Comedian and political commentator Stephen Colbert has been riding quite the roller coaster of success lately. Since spinning off his character that originated on John Stewart’s “The Daily Show” for “The Colbert Report,” he’s garnered a great deal of critical acclaim and has developed a loyal following all on his own.
That acclaim grew dramatically earlier this year when he was the keynote speaker at the 2006 White House Correspondent’s Dinner. His biting satire shocked the entire room, even the President of the United States, creating a number of uncomfortable and awkward moments. The event caused a furor on the Internet and became one of the most popular videos downloaded for weeks after. Never before has a White House Correspondent’s Dinner been so popular.
Colbert’s quest for truthiness and his war on Bears (they’re man eaters you know) continues on Comedy Central four nights a week. Tonight, Thursday, July 27th, his guest is Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada. We spoke with Quesada by phone from his New York office on Tuesday to get the low-down on his appearance and to see what he has planned for his appearance.
Hey Joe, thanks for talking with us today. Give us the low down on how this thing came to be.
Well, “The Colbert Report” called about two weeks ago while I was on vacation. I decided to call the office and check my voice mail to see if there was anything important there – which is rarely the case because most of the important stuff comes to me by e-mail or directly to my cell phone. There was this phone call from someone at “The Colbert Report” asking me to be a guest. Now, mind you, when I heard that my mind immediately flashed to Mark Millar.
Mark is notorious for the pranks he plays on people. He’s pranked people to the point where they don’t even really know they’re being pranked. Brian Bendis is the recipient of so many Mark Millar prank e-mails and pranks it’s hysterical. Some day, ask Brian to tell you about the e-mail from Mamet. That’s all I gotta say. Let him tell you that story.
So, I immediately thought it was Mark pulling a prank on me. I sent an e-mail to our publicist and said, “Hey, listen, I got this phone call. You need to call them back for me!” [laughs] It turns out they contacted our publicist as well, so, OK. Though, I’ll be honest with you, right now it’s Tuesday, two days before the show, I still think it’s a prank by Mark Millar.
Well, you still better show up on Thursday!
Oh yeah! What an incredibly horrific surprise it would be, though, if it were a prank and I show up and they say, “Who are you?”
Indeed! [laughs] You’ve done a lot of television press in the past, especially when you were out promoting the 9/11 “Heroes” book, but I’ve always seen your appearances more as an expert guest on the morning news circuit.
Yeah, I did “Good Morning America.” I’ve done my share of press and most of the national press at one point or another. But, “Civil War” is another one of those really great hallmarks for us here at Marvel because it’s really garnered us a lot of attention and, more importantly, the comics industry a lot of attention. The right kind of attention, too – less that “Biff! Bam! Boom!” kind of thing and more about how we’re a serious medium.
With this appearance, though you’re a guest on “The Colbert Report,” versus just being a news expert, an important difference and that’s rather unique. Sure, we’ve seen the likes of Harvey Pekar make guest appearances on talk shows or other creators who’ve moved into the world of film like Frank Miller, but this appearance seems fairly unusual for those working in the trenches of mainstream super hero comics. If you ask me, this is pretty special, Joe.
It really is. To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve done tons of press in my lifetime. Before doing comics I was a musician, so I’m accustomed to being in front of a crowd and being in the public like that and I don’t get nervous. This is the first time I’m actually getting butterflies before an appearance because I’m such a huge fan of Colbert.
I don’t blame you at all. Do you plan on going on the show with a certain agenda, or will you let Stephen guide you where he needs you to go?
I’ll let him guide me. It’s his show, I’m the guest and let’s let the host be the host.
I think there still may be a little pre-show prep you need to do, which I’d like to help you out with. I can think of only one issue you must be prepared to tackle before going on the show – what’s your stance on bears?
What’s my stance on bears … you know, those damned grizzlies, I gotta say I agree with Colbert. When I’m on the show, you will see how I agree with Colbert. I will take a stance on bears.
I kid you not!
We’ll be bringing something for him. I don’t want to tip my hand just yet.
I’m guessing Colbert is a comics fan?
That’s the word on the street. Didn’t they just announce a Colbert comic series?
That’s right, that’s right.
You going to take him to task for not bringing it to Marvel?
You know, thank you for reminding me. Let’s face it, I want to talk about Marvel stuff. I don’t want to talk about Colbert stuff.
[laughs] When the publicist contacted you, did they specifically say they wanted to discuss “Civil War?”
They just said they wanted to talk with me. They wanted me to be a guest on the show, they weren’t specific. I’m assuming tomorrow [Wednesday] after the pre-interview I’ll have a little better idea of the agenda, but I really suspect it’s gotta be “Civil War.” In my mind I’m assuming it is “Civil War” and the penetration of comics in the mainstream and the success we’re having today.
Let’s talk about that success a bit and how we’re getting that coverage in the mainstream press. Is there an end to this in sight? This is a great wave we’re riding and I’m certain no one wants to see it end.
Right now, all the signs are really good. Obviously we worry about the wrong kind of consumers coming into the hobby [speculators], the kind that sort of put us out of business several years ago, but the reports I’m getting from retailers is that they are seeing new faces and the new faces are readers. They’re not buying 10 copies of books. The truth of the matter is that while there will always be speculators in the comics industry or any sort of collectibles industry – let’s face it, we are a collectibles industry – as long as the quality of the books is high and as long as we focus on the writers and the stories, the future is incredibly bright. As long as we continue to tell the kind of stories we’re telling with relevancy and maturity, I think the sky’s the limit. Maybe this is the time when comics will get that air of respectability that novels, music and movies have. It could be pretty intense and very bright.
It’s interesting that you were once a musician, but you’ve achieved an almost rockstar level status as Editor-In-Chief of a comics company as opposed to achieving that status as a musician.
I don’t even see it as that. The way I’ve compared it to people, whenever you get into an industry, whenever an artist or writer gets into say the comics industry, it’s with a goal in mind. They remember reading something or seeing something that was the pinnacle of comics for them and you want to achieve that in your career. For me it was “Watchmen.” I remember reading “Watchmen” and I said to myself – and I don’t mean this in an arrogant way – but I said to myself, “Someday, the pinnacle for me would be to work on a book that has that kind of impact on readers like ‘Watchmen.'” Let’s face it, “Watchmen” will have an impact on readers for 15, 20, 30 years from now. They’ll still look back on that as a hallmark of achievement in comics. Now, that kind of project has kind of eluded me in my lifetime. I know a lot of people who like to say, “Really, there’s only been one Watchmen.” Maybe that’s true, but I say this in the only way I can, but maybe my personal “Watchmen” – and I’m not comparing what I’ve done to “Watchmen” – but my personal “Watchmen” is this body of work that’s been created here at Marvel that I’ve been lucky enough to take all the credit for. [laughs] You know what I mean.
Yeah, I get your point.
So, I can sit here and smile and say, “Wow, my guys did this! We did this at a team!” Maybe that’s my “Watchmen” at the end of the day and that’s a cool thing.
Certainly. It’s clear that it’s been a very satisfying experience for you. Good luck with your appearance on Colbert, Joe. Now, get them bears!
“The Colbert Report” airs Monday through Thursday at 11:30 PM Eastern on DirecTV Channel 249, Dish Network Channel 107 or check your local cable listings.