Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge.
Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR’s regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!
An editor with years of experience who’s overseen both critically acclaimed and best-selling comics, Alonso stepped into the spot of Marvel’s editorial department in early 2011, and has since worked to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
This week, with the final issue of “Superior Spider-Man” now on sale, Alonso discusses the book’s success, and the risk involved with replacing a beloved character like Peter Parker with one of his archenemies for nearly a year and a half. Alonso freely admits he was initially skeptical of the idea, and details his reasons why — and how the story’s reception encourages Marvel to make more bold moves in the future. Also, Alonso shares his enthusiasm for Marvel’s current original graphic novel line, the launches of “Ultimate FF” and “Hulk,” and watching Jason Aaron’s time on the X-books come to a close. Plus, your questions, straight from the CBR forums!
Albert Ching: Axel, this week marked the end of “Superior Spider-Man” with that book’s series finale, issue #31. What certainly looked like a risk — taking one of Marvel’s most iconic characters effectively off the board for more than a year — seems to have definitely paid off. Now that the run is complete, how proud are you of it, and the bold move that it represented?
Axel Alonso: Super-proud — and still surprised, to be honest. To see this whole experiment catch fire the way it did is still kind of mind-boggling. Dan [Slott] caught lightning in a bottle and turned “Superior Spider-Man” into one of the all-time classic Spider-Man stories. And to think that I wasn’t sold on this concept out the gate! [Laughs] What eventually did sell me was the story you’re about to read in “Superior Spider-Man” #31. Without that ending, I don’t know if this whole thing would have happened…
I’ve heard you talk about your initial hesitation before — what made you skeptical?
Alonso: OK, let’s see… [Laughs] First, you’re taking probably the most beloved alter ego in all of comics, Peter Parker, and sidelining him for an indefinite amount of time. Second, you’re putting a guy who’s the antithesis of Peter into the red-and-blue tights. Third, you’re going into this scheme knowing that if it doesn’t work out, you can’t pull the chute quickly. Fourth, you know you’ve got to stick the landing on this story — or else; if you’ve got a plan to bring back Peter, it better be great. And fifth, you know the plan is going to be greeted with cries of bloody murder from skeptical fans. [Laughs]
Given that type of vocal initial reaction from, as you said, skeptical fans, at this point does Marvel see eliciting that type of strong emotional response as an indicator of doing something right?
Alonso: Just ’cause you hit a nerve with fans, that’s doesn’t mean you’re doing something right! Plenty of bad ideas get greeted with an emotional response! [Laughs] Truth is, you’ve got to trust your gut, distinguish between noise and real feedback, put your head down and do your job, and see what happens.
Marvel has made some bold moves in recent years, and this is one of the bigger ones. Does seeing the positive response “Superior Spider-Man” has gotten reaffirm your confidence in Marvel’s ability to make such risky moves?
Alonso: Without a doubt. In the case of “Superior Spider-Man,” we rolled the dice on a crazy concept pitched by a creator who was — and still is — really on fire. But we’ve taken plenty of creative chances over the last couple years…
Almost two years ago, Marvel NOW! presented a line-wide game of musical chairs that resulted in Brian Bendis on “All-New X-Men,” Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn on “Deadpool” and everything in between. It was a wild success, but at the time, it was a risky move. If we believed the Internet, Bendis was about to kill the X-Men franchise! [Laughs]
And with All-New Marvel NOW!, we rolled the dice on launching a slew of new ongoing series using a simple strategy: Find the right creators and turn them loose. The result was an array of top-quality launches with strong creative visions that have been embraced by fans:
- Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s “Silver Surfer”
- Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s “She-Hulk”
- Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s “Black Widow”
- G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s “Ms. Marvel”
- Charles Soule and Joe Madueira’s “Inhuman”
- Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore’s “All-New Ghost Rider”
- Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads’ “Punisher”
- Kaare Andrews’ “Iron Fist: The Living Weapon”
- Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s “Magneto”
- Chris Claremont and Todd Nauck’s “Nightcrawler”
- Ales Kot and Garry Brown’s “Iron Patriot”
- Haden Blackman and Mike Del Mundo’s upcoming “Elektra”
And I’m only listing brand-spanking-new series here, not “soft” relaunches like Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez’s “Captain Marvel,” Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s “Daredevil,” or Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar’s “Wolverine and the X-Men,” all of which are excellent.
Each and every one of these launches has a distinct vibe and voice — they’re not all aimed at one audience. And virtually all of them have gone to second or third prints, on top of healthy initial orders. I challenge anyone to say that Marvel’s editors are doing anything but trying to find the right talent for each series, and bring out the best in them. While a writer involved in an event — like the upcoming “Original Sin” or “Spider-Verse” — or a series that is part of a larger initiative with line-wide ramifications – like “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Inhuman” — knows that feedback from multiple sources comes with the territory, the process of launching and maintaining a new series is surprisingly… intimate.
