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SDCC 2023: Join Marvel EiCs past and present as CB Cebulski and Joe Quesada take the stage

Marvel's current editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski welcomes former editor-in-chief Joe Quesada to talk - what else? - comics

Captain America #750 variant cover
Image credit: Joe Quesada (Marvel Comics)

When fans ask who's the strongest at Marvel, there's someone they always forget: the editor-in-chief.

And in a rare move here at San Diego Comic-Con 2023, current Marvel EiC C.B. Cebulski is welcoming former EiC Joe Quesada for an hour-long discussion in the Marvel Fanfare panel. We're told to expect news on Black Widow getting infected with a Venom symbiote, and they'll also be unveiling a new Captain America #750 variant by Quesada (which you can see above) But who knows, there might be even more.

Can't make it to SDCC? Don't worry, Popverse will be live in the room for this panel to break the biggest news and the most interesting insights about the whole thing. You can follow along live with our play-by-play, or come back later for a beat-by-beat recap of the entire thing.

Follow along to the(insert panel name here) panel from SDCC 2023, as it begins Friday, July 21 at 4:15 pm PST / 7:15 pm EST.

Popverse saw it and did most of it, and you can find all about our guide to All the big news, magic, and moments from San Diego Comic-Con. And if you want to go to SDCC next year, we have the San Diego Comic-Con 2024 dates as well.

Our live coverage of this event has finished.

