If it’s Friday, it must be time to end your week with a little T&A! Or in this case, a little A&A!
CBR News is back again to present an open and honest Q&A with Marvel Comics Vice President Executive Editor Axel Alonso while his partner in comics Tom Brevoort has off – the feature we like to call MARVEL T&A! A comic industry veteran with a style his own and a record for rule-breaking, Alonso has plenty to share on his own including details on the ins and outs of the X-Men line!
Each Friday, in addition to our regular Cup O’ Joe installments, CBR will present a new interview with the T&A duo covering everything Marvel Comics, and this week Axel takes his solo spotlight to share some of this editorial ideas for the corner of the Marvel U dedicated to the Uncanny X-Men, the role Deathlok will play in upcoming issues of “Uncanny X-Force,” the next phase of the vampire nation, the continuation of “PunisherMAX,” your fan questions and more! Read on!
CBR News: Axel, with Tom out this week, I thought it’d be a good time to catch up on the X-Men line in general as well as some of the other “Alonso signature” parts of Marvel publishing. With the X-Books, for so long the line was defined by expansive, decade-plus runs first by Chris Claremont and then by Scott Lobdell and company. Even the time of Grant Morrison’s “New X-Men” was marked by some of that mentality. Since you’ve overseen the line, the going rate on “Uncanny” in particular is to find folks that many fans wouldn’t immediately think of for X-Men like Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and now Kieron Gillen, and have them write more punctuated, eventful runs. What’s been the guiding principal of running the marquee books this way?
Axel Alonso: “Uncanny X-Men” is X-Men Central, the core book of the X-Men line, so we cast the writer carefully. He’s got to know he’s X-Men, and he’s got to have something new to say. Ed, Matt and Kieron all started their careers with idiosyncratic, personal works, but at heart, they’re all fanboys and that’s why they’ve excelled.
As for the length of their individual runs, well, Matt Faction has been on “Uncanny” since issue #500 and we’re sending #532 to the printer in a couple weeks. With annuals and other miscellaneous stories, that means Matt has written about three years of stories thus far. Before him, Ed wrote “Uncanny” for two years and change. It’s not Chris Claremont’s decades, but in today’s comic environment those are pretty long runs.
Of late, there have been a lot of pieces moving in the line, particularly with the Five Lights story making for new mutant characters for the first time in a long time as some of the Sublime Corporation story points come back as well. Is the work between those two pieces of “Uncanny” splitting pretty evenly between Kieron and Matt for now?
Alonso: There’s definitely a certain division of labor, but ultimately all scripts are vetted through both writers. It’s a different process from what we did on “Messiah CompleX” and “Second Coming,” where we beat out the “macro story” as a group, and then each writer put his own personal stamp on his issue. With “Uncanny,” both Matt and Kieron are working on each issue.
What have you been talking about in terms of this new cast and how they’ll shape the X-Men’s world. Will the “Generation Hope” cast be absorbed into the X-Men team officially, or will they just be absorbed into the big cast without costuming up?
Alonso: I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the “Five Lights” became core members of the X-Men team in the future. We created them to be relevant to the X-Men’s future – the first wave of a new generation of mutants. That said, we don’t want to rush things. While the feedback has been largely positive, there is also the usual skepticism – like the guy from last week’s T&A who hated Teon – but we’re committed to building them just the same way we did with X-23 and Daken.
With Mike Carey’s plan for “Age of X,” how removed will the book be from the rest of the line. With an alternate future, it can always stand on its own, but are there ways in which “Uncanny” will affect that story or maybe that story will kick back and affect what’s coming in “Uncanny?”
Alonso: “Age of X” started as an idea Mike Carey had for an arc of “X-Men: Legacy” that would feature the various generations of X-Men: the Second Genesis, the New Mutants, Generation X and so on. But as the story developed, we knew we had something bigger and even more exciting on our hands than just an X-Men team-up. We had an event. “Age of X” brings you the full cast of the X-Universe in a sci-fi/mystery/thriller story that makes full use of the best parts of their mythology. It’s widescreen action, intrigue, and your favorite bits of X-Men continuity rolled into one against a backdrop the likes of which you’ve never seen.
