In the final hours of San Diego Comic-Con 2014, esteemed Marvel Comics creators Joe Quesada, Mark Waid, and Dan Slott hosted a panel to discuss two very important anniversaries for the publisher. 2014 is the year Marvel Comics turns 75 and Daredevil the Man Without Fear reaches the golden anniversary of his first appearance in “Daredevil” #1 (April 1964).
Waid began the panel by stating that the most important person in the history of Marvel Comics is not Stan Lee but a woman named Joanie. It was a story he would get back to later.
The panel began by detailing the history of Marvel beginning with the pulp-publisher Martin Goodman who was a successful trend follower and if there was a chance to make some money jumping on a trend he was going to do it. In 1939, Goodman jumped on the superhero bandwagon by launching “Marvel Comics” #1 with heroes known as the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and the Angel (not the mutant who is a member of the X-Men). These heroes were soon joined by Captain America. The publisher at the time was known as Timely.
When the hero trend burned out Goodman followed it up with the next wave of popular trends sci-fi, then romance, then western, and then monster. All the while he had an editor-in-chief Stan Lee running the show and writing the comics.
Quesada shared his admiration for Stan Lee. He says Lee is one of the very few celebrities he has met that has actually lived up to the hype. The public persona we all see is in fact exactly who Lee is.
Waid continued the history of Marvel and that by the early 1960s Lee was starting to burn out. He had reached a crux in his life where he had to decide if he was going to stay in comics or pursue another career. It was his wife Joanie who said to him that if he was going to leave he should go out doing what he always wanted to do in the comic books without listening to Goodman. In 1961, Lee and artist Jack Kirby created the “Fantastic Four” a comic book that was unlike anything in comics. The heroes did not wear masks, they did not have costumes, they fought internally among themselves, they were angry. This is what Lee wanted, differing types of heroes that felt real.
It was this realism that bought Quesada to comics in the first place. He became aware of Marvel through the “Amazing Spider-Man” anti-drug issues in 1971 (issues 96, 97, 98). His dad had seen a segment on the news that talked about Lee writing about the evils of drugs and he went to the newsstand and purchased the second part of the story. Quesada smiled when he said he never got addicted to drugs, but was thoroughly addicted to comics. The realism of Spider-Man living in Forest Hills where Quesada grew up made it seem real. Each character led to the next, from reading Fantastic Four he found the Black Panther and so on.
Waid continued that the success of Marvel had a lot to do with the advent of “Stan’s Soapbox” a segment that ran in all issues of Marvel Comics. In 250 words, Lee would bring you into the real world of Marvel Comics pulling back the curtain on the good and the bad that was happening. When Kirby left Marvel to go to DC Comics Lee addressed this in the “Soapbox” when others would have ignored it. It created a real connection with the fans.
Slott added that it was also the caption boxes that Lee wrote in his comics that further engendered the readers. The friendly tone Lee used brought the readers into the world of the comic book.
Lee gave an importance and a voice to the creators making the books. He added credits to his comics so fans knew who was making the book they were reading. And he even did floppy recordings of the famed Marvel Bullpen where the creators had their voices captured and fans could hear them speak.
Waid pointed out that it was the stories that also kept it real. Spider-Man had real problems, not just stopping the villain but also he had to care for a sick Aunt and he had trouble with girls and it complicated his life much more.
Slott said one of the innovations of the Marvel Comics style was that the heroes would lose. In “Daredevil” issue 7, Daredevil lost to the Sub-Mariner. He took a complete beating, but it showed how valiant the hero was. The chance that they might lose captivated Slott to the stories. When Batman and Superman always won it took away from the depth of their adventures.
Changing the paradigm of the secret identity was something else that Quesada attributed to the difference in Marvel Comics. With Superman and Batman the secret identities were the masks and the heroes were the real characters. With Marvel the person out of the mask was the real character it was a difference that engendered the heroes to their fans.
Getting to the other anniversary of the day, Waid brought up Bill Everett the creator of the Sub-Mariner in the original Marvel comic, and in 1964 during the ever-expanding time of the early Marvel Lee turned to Everett who was one of his favorite artists to create the next Marvel sensation. Everett had a blind daughter and that was thought to be part of the impetus for creating the first blind super-hero Daredevil.
Waid said that so many of the Marvel characters had to evolve after their introductions to really hit the right notes Hulk, Thor, and Thing, but Daredevil was pretty much fully formed. The first costume however was not the best it was not iconic looking with its brown and yellow design it would have hurt the character’s longevity.
Quesada said the colors just clashed and he looked like a jester.
When Wally Wood jumped on the comic with “Daredevil” #7, Daredevil got his red costume and that is where the character really gelled and kept running through all the artists from Gene Colan, to Frank Miller, to David Mazuchelli. Then it was Quesada who took a turn at the character.
