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 overseen both critically acclaimed and best-selling comics, Alonso stepped into the spot of Marvel’s editorial department in early 2011, and has since worked 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 last weekend’s C2E2 convention in Chicago, Alonso discusses some of Marvel’s many announcements from the show — including “The Death of Wolverine,” going weekly in September against DC Comics’ “Futures End” month, and with a creative team that took some by surprise (along with a rather blatant hint on the frequent Steve McNiven collaborator who was approached for the series). Alonso also talks plans to reveal Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane’s Angela — who moves from the “Spawn” world to the Marvel Universe about a year ago — as Thor and Loki’s sister, plus the upcoming “Storm” and “The Legendary Star-Lord” ongoing series. And with Spider-Man at the forefront of comic book news this week, Alonso shares his enthusiasm for the new “Amazing Spider-Man” #1 by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos and more, plus comments on reports surfaced earlier this week on Bleeding Cool that some copies of the highly ordered issue arrived at retailers damaged.
Albert Ching: Axel, there certainly is a lot of talk about Spider-Man out there this week — along with Sony’s “Amazing Spider-Man 2” film, the new “Amazing Spider-Man” #1 arrived, and it’s a hefty book with several stories in it. How pleased are you with its contents, and the response the issue has gotten thus far — from both retailers and readers?
Axel Alonso: The sales are great, the buzz is great. What’s not to like? And we sold well upwards of 600K so apparently people are very happy that Peter Parker is back.
Also this week, there were reports that some “Amazing Spider-Man” #1 copies, specifically variants, arrived damaged at retailers. I know it’s not necessarily your purview, but does Marvel have any comment on that report?
Alonso: According to [SVP Print, Sales & Marketing] David Gabriel, we received surprisingly few reports on damages on “Amazing Spider-Man #1” this week, despite certain “reports” on the internet. Every week, we have damages reported in to Diamond on books, printing, shipping, packing damages; Diamond sends out replacement copies. We monitor these damages every week to insure that they are within a minor percentage of the print run. Because the print run for this book was 10 times the size of a normal run, we fully expected to hear 10 times the problems, and so far, we’ve heard less than is normal for even an average run of a comic.
Let’s talk about some of the many announcements Marvel made last weekend at C2E2. One thing that caught a lot of attention was “The Death of Wolverine” — for the concept and title alone, but also that Charles Soule is writing the story and not Paul Cornell, who got the ball rolling on all of this a while back over in the “Wolverine” main title. What prompted that choice?
Alonso: What Paul pitched was a big, meaty concept — Wolverine losing, and having to adjust to the loss of, his healing factor — and it drove his relaunch with Ryan Stegman, the appropriately titled “Killable.” And once Paul opened that door, we had internal conversations about the implications of that move. All roads led to Logan’s death, if we were willing to go there, and that story, in and of itself, would be an event. So the question of who would write that story was always looming. Would Paul write that story, or would he just write the story he’d pitched, “Killable,” and we’d use that to tee up a new writer, new direction?
When we decided at a retreat that we were going to kill Logan, [then-“Wolverine” editor] Jeanine Schafer brought Paul into the discussion, and it quickly became clear that his heart wasn’t into killing Logan — he said so himself — and we mutually agreed that this wasn’t a story he should write. So there’s no acrimony, no scandal — Paul’s closing salvo, “Three Months To Die,” allows him to leave the series on his own terms and I have no doubt that he’ll be doing more for us in the future.
That’s when we got around to the hard question of who should write the book. I made a Hail Mary call to a certain well-tailored Scotsman, knowing it was highly unlikely he’d be able to fit it into his schedule. Hey, worth a try. And when he graciously passed, that’s when [former X-Men Group Editor] Nick [Lowe] suggested Charles Soule.
Right, obviously Soule’s been working on steadily bigger projects, but matching him Steve McNiven on a story like this is a different level for him. How big of a vote of confidence is this in Charles Soule?
Alonso: It’s a huge vote of confidence. My gut reaction [to Nick’s suggestion] was positive. I agreed that Charles had the creative chops to write it, and I thought he was perfectly positioned, career-wise, to take on a project of this scale, since retailers and fans have a lot of faith in him, and his name seemed to be creating some buzz.
So we reached out. Charles, of course, loved the idea of writing the story, at least in part because the assignment was a big, open canvas. The only mandate was that the story should reflect the scope of Logan’s life and journey, and that it should convey the inevitability of the moment to come. It had to feel like a Modern western — “High Noon” with super-powers. Charles immediately got it, and within a few weeks, he’d sculpted an outline that hit all the right notes. In “Death of Wolverine,” Logan takes full measure of his life and goes into a battle he knows he can’t walk away from. He dies a hero’s death.
Given that this is a big story and something of a responsibility — you can’t put out “The Death of Wolverine” every year — what was the driving factor on pulling the trigger on this? Basically, why now?
