Interview With Stuart Moore
(November 2011)

Stuart Moore was editor on DAREDEVIL and several Marvel Knights titles. Here we discuss coming to Marvel from Vertigo, and editing the series as Brian Michael Bendis started his run.

Kuljit Mithra: When you made the move from Vertigo to Marvel Knights back in 2000, what had been the interest for you? DAREDEVIL was having a very tough time coming out monthly, so had Joe Quesada contacted you to help get it back on track, or were you wanting to make a change anyway?

Stuart Moore: Well, Marvel Knights wasn't just DAREDEVIL, though of course the book was the flagship title of the line. Basically, when Joe became editor-in-chief of Marvel, he hired me to replace himself in his old job as Marvel Knights editor. The line was both successful and artistically very cool, and it used a lot of the same writers and artists I'd worked with at Vertigo. I jumped at it.

Joe also realized that, with his new duties as EiC, he couldn't continue as regular artist of DAREDEVIL. Now, Joe's stunning artwork had been the unifying factor in this run of DAREDEVIL, first in a run of stories by Kevin Smith and then in the David Mack-written storyline that introduced Echo. The plan had been for that to continue, with Bob Gale writing the next major storyline.

Once Joe was no longer regular artist, we had to rethink things. Brian Bendis and David Mack were already working on a painted four-issue storyline. While Phil Winslade and David Ross were drawing the Bob Gale storyline, we started setting up the new permanent team of Bendis and Alex Maleev. I was very proud of the fact that we got fifteen issues of DAREDEVIL out that year. (Maybe it was only fourteen!)

Mithra: I'll come back to Wake Up and Playing to the Camera, since it seems these were already in place when you arrived... but it looks like you had a say in the hiring of Bendis and Maleev. Needless to say, their run is considered to be one of the greats on DD. While Bendis was not an unknown, he definitely was still at the start of his career at Marvel. What was it about his pitch/ideas about DD that ultimately get him the job? Were there others who were under consideration?

Moore: Bendis had already launched ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, which was both a critical and commercial hit, and a damn good read. Joe had brought him in to do a Knights miniseries called DAREDEVIL NINJA, which took a while to gestate. We started talking to Brian about all kinds of things, and he wanted to work with Alex Maleev again -- they had just come off a run together on Todd McFarlane's SAM AND TWITCH. I think Joe made the initial phone call to have him take over DD on a regular basis; but it was such a natural idea that we all just kind of clapped our foreheads and said, "Of course."

Mithra: Let's go back to Wake Up (issues 16-19) then, since I believe this was Bendis's first work at Marvel (although I think some of his other work came out beforehand). He was working with his friend David Mack, and storywise/artwise, it was a departure from what "superhero" comics were used to seeing. As an editor, how do you guide the writer and artist on a project like this? Do you just get out of the way and only get involved if you see something completely wrong, or do you help plan out each issue's story beats etc.?

Moore: Again, that storyline was well underway when I came onboard. But yes, it was a very personal story for those two creators, and the art was pretty impressionistic too. We published a lot of departures from "traditional" superhero comics during that time, but that was an extreme example. I'd worked on a lot of nontraditional comics material during my time at Vertigo, so it wasn't at all offputting to me. But mostly I just got out of the way, and Bendis and Mack did their magic.

Mithra: I'm going to guess that most of the projects were underway with Nanci Dakesian (-Quesada) as editor. Going back through the credits on DAREDEVIL, you are both listed as editors, with some listing her as a "managing editor", with Kelly Lamy assisting. Was she concentrating more on the imprint-wide editing, while you dealt with the more hands-on things in specific titles, or were you sharing the duties? How did all of that work out?

Moore: It was a complicated situation that varied from title to title, storyline to storyline. Nanci ran the imprint and did it brilliantly, making sure that freelancers were treated right, the business end all worked, and books were checked, double-checked, and seen carefully through the production process. I handled most of the editorial duties, along with Bronwyn Taggart, who came on during my time there. But Nanci's responsibilities included some of what was traditionally the editor's role. Kelly was Nanci's assistant during that time. We all worked like crazy, and it was nice to have such a small group who could pull together when something urgently needed to get done.

Mithra: Can you recall any particular instance where the editorial team had to get together to solve a major problem? (It doesn't specifically have to be on DAREDEVIL).

Moore: Nothing specific comes to mind, but we were always on tight deadlines so there was a lot of back and forth cooperation.