The artist Quesada and his co-collaborator Jimmy Palmiotti were being recruited by Marvel to take over some of their failing books and give them a jolt in what would become the Marvel Knights line of comics. Quesada had always loved the character of Daredevil. There was something Shakespearean about him he was very heroic but surrounded by a lot of tragedy.
When Quesada and Palmiotti were negotiating to come to Marvel, “Daredevil” sales were falling off. This was the one book Quesada really wanted to work on and to his surprise Marvel said yes. Quesada attributes much of the success of the book to Kevin Smith who he was lucky enough to have him come write the series. His style was so influential to the series. Smith was followed by David Mack who was inspiring to work with and he led to Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev coming on the series for the definitive run on the character of the new millennium.
The three panelists agreed that in the entire library of Marvel Comics that no other book has had as much talent working on the series. It is a murderer’s row of some of the top-talents Marvel has ever had making their mark on the comic.
Waid said that the current work on “Daredevil” with Chris Samnee is so rewarding that Marvel will have to take the book “from their cold dead hands.”
But Waid wants to know if there is something outside of the comics coming for Daredevil. He smiles and turns to Quesada.
On cue, Quesada talks about the “Daredevil” series coming to Netflix. He likens working on the series to that initial feeling of working on the Marvel Knights comics. The series is being shot in New York City on the rooftops. There is a great cast in place. Quesada said he can’t say much yet and there is no timetable yet for its release.
Asked for his opinion on Daredevil, Slott said he loves Daredevil’s feet of clay. “He’s one of Marvel’s most messed up characters.” Radioactive chemicals in his eyes, his dad dies in the boxing ring, his mother is a nun who completely ignores him. There is so much tragedy in his background.
Waid sees the difference in the way he writes Daredevil is the way he deals with tragedy. His take on the character is seen to be lighter, but Waid freely admits he is just as horrible to Matt Murdock as anyone.
Slott adds that Daredevil and Matt Murdock are such compelling identities. Waid said one of the things he is proud of is how the line between Matt Murdock and Daredevil are now blurred and the stories write well whether he is in the costume or not.
He notes that Daredevil is one of the heroes whose powers get less impressive as technology advances. Daredevil used to be able to read a newspaper just by touching it, now with the advent of touch screens he is blinder and it presents new challenges for the hero.
The talk of Daredevil gave way to the panel’s question and answer.
A fan asked about Marvel’s progression through media and how that has affected the comics. Slott jumped in and said that the various shows bring in new readers with each new series. The “X-Men” series of the 1990s brought in a tremendous amount of female readers due to the shows strong proliferation of female heroes.
Waid said that no matter how successful a movie or a TV show is no one at Marvel ever says that the comics need to match the movies.
A fan asked the panel if anyone ever got to meet Steve Ditko the reclusive co-creator of Spider-Man. Slott relays his personal story about meeting the artist. When he was in the Art Returns Department for Marvel he called Ditko up to ask him where he should send a release so that he may return some of his Squirrel Girl art. Ditko replied he’d come to the office the next day. Nervous but acting incredibly professional Slott met Ditko gave him his art and exchanged no words. No one else wanted to top it.
A fan asked if Daredevil will get to meet Iron Fit in the Netflix series since both have been slotted to appear in the service. Quesada says it is too early to answer but he hopes it will all lead to a Defenders type series. But he asks fans to let things play out for now.
A fan asked what is up with the recent influx of Marvel Heroes to the West Coast. Tony Stark (Iron Man), Matt Murdock, and Frank Castle (the Punisher) have all moved west in recent months. The panel agreed New York City is so iconic and it is why it is then center of the Marvel Universe because it is so recognizable. But the world is very large and there is so much more to see.
A fan asked if the current Marvel series “Original Sin” is canon. The panel assured everyone it is indeed a part of the Marvel canon. The concept began with writer Allan Heinberg pitching a story but Quesada felt there was a bigger story there. It kept getting worked on and Ed Brubaker took a stab at it giving lots of new ideas but the time was never right. Quesada would introduce it as an event because the idea behind the story, every character having some secret that affects them, is so simple of an idea. The exploring of these secrets makes a good story, and it gets too complicated the more threads you pull on.
A fan asked if Marvel was able to just foist their heroes upon Hollywood and make any sort of movie. Quesada said that is not what they do and pointed out that every character has their time. Now is the time for “Guardians of the Galaxy” just like in the 1990s there was the “Blade” movies. Even though Marvel still has not found the right formula to make “Blade” a successful comic the character still has a huge following. There are so many characters to get out there but they need to be the right combination in the right situations.
The panel wrapped with talk about one of the most successful pieces of Marvel history, the era of Jim Steranko. He is famous for his pop-art and as part of the first generation of fans who became professional comics creators. Steranko was known for his huge design sensibility. The panel all agreed that at 30 comics no one in the history of the medium has had such a tremendous impact on comics with such little product produced.
A final question was squeezed in about Daredevil and She-Hulk meeting in a court of law. Slott pointed out that the two are set to oppose each other in the new “She-Hulk” series by Charles Soule.