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 brought out comics to both critical acclaim and best-selling status, Alonso stepped into the chair at the top of Marvel’s Editorial department and since then has been working 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, we dissect some of the latest Marvel news starting with the return of Neil Gaiman and the introduction of Angela into the Marvel Universe. Word that the character created by the celebrated writer and artist Todd MacFarlane for the latter’s “Spawn” series would be appearing at the end of Marvel’s “Age of Ultron” turned heads, and Axel gives the inside story of how the deal came together. In other news, Axel discusses the secret project that pulled Leinil Francis Yu away from “Indestructible Hulk” and why it’s not the standard for core Marvel NOW! artists, and he announces a brand-new “What If?” story based on the recent “Avengers Vs. X-Men” crossover while answering your fan questions. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Well, Axel, we had some pretty significant news hit this week: the addition of Neil Gaiman and Todd MacFarlane’s Angela to the Marvel Universe at the end of “Age of Ultron.” There’s plenty to be said about this and maybe some things not to be said just yet. But let’s start with the basics. What can you tell me about how this deal came about and why folding Angela into the Marvel U and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” seemed like a strong fit?
Axel Alonso: We’d been talking for some time about ways to bring Angela into the Marvel Universe, and the conclusion to “Age of Ultron” gave us the perfect window of opportunity to do it. The fact that Angela arrives at the exact same time we’re reminding readers that the Marvel Universe is called “Marvel Universe” for a reason, is pure serendipity.
In terms of “Age of Ultron” itself, we’ve been told again and again that the ending is one “no one can guess.” Is this the ending you’ve been referencing? Is the cat out of the bag?
Alonso: By no means! Angela’s arrival is kind of like the post-credits sequence from “Marvel Studios’ The Avengers” — it is a byproduct of the climax to the story. It is not the climax to the story.
Lastly, with Neil writing and new characters appearing, this brings up the perpetual Marvelman question. Are we any closer to actually seeing this character show up in the Marvel U?
Alonso: We are, but I can’t say more.
On to other business, last week we had a lot of people frankly surprised at the word that Leinil Francis Yu would be moving on to a new ultra secret project rather than returning to the pages of “Indestructible Hulk.” For a while, you and I have discussed the idea that Marvel was working to keep the launch art teams for the Marvel NOW! books in place over the life of a series. How do the logistics work of preparing scripts in a timely fashion to keep the artists drawing on a schedule?
Alonso: In the case of Leinil Yu and “Indestructible Hulk,” a big story came along that, well, very Leinil was just too perfect for. We’ll be announcing that soon. That said, “Indestructible Hulk” is great hands with [writer] Mark [Waid], and we’re working very hard to ensure he continues to collaborate with top-tier artists — like, say, Walter Simonson.
As for the second part of your question: Any writer that’s working on a multi-shipping title is usually writing — or at least plotting — two arcs at the same time. But that’s not a problem, since our writers always have long-term plans — they’re aware where arc 1 ends and arc 2 begins, since each arc functions as a chapter of their story. So it’s not unusual for a writer to be working on issue #2 for arc 1 while they’re also script issue #6, which begins arc 2. Most of our writers are experienced in long term planning, so this may sound daunting to an outsider, but it’s not for a seasoned writer.
And in terms of the artists role, has there been more turnover on the books even with that scripting plan?
Alonso: With every single title, the writer and editor plan out the details and lengths of each arc and then coordinate with our talent management team to see what artists are appropriate, available, and able to meet the deadlines for each arc. So we launch a series knowing who the artist is for arc 1, arc 2 and so on. Of course, sometimes life gets in the way, and a writer or artist is thrown off-schedule, but generally speaking, we’re able to pass the baton smoothly. The writer knows who his artist is going to be for each arc and shades the scripts to play to that artist’s strengths.
