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Liefeld’s “Deadpool” Return, Why “The Ultimates” Still Matters

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Liefeld’s “Deadpool” Return, Why “The Ultimates” Still Matters

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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

RELATED: Rob Liefeld Launches New “Deadpool: Bad Blood” Graphic Novel

Fresh from Marvel publishing’s latest creative retreat, Alonso talks the “Deadpool”-related news from the week: A new original graphic novel illustrated by the character’s co-creator Rob Liefeld and written by Chris Sims and Chad Bowers, plus the “Deadpool and the Mercs for Money” miniseries from writer Cullen Bunn and artist Salva Espin. And with the steady stream of new Marvel #1s continuing, Alonso also shares his insight on new series such as “All-New All-Different Avengers,” “All-New Wolverine” and “Carnage,” plus explains why “The Ultimates” remains a viable title in Marvel’s post-Ultimate Universe landscape.

Albert Ching: Axel, how did this week’s Marvel retreat go? Brian Michael Bendis wrote on Tumblr that it was mainly focused on one story in particular — guessing that’s an upcoming event?

Axel Alonso: It went great. We had a lot to discuss. The new launches, where they’re headed, and a big story that’s been percolating for a while. We spent a lot of time talking about that.

Were there any new faces in the mix? I know the roster rotates a bit each time.

Alonso: A few new faces and many returning ones. Ta-Nehisi Coates happened to be in town so he joined us for the first day of the retreat as well. He couldn’t be there for all of it, but he said he had a blast.

Getting into some announcements from this week — it was revealed that Rob Liefeld will return to Deadpool for an original graphic novel titled “Bad Blood.” How pleased are you to see Liefeld back at Marvel, on Deadpool, in a story of length?

Alonso: It’s perfect timing to see Rob coming back to a character that he helped create. And what better format than an OGN, which allows him to tell a self-contained story — his own movie?

What are your thoughts on Liefeld and his legacy in the comics business? He’s had his ardent fans and his vocal detractors, but he’s a creator who for quite a while now has gotten a strong reaction out of people, which can be a rare quality for a comics artist who has been around for 25-plus years.

Alonso: I think you’re right. Rob is one of those love-him-or-hate him creators, and I think he’d be the first to admit that. He has a unique style, a signature style; you could take a Rob Liefeld page, turn it upside down, and look at it from a hundred yards, and still tell it’s a Rob Liefeld page. Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t dispute the energy, excitement and passion Rob brings to every project he works on, and I think he’s bringing a little bit extra to this one, because Deadpool is his most popular creation.

Liefeld is a veteran of the industry, and he’s paired with two relative newcomers to Marvel, “X-Men ’92” writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers. What can you say about that dynamic?

Alonso: Rob had the overall story planned in his head, but he wanted to collaborate with a co-writer, and he was very interested in working with someone newer, who he’d click with. He talked over some options with [editor] Jordan D. White, and they decided on Chris and Chad, both of whom are fans of Rob’s work and are thrilled to be doing this.

Another Deadpool story announced this week and scheduled for release the same month of the film is “Deadpool and the Mercs for Money,” written by Cullen Bunn and drawn by Salva Espin. Bunn has done a very distinct thing with his Deadpool stories over the last few years, and this is the first new one in a while — what’s intriguing to you about this latest Bunn-written Deadpool miniseries?

Alonso: The seeds for this series were planted in the core “Deadpool” series by Gerry Duggan and Mike Hawthorne. When Gerry was concocting his plan for the “Deadpool” relaunch, we saw an opportunity to take some of the characters he introduced in the first arc and really spin them into a series of its own.

Deadpool is big these days; “Deadpool” #1 is one of our highest launching All-New, All-Different Marvel series, up there with “Invincible Iron Man” and “Amazing Spider-Man.” And Cullen’s limited series have performed incredibly, as well — especially as collections. Till now, Cullen has managed to find fresh hooks for limited series that exist in their own pocket universe; this series gives him the chance to tie his story into the core series and core continuity. And the story is crazy.

We’re still in the midst of major Marvel #1s released every week, and let’s start this time around with “All-New, All-Different Avengers” #1 from Mark Waid, Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar. It was talked about going in, but what’s clear when you read this is it’s a different type of Avengers book — more intimate, by design. What motivated Marvel that now was the right time for this take on Avengers for the flagship book, when it is very different from what we’ve seen recently in comics and on screen?

