This week, Marvel Comics expanded the information on its cryptic “It’s Coming” teasers by a metric ton when they revealed that “It” will be a 12-part event comic titled “Avengers Vs. X-Men” and when it’s coming is April of 2012.
After announcing the series yesterday, the publisher today revealed more details on the plans their “Architect” writers (Brian Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jason Aaron) have in a press event as they prep the book for the rotating art team of John Romita, Jr., Olivier Coipel and Adam Kubert. And as the next stop on the tour, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso brings the back story on the event’s creation to CBR with the latest installment of his regular column AXEL-IN-CHARGE!
In this special mid-week installment, Axel finally has an opportunity to discuss the story he’s been planning for a year, and below he opens up on the origins for “AvX,” how stories reaching back to “House of M” and “Messiah CompleX” helped justify the latest crossover, what a five-writer team means for the series and the Marvel U and more. Plus, Alonso will be back on Friday for more “AvX” talk including a look at the players on the board, Marvel’s plans for reaching out to movie fans and what reverberations will be felt by series end.
So when you’re done reading today’s interview, be sure to visit the CUP O’ Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum to submit questions about “Avengers Vs. X-Men” for Friday’s Q&A. Or you can e-mail CBR with your questions for Axel! Now read on!
Kiel Phegley: So Axel, here we are. “Avengers Vs. X-Men.” While I’m sure it’s strange to hear someone from the outside say the name of the event out loud…
Axel Alonso: Yup! [Laughter]
I wanted to start our discussion on that very simple title/high concept. When was the first time you heard the words “Avengers Vs. X-Men” in a story meeting, and when did it become the direction for the Marvel U?
Alonso: Every once in a while, someone will say, “Hey, how about we do ‘Avengers Vs. X-Men?'” Stringing those three words together is easy; the challenge is coming up with just the right story hook, the right stakes for the world’s greatest super-teams to go head-to-head over something that really matters.
That said, the seeds for this story have been growing for a while. When [the 2007 X-Men event] “Messiah CompleX” introduced the so-called “Mutant Messiah,” a little girl with green eyes and red hair named Hope, it raised the obvious question, “Who is she?” and, of course, the specter of the Phoenix. And we figured the answers to those questions would be revealed in a Marvel Universe-spanning story — one that would require more than just the X-Men’s attention. With “Fear Itself” and “Schism” coming to a head at the same time, we realized the stars were aligning to tackle this story. We had a widely accessible inciting incident and clear-cut stakes that gave both camps — the X-Men and the Avengers — understandable and totally defensible positions on a complex problem.
Everyone saw the Phoenix/”It’s Coming” teaser, so I think expectations for the X-Men being involved in the event and some revelations on the front of Hope Summers’ story were expected, but the Avengers playing such a central role must come as a surprise to some readers. Brian Bendis has been shepherding those books and those characters for so long that readers are used to seeing their stories as a separate thread from the X-stuff. In what ways do those considerations thread together?
Alonso: The inciting incident for this event is rooted in X-Men mythology, but it is very easy to understand. You’re basically talking about an extinction-level event that’s headed towards earth — a living comet that razes worlds and grows something new in its aftermath. Bad news if you currently inhabit the planet it’s headed for; good news if you’re whatever grows in the scorched soil in its aftermath. Needless to say, the knowledge that this primordial force is about to land in your backyard inspires everyone — Cap, Cyclops, Thor, Wolverine, Hulk, Nova — to drop what they’re doing! [Laughs] So it wasn’t hard getting Brian’s buy-in out the gate — and my conversation began with Brian. We agreed this was a story that would resonate for fans of both X-Men and Avengers. And we agreed that it would be cool to attack the event in a different manner.
And from what we’ve heard so far, it seems that the Scarlet Witch will also play some role from the Avengers side of the equation. How does the event fold the questions hanging around her since “House of M” into the story of the Phoenix?
Alonso: Well, what I can say is Wanda is a key player in this story. She has a lot to atone for. Will this offer her a shot at redemption?
Was there a challenge in joining those two teams’ stories when this event by its nature is different than having one guy who’s got a story big enough for the Marvel U to get involved?
Alonso: Yes. Like I said, my conversation began with Brian and [SVP for Publishing/Avengers editor] Tom [Brevoort]. I couldn’t do this without their buy-in because it had ramifications for whatever Brian had planned for “Avengers.” We agreed very early on that the scope of the story gave us an opportunity to change the way we do Marvel Universe-spanning events. Rather than having one writer write the story, as we normally do, we’d put together a crack team of writers to sculpt the overall story then turn over individual issues to each writer — like what the X-office did with “Messiah CompleX” and “Second Coming” or a [Senior Editor] Steve [Wacker] did with “Amazing Spider-Man.” It made sense that our five writers would be Brian, Jason [Aaron], Matt [Fraction], Ed [Brubaker] and Jonathan [Hickman] — five of our finest, with tours of duty in both the worlds of the Avengers and the X-Men. Once everyone agreed to the assignment, our motto was, “Five fingers make a fist.” This would only work if we truly functioned as a team, if we put our faith in the group.
Was the branding of these writers as Marvel’s “Architects” one that came with this event as an idea?
Alonso: Yeah-now you know what they were architect-ing! [Laughs] We were promoting those five writers because they all had big things in the works, and “AvX” just added to that. They’ve all been building to this in their books, some in ways you might not have noticed, and we wanted to get people checking out those series before AvX kicked off.
How will that division of labor break out over the course of the 12-issue series?
Alonso: We’ve discussed “AvX” at two New York-based summits and one smaller summit at Casa de Bendis in Portland, attended by all five writers, Tom, [X-Men Group editor] Nick [Lowe] and myself. At the retreats, we talked through the broad strokes of the story — breaking down the three-act structure and some of the big scenes. Between summits, I tapped Brian and Jason — the writers of “Avengers” and “Wolverine & The X-Men” — to work on the minutia of the story, with Tom, Nick and myself in the loop. So Brian and Jason have played a larger role in plotting the story, but they’ve had the benefit of input from Matt, Jonathan and Ed — the way any event writer does. Anyone who writes an event forges their story in the crucible a summit or two.
Once the outline is in place, each issue is assigned to a writer who then makes it his own. And those assignments are not arbitrary: Writers frequently requested a particular issue. Issue #1 is written by Brian and he sets everything in place in a double-sized issue. In fact, each act will feature one double-sized issue. And each act will represent one round of an ever-escalating battle.
Have some questions on “AvX” for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O’ Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Universe forum. It’s the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions from for Friday’s question-and-answer column! Or feel free to e-mail CBR with your “AvX” query!