Without giving anything way, I’ll just say: the “Age of X” isn’t an alternate future, it’s an alternate present, and one that isn’t necessarily far removed from our regular continuity. While the storyline is very tight and can’t reflect events transpiring concurrently in the other X-titles, you will definitely see effects spilling over from “Age of X” into other titles in the future.
What was the piece of the hook that brought your attention to “Age of X?” Just this core idea of “The X-Men if they’d never been the X-Men?”
Alonso: Yeah. As simple as that.
One book that’s really gotten a strong response of late has been “Uncanny X-Force,” and I understand the upcoming second arc will involve Deathlok, who is a character people don’t immediately connect to the X-Books although he does fit the black ops mold of that particular title. Who decided to bring him in, and what kind of role will he play as the series moves through its first year?
Alonso: Rick Remender really dug what Jason Aaron did with Deathlok over in “Wolverine: Weapon X” and saw the potential to revisit that character and his world in the pages of “Uncanny X-Force.” And the hook is insane! The story starts in issue #5, out in February. Cover artist Esad Ribic is penciling it, and the pages will blow people away. Trust me when I say, Deathlok is a perfect fit for this book, this team.
Lastly on the X-line, I know that there is a new movie coming along in 2011 featuring those characters that’s different from previous film versions, with “First Class” taking more of a flashback/prequel run at the franchise. How are you guys in publishing preparing to get some stories out that hook into the movie?
Alonso: We’ve got big plans, and we’ll be revealing those soon. We never, ever fail to take advantage of an opportunity presented by a movie, and we think we’ve got a really nifty thing out there that should please both old school fans and new fans.
Two aspects of Marvel’s publishing plans that are closest to your heart are the Marvel Knights line and the MAX line, which have both morphed into different kinds of comics imprints than they originally were. Knights has become a place for more mature (but not mature readers) stand alone stories and MAX has become defined by two ongoing series. Do you look at those projects in a more controlled, “what can fit the schedule” way?
Alonso: More or less. With both these lines, we don’t want our eyes to be bigger than our stomachs – we want to give the market just enough of what it wants. That doesn’t mean we won’t take chances – “DeadpoolMAX” seems to have paid off – but we want to be careful about just how much material we produce. Since neither of these lines “count,” so to speak, they are trickier to manage, trickier to market, and we must target readers who are a bit more adventurous, rewarding them with top-notch creators like Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon, Kyle Baker and David Lapham.
Looking at “PunisherMAX,” the character had been out of the standard Marvel U for so long because Garth was so strongly putting his stamp on a world all its own for the MAX Frank Castle. Now that “Frankencastle” has wrapped up, how have you been approaching the idea of the Punisher in the Marvel Universe versus where MAX is going?
Alonso: “In The Blood” is Rick Remender and [series editor] Sebastian Girner’s closing salvo on the Marvel Universe “Punisher,” after which series goes to a new editor and creative team. As for “PunisherMAX,” now’s as good a time as any answer the pressing question we’ve been hearing from the fans: Where the $%#$ is it!?
“PunisherMAX” resumes in February 2011, with Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon back in full swing. The series has been on hiatus because Steve had a personal crisis to deal with that, along with his work on “Ultimate Avengers,” proved to be too much even for the superhumanly prolific Steve Dillon – and we decided it was worth waiting for him. The team’s chemistry is too special and “PunisherMAX” is too important a book to our line – we couldn’t abide the thought of a fill-in artist. So this February it will be coming back strong. It’s unfortunate we had to take that break, but judging from the amount of people out there pining for its return, we’re optimistic it will come back strong and ship monthly.
Finally, the element of the Marvel U you’ve had a real eye for is the vampire stuff. While we may not be ready to announce the next big movement for the vampire nation, is the incoming “Wolverine & Jubilee” series the book that will serve to connect what has come to what is coming?
Alonso: The story functions both as connective tissue to the future of the Vampire Universe and an epilog to “Curse of the Mutants.” After the X-Men resolve their war with Dracula’s upstart son, Xarus, and the new Vampire Nation (spoiler alert: They survive, well, most of them), they are not free and clear of the vampire threat. Jubilee will be a full-fledged bloodsucker and they’re going to have to come to terms with this, deal with this. And who better to get involved in this than Wolverine, with whom she has always had a special relationship? The responsibility he feels for her predicament will be one of the most important shadings of this series.