Each Marvel NOW! title starts with a writer who has a long-term vision for their series, and an artist — or complementary rotation of artists — who brings that vision into focus and then some. In certain cases — like John Romita Jr. on “Captain America” or Mark Bagley on “Fantastic Four” — we’ve been able to concoct a system that allows for one artist to do virtually all the issues. In others — like “All-New X-Men” — we’ve managed to put together a solid core rotation, with Stuart Immonen and David Marquez. But there are times when the unforeseen happens: When [“Deadpool” artist] Tony Moore decided he wanted to take a break from the daily grind of sequential art, we had to adjust our plans.
That said, I want to remind readers of this column that all the Marvel NOW! launches are going strong — none have been cancelled or RE-relaunched in a whole new direction after 3 or 4 issues — which is a testament to the talent and coordinated effort of our writers, artists and editors.
One question I had in terms of the line is that with the Marvel NOW! titles in place and going strong for the most part, it seems we’re at a point where there’s less room for expansion in the line or more new books coming.
Alonso: Fear not. There are plans for a Marvel NOW! Wave 2 — a new wave of titles that will generate the same amount of excitement amongst retailers and fans that the first wave did. From “Uncanny Avengers” to “Thanos Rising,” Marvel NOW! has been a hit, and we’re far from done. Look for exciting new series, starting in July and carrying through next year.
But of course another big part of the line — particularly in terms of some fan favorite characters and creators — is also mini series. We’ve got a number of high profile minis like “Fury MAX” about to wrap. Are you looking for more shorter series to launch and give some of these ideas a broader platform?
Alonso: Of course. In fact, we’ll be making an announcement soon about a three intriguing limited series, featuring eyebrow-raising talent, that fall under the creative umbrella of a much-loved sub-brand. I’m not at liberty to say much more. Oh, and we have more MAX limited series planned, as well.
Moving into some fan questions for the week, jjk1901 has been playing conspiracy theory a bit and asks, ” Quick question about the most recent Uncanny Avengers. In the issue we see an homage to the classic image from Days of Future Past, with Havok and Scarlet Witch in front of a large “wanted” poster showing mutants who have been apprehended, killed or are missing. Is there any importance to who is featured in those headshots, like an indication they’ll have a specific role in the larger story planned for the X-Men as you celebrate their anniversary? Or was that just artistic license on John Cassaday’s part? There have been some hints that the DoFP story will play into that anniversary story, so I was just wondering. P.S. I’m kind of excited for Skullslaught (that’s my name for the Red Skull-Onslaught we saw).”
Alonso: Let me assure you, jjk, all of the elements of that image in “Uncanny Avengers” #4 were chosen by Rick [Remender] and illustrated by John [Cassaday] with precision — none of them are there by chance! Whether this portends a storyline for the X-Men or the Avengers’ 50th Anniversary, or something else beyond that, keep at an eye closely glued to “Uncanny Avengers” for more clues.
New questioner Derek Metaltron wonders, “I’m very excited to hear that What If? is coming back, but I’m curious as to what format it will take, one-shots or an ongoing anthology series? I’ve often felt the latter would be better so as to give these alternate tales the chance to expand into multiple issues or as an mini. I’d also love to see a AVX tale where Five Avengers get the Phoenix force instead of the X-Men!”
Alonso: You might be on to something, Derek. In fact, if you’ve ever wondered what might have happened if the Phoenix Force had found a different host than Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor and Colossus in last year’s biggest super hero event, then you’ll want to read “What If? Avengers Vs. X-Men,” a 4-issue limited series, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and illustrated by Jorge Molina that ships weekly this July. I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but let’s just say that things might have gone a lot differently if Magneto had taken a stronger hand in determining Hope’s fate.
Lastly, we’ll check in with Juggernaut Punch who wants to check in with one of his favorites, asking, “Are there any plans for Quicksilver to grace the X-Books with his presence? With Polaris fighting Hell Lords in X-Factor, Wanda trying to make good for her past in Uncanny Avengers and Magneto fighting alongside Cyclops in Uncanny X-Men, it seems odd that Pietro would be the only member of the House of Magneto to be left out of the fun.”
Alonso: Quicksilver’s appearing in “Age of Ultron” at this very second, jjk1901.
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!