Joe Quesada, Scab?

Marvel’s plugging the appearance of Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada on the Colbert Report tomorrow, January 29. Let’s put this in context: the show is working without writers due to the WGA strike. Because the Screen Actors’ Guild supports the strike, most stars and other actors won’t cross the picket line to appear on late-night talk shows. So the bookers are reaching, with people who wouldn’t normally get airtime used to fill slots. (Although Quesada appeared before, to promote Civil War, which in my opinion, he didn’t do very well.)

Best guess is that Quesada will be promoting the new Captain America, a story already spoiled by the NY Daily News. (It’s Bucky the Winter Soldier.)

But does he feel at all bad crossing a picket line to do it? Maybe he thinks that since Marvel Studios settled with the WGA, it’s ok. In that link, Don MacPherson considers the many issues that deal raises, especially as it relates to Marvel’s online comic store.


26 Responses to “Joe Quesada, Scab?”

  1. Don MacPherson Says:

    I agree Quesada was a bit awkward during his first chat with Colbert. Fortunately, Colbert’s humor and charisma made the pop-culture icon of Captain America seem cool and campy all at once.

    I expect Colbert will come up with a funny bit revolving around the return (or refusal to return) of Cap’s shield.

  2. Lingster Says:

    What’s interesting about this is that some people who write for Marvel are also WGA members. What will their response be?

    Still, I wouldn’t make too much of this. Quesada’s first obligation here is to promote Marvel product and thus look after the interests of Marvel’s stockholders and employees. His obligations are clear and he fulfilled them.

  3. Paul O'Brien Says:

    A scab would be somebody who was writing for the show during the strike, Johanna. Crossing a picket line to appear as an interviewee is not strike-breaking.

    To be honest, from a British perspective, all this stuff about not crossing picket lines feels like a charming throwback to 25 years ago and the pre-Thatcherite era.

    Besides, you might reflect that Marvel itself is a studio, not a branch of the Writers Guild, and Quesada may not actually be in a position to decline the invitation.

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    Paul wrote:
    A scab would be somebody who was writing for the show during the strike, Johanna.

    I took Johanna’s “scab” reference to be tongue in cheek.

  5. thekamisama Says:

    As a member of a trade union, I will tell you, he is scabbing by crossing that line. He has been credited as writer on many books. This makes him a writer, even if he is not a member of the Guild. As soon as he crossed that line he was a scab, even if he was not doing work as a writer. Just as a truck driver crossing a driver union’s would be a scab. The Teamsters, the SAG, and other trade Unions that have nothing to do with writing television or movies are refusing to allow thier workers/drivers/etc cross lines. I doubt Joe Quesada somehow has some special contract with the Colbert Show that has a no-strike clause. He broke the line. He did not respect the solidarity of the writers or the agreements that his parent company had previously made with the Guild. He is a scab.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Paul, the use of “scab” made for a catchy headline, and I was hoping others would share their opinions of whether it really applied or not (as has happened, which I appreciate). My guess would be that promo-hungry Marvel will seize at any kind of opportunity like this, regardless of unions or whether someone fits better in the role of writer or studio head.

  7. Blog@Newsarama » Marvel Comics and the WGA Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson wonders if Joe Quesada feels bad about crossing the picket line to appear on the Colbert Report. Or does [...]

  8. Paul O'Brien Says:

    Johanna, you may be using the term for rhetorical effect, but as we see above – and as you’ll see on various blogs about the writer’s strike – a depressing misuse of the term abounds.

    This may be a cultural thing, as Thatcher more or less annihilated some of these practices during her war with the unions when I was a kid, which causes me to see some of these statements about the importance of picket lines as strangely old-fashioned and hard-left. But ultimately, what bothers me is the tone of bullying and emotional blackmail with which the subject often seems to be discussed. It makes me very uncomfortable and does nothing to endear the writers to me – even though I actually agree with them as to the merits of the dispute.

  9. Johanna Says:

    So if a scab would be someone who writes for a studio being struck, is there a shorthand term for a non-writer like Quesada who doesn’t respect the picket line? Probably not. And it’s seen as old-fashioned over here, too.

  10. Jose Medina Says:

    A writer is a worker. He/She works for a living. There are intelectual workers and there are manual workers. Quesada is also a worker. In solidarity with other workers he shouldn’t cross picket lines. Also, what’s wrong with picket lines? If you make a little noise people will notice.

  11. Bryan Says:

    “what bothers me is the tone of bullying and emotional blackmail with which the subject often seems to be discussed. It makes me very uncomfortable”

    This argument is laughable. Emotional blackmail? Try emotionally dishonest. It should make you uncomfortable to cross or even contemplate crossing a picket line of striking workers. That is what the line is for. Even when a picket line is not actively blocking the passage of people or goods, it is serving a symbolic purpose. Crossing the line sends the message that you do not care about the workers involved in the labour dispute and are willing to do business with the employer regardless. Thatcher and her descendants, including New Labour, have indeed done a good job ideologically if younger people in the UK see picketing strikers as a quaint anachronism. As writers, Quesada and Colbert are both scabbing –not just crossing a picket line to do business but also providing creative content for a struck show. Implying that it’s just business as usual while the writers are just being petty, engaging in dirty mindgames that hurt your feelings, is a little bit disingenuous.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Now, now, no mindreading or name-calling. Paul may be many things, but I’ve never known him to be disingenuous. Your point about pickets wanting to make other people uncomfortable is well-taken, though.

