Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge.
An editor with years of experience in comics receiving 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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
Following a slew of Marvel announcements last weekend at C2E2 in Chicago, Alonso unpacks the latest news — specifically, some of the major “Civil War II” tie-ins that are now official, including the “Civil War II: Choosing Sides” and “Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man” miniseries. Also newly announced is the “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Beats Up the Marvel Universe” original graphic novel and the “Vote Loki” creative team, and Alonso discusses the importance of reaching the OGN market and what creators Christopher Hastings and Langdon Foss have planned for Loki’s presidential campaign. All that, plus talk of the newly launched “Hyperion” from Chuck Wendig and Nik Virella, the major initial sales of “Black Panther” #1, Robbi Rodriguez‘s “Spider-Gwen” status and more.
Albert Ching: Axel, late last week it was announced that Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s “Black Panther” #1 has passed more than 300,000 in initial direct market sales, which certainly puts it in rarefied air and is pretty unprecedented for a Black Panther book. I’m sure that expectations were high on that one, but were you still surprised to hear that number?
Axel Alonso: Surprised, but not too surprised. Given the excitement this announcement generated — that Ta-Nehisi would be writing it and Brian would be drawing it — and the base of love for the Panther, I was very optimistic that we’d score big numbers, and I figured we had a shot at the No. 1 slot for the month, but I didn’t know that it would be 300K-plus. I can’t wait to hear the feedback when people read it. It’s an amazing debut issue.
It feels like it further solidifies Black Panther’s status as a marquee Marvel character. Readers haven’t seen a solo book in a while, and it’s well-known the character has a lot of fans, but is this a sign of confidence in how important this character is?
Alonso: Without a doubt. We wanted to do it right. T’Challa factored heavily into Jonathan Hickman‘s plans, so we let him be “T’Challa Central” through “Secret Wars,” with the goal of launching a new series out of the event. As fate would have it, Ta-Nehisi interviewed Sana Amanat at an Atlantic talk, and when we learned he was a comic book fan, we swooped. It didn’t take much convincing.
Last weekend was C2E2, and Marvel announced quite a bit of new projects; specifically, “Civil War II” tie-ins. One was “Civil War II: Choosing Sides,” which feels similar to “Secret Wars Journal” — a companion to an event series, showing the larger world of the conflict. Is that the right way to look at it?
Alonso: Yep, very much so. “Civil War II” revolved around a very complex issue so there’s no end to the stories that can be told around, and those stories will span all corners of the Marvel Universe — from Avengers to Spider-Man to Guardians to Inhumans to X-Men. “Choosing Sides” is an anthology series of standalone short stories, anchored by a serial story starring Nick Fury, written and drawn by Declan Shalvey, that runs through all six issues. Look for Damage Control and Night Thrasher stories in issue #1, and stories featuring Power Pack, the Punisher, War Machine, Jessica Jones and more in subsequent issues.
Clearly these anthologies running alongside events are a successful formula for Marvel, as we’ve seen them for years now. It’s usually a chance to see characters we haven’t seen in a while, and a chance to give new creators a different opportunity — including some new-to-Marvel creators. What do you see as the biggest value to these types of miniseries, in a time when anthologies have fallen out of fashion in the industry as a whole?
Alonso: It doesn’t boil down to just one value. The short story is an unappreciated art form, and an anthology provides the reader with the unique experience of reading several stories in one sitting. Of course, the best anthology is more than the sum of its parts; it will challenge you, make you think. The stories in “Choosing Sides” will examine the complex issue laid down in “Civil War II” #1 through a variety of different lenses, and new voices will be a part of the mix. I just might make you reevaluate what side you are on.
Debuting in June is the “Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man” miniseries, from writer Christos Gage and artist Travel Foreman. I was thinking recently about what an unsung hero Christos Gage has been for the Spider-Man books over the past few years — we’re still in the midst of one of the greatest Spider-Man runs of all-time, by Dan Slott, but Christos Gage has really contributed a lot along the way. How do you assess his importance to the Spider-Man books?
Alonso: Christos is kind of like the hot-handed 6th Man who steps onto the court when the starter needs a breather — mainly when Dan, who’s having a historic and prolific run, doesn’t have the capacity to put something else on his plate. [Laughs]
In this instance, Dan’s plans for “Amazing Spider-Man” are cemented enough that he can’t integrate a tie-in into the regular series, and he doesn’t have the time to write the tie-in himself, so tapping Christos, who has such a good track record with Spidey, is a no-brainer. Christos brings so much knowledge of the Marvel Universe to bear every time he steps up to the keyboard, which will come in handy for this event tie-in. Spider-Man’s role in “Civil War II” is huge and it will affect “Amazing Spider-Man” moving forward — especially a couple of huge supporting characters.
Last weekend in Chicago, Marvel made an “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” original graphic novel official, dubbed “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe” and from the ongoing series team of Ryan North and Erica Henderson. Marvel has experiment with the OGN format over recent years, but this feels like a very specific move in targeting a little bit of a different audience. It’s no secret that there’s a passionate fan base — heavily a younger female fan base — in which graphic novels from publishers like Scholastic do quite well. How much is this “Squirrel Girl” book going after that audience?