Welcome to the Marvel Fanfare panel, everyone. It's minutes away from starting, and we're here to let you know that the room is literally humming with excitement. (Which is to say, there's a LOT of excited chatter from the audience.)
And here's CB Cebulski wandering on stage quietly. "Safe to assume I've got a room full of Marvel fans?" he says to cheers.
Cebulski is comparing this panel to Joe Quesada's Cup O'Joe panel. "I took that format and created Marvel Fanfare," he says, promising a talkshow format as well as fan questions at the end.
Cebulski says that his guests on the panel are "real comic book legends." And they are: Joe Quesada and John Romita Jr.!
"I'm glad I have a lot of relatives," Romita jokes as he looks at the big audience. "Or they're people you owe money to," says Quesada.
"See, this is the difference between a Marvel panel and a DC panel," Quesada says. "Marvel panels have always been incredibly energized."
Cebulski starts by noting the passing of John Romita Snr, and offers his condolences to his son. "Everyone who met him, loved him," Romita says. "He's the Gene Kelly of comics," Quesada comments, prompting Romita to say, "He couldn't dance for shit, but okay."
Cebulski says that the comic industry will "forever owe a debt of gratitude to the Romita family," also calling out the contributions to Marvel from Virginia Romita.
The first printed comic book artwork by Joe Quesada? "Captain N, from Valiant. It was the greatest moment ever to see something that I had drawn. I can't look at it now," he jokes.
Quesada's first Marvel artwork was The Punisher #55, but he says a Ghost Rider cover was the first thing that got him attention.
The first full Marvel issue John Romita drew was Iron Man #115. "Every time someone brings it up [to sign], I'm always amazed I got more work," Romita says.
Now we're looking at the cover to Sleepwalker #18, another early Quesada cover. Joe's joking that the title was hardly enticing. "It's 'Sleep,' and 'Walker,' Not awake runner!"
Cebulski is talking about the production of comics for the younger fans in the audience, of which there are many -- the roles of the writer, penciler, inker, colorist, letterer, and editor. "Inkers tend to not get a lot of credit," Cebulski says, asking Quesada and Romita to talk about the importance of inkers. "They're the second artist," Romita says. "I remember talking to Al Williamson about how much better he made my work and he told me he was just tracing, and he was lying through his teeth. He was an ARTIST."
Quesada said that he was "a little kid" when Romita was inked by Williamson on Daredevil. "Don't start your car later," Romita jokes in response.
"I don't know why Kevin [Nowlan] inks me, because he's a much better artist than I am," Quesada says. "Every page comes back, and there'd be a redrawn face because I got it wrong and Kevin just fixed it. He's awesome; another brilliant artist who just happens to ink because it comes naturally."
Cebulski is recounting Quesada's career, and the transition from artist to editor, to Marvel's editor-in-chief. "When I was reading my first Marvel comic as a 9 year-old, I never thought I could sit in the same seat as Stan Lee," Quesada says, going on to remember that he and Jimmy Palmiotti were going to discuss what was going to become Marvel Knights, and that they asked to be entire co-editors-in-chief, knowing that the answer would be no, but they'd get four titles to edit instead.
Quesada became editor-in-chief at Marvel when Bill Jemas offered him the job. "I remember sitting over the weekend and sweating this, not because of what the job entailed, but because Marvel was in Chapter 11. I remember saying to my wife, I might just have been handed the best seat on the Titanic."
"The challenge was that there were staffers there who were very loyal to Bob Harras, who was the previous editor-in-chief," Quesada remembers. "During the whole Chapter 11, there were employees who were not going to move forward, so there was a lot of adjusting... and then there was the thing that I was an artist, and I was the first artist to be editor-in-chief [at Marvel], and I was not expecting that to be a thing, but it became a thing."
Quesada says that John Romita Jr. was a "huge part" of the success of Quesada's time at Marvel.
"The very first thing I did, I was an intern for Roy Thomas, and I would log the pages that came in from John Buscema and others," Romita says of the start of his Marvel career. "I was called an Art Consultant, and that lasted 18 months."
"Someone came in and said, Dan Adkins dropped out of Iron Man, do you want it?" Romita said of his first regular monthly gig. "I was told, I don't believe in neoptism, but I don't believe in anti-nepotism. If you want it, you can have it,"
Romita says that the inking of Bob Layton and the writing of David Micheline were instrumental to the success of his early Iron Man work. (It's really great stuff, for those who haven't read it.)
"It took a couple of days" to get used to being the Amazing Spider-Man artist again. He was offered X-Men, Daredevil, and Spider-Man, and Scott Hanna convinced him to take the Spider-Man comic. "Working on Spider-Man again was like coming home," he says.
"It scared the crap out of me, because it was made out to be a big deal and I hated that. I was under a microscope," Romita admits. "It was nice. I got told by the person who caused me to leave that it was a mistake, and that was nice. I said, mom, you don't have to apologize."
Romita is singing the praises of Amazing Spider-Man editor Nick Lowe, saying that he'll call out any mistake, but he asks inker Scott Hanna to fix it. "I crack up, because that's what an art director is supposed to do, and he's doing it. He's the art director. It's nice!"
Is there a Marvel character Quesada would really like to draw? "There's stuff that I'm working on now, so I'm kind of doing it! We haven't [announced] it yet." The secret project is "moving along," he says. "No-one has figured it out yet," Cebulski adds.
Now Quesada is talking about his Substack. "I'm trying to make it entertaining," he says. "It's just musings; every one of these newsletters is a little bit different from the others. It's called Joe Quesada is Drawing the Line Somewhere."
Romita is solely posting on Instagram, but adds, "My son is doing it for me." Now he's joking about when he was in Bullpen Bulletins in the '80s as Marvel's Hunk of the Month. "It was a gag by [Marvel editor-in-chief Jim] Shooter, I never get away from that," he complains.
And now it's announcements, to some applause from the audience. We're starting with the fact that, later this year is the 50th anniversary of Howard the Duck -- and it's being marked by a one-shot by Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones and many other creators; it's Howard looking through the multiverse to see what other lives he could have lived...
In Venom #26 and 27, we're seeing Natasha Romanoff taking on the symbiote, in a story by Torunn Gronbekk and Julius Ohta. There are literal gasps from the audience. "This is a change that will stick around for Natasha as she goes around the Marvel Universe in 2023 and 2024," Cebulski says.