Alonso: No you can’t. We did our gut-check way back when Paul Cornell pitched the idea of taking away Logan’s healing factor. Ever since we approved that plot-point, we’ve been walking the slow road to acceptance. We’re about to take Logan off the board. That’s a move that’s going to have line-wide ramifications — from the solo series to any team or series he’s currently a part of. But we’re ready for it. [X-Men Group Editor] Mike [Marts] has a plan, and we think there will be lots of reasons to be excited this September and beyond.
That tees up my next question perfectly — this is a September weekly book, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
How much was that timing motivated by counter-programming the success that DC Comics has had in that month the past three years?
Alonso: It was lurking in the back of our brains, for sure. Especially since we anticipated the return of line-wide lenticular covers. [Laughs] When we realized that we were positioned to do this story in September, that’s when we looked at our lead-time, to see if we could ship it weekly. We figured this is the type of story that would benefit from the momentum from rapid frequency, the type of story that we didn’t want readers to have to wait a month to see what happened next. Luckily, the math worked out for Steve McNiven to draw it on that schedule.
Another C2E2 announcement was the Thor/Loki “Original Sin” tie-in that’s poised to reveal Angela as Thor and Loki’s sister. What motivated that decision? It seems like a sign, a year in, of putting Angela in a very permanent and specific place in the Marvel Universe that she hasn’t had yet.
Alonso: Deciding to make Angela Thor and Loki’s sister came out of one of our earliest conversations about the character’s place in the Marvel Universe. Joe Quesada was very invested in making Angela count and he saw enormous potential to find a link between her and Asgard, so he pretty much spearheaded the discussion. [Angela co-creator] Neil Gaiman embraced the idea, and contributed to the discussion. And so did [“Thor: God of Thunder” writer] Jason Aaron. Over a few months, we worked through the logic of Angela’s connection to Asgard enough to put [“Loki: Agent of Asgard” writer] Al Ewing in position take those notes and write an actual story, which will be told this July in an “Original Sin” tie-in story. You’re about to learn that Angela was hiding in plain sight, and, as our teaser suggests, boy, is she pissed. And with good reason. Thor and Loki have no idea what’s going to hit them.
C2E2 also brought news of a new “Storm” ongoing book, which feels like something that people wanted for a while, especially with the multiple female characters who have gotten solo books recently at Marvel. How significant is it to you to see Storm as the main character in her own book?
Alonso: It’s about time that one of the world’s most recognized female super heroes got her own solo series. And “Storm” brings our count of monthly series featuring female leads up to seven. All of these books — “She-Hulk,” “Elektra,” “Black Widow,” “Ms. Marvel,” “Captain Marvel” and “X-Men” — have very different vibes, and feature characters motivated by very, very different things. “Storm” will continue that trend.
Speaking of the talent involved — that’s another writer that may have caught people by surprise, simply because Greg Pak, who was a Marvel mainstay for about a decade, hasn’t written anything at Marvel for around a year, and during that time has written many very high-profile DC books. Has it been a case where you’ve been perhaps talking all along, and the timing worked out for this?
Alonso: Yeah. Greg Pak has been angling to write a “Storm” series for years and now that he’s got the gig, he’s making good on his promises. His Storm is everything readers have loved about the character over the years –warrior queen, Mohawked rebel, etc. — and her first ongoing series, she’ll be not only playing hero to mutant kind but across the Marvel Universe at large. While other mutants are squabbling over who gets to be king of mutant mountain, she’s get her eyes on the bigger picture, using her mutant gifts for the betterment of the entire world.
One last thing from C2E2 to touch on this week — another new series announcement, “The Legendary Star-Lord.” It’s another cosmic book — Marvel had zero not that long ago, and now the line is steadily expanding. Is that the type of growth you were expecting? Could you see the line getting even bigger?
Alonso: This is pretty much in line with what we strategized. Our goal was to create a “Guardians of the Galaxy” series that performed well in advance of the movie — which we did — and then produce satellite series that we could launch closer to the movie — which we’re doing. What’s cool is the diversity of the books we’re doing. Skottie Young‘s “Rocket Raccoon” and Sam Humphries and Paco Medina‘s “The Legendary Star-Lord” are very different books. Part of expanding the franchise is diversifying the franchise. I’ve got my sights on a “Groot vs. Doop” series.
And it seems a sci-fi-heavy book matches well with Sam Humphries’ sensibilities.
Alonso: Sam is very enthusiastic about writing this series. Star-Lord isn’t a squeaky-clean hero — he’s the stubble-faced guy in the pizza-stained t-shirt, passed out on his couch, who shakes off his hangover to clock the guy who stole the old lady’s purse. Only in space. I think Sam is well equipped to write that guy. Think Robin Hood in outer space.
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