew about my nerd hobby.
Stan Lee long left Spider-Man, but I was still in there reading Spidey. I was still following his stories. I was still keeping up with Peter. And when he found MJ, a wonderful woman, someone who truly understood him for who he was... I had thoughts that maybe one day, someone would find me and not be put off by my own secret power.
At some point, I discovered Babylon 5. It was groundbreaking for television in that J Michael Straczynski, the series creator wrote a lot of the series. His vision for the show was fully realized and executed. It was an impossible feat in the world of television but some reason, JMS was able to get it done. By the point in my life I had discovered Babylon 5, I was working on adapting a game I had run into a fully fleshed out and scripted comic called Symka. I felt a parallel to the writer. I had a vision for Symka. I planned the whole series and executed on it, over 36 chapters, released monthly over 3 years for the Guild Companion. I did it, possibly through shear force of will and saw my vision through right to the end.
When JMS was given the reins to Spider-Man, it really got my attention. So I dug into what else JMS was and along the way, really started to admire the writer even more. What he did with Peter and Spider-Man, how he actually took Peter and moved him forward was groundbreaking. It wasn't flashy, it was organic. He took logical steps to create a new vision for Spider-Man that fans really dug. He actually moved Peter forward. He and MJ's marriage was a huge part of who Peter was. And he really knew the history. He didn't shit on that history. He used that history as part of that evolution. He was all about the continuity. It was during this run that JMS earned his spot as my favorite (modern) comics writer.
There were a couple of moments in the run that really seemed out of step with everything I had read up to then from JMS. But overall, we were seeing forward momentum with Peter Parker and with Spider-Man. But the final arc JMS did, really was out of line. I couldn't understand why he would take such a lazy way out of something he had written, something that had so much gravitas and importance.
I earned even more respect for what JMS did with the title, what he fought for and what he eventually lost to. I can't remember where I had read it exactly but the scuttlebutt going around was that JMS was becoming frustrated with editorial, or more specifically with Joe Quesada. The story arcs I had found weak or lacking were the ones JMS and Quesada had been butting heads on. Quesada was pushing certain things on JMS and JMS was trying his best to work with the boss's ideas, shoehorning in awkward character directions and out of place story arcs. But it was the final arc, that final story that really ended the JMS run on a weak ending and made painted Quesada as the person who ruined Spider-Man for years to come.
Aunt May is shot and is dying. In order to save her, Peter makes a deal with Mephisto, saving Aunt May but erasing Peter and MJ's marriage.
Yeah, you heard me. The interviews JMS gave have long since disappeared online, explaining what happened, but there are still articles online interviewing Quesada. The last run, a 4 issue run called One More Day had been submitted by JMS to be drawn, inked and lettered. Quesada didn't like what JMS sent in, rewrote the last two issues and went with Quesada's ending.
Basically, the favorite part of the last several years of comics was all about Peter and MJ's marriage. And editorial felt that the fans didn't like it... that Peter had evolved as a character. They basically reset him to being broke, struggling to make ends meet, and essentially reverting him to how he was in his college years. So instead of growth as a character, he was ungrown.
I stopped collecting Spider-Man here and it wasn't until many years later that I came back to Spider-Man. But I always had a bone to pick with Quesada.
I am sure Quesada did a lot of good at Marvel. I mean, he was in that position of Editor in Chief forever. But his decisions hurt my love of a character I had grown up with and erased that growth Peter had.