A tradition of over a decade, Marvel Comics Cup O Joe panel is often an opportunity for Joe Quesada to take on anything and everything readers want to know about the House of Ideas. But at the 2018 New York Comic Con, the company’s Chief Creative Officer had a different track as he prepared to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Marvel Knights line – the imprint that launched his Marvel editorial career even before his time as Editor-in-Chief.
Quesada arrived for Friday’s Cup O Joe panel accompanied by a lineup of Marvel Knights creators past including longtime collaborator and writer Jimmy Palmiotti, Punisher writer Tom Sniegoski and Black Panther writer Christopher Priest. In the crowd, more members of the Marvel executive team including Editor-in-Chief CB Cebulski and SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort circulated.
The discussion started with Priest’s influence on the Marvel Studios Black Panther movie, and the writer said he sat at the premier with writer Don MacGregor who he credited with 85% of the world of Wakanda. Priest went further to credit Quesada himself for the concept of the all-female warriors Dora Milaje. He did create Everett K Ross in the pages of his contemporaneous Ka-Zar series, but he said that to make Black Panther smarter and hipper for Marvel Knights, he went back to the building blocks that Stan Lee set down in his early collaborations with Jack Kirby.
Quesada credited Mark Texeira of whom Priest said “No one had ever seen Black Panther look like that before” adding that the off-beat modern tone that’s impacted the character ever since came from the artist’s pencils.
Sniegoski was given the Punisher as a once hot-selling character that had fallen on hard times and been killed off in his previous series. “Why not bring him back as a zombie?” was part of the pitch they lit upon for Marvel Knights and due to the writer’s other job at the time of writing novels based on Christian mythology, the story took the direction of a angelic horror series under the pencil of the late, great Bernie Wrightson.
“Our job was to find the right people for the right characters,” Palmiotti said of how he and Quesada approached editorial. “I think it was ‘Do what you know.’ And as New Yorkers, we knew New York.” The editors gravitated towards more “street level” characters with Daredevil being the A-List hero to lead the line. “We picked two that weren’t going to be cancelled just because of the characters,” Palmiotti said of Daredevil and Punisher. “We could have gone the easy way and just asked for the X-Men,” he laughed.
At the time, the Marvel Knights crew was camped out in a “penthouse” at the Marvel offices – a small area with roof access that was off the floor from the rest of the Marvel Editorial or Production teams. “You’d go up there, and we had four offices,” Quesada said. “[One office] just had a little desk and a computer…that was all we had.” They joked that they had to lock Texeira in a room with police tape on the outside of it so he could get his work done.
Priest spoke to a fan about how he approached Black Panther compared to the film, saying his choice to make Ross the main character while T’Challa had been king for 50 years and is a darker, grittier Panther. The movie, he said, was more like the superhero Lion King. “I loved it a lot. I realized Michael B Jordan’s part is a little sexier and he overshadowed Black Panther a bit, but the villain always does that,” he said.
Quesada said that the trick to reading the original Marvel Knights run of the Panther book was to read Ross’ dialogue as if it was coming out of Michael J. Fox’s mouth. Priest said that Quesada asked him to write the book with humor in the same way that he was writing Quantum and Woody at Valiant/Acclaim then. “Now that writing technique has followed me and become my signature,” the writer explained.
Priest joked of the initial meeting, “When Joe called, I thought he was calling to offer me Daredevil. When he said ‘Black Panther,’ I said ‘Who?'”
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