Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio on Their Marvel Vs DC Rivalry

Last week on the Drink And Draw YouTube channel, Dan DiDio and Joe Quesada joined Dan Panosian, Jeff Johnson, Dave Johnson and Ben Defeo to drink and draw. The conversation was naturally dominated by Joe and Dan, and they talked about the last time they met socially, and the challenges publishing mainstream superhero comic books. It brought up everything from continuity, consistency and leading the charge. DiDio repeatedly praised Marvel Comics for getting things right, and how he tried to draw from Marvel when he was publisher of DC. There's a lot to enjoy. You can see the artwork created here, learn why Dan DiDio regretted the second year of the New 52 here, why both value change here and when Dan DiDio was meant to be fired here.

Joe Quesada on when Marvel Vs DC became real for him

When Joe Quesada started as Editor-In-Chief, Dan DiDio was at DC Comics but in an ambigious job before he took over. Joe loved the cod-rivalry that Stan Lee created with references to the 'Distinguished Competition' and wanted to bring back the pro-wrestling 'Us Vs Them' artificial animosity. It was good for business, but he made what he calls a "rookie mistake". He had a reporter from the New York Observer, who asked to spend an entire work day with Quesada. "He sat in my office, for all my meetings" but it also crossed over with his lunch appointment with a contest winner. The reporter asked to come along, but Quesada said it would have to be off the record. They were talking the usual nonsense, including about Marvel Vs DC, when he gave that infamous line about Superman and a pornstar, just joking around. The reporter went away, but "what was promised was off the record he made it the headline, and I know that pissed a lot of people at DC off and it became real."

I remember that line well. In 2004 I reported on the animosity between Marvel and DC, and referred to that line, then only three years old at the time. "Bob Wayne [then DC SVP Sales] made it clear that the New York Observer article seems to be a sticking point between the companies. Joe's comment in the article that stuck out is "'What the f-ck is DC anyway?' Mr. Quesada said, stoking the fires. 'They'd be better off calling it AOL Comics. At least people know what AOL is. I mean, they have Batman and Superman, and they don't know what to do with them. That's like being a porn star with the biggest dick and you can't get it up. What the f-ck?'" is probably the paragraph in question. And, indeed it was the limp dick comment that seemed to get Paul's goat more than anything. I understand Bob Wayne has been seen as the man who's kept this particular feud going, and is definitely the target of Marvel's ire. I have never heard Bob Wayne talked about so harshly and openly by Marvel's staff as he was in San Diego and he's regarded as Paul Levitz's Rottweiler." And it was then DC-executive Bob Wayne's comments at a Brian Bendis panel in 2004 that there could be no Marvel/DC crossover under current management that bears repeating here.

Because on the Drink And Draw, Quesada went further, telling the assembled crowd. "It became real for me when there were some people at DC who contacted higher-ups at Marvel saying they should fire me. That is not cool at all, this made people at Marvel angry, asking who are you to tell us to fire our Editor-In-Chief? I don't know what happened behind the scenes at DC, that was a rookie mistake, nothing is ever, ever off the record."

Dan DiDio on how Joe Quesada's mistake got him the DC gig.

Dan DiDio told us all that formerly working in PR, he was already aware of this mistake. But also how Joe Quesada's misfortune was how DiDio got his job at DC. As a result of all the fuss and poor PR, "there was a decision made that they needed an outside point of view." DC Comics had become very insular, they wanted an outsider. And Didio was only "interviewing at DC to get back on the East Coast." First year is understanding the company and coming up with suggestions, but with a different personality and attitude, wanted to take Marvel head-on, wanted someone to come in as an agent of change, my job was to shake things up, as soon as I walk though the door, get people out of their comfort zome approach the job, talent a different way. Until recently it was one of the most frustrating years of my life, everything was ingrained,vI was ready to leave after a year, but Paul [Levitz, then DC publisher and president] was gracious, and said no, this is what we'd like you to do instead. Now it's game time."