As for Dracula and the Vampire Nation, I can’t wait to talk about the master plan because I am really excited about it. All I’ll say is that the next time you see Dracula and his minions, it will be even bigger than “Curse of the Mutants.” I can’t think of a better launching pad to show how relevant Dracula and his kind are to the Marvel Universe. We want Dracula to be looked at as a force as major power player in the Marvel Universe. From now on, he’s got more in common with Doctor Doom than Christopher Lee. [Laughter] By the way, my mom dated Christopher Lee. For real.
Really? Are you telling me you could have easily have been Axel Lee?
Alonso: I am. My mom grew up in London and worked at the Royal Library where Christopher Lee researched his roles as an actor in the Royal Shakespearean Company. They dated for a while. She didn’t tell me this – my aunt did. My mom eventually went on to marry another dark-haired Spanish guy named Angel Alonso, who immediately banned Hammer films in the Alonso household.
Well, to follow up on that “better know your editor” trivia bit, our first fan question of the week is about one of the Latino characters of the Marvel U as BartonisHawkeye88 asks, “So, being Marvel’s first Hispanic super-hero and the first Puerto Rican super-hero in history, is there any chance that the original White Tiger, Hector Ayala, might make a return to the Marvel U? Seems like a bit of history that Marvel should be proud of.”
Alonso: A Hispanic guy doing Kung Fu! Hellsyeah. I wouldn’t rule that out.
Swinging back towards the X-Men world, we’ve got a question on the design of the book from KryptonSite, saying “Considering that the Uncanny X-Men had the same cover logo for many years during its period of the most success (through issue #280 or so), is there any particular reason no one’s tried to revisit it? Later logos never looked the same – and I never particularly liked the redrawing of Steranko’s version which was used from #50-59, either.
“On a similar note, are there any logo changes planned for any books coming up, either with something new or a reversion to something older? And who is in charge of logo choices, anyhow?”
Alonso: There’s no particular reason we haven’t used that logo again – though the current logo on “Uncanny” has a few reference points to it – but it usually comes down to branding. Sometimes the decision comes from an editor, sometimes from Marketing or Sales, sometimes from Licensing. The final decision comes down to the editor talking to all of these people and a consensus being found. I don’t think there are any big logo shakeups coming soon, but you never know.
Following up on our earlier discussion, Comicbookfan was wondering “I am looking forward to the Age of X storyline coming to the X-men comics soon. This story got me thinking about the Age Of Apocalypse story line, and the universe created within that story. Is there a chance we can see more stories taking place with in that universe? maybe a re-imagining of the original story that could set up an on going story?
“Also you guys have spoken about how you are looking to cancel duplicate titles to cut down on repetition with in you franchises. But i was wondering if putting out books like The Age Of Apocalypses that take place in entirely different universe and have a different voice, would provide a good substitute for those duplicate series? To give you lines variety but at the same time support their growth and satisfy more fans with varying taste.”
Alonso: Never say never. We are regularly approached with new ideas for stories set in the “Age of Apocalypse.” In fact, a well-known, well-established creator just expressed interest last week. It’s probably only a matter of time before we revisit the AoA universe.
In terms of duplicate series, we are ever-vigilant when it comes to ensuring each book has its own mission statement and its own identity. While it’s certainly true that setting an entire series in the AoA would accomplish this, it might be difficult to maintain an ongoing series that’s entirely cut off from any other continuity. We’re probably better off exploring that story-space in dedicated mini-series when we have a cool story that’s worth telling…or as an event in our ongoing books, such as “Age of X”.
Finally, we’ve got two questions from boundingwolf who’s got two questions on members of the X-cast. The first is: “When will Nate Grey make a return to active status? I should think he would have been rescued the moment Osborn’s Organization was shut down.”
Alonso: Who’s Nate Grey and why should I care? I keed! It’s actually funny you ask that, boundingwolf. I’m not going to say why. Just keep your eyes peeled.
And the second is: “I know I am the only fan but I wonder why Joseph, the Magneto Clone, has not been restored. Countless heroes and evil doers manage to reconstitute themselves after being atomized or turned into energy. Why not Joseph?”
Alonso: In the 3-plus years I’ve been X-Men Group Editor, you are the first person I can remember bringing up Joseph. Not one writer has asked if they can use him. Zero. Zilch. Sorry.
Have some questions for Marvel T&A? 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 staff that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!
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