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 earlier this year 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 bring you a special CBR TV installment of AXEL-IN-CHARGE as we caught up with the Editor-in-Chief on the CBR Boat Show over Comic-Con International. There, we discussed the full scope of the publisher’s incoming Marvel NOW initiative from how Brian Bendis is working to build “All-New X-Men” to where “Ant-Man” will make his next move as well as thoughts on the return of the fan favorite series. Plus, more NBA talk! Read on!
Kiel Phegley: We’re at Comic-Con, and you come every year, but since starting as Editor-in-Chief, your previously annual trip to LA for an X-Men summit hasn’t happened alongside it. Do you miss doing that each year?
Axel Alonso: It was always nice. You’re already loose, and you may be a little bit exhausted, but you’re head is still in comics. I find it very productive to be out of an office setting and out of your normal comfort zone geographically to sit down and talk about these things. And we always had great X-Men summits. My favorite was when we just did a barbeque in the back of a Holiday Inn Express in Burbank! It was amazing. It was a lot of fun.
Nick Lowe has picked up the torch from you from the X-Men line. How has the fact that Brian Bendis is doing “All-New X-Men” impacted the line from that Editorial point of view? I don’t think Nick has ever edited Brian before. Have you seen any changes in how his stuff is coming out from how he works with Tom B?
Alonso: Well, we’ve had this plan in place for a while, and Brian didn’t need to come up with his plan quickly or script quickly. He had a lot of time to let his ideas percolate and present to the group over two summits before actually sitting down and scripting. So this has been a long time coming. We’ve all had a lot of confidence based on our discussions that by the time Brian actually sat down and scripted, he’d get it all on the page. The first two scripts are in, and they’re fantastic.
The pitch for that book is the original five X-Men coming into the present, an this may be the nerdiest question I ask you for a long while, but…how does that effect the timestream, Axel? If you’re taking characters from the past and putting them into the new permanently, does that not alter the past?
Alonso: I think we’re going to tread carefully. We’re aware of all the ripple effects and all the arguments that come up. But we’re going to get through this as quickly and cleanly as possible. The X-Men from that era are going to pop into this era, and all eyes will be focused on their journey of discovery. We do have one sort of quick little device that should help the purists reconcile how the timestream and the past won’t have been changed. But again, we really keep our eye on the characters in the now dealing with a world that’s changed and doesn’t in any way resemble the world they hoped to be in by this time.
Are the five young X-Men the main characters in this series? Would you say the main X-Men we’ve had over recent years are, if not antagonists than at least side characters?
Alonso: I would say no. I’d say that the young characters and the current cast of the X-Men share time on the story. And there’s a third entity I’m not allowed to talk about yet that will also share screen time. But the story is really about the effect of these young Lee and Kirby X-Men arriving in the present. It’s both the story of young Jean Grey coming back and wondering why everybody is looking at her so weird, and it’s the story of Logan and Cyclops coming to terms with the fact that this young girl, who they both fell in love with, is now back in some way, shape or form. That’s what I think is going to make for such fascinating stories -Â dual perspectives on this development.
How will this series affect the status quo we had set up in the wake of “Schism” where things broke down between Logan and Scott and also reset the X-Men books? Will Cyclops on one coast and Wolverine on another something that will survive the shake-up of “AvX”?
Alonso: Well, “Avengers Vs. X-Men” changes the Marvel Universe, and it has repercussions for both the Avengers and the X-Men. Both organizations are forced to reassess who they are, what they stand for and how they’re organized. For one team, it’s going to start with the leadership. For another team, it’ll involve a lot of different things – one of which is that a key team member will at some point in the very near future have to go off on a very personal quest, a personal mission that demands their immediate attention. That will make them unavailable to the team.
So both of these teams are affected in a profound way by “AvX,” but both of these teams exist in the Marvel Universe now – the one you’re invested in.
You had a summit a few weeks back to discuss what the Marvel NOW books that will be. How did you ride that line between giving creators free reign on books they’ve always wanted to do versus keeping that cohesion across the entire universe?
Alonso: Let me start by saying, I’ll tell you that this initiative is perhaps the most exciting initiative for me since I’ve been at Marvel. It harkens back to the early days when I first came to Marvel and Joe was Editor-in-Chief, and we just rolled the dice. It was about finding a great writer, an artist who worked well with them, putting them on the right character and then coming up with the right concept to make that book a must-read. We went about the business of trying to do as many little gems as we could, and I think we had a number of fantastic runs that went through that time and a number of people from Brian Bendis to Mark Millar to J. Michael Straczynski who went over the top at that point in terms of popularity.