Alonso: It’s going after an audience we already know we have, in a format we know they like. “Squirrel Girl” is a very unique book insofar as the sales of the actual comic book are not awe-inspiring, but its performance in collected edition is. And the demographic it’s reaching informed our decision to go with this format so don’t be surprised if we do more of this with some other, comparable properties. Our goal is to make this OGN new-reader-friendly yet still fit within the continuity of the ongoing series; the story has the scope of a big event, but it’s filtered through the unique lens of the “Squirrel Girl” series.
Also at C2E2, Marvel announced the “Vote Loki” creative team after a few weeks of teases — writer Christopher Hastings and artist Langdon Foss. We’ve heard a bit about the concept of this book already, but what can you say about what made this creative team the right mix to bring this clearly timely idea to life?
Alonso: “Vote Loki” is going to be a pretty different series from the rest of our line, just by the nature of its premise. [Editor] Wil Moss wanted a writer who is perceptive, genuinely funny and can easily navigate the Marvel Universe, and after working with Chris [Hastings] on developing [the] Gwenpool [character], (along with editor Jordan D. White), he felt Chris hit all of those qualifications. Plus, Chris is a bit of an election junkie, so there’s that. And because this series takes place in the arena of a heated Presidential election, where it’s basically all about personality, he thought Langdon, whose characters are always one-of-a-kind, would be a good fit. Also, there’s bound to be some magic happening somewhere along the line so Langdon can flex another muscle of his — his trippy, design-heavy layout style.
Moving to books newly released, this week saw Chuck Wendig and Nik Virella’s “Hyperion” #1. Somewhat like “Mockingbird” #1, this feels like a little bit of a different one for Marvel — it’s a character readers haven’t really seen in a solo book before, and something of a newer creative team to Marvel fans. What was interesting to you about this book, and how do you see it fitting into Marvel’s overall line?
Alonso: The simplicity of the high concept: Hyperion hangs up his cape, putts on a baseball cap, gets behind the wheel of a semi, and attempts to vanish into American heartland — only to find out it ain’t that easy. You’ve got a character with the power of a God embarking on a walkabout that turns into a detour through the underbelly of America, which is a great canvas for the creators — Chuck and Nik — to reflect on our country in these times.
Come to think of it, the upcoming “Nighthawk” series also offers a reflection of America, just from a very different angle.
News came out a few days ago about “Spider-Gwen” artist Robbi Rodriguez retiring from comics at some point soon, but it feels like there’s something of a lack of clarity as to exactly when that might happen. He’s talked about retirement for a while — is he on board the book for at least the near-ish future?
Alonso: “Soon” is a bit of an overstatement. Robbi is dealing with some health issues while planning his future. The story he mentioned at C2E2 is still a ways off, so unless something drastic changes, he will be on “Spider-Gwen” for at least another year. I think Robbi was just trying to prepare the fans who’ve embraced him and Gwen since day one for the eventual day when he moves on from “Spider-Gwen,” but it shouldn’t be anytime soon. And he may be retiring, but “Spider-Gwen” won’t be. She is a very popular character — a breakout character — and we’re very excited about her future and the future of other characters in her orbit.
This week, fans learned, from a note in the comic itself, that “Angela: Queen of Hel” will wrap next month with issue #7. Do you have any comment on the conclusion of the book?
Alonso: We’re really proud of “Angela” and the work that Marguerite Bennett, Stephanie Hans and Kim Jacinto did on the title — and before them, Kieron Gillen and Phil Jimenez. “Angela: Queen of Hel” may be ending after just seven issues, but since this series is a direct continuation of “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” and “1602: Witch Hunter Angela” — elements of which play a big part in “Queen of Hel” #6 and #7 — it’s essentially ending with issue #17, which in this day and age is a pretty decent run. By comparison, the last “Loki” series also ended with #17.
Speaking of Loki, Angela fans should make sure to check out “Vote Loki,” where she’ll be reunited with her brother in a most unusual way: she’s his main bodyguard for his Presidential campaign. And look for Angela to appear somewhere else sooner than you think…
In Marvel’s June 2016 solicitations earlier this week, I was personally excited to see that “Comedy Bang! Bang!” host Scott Aukerman is writing an issue of “Spider-Man/Deadpool.” This is his third Marvel work after contributing to “Deadpool” #250 plus a “Secret Wars Journal” story. What kind of potential do you see in him as a Marvel creator?
Alonso: Scott is an incredible comedian, a great storyteller and a huge nerd — a great combo for a Marvel writer. Sadly, he’s so in demand that it’s tough to get Scott for more than a small story here and there, so we thought this was a cool platform for him, and it allowed us to give Joe [Kelley] and Ed [McGuinness] a little breather.
Let’s wrap with a fan question from the CBR Community. Legendary question-asker Spidey616 wants to know: “In the letter pages for ‘The Mighty Thor,’ Jason Aaron hinted at a new Odinson project by a classic Thor creator. What more can you reveal about the project, like perhaps the creative team and/or when we expect an announcement?”
Alonso: We’re not ready to announce anything yet, but yeah, Jason has a very cool story lined up that’ll address the mystery of where the Odinson has been for the past few months. Readers caught the first hint of the story at the end of “The Mighty Thor” #5 earlier this month. Look for more later this year.
Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!