(CBR) While "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." made a strong showing in the ratings when it debuted last week on ABC, the success of the drama means more work for Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, not less.
Though the weekly series is the culmination of Marvel's plans to expand its brand outside the comics and movie realms, adding more characters and stories to the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the clip of nearly 20 hours a year on TV rather than six on the big screen involves a lot of coordination. As CCO, Quesada's job has become more and more about making that universe feel seamless in the same way he once oversaw the ins and outs of Marvel's comic line. While his new position doesn't have him drawing comic pages, emceeing convention events and mixing it up with message board fans any more, Quesada told CBR that he's doing plenty of job juggling with the bi-costal responsibilities of taking Marvel's four-color world and translating it into filmed media.
CBR News caught up with Quesada during his latest trip to Los Angeles (he flies the the West Coast twice monthly from his home in New York), and, in between story meetings for Marvel's three animated shows, the CCO explained his role in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s" creative birth, shared how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is shaping up to be like the comics, including characters like Franklin "Graviton" Hall, and offered an update on Marvel media projects like Disney Animation's planned "Big Hero 6" feature film.
CBR News: Joe, it was a big debut for Marvel's first live action TV show last week. Did you actually watch the pilot live, or at this point had you already seen it 5,000 times?
Joe Quesada: I've certainly seen the pilot more times than I can count, but it was great seeing it on TV with commercials and all. It made it real. Though I was on the West Coast and three hours behind, I wanted to watch it live with the rest of the world and also live tweet during the broadcast. I'll probably do the same this coming Tuesday, as well.
The series debuted with some of the biggest ratings ABC has had in years. I know you've said that you're always moving ahead with Marvel stuff, assuming it's going to run for a while, but was there a sense of relief that the audience showed up?
Sure. You can never, ever take any of this stuff for granted. I think therein lies disaster. We always make everything we do -- whether it's our comics, movies, animated shows or now our live TV episodes -- to the best of our abilities with the best intent and with all our heart and souls. And then, at the end of the day, it's out of our hands. It's up to the audience to let us know if we've succeeded in some small fashion. We've been very, very lucky up to this point -- very blessed -- that we've had a decent success rate, and hopefully that'll continue. But you can't take it for granted. There will be more projects that come down the road, and you've got to make sure you're vigilant and at your best for those, and you can never lose sight of the fact that the audience has great expectations.
There are a lot of working components to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and while it's a Marvel show, there are a ton of people contributing to the series. With the movies, I feel like Marvel has a chance to take your time in how you layer in new elements of the world big and small. With a TV show, that process is sped way up. With a weekly series to produce, is it accelerating the type of world-building you oversee as CCO?
It certainly adds to the pressure of how we have to be careful of these things. But we also work hand-in-hand with the studios to be sure that they're intimately involved as we work out these concepts. It is like a living, breathing weekly document we're making with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and we want to make sure that we're an additive to the Cinematic Universe tapestry and not a complication. What strikes me as interesting about the world of live action television is how much it reminds me of comics publishing. Comics are weekly grind. Every Wednesday, retailers have to have product to sell, so the books have to go out. The amount of creative work and the mental energy put towards that content on a daily basis is stunning and really daunting if we had the luxury to really sit and think about the Sisyphean task for a second. Weekly episodic television is very much like that. The big difference of course is that you do get some time off to recharge a bit.
I enjoy the fact that during the course of the week -- almost on a daily basis -- I'm reading something that's coming from the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." writing or production crew. Sometimes it's a brief on an episode or the latest draft of a script or a rough cut of a future episode or the dailies, which come, well, daily. Whatever it is that I'm getting, there's a constant flow of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." stuff in my inbox. I love that grind and that pressure. It reminds me of my comics roots. It's what I know and very much the way I learned to do things in a creative environment.
With publishing, there are decades and decades of history that folks have to manage to tell the stories. While there's not quite that much yet in the live action realm, there is likely a growing tapestry of elements for someone on staff to keep track of. Are you or someone else serving as the "Tom Brevoort" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and keeping tabs on the continuity?
[Laughs] No, I certainly wouldn't call myself the Tom Brevoort of the Cinematic Universe but we are working closely with the Studio side of Marvel to make sure that we're not conflicting in any way and vice versa. While I do have an intimate knowledge of what's going on in both worlds, and of course I jump in if there is a conflict, it's always good to have the guys who are in the trenches of our film world keeping a helpful eye as well. The simple answer is that we're all involved in trying to keep the Marvel ducks in a row. But this is also where Jeph Loeb is so instrumental in making sure that everyone is kept in the loop. Jeph is constantly on the go and on the phone with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and really all things having to do with Marvel TV. Quite honestly, I don't know how he does it!
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