I think this initiative is very similar to that as far as we’re employing that strategy. But where it is different is that we’re very mindful of the shared universe that we’ve taken a lot of time building. We want to ensure that all of these books, while they tell their own story and travel their own road – that those roads are compatible with the super highway that we’ve already built. It’s important to the fans and it’s important to us. If Marvel Studios can build a tapestry of lives that all form a connected universe, why don’t we continue to emphasize what we’ve always done?
I wanted to talk about Marvel Studios for a minute because we’ve heard recently that there is movement on the “Ant-Man” movie, and of course you’ve been talking up Ant-Man in comics for a while. He popped up briefly in October solicitations. Are we almost ready to see what you guys have been cooking for that character?
Alonso: Let’s just say that Ant-Man was a major topic of discussion at this last retreat. We’re very excited about Ant-Man and his role in the future. I’m a geek about Ant-Man. I just think he’s amazing. He’s a great little character. And yeah, that is a glimpse. Ant-Man narrowly missed the Marvel NOW image that Joe Quesada drew as our first promo…or maybe he is in there, but he’s too small to see! But that’s a character you can look to have a much higher profile in 2012 and beyond.
Have you had any contact with the studio guys about Edgar Wright’s film? Is any of that DNA bleeding back into publishing?
Alonso: Full disclosure: no. I’ve read scripts and blah blah blah, but I don’t count on anything more happening there. I have no more knowledge of it being on track than you do. I’ll read it on your site. What I do know is that I love Ant-Man. We are one family – the studio and publishing. We compliment one another. I’m aware of what Kevin [Feige] is doing out there on the West Coast just the same as he keeps tabs on what we’re doing. But I know that in publishing, our goal is to tell the best progressive, forward-thinking stories for comics fans, building the largest audience we can -Â which could include new readers and lapsed readers. But as you can see from even the Marvel NOW poster, from the intricacies of the costumes on down, we’re charting our own course for the future. We’re mindful of what’s going on in the studios. We’re aware of things in development and aware of probabilities, but our decision to move forward on Ant-Man is purely motivated by our love of the character.
Do you feel any pressure in the idea that in entertainment media there’s this push towards synergy, synergy, synergy? Producers and executives seem to want everything to line up so it’s easier to sell and more digestible. As a story-focused guy, do you ever want to push back against that idea?
Alonso: I’ve always looked at the task of starting up a book as building up a little mini movie since back in the day. When I was offered “Spider-Man” and Straczynski was my writer, the goal was to create a ground-level experience for the reader in which New York City was the backdrop, you understood who Peter Parker was, you understood who Spider-Man was and why he was unique. When I’m editing a book, I pretty much go about it the same way every single time. There’s nothing different here. Initiatives we have with Ant-Man -Â whether we’re synergistic with a movie that may or may not happen or a cartoon that may or may not happen or a video game – the long and the short of it is that I like Ant-Man. Perhaps we can get a bit more traction with a character who’s third or fourth tier because there will be something in the air with the studio, and I can then take advantage of that.
But the long and the short of it is that I have no knowledge of any “Ant-Man” movie. It could happen. Who knows? But what I do know is that I have a love for the character, and there’s love in the comics community for him amongst creators as well.
The last question to ask is about new titles. We may not be hearing about a lot of the Marvel NOW titles just yet, but there are a lot of smaller characters and ideas that are getting a launch. We’ve talked a lot about getting non-marquee ideas over in today’s market. Do you think we’ve turned a corner where there’s more support for those kinds of series again?
Alonso: I think so. I think that “Avengers Vs. X-Men” exceeded our wildest expectations with its performance, and it recalibrates the Marvel Universe in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And it creates opportunity. Its financial performance gives me and my group a little more seed money to see if we can make something stick that you can’t do in a more conservative time. We had an incredible year in publishing, and I think you’re going to see even better stuff ahead as we move into Marvel NOW and beyond.
Part of that will be the big stuff – the stuff that’s easy for us to sell – and my hope is that another part of it will be stuff that people are excited to see like the Matt Fraction/David Aja “Hawkeye” where you’ve got a character who isn’t -Â as much as I love Hawkeye – a proven quantity. There’s no guarantee that that’s going to be an asses in seats book. But it’s worth doing.
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!