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 earlier this year 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, as CBR News was on a trip to the Big Apple, we stopped into Marvel Comics’ recently broken in New York offices to chat up the Editor-in-Chief in person. Below, Alonso gives a detailed look at his day-to-day responsibilities form promoting at conventions to overseeing summits and from recruiting new talent to lining up major projects. Over the course of the chat, he drops hints as to the future of Brian Wood at Marvel, shares a look inside long-simmering projects like “Daredevil: End of Days” and catches up readers on a bevy of projects including the new “Villains for Hire.” Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, since we get to actually sit across a real table from each other today and talk person-to-person, I thought it’d be fun to discuss a little bit of what “a day in the life” is like for you as Editor-in-Chief. What’s on your plate right now as you’re coming back from Fan Expo in Toronto?
Axel Alonso: Well, we have another editorial summit next week. Many of our big writers will be here to discuss the Marvel Universe as a whole and our big event for next year. So I’m busting my butt prepping for that.
Everybody knows day-to-day what the regular book editors are doing here, from reading scripts to moving the art through the process of coloring, lettering, etc. How much hands on stuff do you do these days versus kind of over-arching management?
Alonso: I’m selectively hands-on these days. I still provide editorial notes on outlines and scripts, but mostly for new launches and crossovers. This event we’re planning — I’m very involved with that, both the architecture of the story and the marketing plan. Ditto for the Ultimate Comics re-launch — making the line into a cohesive universe was one of my top priorities when I became E-I-C, and reader response to “The Death of Spider-Man” and “Ultimate Comics Fallout” seems to confirm that this is what fans want. But a lot of what I do is more “macro” planning, yes.
Sales fluctuate all the time even when the market is firing on all cylinders, but did you have a goal for where you wanted that “Ultimate Spider-Man” #1 to debut and how you hoped it would fair in the market right now?
Alonso: With any launch, there’s a number you’re gunning for out the gates and a plateau number where you expect to level out — a baseline for you to build upon throughout the year. I’m very happy with the Ultimate Comics numbers and it’s no secret that [Brian Michael] Bendis, [Jonathan] Hickman and [Nick] Spencer are already discussing the possibility of an Ultimate Universe event that underscores the whole “one universe” thing.
Can you say what your number in mind is?
Alonso: We set realistic goals in the current market and we’ve surpassed them — and we’re sure that retailers will be seeing the same success with the first issue. And remember: we’re committed — and able — to deliver 12-plus issues per year of each title, with the ability to spike those numbers through special stories and events, so I like where we landed.
The other part of what your job involves frequently is talent management, which you were very involved with before becoming E-i-C. Nick Spencer is a guy who’s now stepped into a bigger role as you’ve put the Ultimate line together, but since you found so many indie guys as an Editor, have you been still working hard on recruitment over the past seven months?
Alonso: Yeah. I continue to do that. When a new writer comes on my radar now, however, my job is different. I need to match that writer with a simpatico editor, and strategize with that editor on the best launching pad.
Brian Wood, for instance — I was his initial point of contact, but we’d never worked together. So we chatted, I got a better read on his sensibilities and tastes, and then I conferred with an editor — Jeanine Schaefer — about a number of options that played to his creative strengths before we decided on one. We released a teaser for it last week at Toronto Fan Expo.
In the case of Nick Spencer, I knew he would be a good fit for X-Men after I read “Morning Glories.” Panic [Ultimate Comics editor Mark Paniccia] agreed and the timing was just right for him to re-launch “Ultimate Comics X-Men.”
Right now, I’m very excited about a writer whose small body of published work knocks me out. We’ve talked. And he’s in contact with one of my best editors.
I know that part of this process becomes getting new blood in on the books, making them exclusive and then eventually bringing them into the room for your retreats. Is there anything significantly different about this upcoming summit that we’ll see reflected in the books?