Alonso: When we were planning “Secret Wars,” we knew we were creating a new landscape for the heroes, and Mark [Waid] really pushed the idea that the Avengers roster should reflect that change. The roster he put together isn’t what you’re used to seeing with “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” — it actually resembles that of an X-Men team. You’ve got hard-hitting veterans — Iron Man, Sam Wilson/Captain America, Thor, the Vision — but you’ve also got newcomers that will offer a new perspective on what it means to be an Avenger — Miles Morales, Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), Sam Alexander (Nova). Are they out of their depth, or are they just what the Avengers needs at this time?

Also out this week was an Avengers-type book on a scale similar to what we’ve seen from the franchise lately, “Ultimates” #1 by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort. I’m curious about the title — “Ultimates” is a title being carried on from the Ultimate line that no longer exists, but obviously Marvel sees value in keeping the name alive and reconceptualizing it. What was the thought process internally in naming this book that, and how important was it to Marvel to keep the “Ultimates” name alive, even if the Ultimate Universe is no more?

Alonso: I can’t remember what came first — the chicken or the egg. I know we thought the title “Ultimates” would be cool for a series… but I think we backed into that title, in this case. We were brainstorming concepts for Avengers teams at a retreat, and Al hatched the idea of a team comprised of hard-hitting super heroes that would band to solve grand-scaled, cosmic, existential-level, mind-bendingly Hickmanesque threats to Earth’s safety — a team that eventually included Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Blue Marvel, Monica Rambeau and Ms. America Chavez — and “Ultimates” just seemed to fit.

This week also saw the release of “All-New Wolverine” #1, featuring literally a new Wolverine, X-23, taking on the mantle. It’s not easy for a publisher to put a different character in that iconic of a role — what’s the approach and strategy of giving the new Wolverine a push, so she can be seen at the level of a character with that stature?

Alonso: Well, the seeds for this move were planted about the same time as we were planning “Death of Wolverine.” We knew there were a few possible candidates to slip into the yellow-and-blue tights — Sabretooth, Daken — but the prohibitive frontrunner quickly became X-23. It just made sense for her to embrace that legacy, and we built toward that goal.

We figured the new Wolverine cut an extremely eyebrow-raising silhouette, so we had some confidence that we’d get fans’ attention, but we knew we had to find the right creative team for this to work long-term. And Editor Mark Paniccia found them. Tom Taylor and David Lopez have given “All-New Wolverine” a different vibe than any “Wolverine” series that’s come before it. After 30 years of Logan being “the best there is at what he does,” we get a chance to see a young character take up the mantle, stare down Logan’s ghost, and figure out what that means to her. The iconic role isn’t a perfect fit for Laura. She’s carrying on Logan’s legacy, but she’s doing it her own way.

Did the success of moves like Sam Wilson as Cap or the new Thor help further embolden Marvel to make a choice like this, or was it all in the works around the same time?

Alonso: The exact timeline is a little hazy, but I’m pretty sure we made these decisions before we were looking at the sales numbers for “Thor” or “All-New Captain America.” So I wouldn’t say we were “emboldened” by their success, because we didn’t know they were going to be successful yet! [Laughs] What I do know is when we decided we were going to kill Wolverine, we knew we had to find someone to replace him – you don’t not have a Wolverine book. [Laughs] — and the prohibitive frontrunner was always X-23. Whether fans would embrace her was an entirely different question. And they have.

RELATED: Conway Sends “Carnage” on a Blood-Drenched Cross-Country Trip

Another book that debuted this week was “Carnage” #1, which is intriguing because it’s Gerry Conway, obviously a Spider-Man legend, writing a Spidey-related book, but it’s a character that’s associated with a very different era than when he was on Spider-Man. What can you share about the behind-the-scenes on how this came together?

Alonso: It’s really simple: Gerry can write. We were interested in in Gerry a long time before he started writing for us. His TV pedigree and comic pedigree go without saying. Gerry impressed “Spider-Man” editor Nick Lowe on their first project, Nick was building a line of diverse titles, and figured Gerry should be a part of it. I don’t think it was a matter of Nick saying, “Gerry Conway must write ‘Carnage,'” so much as him saying, “I’ll bet Gerry Conway would do a great job with this.” And he was right.

We’ll wrap with a fan question from SpartanRoarke: “Last year’s ‘All-New Miracleman Annual,’ with the first new Miracleman material in many years, was the best holiday treat one could hope for. Any plans for additional new Miracleman stories in 2016 (beyond the continuation of [Neil] Gaiman and [Mark] Buckingham’s amazing run, of course)?”

Alonso: Let’s not look too far into the future. Enjoy the moment.

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!

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