Talking to Quesada, DiDio said that he "understood what you were doing at Marvel, I was game on, but I had people at DC holding me back, they were 100% correct, I was on a tight leash. Thank god for Jim Lee, I was in a position I was not qualified for, I was not ingrained in the system, they held me back and I learned the hard way."  There was the issue for DC that "every month that would go by, Marvel was doing something new" and DC was falling about. Then something changed. It was Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's hush storyline for the Batman comic book.

DiDio recalled "Hush comes out, DC has got a hit book. All the stuff that wasn't working, no one noticed, we were fixing everything. As soon as Hush broke, it gave us direction on what could work. Hush was originally planned as a side prestige book like the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale books. But Jim said I want to be on the line, the regular series, I just want better paper." DiDio talks about the realisation that "you could get a bigger win, and every time we used Hush as an example. That's when Geoff [Johns] comes in and I have an idea for Green Lantern, Teen Titans and the energy was there." Didio recalls that from both Marvel and DC, "House Of M, Civil War, Infinite Crisis, 2004 to 2007 was a sweet spot, my favourite moment in time. Marvel and DC working on all cylinders at the same time. Full tank of gas, foot to the floor, crazy ass race. I thought it was a hoot and a half."

Quesada agreed that this sort of competition just gets the fans excited, arguing with each other, He believes that the NY Observer quote was a mistake but it served its purpose." What annoyed me, when I'm at Marvel, at work, I don't use language like that. He printed adult language in an article about Marvel that infuriated me. I stand by the idea, but the language was inappropriate. It all worked out in the end."

Dan Didio's own bugbear – and it is very possible he is referring to a Bleeding Cool article about a speech he was giving to retailers that ran before the speech had even finished – is "third party taking quotes out of context inflames me. Everyone said you have super thick skin. I said you gotta have it, you are the sole target, I am the lightning rod. The success of the material was the win, what we do and say doesn't matter, it's what stands the test of time." Talking about the weekly 52 series, he calls it a "brilliant body of work, how we got there was insane, but you don't see that." Well, we did see some of it. But Quesada confirms "you don't see the bodies." With Didio seeing the value in "what do I want to keep on my bookshelf" and by seeing that, "my time there mattered in some way shape or form."

Joe Quesada on Marvel Comics now

Quesada talked about "like baseball, there are always more misses than hits" but of the current Marvel crop that there's "great stuff being produced right now. CB as EIC there's a rejuvenation, unfortunately everything's on hold right now." Dan DiDio  says he wishes everyone at DC the best and wants them all to succeed, but that "this is an extraordinary situation." His real fear is for those who "think the industry will be the same, it's not going to happen. We don't know the fans' financial situation, how many stores will survive, how distribution will work, how many publishers will still be in the mix." He is also worried looking at some retailers' practice right now that "Whatever people are doing to keep stores alive, that practice may be detrimental in the future if you keep doing it, you need to land in a way where you can rebuild." He confirms that "retailers built to survive will do well. There are changes in every business, not just in comics. There's a pause, it could be a good way for the industry to look at itself, there may be a better way to build a mousetrap now. Could be a healthier industry, Going to be ugly for everyone, but this is an industry that is very pliable, impassioned. When I was brought into Marvel, the industry was dead. When I was EIC, I was told it was like getting the best seat on the Titanic. Bill Jemas instilled in me, the belief that we're not dead. That there were lots of fans looking for really good content, If we hunker down and make the best content humanly possible, the fans are going to come back. And new people too. But if this lasts ridiculously long, who knows." Dan DiDio even suggested that "AMC may be bankrupt in a year. In a month…" However Quesada recalled "we came back, pretty strong." Can they do it again?

You can hear more, much more, in the video itself., One-and-a-half hours worth. It's a fascinating ninety-minute look at the pressures on those who are the face of comic book publishers, with DiDio and Quesada having an awful lot in common. And you can follow Bleeding Cool's coverage of the current comics industry situation at this tag.

Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio on Their Marvel Vs DC Rivalry.
Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio on Their Marvel Vs DC Rivalry.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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