  13. Don MacPherson Says:

    It should be noted that many have crossed picket lines to be appear on The Daily Show, Colbert, Leno, Conan and more. I don’t know if they’ve come under fire for it.

    Something else occurred to me in light of the fact that one of Quesada’s co-creations — Painkiller Jane — had a brief life as a TV series. It turns out he didn’t write any of the episodes (at least according to the episode guides I checked out). The IMDB lists him as a writer on the series, but with the caveat of “comic book series.”

    However, Quesada’s friend and PJ co-creator Jimmy Palmiotti did write an episode. That might have required WGA membership.

    I also surfed through the WGA West website. There is a member search function. Among those listed as a member… one Brian M. Bendis, one of Marvel’s most valued writers. As others have noted, there’s a slew of writers who came from the world of TV and movies to pen scripts for Marvel as well.

  14. Lyle Says:

    Don, I’ve been meaning to comment on the guests we’ve seen on the writerless Daily Show and Colbert Report… up until late last week, you could see they were having trouble finding guests. When those shows returned I joked that they’d only find conservative guests, considering how a bunch of past liberal guests were publicly announcing that they would not cross the picket line… and for a while their guests mostly were conservative writers. Lately, they have been finding non-political guests like a couple extreme sports guys last week and Joe Q this week… no big name stars with movies to promote, but they’re starting to find a variety of people willing to cross the picket line.

    Last week, I noted pundit Rachel Maddow talking about how she was now getting invites from shows who have never invited her to be a guest before, due to the number of regular guests who won’t cross that picket line. (With her producer adding that Mario Batali had a similar experience with the Tonight Show,)

  15. Paul O'Brien Says:

    Modern British picket lines, in my experience, essentially amount to a protest outside the workplace, drawing attention to the strike. There’s a significant difference between the social discomfort of walking past a protest, and actively pressurising third parties not to cross.

  16. Don MacPherson Says:

    It bears mentioning that another figure from the world of comics — Persepolis creator Marjane Satrapi — appeared on Colbert as well. Ought the same criticisms be directed toward her?

  17. Johanna Says:

    I suspect that case is complicated by her not being American, and thus not seen as involved. Although she’s got a movie currently playing, which might make her more involved.

  18. Don MacPherson Says:

    Let’s been honest, Johanna… it’s easier (more fun) to pick on the editor-in-chief of Big Corporate Comics Company than the Oscar nominee and Ambassador for Literary Comics. :)

  19. Adan Jimenez Says:

    “In solidarity with other workers he shouldn’t cross picket lines.”

    Nonsense. My solidarity is to my family, not some Communist agenda that keeps me from doing my job.

    When did it become okay for workers to be forced into unions and guilds? Why can’t I work in this field (and many others) without being forced into this group whose goals and ideals I do not agree with?

  20. Don MacPherson Says:

    Just watched the Quesada appearance on Colbert. Not only did he promote the new Cap, but Secret Invasion as well. And it seems that in order to get some free publicity with recurring appearances on the show, a Colbert presidential campaign is going to creep into the backgrounds in future Marvel releases (not a bad deal for Marvel). I guess the writers’ strike and the dearth of material for the show have their advantages for the House of Ideas.

    Overall, Quesada’s appearance was painful to watch. Rather than the more spontaneous exchanges we usually see between Colbert and his guests, this was hammy playacting that made comics seem uncool.

    The presidential campaign bumper stickers were a good idea, though (except finishing with Colbert/Quesada rather than Colbert/Hulk). Leaving the original Cap shield with Colbert was a good call as well.

    Also, to give credit where credit is due… Quesada looks better than he has in years. He’s lost a lot of weight.

  21. Bryan Says:

    Satrapi is a scab as well. Most of the guests of the Colbert and Stewart shows these days are writers and/or right-wing hacks. It’s a shame, really.

  22. Nat Gertler Says:

    Johanna, if you don’t want name calling here, you should avoid the term “scab” at all. It’s not exactly a compliment or an unbiased term even when used correctly; it’s a derogatory term against someone providing competition in the work environment against union members. Those who use it are not showing solidarity with workers, as it is a statement against workers. It isn’t appropriate to use “commie” for those supporting collective bargaining, and similarly, “scab” is not appropriate here. (And lest anyone here assume otherwise, I think that the WGA is striking over valid concerns, and I think that withholding work until their concerns are met is indeed the appropriate leverage for addressing those concerns.)

  23. Johanna Says:

    Tsk, tsk, such finger-wagging! Especially since we’ve already talked about both it and how Quesada isn’t competing here (although I guess you could say he’s taking advantage of a lack of competition).

  24. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for letting us know how it looked when it aired, Don.

  25. thekamisama Says:

    I am just wondering how the word scab is being misrepresented or misued? I am in labor, it is OUR word to define. The most basic of meanings might just be non union workers doing union workers jobs, but that is not the singular definition as used by people in labor these days.
    If it makes people feel bad, then it has done it’s job. Strikes are not fun or funny.
    The people who have the final say on this would be the officers and members of the WGA. So far they have remained pretty level headed in regards to these late-night shows. They also seem reluctant to throw around the “s word”. Quesada will probably not catch much flack for this outside the comic blogging community. It’s not like he is a politician or famous actor.

  26. salem Says:

    I’m a writer who has made most of my living as a carpenter. Union carpenter at that. I’m sitting on screenwriting material during the strike. I now have a publisher interested in taking a look at my graphic novel – which I was looking at as an independent DIY project. At what point does a comic book writer become a WGA member? I’m not represented – yet – but the management shingle who likes my work the most spins out scripts for Marvel…




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