DVD Comics Talk: "Marvel Then & Now: A Night With Stan Lee & Joe Quesada"

While I was in Japan for a short period in the Summer of 2oo4, I flipped through the channels on the TVs in the various hotel rooms I stayed in at night if I didn't feel like reading the Japanese history books or komiksu and manga (Japanese words for American and Japanese comics) I'd brought with me. Usually the best thing I could find was a prime-time samurai drama or a Hollywood movie in English with kanji subtitles. Mind you, at this time I knew maybe... ten phrases of Japanese? "Hello." "Goodbye." "Thank you." "Excuse me." "Good morning." "Good night." "Where are the comics!?" (DOKO MANGA KA!?) Stuff like that, you know, the important stuff. So I barely understood any of what I was seeing.

[The awesome promotional logo for the recorded event I'll be talking about later is above!]

To my excitement, one afternoon I changed the channel and I saw a panel of people sitting behind a table across from a person seated in a slightly-goofy-looking throne-like chair. Each of these people had a small stack of mass-market paperback-sized books next to them. After watching for a little while, the scene switched to a young man standing in front of a screen with a digital pointer pointing out random bits of a page of manga. Upon returning to the other side of the room, I realized that each person had an identical small stack of paperback-manga reprints of the work of the creator, or mangaka, sitting in the 'throne'.

Holy crap. A talk show about manga. A talk show about comics.

This is something America needs! Indeed, this is part of why I talk to everybody I meet about comics, why I wrote my senior thesis about comics, and why I was absolutely ready to sign-on to write this blog. The medium of comics doesn't get a ton of exposure and, when it does, it tends to be dismissive or commenting on how SURPRISING it is that it's not easily dismissed.

I assumed this show was a one-time thing but I was even more excited to discover that the same show came on a few days later with a different mangaka!! It wasn't pure promotion. It wasn't pure academia. It was a pleasant, normal (for Japan) TV show that featured different comics creators each week talking about their work like it was no big deal. (Now I wish I could direct you to the website for this show, but I have forgotten the name and lost the browser bookmark I made years and years ago. If anybody reading this has an inkling about it, please let me know.)

One of the closest things in the Western world is this:

"Very, Very, Live: Marvel Then & Now. A Night With Stan Lee & Joe Quesada" - 2007. Single Disc DVD. The Hero Initiative. Maverick Interactive.

On December 2, 2oo6 on the UCLA campus Kevin Smith interviewed Stan Lee (Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief from 1941 to 1972) and Joe Quesada (Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief from 2ooo to the present).

I watched it recently and LOVE, LOVE, LOVED it.

The atmosphere is shockingly laid-back as these three media giants sit in front of a crowd and pontificate about the history of the company called Timely, Atlas, and then Marvel Comics. Stan Lee comes right out and lays down on the couch. Kevin Smith stands up or turns the chairs around as he feels comfortable. Plus the fact that they're playing to a live audience at UCLA makes everything even more alive. As a result of the live audience and the friendly presence of Smith and Quesada all of the OLD Stan Lee stories that he's told a million times feel much fresher here than in other places.

Description of what Stan Lee did as "creating" the universe, and what Joe Quesada does as "managing" that universe and the varying difficulty of both tasks.

Smith asks Quesada about the iconic nature of the Marvel's characters and whether or not new ones are being made now.

Stan Lee: "I didn't want them [the Fantastic Four] to have secret identities. Mostly because I'm conceited. ... I would want the world to know!"

Joe Quesada: "The way I see it is: we tell the story of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances and triumphing over evil. As long as we kept to that mission statement I felt like we were okay."

Smith lovingly calls Stan Lee "the biggest flim-flam artist there is!"

Quesada asking Lee about the Black Panther, in regard to his ground-breaking status.

Guest appearances from Reggie Hudlin, Brian Pulido, Jeph Loeb and Tom DeSanto no less.

Reggie Hudlin thanks Lee for creating the Black Panther.

Quesada referring to what would become "Brand New Day" as a Spider-Man revolution.

Lee: "For the villain, I thought the greatest power -really my greatest invention- I said he had the power of magnetism! ... I called him Magneto! If he had a different power, I would have given him a different name."

Quesada recounting how the Marvel Knights line was started by making a crazy bid for control of the entire line of Marvel comics to insure that he would get his childhood favorite: Daredevil. And then how Smith came to write, and Quesada to draw, that hugely successful comic.

Quesada tells the story of the 'saving' of the "Spider-Girl" title.

In fact, the only negative things I could say about the film is that the atmosphere is a bit too loose as the evening wasn't tremendously well-organized, although everyone admits this over and over again to hilarious effect. That and the production values on the recording: the cinematography and the sound mixing are a disaster. Audio levels change when camera angles change sometimes. It's distracting.

The DVD can be bought here. Also available from Amazon.com.
It's quite informative and the whole damn thing makes me laugh.

As you can see from these quotes, there's a great deal of self-ego-puncturing and mockery from Smith that keeps things light.

"government cheese" "the gay X-Men, again" "I didn't have a clue" "burn that fucker down" "it could be Brainiac" "until he takes off his mask" "almost lost my job then and there" "dudes in tights" "see Daredevil call somebody a cocksucker" "they gave Captain America tits" "we did something cool"

It's kind of a three-way comics roast. I could watch it over and over again.

At the end Stan says a basic 'we gotta do this again'. I wish they did. America needs some capital-M-Media celebrating, and commenting on, the medium of comics. So I will be reviewing other DVDs on which you can see comics writers and comic artists (and comicsmiths!) talking about their craft (or themselves) in the future, both full-length feature documentary kind of stuff like this and big budget movie DVD special features. Look forward to them!

No comments:

Post a Comment