Or: "So I will never work at Marvel Comics, ever."
So, Joe Quesada's reign as head creative mind over at Marvel is now into entering its second decade, the first of which had about three good years wherein there was unprecedented creative freed from the usual restraints of corporate comics followed by another seven of foisting his own stagnant illogical interpretations of the various properties under the Marvel banner.
One might charitably score that as a "push."
There's plenty of reasons not to like Quesada--he's obnoxious, confrontational, narrow-minded, stuck in the past, reacts to criticism roughly about as well as say, Galvatron (I take that back--Galvatron never justified his capricious decisions by saying "Oh yeah?! Well, my mom died! My father smoked himself to death! Trees hate me!" Also, Galvatron could turn into a laser gun.) He's undone 20 years of Spider-Man continuity because "a married Spider-Man doesn't work" (despite the fact that it did) only ten years after the last time Marvel tried it, and managed to do it in an even more inane and less-justified fashion, forced an arbitrary limit on the number of mutants in X-Men, hobbling the franchise with an edict that crippled the entire concept for five years, and OK'd a comic wherein the Green Goblin busts a nut all up in Spider-Man's girlfriend.
These are all great reasons to loathe Quesada's vision or lack thereof, but I think people are missing out on another great reason to hate Quesada--he's a breathtakingly shitty artist. Always has been. The sweet irony that a man who continues to be venerated for "making Marvel more creative and less corporate" is that he's actually a worse artist than Rob Liefeld. long the Patron Saint of Bad Artists. Wizard, in fact, once called him "a mix of Liefeld and Mignola," and surely any horrifying hybrid like that would live only a few days in oozing agony like the baby in Eraserhead. Seriously--I don't even want to think about it.
This is, on the face of it, sacrilege--Rob Liefeld has been the whipping boy for lazy hipster writers writing comics-themed articles on the Internet for ages now (myself included), and I certainly don't begrudge them for it, but what these people neglect is that there are much more awful artists than Liefeld--he just had the fortune to be the most popular at the wrong time and ended up the most notorious.
But let's spread the wealth around. There's plenty Liefeld does that Quesada can't manage. For one, Liefeld doesn't tend to leave half of an entire page black so he doesn't have to draw things he might find difficult, like anything. For another, occasionally Liefeld characters can stand erect, however difficult. For another, Liefeld does not approach the business of rendering muscles as if his characters are wet sacks of oatmeal held together by full-body condoms--muscles shouldn't be that gritty, really. Also, Liefeld's Spider-Man was never hydrocephalic, at least as far as I can remember. What I'm trying to say is looking at his art one begins to think that "Hmm, maybe we've been too hard on Rob Liefeld," which, like dividing by zero , is not a naturally tenable thought to hold in the human mind.
Also, Quesada was quite fond of that whole "open mouth, drool between teeth" bullshit which was all over comics from 91-96, and that was just . . .man, I never want to see that again.
Quesada's art is not as well-known, mostly because he never did that much. Quesada's major during the 90's was that he was the regular artist on X-Factor, which meant I think he did maybe five issues and none of them were consecutive. In between this, he was offered multiple opportunities for designing various new and old Marvel and DC characters, this despite the fact he has, in my humble opinion, about as much business designing characters as I have operating the Large Hadron Collider.
This article, then, is a journey, a dark ride if you will through Quesada's character designs. Come with me for a not-so-fond look back at Quesada's character designs from the past. Perhaps on the way we will look a bit skeptically at the idea of The Q as a "great creative mind." Or perhaps you will find my series of cheap shots and naked unvarnished contempt amusing. Either way, you're reading this and that means I've won already.
Random--Lift me lord, to a place where I will never see another Lobo clone again. In addition to everything else being ripped off in the oh-so 1990s, DC's Lobo was a big target. Liefeld spun off the utterly mush-brained Bloodwulf, and Marvel actually had TWO knock-offs--Random and Lunatik because my pain was like candy to him. Random had no reason to be in X-Factor, wasn't all that compelling (his hands turned into GUNS and he SHOT PEOPLE WITH THEM!!) and his power set was woefully inconsistent, and yet he became a member of X-Factor, and his origin got far more confusing from their because it turned out he was a little kid made of goo who had a crush on Polaris and turned into Lobo clone because oh Jesus Christ I hate goddamned comic books sometimes.
