Marvel's Joe Quesada explains why 'levity' is key to their success

Contributed by
Oct 2, 2013, 9:56 AM EDT

There are a lot of reasons why Marvel's enjoying a superhero boom right now, but chief creative officer and former editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has narrowed it down to two. 

As the company prepares for more new comic-book launches, a Thor sequel, a Captain America sequel and more episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel's making the rounds in as many publicity circles as possible, and this week Quesada -- who headed Marvel Comics for a decade -- is adding his thoughts to the mix. Marvel's got a lot going for it right now in a number of fields, from comics to film to TV, and Quesada thinks he knows why. Even though its properties pack plenty of high drama, Marvel's success -- according to Quesada -- lies in not taking itself too seriously, and that makes readers and viewers want to come back. 

"I don't think it's a secret, but at the core of everything we do -- and this is evident in all our films and obviously evident in the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- is that we try to have a sense of humor about our universe as do our characters," Quesada said. "In some instances, it's a self-effacing, but it's that humor in the face of danger and or tragedy that brings out the humanity in our characters, and I think you'll find that's a hallmark of everything we do at Marvel. While there is a seriousness and a gravitas to the missions our heroes have to undertake and endure, there's also a ton of levity at its heart. At the end of the day, when you finish reading one of our comics or come out of one of our movies or turn off your TV after watching one of our shows -- actually, don't turn off your TV, stay tuned to ABC and DXD, they have some great programming right after us [Laughs] -- we want you to feel like the Marvel Universe is a place that you want to live in, a place you want to revisit. We want you to feel that our characters are people you want to hang out with or aspire to be just like. Even though our world has some crazy badass villains with insane super powers and aliens invade from time to time, we want it to feel like a world worth visiting on a consistent basis."

But the company's success isn't just about keeping a sense of humor. Over the last five years, Marvel's had great success establishing an interconnected series of films that will continue to connect and interrelate in the years to come. It's an ambitious blockbuster plan, but a big part of its power, according to Quesada, lies in keeping everything connected, but not so connected that uninitiated viewers get turned off.

"Going from zero to 60 with respect to crossovers and continuity, while great for the longtime loyalist, is the best way to alienate the larger world out there who needs to be weaned into the universe just like our longtime fans were when they first started," he said. "Stan Lee once said that every comic is someone's first. We now have to take that philosophy and apply it to everything we do, regardless of whether it's paper or film."

That treatment of the company's characters and concepts has certainly served Marvel well so far, but the challenge of keeping viewers interested will only get more complex as we head into the age of The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy. What do you think? Will Marvel be able to keep this balancing act going?

(CBR via THR)