Shining Knight (Mania.com)
Date: Monday, July 30, 2001
In the ten months that editor Stuart Moore has been with Marvel Comics, the publisher has become the most talked-about company in comicdom. A lot of that has to do with the personality and business acumen of Moore's boss, Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, but the spotlight must also shine on Moore's work as head of the Marvel Knights line. Since Moore replaced Quesada as editor of the Knights imprint in October 2000, he has continued his predecessor's knack for publishing top-notch comics. Marvel Knights has released some fairly high-profile books recently, including the DAREDEVIL: YELLOW and GHOST RIDER mini-series and the new PUNISHER and ELEKTRA ongoing titles.
Moore has no doubt that Marvel Knights' many current and past successes have helped contribute to Marvel's resurgence. "It was definitely the catalyst for a lot of what's happened at Marvel," Moore says. "Joe and (Marvel Knights co-founder) Jimmy Palmiotti and (editor) Nanci Dakesian, who really makes sure everything happens around here put together a winning combination of good money and a good environment for creators to work in. It was a good way for many writers and artists to dip their toes into Marvel, and it showed the upper management what Joe could do."
With its creator-friendly attitude, Marvel Knights has attracted a variety of fan-favorite writers and artists who had never worked at Marvel before, including Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Kevin Smith, Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka and Bob Gale. By and large, the creators have been happy with their experiences at the imprint. And since happy creators lead to good comic books, the fan response to Marvel Knights' offerings has been pretty spectacular.
"A lot of fans really, really want to read good Marvel comics, and there haven't been enough of those around to satisfy them in recent years," Moore says. "Knights has always worked when the right people were put on the right Marvel characters and then just encouraged to have fun. PUNISHER is a perfect example of that; so was the Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada [run of] DAREDEVIL."
Daredevil: Yellow #1
© 2001 Marvel Characters
"Hardcore fans also keep track of creators' comments via the Internet and fan magazines, and they are more likely to support a company that treats people right," Moore adds. "Incidentally, I've heard grumblings particularly around our Distinguished Competition that Marvel's just snapping people up by paying lots of money. But when it comes to getting freelancers to work for you, especially writers, the money is maybe thirty percent of it. The rest is trust and speed knowing I (as the editor) can get the right project greenlighted quickly."
Since its inception two years ago, the Marvel Knights books have always been more cutting edge than the rest of the Marvel line, turning B-list heroes like Daredevil, Black Panther and the Inhumans into top-selling and critically acclaimed champions. Books like BLACK WIDOW: BREAKDOWN and PUNISHER were far grittier and geared more for adult readers than earlier incarnations of the same characters, too, and the tweaking put them on top of the charts. So what's the Marvel Knights secret?
"It's a little drug we sprinkle into the ink," Moore jests. "No, seriously, it all comes down to a balance of character and creative team. If you've got a character that people basically like but who's been perceived as dull for some time, and you put just the right team on him, then you're there. The classic example is hiring Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon whose PREACHER was a raving critical success and a good seller by creator-owned standards on PUNISHER. There was already buzz about the creators, and they just fit the character perfectly."
THE PUNISHER Vol. 4 #2 guest-starring Spider-Man!
© 2001 Marvel Characters
Of course, now that Marvel is launching MAX, a line of comics specifically for older readers, fans might wonder whether Marvel Knights is necessary anymore. Moore insists the MAX brand will remain viable. "Marvel Knights books are sometimes a little rougher than mainstream Marvel titles, but they're Marvel superhero books, set in that universe. MAX is further out there," Moore explains. "There's a distinction to be made here: The opening MAX books involve Marvel characters, but for the most part, they are not superhero titles. ALIAS is a crime book; FURY is espionage/war. U.S. WAR MACHINE is the closest, but it's more of a men's adventure/tech thriller. HOWARD THE DUCK is satire. BLACK WIDOW is espionage/crime. CAGE is a gritty crime book. BLADE is a very classical horror title. There's very little spandex there, despite the Marvel Universe links, and we expect the line to broaden out further as we go along."
Moore will head up the MAX line which debuts in September with Marvel editor Axel Alonso. Both men have experience with mature comics, each having served as editors with DC Comics' Vertigo line. Moore says the mature readers line came about because the folks at Marvel had some creative proposals from some highly sought-after creators that just didn't fit with Marvel's image.
"There were some that we just couldn't release under the Marvel banner, even though they might involve some of the peripheral Marvel characters," Moore says. "Let's face it, characters like Howard the Duck or Blade have never really interacted much with the Marvel Universe anyway, and when they have, it's been pretty peripheral to what they were about. Brian Bendis pitched us ALIAS as a book with some links to the Marvel Universe, but a very different tone and attitude. When you have Garth Ennis doing a grim espionage/war book like FURY, it's nice to have a little additional freedom to depict adult situations and language. I always thought it was odd that Blade, the star of a hit film, couldn't deliver half of his lines from the movie on a traditional Marvel Comics page. Now he can. Chuck Austen's amazing U.S. WAR MACHINE wouldn't be half as effective without the ultraviolence. And it's nice to give Steve Gerber the kind of freedom that HOWARD THE DUCK always would have benefited from. The MAX imprint gives us another place to put harder-edged work."
There are also plenty of good projects on the Marvel Knights schedule. For starters, the regular DAREDEVIL series is running biweekly yes, biweekly! for six issues with the long-awaited arc from screenwriter Bob Gale. Phil Winslade and Dave Ross share art duties on the project, which concerns a wealthy man who hires Matt Murdock to sue Daredevil for property damage. "From there, the complications mount up," Moore says. "Why does Matt take the case? Who's going to defend Daredevil? And is he guilty, or is there something more behind it all?"
ELEKTRA #1 from Marvel Comics
© 2001 Marvel Characters Inc.
Grant Morrison and Jae Lee's FANTASTIC FOUR 1234 also runs this summer, while the MARVEL KNIGHTS DOUBLE-SHOT, a four-issue "split book" that will contain two stories per issue, is set for an October release. The fun continues in early 2002 with the top-secret relaunch of CAPTAIN AMERICA and a four-part WOLVERINE/HULK series to be written and drawn by Sam Kieth.
"Between all the Knights and MAX titles, we're really working hard to diversify Marvel," Moore says. "I'm just happy and excited to be at the center of it all."