The Dawn of the Knights

By Mario Muscar

The hiring of Quesada as E-I-C definitely changed both Marvel and the comic book industry. Under Quesada (and Jemas), Marvel Comics introduced the Ultimates line, fresh takes on existing characters that existed outside of the current continuity and were aimed at younger readers. Quesada, aided by editor Axel Alonso, helped bring a string of talented writers and artists to Marvel, such as Brian Michael Bendis, J.G. Jones, Grant Morrison and Greg Rucka. These writers have changed the landscape of the Marvel Universe, with Bendis currently being one of the main architects of the direction of the publisher's storylines.

Quesada also made some changes to certain rules surrounding the world of Marvel Comics. He put an end to the depiction of characters smoking in the pages of the comics. Gone were Wolverine's, the Thing's and Nick Fury's ubiquitous cigars. Quesada also introduced the "dead means dead" policy, putting an end to the constant return of "dead" characters. In a move that both pleased and confused readers, Quesada returned all titles that were relaunched with new #1 issues under Bob Harras to their original numbering.

One development during Quesada's tenure at Marvel that has received both praise and disdain from fans is Quesada's role in the influx of writers from television and movies. The success of Kevin Smith's run on Daredevil showed writers in these other fields that comics were a viable outlet for their stories. Marvel brought in such writers as J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon Five, Allan Heinberg of Party of Five and The O.C., Marc Guggenheim of The Practice and Law and Order, Damon Lindelof of Lost and more.

Marvel Knights Now!

Marvel Knights today is different from when it first started in 1998. After an expansion of the line in the mid-2000s with titles like Marvel Knights Spider-Man, 4 and the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale series Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray and Spider-Man: Blue, Marvel Knights seemed to fade away as the spotlight was shifted to company-wide crossovers and multiple-issue events like House of M, Civil War and World War Hulk. Marvel Knights does continue to publish the occasional book, often focused on small, out-of-continuity takes on Marvel characters by high-profile writers and artists.

"The Marvel Knights line really kind of wallowed there for a while," Quesada said. "But Axel Alonso has taken over the line, and it has a new vision now. It's kind of like a boutique imprint. If you look at the most recent Marvel Knights [comics] that have come out over the last couple years, Silver Surfer: Requiem, Spider-Man: Reign, Thor: Loki, Daredevil: Father, Magneto: Testament and Battlin' Jack Murdock ... these are all sort of very high-quality, very illustrious stories. Some in continuity, some not. But I think they really give you a boutique feel ... that these are very special books that we really believe in. And the Knights imprint has really taken that point of view now. I really like the way the books are going because before we couldn't decide whether or not a book should be a Marvel Knights book or not. Well, it's a dark character so let's put it in Marvel Knights. That's not the case anymore. Now it's story-specific. If it really feels like a boutique story, let's put it in Marvel Knights."

Marvel Knights Legacy

So while Marvel Knights started out as a way to bring readers back to Marvel, its effects on the face of the comics industry have been far reaching. Marvel Comics (as well as DC Comics) as a company is often seen as a trailblazer in the field. After Marvel's financial troubles, Marvel, along with Quesada and others, seemingly had nothing to lose and were trying things they had never attempted before. There was a large amount of energy at the Marvel offices that had pushed the company forward. Other companies took notice of Marvel at the time and began trying new ideas as well. Due in part to that gung-ho attitude, other industries, such as Hollywood, have taken notice of comics and introduced the world to many of its properties through a string blockbuster movies.

In order to grasp the importance of a historical event, one must wait a generation in order to look back at it objectively. Now that we are ten years removed from the birth of the Marvel Knights imprint, it is easy to see that it is one of the benchmarks in the comics industry, not only for what comics were produced from it, but for the effect that creativity and industry-wide change it caused.

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