Quesada Interview

The Iron Man Armory Interviews Joe Quesada

Before he became Marvel's editor-in-chief, the man affectionately known as Joe Q was an artist and later a writer. He wrote Iron Man, volume III, 26-35 as well as co-writing the 2000 Annual. He pencilled a few covers during that run as well. He spoke with The Armory during his IM writing stint.

1. In your opinion, what makes a good Iron Man story, what are the key ingredients?

The key ingredient to me is not putting the armor above Tony as a character.

2. How did you approach writing Iron Man? How do you get into Tony Stark's mind and the Iron Man character?

I just took all those years of emotional baggage that the character has been carrying around and looked to see what resonated with me or what was common with experiences in my life. This allowed me to get into the characters head as best as I could.

3. Where do you see Iron Man (both the book and the character) in the overall Marvel Universe?

To me the character and the book are one of the few tentpoles in the Marvel U.

4. Could you expand on that... Is Iron Man (both the character and the book) overlooked in an X-Men/Spidey market?

I think he tends to be solely based on the fact that he's rich, good looking, brilliant and a super hero. He's very tough for younger readers to relate to. As much as hard core Iron Man fans may hate to hear this, if Tony was younger and creating all this stuff much in the way that Peter created web shooters, he might have been more widely excepted. It's just the facts of publishing in a youth market.

5. When writing Iron Man, or any of the longstanding heroes, how conscious are you of their history and how much of that do you feel obliged to rehash/reference? Do you ever feel burdened by a hero's "baggage?"

It's quite a daunting task to write a character that has as much history as IM has. The trick I believe with characters like him is to tip your hat to continuity but try not to become reverent to it. It's a tough trap not to try to fall into. I always loved the old yellow and red suit, it's the one I remembered as a kid, but I wanted to bring it back for a really good reason that had little to no ties to the past.

6. Obviously the unfolding Sons of Yinsen plotline is a direct link back to Iron Man's origin, changing some long held "beliefs..." Do you think a writer has a duty to a character's past and what are your views on "tinkering" with the origins of heroes?

Well, wait until the arc is done and lets talk. When I was researching the Son's story arc I was frankly appalled at the fact that Bryne had twisted the origin in the way that he did. I really don't want to get into it but you can fill in the blanks. Anyway, the story I wanted to tell sort of fell in-between the cracks of what's known as IM's original origin. I hope everybody digs the outcome.

7. Was there any pressure to extend any of Kurt Busiek's plotlines, or were you given free reign, a clean slate?

No, I had total free reign. The only dangling plotline was the Madame Mask scenario which Kurt told me he wanted to take care of on his own in the AV's. I have had a blast however playing around with Rumiko (I know that sounds terrible), she's such a great character!

8. Were there any plotlines or developments that Marvel or Bobbie rejected? Can you share some?

Nope, none really. Well, okay there was the one story in which I wanted to have the Mandarin be responsible for Wong-Chu capturing Tony and...ah heck, you know what I mean.

9. I've noticed that some fans have been pretty vocal in their criticism of the choices you've made in Iron Man--I've seen you respond to a number of their points on the chat board--but my question is, has the fan criticism made you change or rethink anything?

Nope, that's a terrible mistake to make. Once a story is set in motion let it play itself out. Fan reaction can dictate what you may do next with regard to villains and what not, but you have to tell the story that you want to tell. I know of a writer who changed the ending of a story based on fan reaction and believe me it was a tragic mistake. The problem is that almost every vocal poster is an amateur writer trying to break in and they tend to try to write the story before it's even gotten beyond the second issue. Better to stick to one's guns. Hey listen, when I was an amateur penciler I was a pretty harsh critic, just not as harsh as some of the young buck writers who feel that this lowly artist has no business writing Iron Man.

10. Along the same lines...I can't remember the last time a creator responded to fan criticism in the letters column... What was it that made you go directly to the readers?

I've always done that. It may seem new to readers of Iron Man but not to those who are familiar with me on other projects. It just comes from a real passion and belief in what I do and the people that work for me.

11. As an artist or a writer, what is your dream job at Marvel (or in comics)? Which characters would you like to work with next?

