View profile

Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?

Comics, FYI
Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?
By Graeme McMillan • Issue #43 • View online
The end of an era at Marvel, the start of something new that promises to Be Good, and two promotions for great comics during Pride month.

For those of us who lived through the comics internet of the early 2000s, this week brought a couple of nostalgic, almost bittersweet moments, with the news that both of the architects of what was once referred to with only the smallest of ironies as “Nu Marvel” – we were younger, and dumber, back then – were leaving their current positions and alighting out for pastures new. Everything old is new again, with the exception of my creaking bones and ability to sleep through the night, unfortunately.
News that Joe Quesada was leaving Marvel came on Twitter, of all places, early Tuesday. His departure from the company after 24 years – something he described, with true Quesada energy as “one hell of a ride” – is the endpoint of a journey that saw him hired initially as an external consultant on the outsourced Marvel Knights line alongside Jimmy Palmiotti in 1998, before being named editor-in-chief of the entire company in 2000. 
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Quesada to Marvel in the 21st century; during his 11-year stint as editor-in-chief, he oversaw not only the launch of the Ultimate line and a number of reboots and relaunches that would define the company for years to come, but he also was at least in part responsible for an influx of creative talent that would shape the company for more than a decade – most notably Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar – as well as some editors who’d do the same, as well. 
Without Quesada, you don’t get Morrison and Quitely’s New X-Men, Bendis’s years-long runs on the various Avengers books, or all of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. You don’t get a lot of the source material for a lot of the Marvel Studios movies of the past decade, either: no Civil War, no Ultimates, not even the Extremis reboot of Iron Man that felt as if was quietly created to have proof of concept to show to interested but skeptical studios way back when. No wonder, then, that Quesada was promoted to Chief Creative Officer in 2010, a position he held onto even after stepping down as EiC in 2011 and stayed in until a company-wide reshuffle saw his position retitled EVP and Creative Director for Marvel Entertainment, the publishing side of the company. 
“I won’t ever be too far away, cheering my Marvel family on and contributing from time to time, including something I’m thrilled about for later this year,” Quesada wrote in his farewell statement*. “I also have several insanely cool projects of my own that you’ll be hearing about in the coming months, including a short indie film I’m writing and directing.” 
Although it appeared to break later than the Quesada news courtesy of a much-shared post on Heidi Macdonald’s The Beat, Bill Jemas’s departure from indie publisher Artists, Writers & Artisans was actually revealed by the company last week, tucked away in an announcement about former News Corp and 21st Century Fox executive Matthew Anderson being promoted to co-chairman.  
Anderson’s promotion should answer those wondering about the health of AWA as a whole, given both his statement in the announcement – “I’m energized by the potential to expand AWA’s ability to build franchises and universes in Publishing, Film, Television and the emerging world of Web3,” he’s quoted as saying; I’m not sure if we’ve heard much about AWA’s Web3** plans in the past, but it’s something worth flagging for further investigation now – and the announcement pointing out that the company has “created over 40 original series, and set up numerous film and TV projects with major entertainment companies including Warner Bros. Discovery and Freemantle.”*** In other words: the funding is still good, and AWA is continuing to develop new properties for comics and elsewhere. One of the founders of the company may be leaving, but don’t expect AWA to disappear in his wake.
Jemas waited a week before issuing his own statement about his departure, writing that a day after resigning from the company – something he clearly wanted to get on the record – he started a new venture, called Be Good Studios, which seems to be approaching the idea of comics as transmedia proof of concept from the opposite angle audiences expect.
“We do not do what other publishers do: commissioning comic book writers to create the original stories, then optioning those stories to Hollywood and hoping for others to re-write the stories, then fund, package, greenlight and produce TV programming and feature films,” he wrote. “Instead, we start with award-winning independent film makers and animators who co-create original stories with wonderfully talented webtoon and comic book artists. Then, we build [an] audience with promotional partners and raise funding for feature films and TV series with strategic Web3 investors.”
There’s a couple of interesting details here. Firstly, unless Jemas is using “comic book artists” in a broad sense (with him, always a possibility) it would appear that comic book writers are being cut out of the picture in favor of pairing creators from outside of comics to work directly with visual artists to create the work. And then, there’s the fact that he seems to explicitly be saying that he’ll be using Web3 money – “investors” is doing a lot of work there, and I’m not sure if he means it in the traditional venture capital investment sense, or the “people who bought our NFTs” sense – to fund movie and TV projects, which is potentially a smart move in terms of controlling projects and not giving all the power to studios – as long as there is Web3 money in the first place.
It’s a wild swing, and one that definitely has at least as much chance of failure as success. I wouldn’t count automatically Jemas out, however; he’s found success doing stranger things in the past, after all.
I made a joke on Twitter that, with Jemas and Quesada both free agents again, there’s the potential for both to work together again. I can’t really see it happening any time soon for a multitude of reasons, but… I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t part of me that almost wants to see the former firebrands of Marvel circa 2001-2003 get the band back together just to see what happened afterwards. “U Decide,” if you will.
* What are the odds that this “something [he’s] thrilled about for later this year” is whatever the Miracleman in the Marvel Universe project ends up being? I’m pretty sure that the last sequential artwork I’ve seen from Quesada was on the resurrected-from-the-trash-bin Grant Morrison spec script for Marvelman that eventually appeared in 2014’s All-New Miracleman Annual #1…
** Web3 is, for those who don’t know, code for blockchain, crypto and NFT projects. 
*** Among the film and TV projects are adaptations of Bryan Edward Hill and Priscilla Petraites’ Chariot, to be directed by Top Gun: Maverick’s Joseph Kosinski, and the underrated Old Haunts, by Ollie Masters, Rob Williams, and Laurence Campbell.
I wanted to draw your attention to Humble Bundle’s Comics Are For Everyone: Pride Month Collection, not only because it’s for a good cause – funds raised go towards the Trevor Project – but because the entire 58-book bundle contains some shockingly good comics for just $25. There’s three Jaime Hernandez Love and Rockets books, including The Love Bunglers and Is This How You See Me?, as well as the recent Berger Books reissue of Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo’s Enigma, Charles Forsman’s I Am Not Okay With This, the first book in Sophie Campbell’s Wet Moon series, Ed Luce’s Wuvable Oaf, Trina Robbins’ The Complete Wimmins Comix, K. O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society (and their earlier Princess Princess Ever After), and so, so much more. 
It’s a shockingly good deal, and one that I hope a lot of people take advantage of. I mean, just the Jaime comics by themselves are worth the price.
While I’m talking about great Pride comic deals, Vault Comics announced its Unbanned initiative today, which sees the publisher make digital versions of different LGBTQIA+ books available for free (using the code “UNBANNED” on its webstore) across the next five weeks. 
“At Vault, we’ve always tried to stand beside and in support of the queer comics community,” Vault CEO and publisher Damian Wassel told me via email. “This year, there is a heightened sense of urgency. Trends toward oppression, censorship, and erasure seem to be on the rise. So, this year, this Pride Month, we thought it was more important than ever to shout as loud as we could that we tell queer stories from queer creators, and we’re damn proud of those books and the people behind them.”
The schedule for the promotion is: Heathen Vol. 1 (week beginning June 1), Submerged (June 6), She Said Destroy (June 13), Test (June 20), and both Queen of Bad Dreams and Hollow Heart starting on June 27. 
This is, honestly, something heartwarming and necessary in the current climate; I hope that other publishers look at this and decide to follow suit in some way.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Graeme McMillan

A newsletter about comics, the comic industry, and comic book culture.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue