Interview: Joe Quesada Talks Marvel Knights’ ‘Inhumans’

Watch: Inhumans Clip 1

By Jorge Solis

Coming this spring, Shout! Factory releases Marvel Knights Animation’s “Inhumans” on DVD. From the acclaimed team of writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jae Lee, “Inhumans” follows the Eisner-winning adventures of King Black Bolt and his royal family as they attempt to protect Attilan. Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer at Marvel Entertainment, chatted with MTV Geek about Marvel Knights Animation, getting the pages to leap right off onto screen, and what Marvel fans should be looking out for next.

MTV Geek: Tell me about the genesis of Marvel Knights, which was meant to challenge readers to re-think their favorite Marvel characters and re-evaluate the legends that surround them.

Joe Quesada: This started many years ago, when my company and I were being hired by Marvel to bring excitement to the company and their characters. While we weren’t allowed to touch their A-list characters, we picked a list of characters we thought we could do something really special with. We picked characters that weren’t as well-known and didn’t have a large audience.

We wanted to bring in certain sophistication to the writing, but also to the art production – better coloring techniques, better lettering. We wanted to digitize, computerize everything as much as we could. We’d bring in top writers and top artists. The approach is really, really simple. Just try to put out the best comics possible, the type we would like to read. It turned out to be really well-received.

Geek: What was it that interested you about Paul Jenkins’ writing and Jae Lee’s artwork for the Inhumans?

JQ: It was a really wonderful marriage! I wasn’t even really familiar with Paul until Jae had actually recommended him. Jae was our first choice. We went after Jae to draw the project for us, which he agreed. He loved the “Inhumans,” but we didn’t have a writer assigned to the project yet. Jae is the one who recommended him. “You should really read this guy, Paul Jenkins. He’s got some great stuff.”

And by Jae’s recommendation, it also spoke a lot. It meant if we did hire Paul, his writing would be something that we would all enjoy. Jae found a writer who he was in particular with and he wanted to illustrate those words. At the time, Paul’s work was “Hellblazer,” which was outstanding. It was a really good mix. The rest is history.

Watch: Inhuman Clip 2

Geek: Tell me about Marvel Knights Animation and your goal with the audience for “Inhumans.”

JQ: The goal is really to expose a whole new audience to this particular work of art. It’s a different medium. It’s experiencing the story in a different way. But it’s also keeping the purity of what Paul and Jae created by using their original script and art as the foundation by which the story is built. The goal is of course to expose it to a new audience, and hopefully rejuvenate interest within the audience that read it…God, how many years was that? 1998? 15 years ago! It’s very cool!

Geek: Even though Black Bolt and Medusa are king and queen, they are portrayed as a couple struggling with their marriage. “Inhumans” is really a drama about sibling rivalry and teen angst. Tell me about the themes and how the audience will relate to them.

JQ: I think ultimately “Inhumans” is about family, honor, and duty. It’s all those things that strike a chord with so many people. The Inhumans, as a society, are a very interesting group of characters within the Marvel Universe. In their world, it’s almost a caste system. You’re born into your role within this society. Your real birth doesn’t happen until you get exposed to this thing called the Terrigen Mist. When you’re first born, you look like any human being. But when you’re exposed to the Terrigen Mist, It’s a rite of passage so to speak. When you come out to the Terrigen Mist, you have a metamorphosis. You may come out with incredible intelligence or artistic talent, but every one of these manifestations serve a purpose within their society. Whatever the manifestation is, that’s your locked life and you have to sort of accept it. It speaks to a lot of different things.
The underlining thing within that is the family dynamic thing between Black Bolt and Medusa. While they don’t have any children per say, they do have other family members and friends within their court. The actual power-based Inhumans have a genetic structure familiar to anyone who has a family.

Geek: What is it about animation that you felt could bring “Inhumans” from page to screen?

JQ: It was really more about looking at the “Inhumans” comic book. What is it about this comic book that would make it something great to adapt into animation? That really just speaks a lot to the creators involved. Jae’s art is so haunting and very cinematic. Paul’s script is very eloquent. When you hear it read by professional actors, and you hear the narration, you realize how beautiful it is. It’s so lyrical in the way he wrote it. It’s something that would translate really, really well into the animated medium.

Now, not every comic that we produce is going to translate well. Our goal is, if we’re going to spend money to build these animated episodes, we make sure the source material could adapt very, very well. We want to keep the purity what these guys created.

Geek: Where do you see yourself taking Marvel Knights Animation after this animated movie?

JQ: We’re definitely building more of them so to speak. Anything we do with Marvel, our audience and fans are the final arbiters in this. If it’s something they’re enjoying, something they’re gravitating to, if they’re watching it, then we’ll make more. If they don’t, it just tells us we missed a mark. We’ll look it at again and see if there is a better process, or not do them. Right now, they seem to be really well-received. We have people talking really highly about them. The future looks really, really bright.

Geek: Do you see a sequel for “Inhumans?”

JQ: You never know! [Laughs] I know that we are going to spend a lot of time with “Inhumans” within Marvel Publishing in the next two to three years. They’re definitely a group of characters that add a wonderful dynamic to the Marvel Universe. We’ll be going back to them, revisiting them in one way or another.

Geek: What was it like for you seeing the final product for yourself with the music, voices, and sound effects?

JQ: For me, it was probably a different experience than anybody else. I’m so close to the source material. I’ve edited this stuff. I’ve read it, and experienced it over and over again. It was wonderful for me because it helped me to see it in a completely different light. I had a great familiarity with it. I knew what was going to happen scene after scene, but seeing it come to life like that, it’s pretty special.

Geek: What are you working on now?

JQ: Right now, we’re in the animated division. We’re working on a ton of stuff. Some of it new and some of it we’ve already announced. Within the publishing division, I’m personally knee deep working with our publishing team on a project called, “Marvel’s Infinity.” That’s our next big event. I think people who love our comics should keep their eyes open for it.

Own “Inhumans” on DVD this April 23rd, 2013.