Couple more things to touch on — the “Spider-Man: Family Business” graphic novel was released earlier this month, the second book in that line. It does feel like a story you wouldn’t typically see in a monthly title, something unique to that format. How pleased are you with how this new line has developed, and what kind of potential do you still see for it down the road?
Alonso: I couldn’t be happier. I’ve wanted to do OGNs since the day I came to Marvel. I believe — no, I know — that there are readers out there that crave the option to sit down and read an epic story in one sitting. They want a big, beautiful book. And I also believe that the format brings the best out of certain creators because it allows them to step away from periodical storytelling. Case in point: I would have never called Warren Ellis and said, “Hey, want to write an Avengers limited series?” But I did call Warren Ellis and say, “We’re starting an OGN program, stating with an Avengers story. Do you want to write it?” And obviously, he didn’t hang up on me. [Laughs]
So I see unlimited potential for our OGN line.
Alonso: We said exactly the same thing.
It’s the third Hulk #1 in three years — preceded by Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri in 2011, and Waid and Leinil Yu in 2012. What do you like about what Waid and Bagley are doing, and in your mind, what makes this a new era of Hulk, and worthy of the new #1?
Alonso: Well, like you said, part of the appeal is that Mark is being joined by Mark Bagley. That’s a pretty cool creative team. And then there’s the hook of what happens to Banner — which is a significant, life-changing event that sets in motion a new “season.” With “Hulk” #1, you’re going to meet a Bruce Banner you’ve never encountered before. When Bruce gets shot in the head at the conclusion of “Indestructible Hulk,” it jumpstarts a whodunit murder mystery and introduces a new era in the Hulk history. Not only will Banner change dramatically; Hulk will, too. The adjective “indestructible,” well, it’s not exactly appropriate anymore. Last “season,” we focused on Banner’s attempt manipulate and control Hulk’s action. This season, well, without giving too much away, let’s just say the tables might turn.
Also out this week is “Ultimate FF” #1, illustrated by Mario Guevara and written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, who’s written a few different things at Marvel over the past couple years, and has appeared to find a niche at the Ultimate Universe as of late. In what way do you see his skills as a writer as being particularly suited for that world?
Alonso: A lot of it comes down to Josh’s relationship with [Senior Editor] Mark Paniccia and [“Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man” writer] Brian Bendis. Josh has an incredible knowledge of the Ultimate U — and he was the perfect writer to tap into the universe’s decade-long history. He’s able to find those loose threads in continuity and spin his own story with them — a story that will take readers to some pretty bizarre corners of the Ultimate Universe. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh pops up on a series set in the Marvel Universe sometime soon.
This week’s “Amazing X-Men” #6 represents “Original Sin” and “Thor: God of Thunder” writer Jason Aaron’s last issue on the X-books — at least for the foreseeable future. As the editor of his early “Wolverine” stories, how do you view the legacy that Aaron leaves behind as an X-Men writer?
Alonso: With “Wolverine,” Jason just came in and owned that character and that book, starting with his excellent “Messiah CompleX” epilogue: “Get Mystique.” With “Schism,” Jason established a new status quo for the X-Men, with Cyclops and Wolverine positioned as the new poles of the ideological divide. And with creation of the Jean Grey School in “Wolverine and the X-Men,” Jason — along with his incredible artists — served up a book that surprised anyone that thought they knew his limits; a fresh, fun and optimistic X-Book that embodies the spirit of the X-Men. The crazy thing is, you’ll be measuring the impact of what Jason did a decade from now.
Let’s dip into the CBR forums a bit for some fan questions. Repeat questioner Reed Beebe asks, “This year is the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of both Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch — are there any plans to showcase these characters this year in celebration of their anniversary?”
Alonso: Yes, Reed Beebe, there are plans in “All-New Invaders” and over in the collected editions division, which will spotlight original Torch and Namor with some never before reprinted collected editions starring those original heroes.
Perennial favorite Spidey616 has paid attention to social media lately, and asks, “All these HAIL HYDRA Internet memes have me wondering what’s in store for a certain terrorist organization. We’ve seen various members like Viper appear in Bendis’ X-Men books, but can we anticipate a major return of HYDRA that readers have come to expect?”
Alonso: Funny you should ask, Spidey616 — HYDRA was the topic of quite a lot of discussion at the last retreat. Keep your eyes on “Captain America” in coming months.
Let’s end with D. Perez — more of a sales question, but I’ll float it here anyway: “Been a fan of the new Epic Collection trades you guys have been putting out. Have the trades sold well enough for you to consider putting two out a month in the near future, instead of only one as of now?”
Alonso: Glad you like the Epic Collections, they’ve really been picking up steam — and orders — with each release. For the time being, we plan to stick to one collection per month. However, during our 75th anniversary months, we will be doubling up and offering the first volumes of these series, at a rate of two per month from September through December of 2015. And for those of you who are following the Epic Collections, the volumes are printed in random order.
Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O’ Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum. It’s now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!