John Romita Jr. is going to be doing covers for Daredevil starting with #3, and continuing for #4. Saladin Ahmed and Aaron Kuder continue to be interior creators. "I love to draw that character," Romita says. "No webs."
Who's the most difficult character to draw? "Aunt May is a pain in the ass to draw," Romita says. "She was 99 50 years ago and now she's 65 and looking beautiful again."
Quesada hates to draw any character who has reflective surfaces. "You have to make sure the lines are a little crisper, a little less organic, otherwise he just looks rubbery." Colossus and Iron Man are "huge pains in the ass," he says.
"My favorite to draw is Daredevil because it's a simple costume, but I can't think of the opposite," Romita says. "Jack of Hearts. I'd shoot the guy who designed that costume."
Also hard to draw: "The underside of a car," Romita says. "It's much like when I started drawing women regularly; the things you struggle with are the things you get great at."
Zeb Wells "puts scenes together for Spider-Man, and it's 11:59 in New York City on New Years Eve, and also Spider-Man's in there, and you can't cheat on New York City," Romita says, joking that he'd like to punch Wells in the mouth.
Here's a look at John Romita Jr.'s covers for Daredevil #3 and Daredevil #4
We're looking at a sneak peek at a Spider-Man related project with art by Romita and Scott Hanna: we can see Spidey, Miles Morales, Spider-Woman, Elektra's Daredevil costume, and Miles Morales Spider-Man. But what are they staring at from their rooftop? We'll find out at Marvel's Next Big Thing panel tomorrow, Cebulski says.
Do the artists draw digitally or on paper? Romita is old school only, and Quesada says it depends on the project, but more often that not, he does layouts digitally and then prints that out and draws on top of it.
Quesada says that he's always worked layouts at a small scale and blown them up because of Neal Adams, who did the same thing. Adams' argument was that the eye couldn't take in the layout of the whole page when it was drawn at a larger scale, so that he thought the layouts were useless if too large.
"You have to read left to right, and writers don't always understand that the characters have to be in the right position so that their dialogue appears on the right place," Romita says, joking that he's "going to send a bomb to Zeb Wells" because of this. "That's what we're paid for, to solve the puzzle that writers give us."
Did Romita draw six pages at the same time? "I rough out half a book at the same time, and I'd pin the pages up so I'd know where everything is," he says. "I like to line up the pages prior to the page [I'm drawing]. I have a giant drafting table, it's bigger than my first apartment. It's beautiful."
And now it's fan questions!
Mark asks: Can you think of a prank that went too far? Romita: "I could do one right now that still bugs the crap out of me." Another Spider-Man artist once said, "Your wife said that to me one night to me," he says, "and I still want to break his arms about that now, and that was ten years ago."
Another question: have either Cebulski or Quesada looked as editors-in-chief of decisions made by predecessors and say yes where others had said no? Quesada remembers Tom DeFalco offered "some unsolicited advice: you have to have a broad back in this job, because you will get blamed for things that weren't your fault and you won't get credit for things that are."
Quesada was clearing out Bob Harras' desk when he took the job and found a collection of unused pitches... which included Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways. "They really missed that one," he remembers thinking.
"When I took over, there was one thing in my desk, and it was a letter from Joe," Cebulski says, adding that he had tears in his eyes as he was reading the letter. One of the pieces of advice in the letter was that every character is someone's favorite character. "You can't come in and say, 'first thing we're doing is, we're killing Howard the Duck.'" "I mean, I clearly hated Mary Jane. And I hated marriage," jokes Quesada.
"I don't have to like every Marvel story, because not every story is for me," Cebulski says. "I'm proud of every comic we put out, but it doesn't have to be my favorite comic."
Quesada says that Andy Schmidt asked to revamp the Guardians of the Galaxy, and he wasn't convinced, but he said yes in case Schmidt could make it work. "They created something that became the movie. I was like, 'wow, I'm really enjoying this book.' Something that I didn't think would be my favorite became my favorite because an editor had a vision," he says. "You have to make it about the nine-year-old who is going to pick up the book."
Lex asks Romita what his favorite collaboration with his father was; it's a Spider-Man image of Spider-Man sitting in the rain. "It means a lot because, he saved it," he remembers. "That figure of him on the dome is the single most favorite piece of anything we did."
Mark points out that we're almost 30 years out from the original Marvel vs. DC. Any chance of a revival? Cebulski says no. "In the foreseeable future, I don't see it happening." "We would love to play them in softball, we always beat their ass," Romita says.
A fan mentions Brand New Day, making Quesada say, "Spider-Man fans are THE most passionate, good and bad. I think that's a testament to the character and how we relate to him. I cannot tell you how many people come up to me in a show and lean in and say, 'I actually liked One More Day.' But they don't want to be heard, in case actual internet trolls come out and get them."
Quesada remembers that Tom DeFalco came up to him at a con after One More Day and said, "Thank you." Why, he asked? "No-one's talking about the Clone Saga anymore."
How do artists develop a new style? "I don't have a style," Romita says. "I call it deadline style. If it comes out on time, I'm happy is what it is."
Quesada: "I think if an artist is thinking about their style, they're not going to be any good." It's a controversial take...!
Romita is remembering talking to Jack Kirby about his style, and his speed as an artist. "I remember when he asked me how many pages I did a day, and I said, one. He said, 'Throw away your effin' eraser,' but he used the right verbiage."
Quesada was asked about reviving Black Panther as part of the Marvel Knights line; he gives all the credit to Christopher Priest, saying that it was all him. He says that the introduction of the character in Fantastic Four made him more of a Marvel fan. "This looked like my world, this looks like my best friend."
One thing Quesada loved about Black Panther's introduction: when introduced in Fantastic Four, he takes off his mask and Reed Richards didn't say, "you're black" -- he said, "Oh my God, you're the King of Wakanda."
The one thing Quesada takes credit for in the Marvel Knights Black Panther run: suggesting the character comes to America to show how much he kicks ass. And with that, the panel is over, because we ran out of time! Thanks for reading along, all.