Mithra: Playing to the Camera (issues #20-25) seems to be the forgotten arc from Volume 2, since it's never been reprinted in any collection and it shipped just prior to the Bendis/Maleev run. I'm not sure if you are aware or not, but there was an interview writer Bob Gale did for a Back to the Future fan site many years ago where he discussed issues he had with the arc. He was not happy with the different artists (Winslade and Ross) used to get the issues out quickly, since it was shipping bi-weekly, and he also wished there were more issues to work with. Based on this, and just the general tone of the interview, "conspiracy theorists" have used this interview as a reason why the story has never been reprinted. What did you think of the story in general, and how was it working with Gale?

Moore: Bob Gale was amazingly professional and pleasant to work with, especially given the fact that he was making a film at the time this was going on. But yeah, I was aware of his objections -- he and discussed them frankly during the production of the book, and we disagreed on several key points regarding both Daredevil and the story itself. I'd have to chalk this arc up to one of those cases where everyone worked their asses off and did the absolute best they could, but the end result didn't really satisfy any of us. I've always been sorry that that was my only editorial experience with Bob because, as I say, he was as committed and professional as any writer I've ever worked with.

Mithra: I also wanted to ask what it was like to work with Stan Lee and Gene Colan on that extra story in issue #20? That must have been exciting.

Moore: It was. That story had been plotted and commissioned by Gene Colan's webmaster, whose name escapes me at the moment. He brought it in pencil form to Joe Q, who suggested we bring in Stan to script it. I remember Stan saying, "Six pages? I think I can handle it!" Afterward he sent me a Spider-Man bookmark with a hand-scrawled note reading: "Dear Stu - Thanks for taking a chance on a new guy. -Stan."

(By the way, in all the universe, only Stan Lee is allowed to call me Stu.)

Mithra: Ah yes, that was Kevin Hall, who also runs the Daredevil Resource website. Before we discuss the first three Bendis arcs that followed Playing to the Camera, I wanted to get your opinion on continuity. On DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, Jeph Loeb made the origin story weave its way around the classic origin from DD#1, while adding elements. Bendis's DD stories used elements from the past stories but changed them in a few instances. As an editor, how much do you worry about continuity in relation to telling a good story?

Moore: I don't know if this is a very interesting answer, have to use your judgment. The Marvel Universe has been around for decades; there's no way a construct like that is going to remain completely consistent over that much time. And it shouldn't, either. Attitudes and characters that were appropriate in 1942 aren't necessarily right for today.

That said, you don't want to contradict things that happened last month, or you destroy the integrity of the reading experience. The most important thing is to be true to the spirit of the characters. When you're telling the origin of Spider-Man, for instance, you don't screw around with the death of Uncle Ben, because that's absolutely integral to who Spider-Man is. But it's okay to change the particulars -- in fact, it's a good idea. Even the biggest nerd on Earth today wouldn't wear the sweaters Peter Parker was wearing in 1962!

Mithra: Okay, we're back to the Bendis/Maleev arc, and you edited their first two stories, as well as the Trial of the Century arc (without Maleev). Bendis starts Underboss with a "bang" and we see Sammy Silke's plans for the Kingpin. Bendis also had some big plans here. What was his pitch for his story... was it the secret identity aspect, or the eventual turn of DD as the Kingpin? I guess what I'm really asking is how much had he already plotted out, because I'm assuming he didn't think he'd be on the book for so many years.

Moore: You'd have to ask Brian how far ahead he'd really plotted. I know he had the secret identity idea in mind pretty early on, but we weren't sure how it was going to play out. As usual, he put it all together beautifully.

The thing I remember about that first arc is the way it flips back and forth in time. That was very cool, but we also had to make sure it wasn't too confusing. I'm very, very proud of my (small) part in those stories.

Mithra: We talked earlier about the sharing of editorial roles, so how involved were you on these arcs with Bendis & Maleev?

Moore: The editorial work was mostly down to me, although Joe Q was heavily involved too. He'd relaunched this incarnation of DAREDEVIL himself and had a strong interest in the character. Everybody was on the same page, so it went really smoothly.

Mithra: How about your interest in the character? Had you been a fan beforehand? Any particular favourite creators or arcs? Would you even call yourself a fan of DD now?

Moore: Oh, absolutely! Like a lot of people, I first really noticed the character during the brilliant Frank Miller run. Everyone talks about the mood and character drama, but there were also some incredibly well-structured storylines in there. That first three-parter with the Kingpin is a textbook comic book story, the way it builds to the Kingpin's appearance midway through the story. "Born Again" is also a really gorgeous piece of work. And I had been enjoying the work Joe and Kevin Smith were doing just before I came on, too.

Mithra: What kind of DD story do you think works best for the character? The "traditional superhero", the noir or the "ninja"?