Next up for me would be to draw something that I write. Who knows it may be an Iron Man story someday or maybe DD. Let's see where the ride takes us all. Right now I'm just interested in trying to do some good for Marvel and this fragile industry with whatever resources I have at Marvel Knights. Everyone may not agree with my methods but I hope they agree with the results. But just like any plotline, I'm knee deep into it and I'm not about to steer off the course just because a few folks don't find the story or the teller to their liking.

12. OK, so you said check back with you regarding the tinkering with Iron Man's origin.... What does it say about Tony Stark, considering that he never went back and that he doesn't appear to have even thought about it in all these years?

I think it says that on that first day he didn't understand the whole super hero thing. It was war, he did what he was supposed to do, he beat the bad guy and escaped.

13. In many ways Yinsen is to Tony Stark what Uncle Ben is to Spider-Man. It was the death of Yinsen that propelled Stark to be an avenger, to use his super armor to fight evil. Now the S.O.Y. arc leaves us with the tantalizing prospect that Yinsen will return in the abandoned Sentient Armor. (And if comic book history tells us anything about long lost friends it's that he'll probably be more than a bit evil...) Won't that undermine the entire character of Iron Man? And bringing back Yinsen must really stir up some emotions, how can Tony Stark just leave Timbetpal with so much unsaid?

As far as Tony knows, Yinsen is just a brain in a jar. He has no knowledge of the SOY's possible placement of it in the armor. How do we even know that they have the ability to do that? Here's another question for you, how do you know it's Yinsen's brain? Maybe it's... dear God, I can't even say it!

14. I'm not sure what your answer will be to the last questions, so I'll offer this as well: Rather than "undermining" his origin, perhaps the recent S.O.Y. arc brings Stark full circle, in effect saving Yinsen at long last. Was that your intent? Do you believe that? And how might this affect Stark, having this demon excised?

Absolutely, it cleans up, for me at least, some rather callous behavior by Tony in the past.

15. Your Sons of Yinsen (the group) change our perception, and perhaps the uniqueness of Iron Man and the Living Armor proved once again that it is not the armor but the man, Tony Stark, that is the hero-- But that man has always been very jealous/protective of his technology... Many would say that his abandonment/burial of the armor on an island (in a marked grave no less), and his quick departure from New Timbetpal and the armored Sons are uncharacteristic of the man who fought two Armor Wars to control his technology...How do you reconcile this new behavior with Stark's past? Isn't it out of character?

I think that Tony took every precaution to make sure that that armor buried on the island was completely nonfunctional. I also believe that in a passionate sense, Tony wanted to shed it and be rid of the evil thing. It was like cleansing himself of something very terrible that he himself created.

16. There are a lot of longtime fans that gripe over all the restarts, relaunches and redesigns of major characters over the last few years... First, your view on this industry trend (its effects and causes) and second, in general, do you think a writer, or company, has a duty to preserve the origin of a hero? Should the origins of the classic heroes be sacred?

I think it's very important for us to revamp from time to time. We need to stay current while still staying true to the original concept. If we don't do this, we will become much like the dinosaur. The key is remembering the original archetype and staying true to that.

17. This may be nitpicking, and I think I know the answer, but I've got to ask...In the Annual, where did Stark get the cloak card that he inserted into his heart nodule? I can see that it appeared to be drawn from his teddy bear, but how did it get in there? You had me until that point...

Do you remember the little girl that gave Tony the bear in the previous issue? Tony thought ahead (he is a genius after all) and placed it in the bear. I was originally going to show this being done but it would have spoiled the surprise in the annual. Heck that's why I did the scene with the little girl in the first place.

18. Is there anything else that you would like to say to the fans? Anything that you would like to add?

Well, as you all probably know by now I had to resign as Iron Man penciler. What started out as a five issue commitment went 10 plus an annual and a Wizard 1/2. It was a great ride but my wife is expecting and Iron Man was something that I only did on my downtime. I want to thank all of you, the complimentary fans and the naysayers, it's been a great experience and I learned a lot. Hopefully I'll get a chance to come back to shellhead someday. Take care and I'll see ya in the funnybooks.


Interview copyright 2001, 2002 Tim Rassbach.

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