Exodus--Hey kids! It's a flying elf--kill it with fire! No, really, Exodus was . . .well, I'm not sure what the hell Exodus was supposed to be. The first harbinger of those moments when the X-Office would think up stuff and jam it into the books without thinking it through completely, Exodus came at the tail end of a whole bunch of new X-Men villains who were built up as huge threats despite being neither effective nor charismatic (Fabian Cortez! Trevor Fitzroy! Sienna Blaze! The Soul Skinner!) or ones that clumsily had "X" somewhere in the title (X-Cutioner, X-Treme, and some others. No X-Pialidocious, though.) Exodus was set up to be Magneto's right hand man and in service of that was given a ridiculous costume (seriously, what's up with the shoulder hooks?) an utterly inscrutable power set (basically "whatever the plot demands") and one of the most batshit insane origin stories ever: He was a knight from 1000 years ago who fought the Black Knight and went into a coma and look at the time: It's half past Jack Daniels!
Ninjak--Ninjak is what happens when a guy decides to become a ninja in the towel section of Bed Bath and Beyond. Ninjak was a comic from Valiant, a comic book company everyone loved, then hated, then loved, then forgot about again. The nicest thing I can say about Ninjak is that of all the titles Valiant put out, it was certainly one of them.
Ninjak is also the first example in our little list of one of Quesada's most irritating design tics--Big Chunky Gloves. I can only surmise that instead of How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, Quesada took his cues from Popeye's anatomy. I wonder if that's the reason none of his characters can't stand up--their arms are too damned heavy.
Either that or Quesada sees every character as a painfully constipated ball of angst whose high-fiber diet has just kicked in and are scant seconds away from busting a grump equal for about 3/4ths of their body weight.
Also, his name wasn't "Jack," which I thought was bullshit. Maybe Mighty Bomb Jack threatened to sue.
Azrael--Big Chunky Gloves, again. Oh, and he only has three fingers, for some damn reason. Azrael's suit looks hella cool until you realise the following: One, he just designed the top half of it and left the rest blank because he only had a half-hour to go before lunch and Two, unless he's standing in a vacuum all the time, there's no way his cape, his ascot, and those weird things on his back aren't constantly whipping around and slapping him upside the head.
But hey! BIG FLAMING SWORD HANDS! The best part about this is this was only a harbinger of what was to come, because Azrael would one day take over for . . .
Batman--Re-designing Batman's suit is not easy. Hell, DC put out a whole sketchbook of potential Batman redesigns in the 1990s (before just deciding to make the whole thing black) Quesada, however, was having none of that bullshit, and gave us the following: The Black Panther in a yellow traffic warden's vest, with a few little hooky things poking out of his shoulder (I have a feeling the words "Cape?" were scribbled in the margins) and gave him big chunky claw-gloves and once again didn't bother to detail anything below the chest. Joe, you can not knock this shit off a few minutes before lunch on a Friday--there's a certain lack of effort that is becoming apparent.
Ash--Ash is a firefighter powered by angels, and if you hate him, you hate Our Brave Firefighters and Jesus. Also, his hair is on fire, but just the one little bit there. I recommend a change of conditioner to take care of that. You would expect me to write something here about his Big Chunky Arms, wouldn't you? Well, I'm not going to. I will, however, say that I left Painkiller Jane off the list because some things are too stupid even for me to mock and also Painkiller Jane can kiss my ever-loving ass.
The "Iron Spider" Costume--OK! So, uh, why are there three arms instead of four? We're too good for balance or symmetry I guess. Created to signify that Iron Man was Spider-Man's new BFF (because comic readers are too stupid to work that out for themselves unless the characters involved CHANGE THEIR CLOTHES to underlie the point. Remember: Comic readers of today are subtler, more genre-savvy, intelligent and everything I just said is a wet tissue of lies) so Iron Man made him an ugly new outfit which he apparently came up with by looking at the ketchup and mustard bottles in the Stark commissary. Spider-Man apparently didn't eat that day, which is why he looks so emaciated in the picture.
Spider-Man, like Batman, is a tricky character to redesign--the original suit is such an effective design (although I'm sure it's a pain in the ass to draw all those webs) but they've succeeded a couple times with their redesigns. The black suit is very effective and strips the design down to the essential elements in a Batman Beyond kinda way and even the re-design they gave Ben Reilly (and later Spider-Girl) is a good riff on the original suit. There's room to play around with it and come up with something visually cool.
This . . .well, this is more on the Spider-Armor scale of things, which means it's pretty awful. We have the three arms, the half-boots (seriously, did he run out of yellow or what?) and also the fact that Spider-Man is goddamn red and yellow for some reason I don't understand or care all that much for. It's like Daredevil has a large tick on him or something.
So, there you have it--a small peek into the works on the man who has pushed Marvel into the 21st century for a whole decade now. Are you excited? Enlightened? I'm excited! What will he do in this brave new decade? Who else will he give big chunky arms to? Who else will he redesign with garish colours and stupid shit coming out of his back? Suckas gots to know!