Moore: I think the noir and ninja approaches are almost two sides of the same coin... I tend in that direction. That said, Mark Waid has just taken DD into much more of a traditional superhero area, and he's doing a brilliant job. A skilled writer can work magic.

Mithra: You're already mentioned that Joe Quesada worked closely with you, so I'm just wondering if he had any concerns about any of the major changes Bendis was writing, namely the fate of Kingpin and the whole "outing" of DD's secret identity. Was there anything he vetoed in terms of characters set to appear or plots that he didn't think needed to be involved yet, etc.?

Moore: The "outing" was a big topic, yes. It was a huge change to the status quo of the character; we all discussed it for quite a while. I can't remember anything, or any character, that was vetoed.

Mithra: What were some of the things discussed about the secret identity plot? Were there worries it would be too drastic of a change?

Moore: Yes, exactly. A character's secret identity is not only a defining part of his/her character; it's also one of the most difficult changes in status quo to undo. Once it's public, it's public, unless you do some big reality-shift all around the character. The actual outing took a while to happen, so we had time to consider all the ramifications. Brian was very persuasive, and he did an incredible job with the story.

Mithra: After DD's identity became somewhat public in Out, Bendis followed that arc up with a "courtroom drama" Trial of the Century. You probably encountered this with Playing to the Camera, but how do you ensure the writing reflects a true courtroom and the laws? Or do you bend the rules a bit for the story?

Moore: Bendis was pretty meticulous about that stuff. I tend to believe that you can bend the rules in a legal story if you need to, as long as you know what you're doing. In other words, you don't do the research in order to stick strictly to reality; you do it so you know when you're NOT sticking to reality. That's just my thinking; I know writers, particularly historical fiction writers, who disagree.

That said, I don't remember a lot of issues with "Playing to the Camera." It was pretty straightforward.

Mithra: For this arc, Manuel Gutierrez handled the art for the first two issues, while Terry Dodson handled the conclusion. I have to ask... Bendis has mentioned in past interviews that "the artist disappeared" and Dodson had to help out. Is there any truth to that? Did Gutierrez stop returning emails and phone calls?

Moore: This is going to sound evasive, but I honestly don't remember the was right around the time I left. Manuel lived in Argentina, which was undergoing a near-complete economic collapse at the time... I remember we had trouble getting him money. I will say that, if you have to throw in an emergency fill-in artist, you could do a lot worse than Terry Dodson!

Mithra: Okay, since you just mentioned it, let's talk about your departure from editing at Marvel. From talking with other editors who have worked on DD, I have the impression that the editor's job is stressful and time consuming. I also got the impression that once they left Marvel, they were working on more personal projects, some not even remotely related to comics. Am I on the right track here with why you left? You wanted to concentrate more on writing?

Moore: Absolutely -- I decided to make the jump to writing full-time. Working at Marvel Knights was indeed stressful; I always tell people that I edited as many books there, in less than two years, as I did in four or five years at Vertigo. But I was doing freelance writing on the side already, and a couple of projects started to come together for me. Knights was an amazing experience, but I'd been a comics editor for a long time, and I wanted to devote myself more fully to my own work.

Mithra: Are you still finding the writing jobs more rewarding for you creatively after all these years? Living in the freelance world must have its own unique stresses, though.

Moore: Oh, it has stresses! But I like it -- I'm a pretty self-motivated person and I like moving around from one project to another. Yes, I still love writing, though I'm drifting more into various kinds of editorial work again. I have a partnership called Botfriend that packages comics/graphic novel material for clients, and I have some other plans that combine writing and editing. Unfortunately, I can't talk about that last part yet, but it will bring things oddly full circle in some ways.

Mithra: That's great, you are working with Marie Javins, who also used to edit DAREDEVIL! I'm sure you've traded some war stories, although I'm sure she had to deal with some crazier things than you had. I look forward to whatever comes out with the help of Botfriend.

Moore: Thanks -- I forgot Marie had worked on DD. She's also my editor on THE 99, a multicultural super hero team I write for the international market.

Mithra: I don't want to take up any more of your time. I wanted to thank you for getting this chance to speak with you about your stint with Marvel Knights and I wish you well with these future projects. Are there any other projects coming out soon that you'd like to mention?

Moore: I've got a two-part Spider-Man story coming out next year, but I'm not sure quite when. And I've written the young adult novelization of the upcoming JOHN CARTER film, coming in March. Many other things, but I can't talk about them yet. Thanks!

(c) 2011 Kuljit Mithra & Stuart Moore
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