Alonso: Well, this event presents different challenges than “Fear Itself” or “Civil War.” When we announce it, you’ll see why. That said, our process is to work the story like it’s a TV writers’ room — beat up the story until it’s as solid as it’s going to get. As usual, most of the guys in the room are summit veterans. If there’s any “new blood,” I guess that’d be Rick Remender, who’ll be attending his second editorial summit. Between “Punisher,” “Uncanny X-Force” and “Venom,” Rick’s become a real creative asset to our line. Having him in the room is good, both for him — to see what it’s like to be in the writer’s room where no idea goes unchallenged; I mean, how we get out of that meeting without throwing punches is beyond me [Laughter] -Â and for us — who benefit from his crazy ideas.
For a while when you and Tom and I were talking on the phone, you spoke about a list of characters you’d hoped to revitalize. We’ve seen the first run of those properties with “Defenders” coming back. Do you have a list of characters you’re taking in to this summit with hopes of getting them up and running?
Alonso: Without a doubt. A few characters will really pop in 2012. Keep an eye on Nova, on Hope, on Hawkeye. After this summit, who knows?
Everyone here is a little burnt out by Fan Expo butting up against Hurricane Irene, but now that you’ve landed here and there’s not another big con to hit up until New York in October, do you set out some goals for what you’d like to accomplish with Marvel’s line over the course of the fall?
Alonso: Well, there’s no such thing as downtime here at Marvel. [Laughter] Right now, I’d say my biggest priority is preparing for next week’s editorial summit, nailing down the agenda and supplying all the proper documents to bring everyone up to speed so they can rip it apart and give me more gray hairs. [Laughter]
For fan questions this week, since I’ve stopped by the offices, I thought I’d see if I could scare up some news on projects and characters that have been hanging in the background for a bit. Let’s start with Spidey616 who checked in on a book long in the works: “Awhile back Bendis mentioned that the much anticipated ‘Daredevil: End of Days’ mini would likely be seeing a release in the fall. Wondering if we could get an update on the release date?”
Alonso: [Series editor] Steve Wacker says we’ll be making an announcement soon. Here’s a page.
Reader rogerio asked after a project we’ve been hearing about since you stepped in as E-i-C, saying, “What happened to Ennis’ ‘Fury Max?'”
Alonso: It’s underway, rogerio, and let me tell you: It. Is. Amazing. Look for an announcement soon.
He follows up with a more wishful thinking question: “Any chances to see Antony Johnston writing a Silver Sable or Shang Chi series?”
Alonso: Chances are good if the “Spider-Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu” mini performs well. We’re talking about some possibilities with Antony right now, so get out there and vote with your dollars and make it happen.
Following the theme of the day, Randycat wondered: “Any plans to continue the ‘Soleil’ comics line? I haven’t see any new solicitations from them for a while.”
Alonso: At this time, there are no plans to publish additional Soleil titles. We love Soleil, their comics and their creators, and will continue to work with them when we can, but we won’t be localizing any of their content right now.
And with two brand-new CrossGen titles announced at Fan Expo, Randycat followed with: “Any plans for a second miniseries or ongoing of ‘Sigil?’ Seems like we only got a brief glimpse of the entire storyline in the first mini.”
Alonso: We still have some Crossgen plans up our sleeve (don’t miss “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” this December!). If you want more “Sigil” the best way to send us that message is to tell all your friends to go pick up the trade paperback on September 28!
Finally, board member Hulk_Is asked after the fate of his fav Marvel title, saying, “‘Heroes For Hire’ is my favorite Marvel ongoing series and I see that it’s getting some changes in the upcoming months. Would you be so kind as to give me some insiders info into what the future holds for my favorite title… please?”
Alonso: Let me turn this one over to editor Bill Rosemann…
Bill Rosemann: Hello, Hulk_Is, are you for hire? Not only does Misty Knight want to know the answer to that question, but she also wants you to check out what she and the rest of her urban operatives are doing to halt the spread of the arachnid infection in the pages of the “Spider-Island: Heroes For Hire” one-shot (on sale Sept. 28)… and then she’s sure you’re wondering why in the heck she’s aligning herself with criminals like Speed Demon, Crossfire and Tiger Shark in “Villains For Hire!” The Point One issue hits on November 2, then the five-issue mini is unleashed on December 7. Best of all, the acclaimed writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning is writing all of these issues, so you can look forward to more months of cool plot swerves, hard-hitting street action, and unpredictable character appearances from your favorite title!
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!