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, Axel jumps in to discuss some seismic changes coming to Marvel series both big and small. First, he gets into SPOILER WARNING territory discussing the just-published finale of Kieron Gillen’s “Iron Man” epic “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark.” Plus, the E-i-C looks ahead to the future of “Captain America” as the hero goes on a literal trip with Rick Remender’s new Dr. Mindbubble villain. Meanwhile, Alonso addresses the impending end of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s “Daredevil,” discusses the potential for Marvel’s horror heroes, answers your fan questions and more. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, the big story news of the weeks comes out of “Iron Man,” so assuming everyone saw the spoiler warning above, let’s get right into it. Tony Stark isn’t the man he thought he was — or at least he isn’t his father Howard’s biological son. What was the reaction in the room when Kieron Gillen originally brought this up? Was it a hard sell?
Axel Alonso: Well, Kieron pitched a seismic twist — that’s for sure. If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to consider how it maps against the history of the character and what it means for the future of the character. So we took a hammer to [the idea], beat the hell out of it, and then stepped back to see what we were left with. And we liked what we saw. This development in Tony’s personal life, deepens his backstory, deepens his character, and provides endless potential for fascinating stories.
Speaking of which, I think one of the core questions people will have is about how much this would effect Tony Stark. As the self-made man of the Marvel U in many ways, you wouldn’t expect hereditary to be something he cares too much about, but do you think the influence of Howard Stark on his life is one of the few areas where Tony has some doubt in terms of his own self conception?
Alonso: Tony’s pretty confident about his abilities and his place in the universe, but who knows how a revelation like this might hit him? Yes, you saw his immediate reaction after he connected the dots, but once he’s slept on it, who knows what he’ll think, feel, or do? Will Tony be angry that this secret was kept from him? Will it change how he view his parents — in particular Howard, who casts such a big shadow over his life? Will he want to know who his biological parents are, and seek them out?
These are questions that anyone who discovers they’re adopted grapples with at some point. And the story we’re going to tell is bound to encourage some interesting dialogue and debate about adoption itself. Does the fact that Tony isn’t Howard’s blood make him feel any less like Howard’s son? Me, I’d regard the man who changed my diapers, took me to basketball practice, and gave me “the talk” as my father — who cares about shared genes? And I think a lot of people would feel the same way. But not everyone would, and some people might travel a long and winding road to arrive at a conclusion.
In a more direct story sense, there are some basic plot mysteries that this opens up. First and foremost: who are Tony’s biological parents? Is that a question that the book is driving towards in general, or for now is that going to be off the table for a bit?
Alonso: We’ll get to the question of who they are in due time. But let me start my saying: The quarterback for the [San Francisco] 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, who’s adopted, was the subject of a recent “Sports Illustrated” article in which he explained that he doesn’t want to meet his birth mother, who has been publicly requesting a reconciliation. It’s not important to him, and he’s irritated by all the public attention this is getting because it’s a very personal matter. In Kaepernick’s eyes, the man and woman who fed him, clothed him, took him to practice, saw him through his ups and downs — they’re his parents. The only parent he wants to know. Who’s to say Tony’s reaction might not be the same?
My point? Maybe Tony will want to know his birth parents, maybe he won’t. If at some point, he decides he does, maybe finding them is itself a challenge. And if he does find them, maybe he’ll wish he hadn’t? There are so many great story roads to go down. All we know now is that Kieron is going to continue to do his research and tell the most emotionally true story possible.
We also have Tony’s long lost brother Arno Stark being in the book now, albeit confined to a kind of iron lung. But I know that Arno Stark is also famously the name of Iron Man 2020 — a frequently seen future character in the Marvel U. What does the future hold for Tony’s brother, and what are the chances that his introduction will dovetail with what we know about the Arno we’ve seen before?
Alonso: All I will say is, you don’t introduce a long-lost brother if you don’t have a plan for him. Keep your eyes on Arno. Moving forward, he is going to be a very important character.
Shifting gears to the other side of the solo Avengers equation, I wanted to ask about “Captain America” now that Rick Remender’s full plan for the series has come to light. Rick revealed at New York Comic Con that Dr. Mindbubble started as a character who was potentially going to fit into “Uncanny X-Force.” How do you think a more bizarre and hallucinatory character like that can fit into the world of a true blue hero like Cap?
Alonso: All good ideas have their time. The fact that Rick had a great idea for “Uncanny X-Force” that didn’t see the light of day until “Captain America” isn’t shocking. When Rick sold us on his “Captain America” pitch — we knew we’d be getting a 180-degree turn from what Ed Brubaker had been doing: Rick would put the character into a crazy, kaleidoscopic world that would function as the crucible for changing Cap before he returned to the Marvel Universe proper. Dr. Mindbubble was one of the more crowd-pleasing moments of the pitch. This is a character Rick has a lot of affection for, and you’ve seen what happens when he has affection for characters — especially more obscure characters.
It seems to me like one thing that changes in “Captain America” as the “man out of time” idea sticks with the book is that over decades of publishing, the times that Cap has missed change as well. Something Rick seems keen on exploring is past eras like Vietnam with Nuke and now the psychedelic ’60s with Dr. Mindbubble. Is confronting Steve Rogers with those parts of American history what you think makes this villain the fit for Cap now?
Alonso: That’s exactly what it is. The ’60s were a fascinating era. So much changed so fast. The cauldron of the Vietnam War, Timothy Leary, hippies, rock and roll, jazz, Black Power — American culture turned on a dime. Who better to play with the themes of that era than a guy dressed in red, white and blue?
Well, I hope the story will end with an ’80s breakdancing villain.
Alonso: [Laughs] Yeah. Hypno Hustler in the house.
Lastly for the week, we had a Halloween-focused issue of “Daredevil,” and before we get to the story, it appears the book will be ending with issue #36. Say it ain’t so, Axel!
Alonso: All good things come to an end.
Well, for the time being “Daredevil” is focusing on a story that includes Marvel’s horror heroes like Werewolf by Night and Frankenstein. Guys like these characters and even Blade seem to have fallen into a comfortable spot where they garner the occasional mini series but mostly feel like utility players in the Marvel U. Do you think that’s where they’ll stay, or is there a chance for some spookier ongoings at some point?
Alonso: We know that they’re valuable utility players. Turning them into lead characters all comes down to creative concept, creative team, execution and timing. And not all horror characters present equal challenges. Blade, for instance, is a character with a long history and rich supporting cast — including sometimes Dracula himself — that gives you a lot of material to mine. That and the fact that he talks — unlike Werewolf By Night and Man-Thing. And before you guys blast me — I love those two more than you do, okay? And Devil Dinosaur!
Look, we’re always discussing these characters. It’s not at all far-fetched that one or more those will be a part of a future wave of Marvel NOW! titles.
Well, since Halloween is just around the corner, let’s kick off fan questions this week with a bit of a macabre one from Reed Beebe who asks, “If you could commission a comic from the ghosts of any dead writer and dead artist, who would you pick for the creative team and what would the comic be about?”
Alonso: Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kirby. It would be about very masculine men doing masculine stuff.
On a different front, speaking of Kieron Gillen as we were earlier, Spidey616 wonders, “Kieron Gillen’s been coy in terms of the future of Young Avengers after issue #15. Don’t suppose you can reveal any YA plans for 2014 for at least confirm Gillen will still be writing the team?”
Alonso: And I’m afraid I must be equally coy in my answer! Suffice it to say that Kieron has very specific plans in mind for the team and to spoil it now would just be rotten of me.
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!