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Marvel’s “Star Wars” Year, An Explosive Start to “Squadron Supreme”

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Marvel’s “Star Wars” Year, An Explosive Start to “Squadron Supreme”

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: Aaron & Gillen Take “Vader Down” in Marvel’s First “Star Wars” Crossover Event

Heard any Star Wars news lately? With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” now in theaters, Alonso looks back on the past year of Marvel’s Star Wars comics — the first year the license has been back at Marvel after decades at other publishers, most notably Dark Horse Comics — and also provides some perspective on the relatively wide-open post-Episode VII future of the line. Alonso also talks two debuts from this week, “Weirdworld” by Sam Humphries & Mike Del Mundo and “Squadron Supreme” by James Robinson & Leonard Kirk, clarifies the ongoing series status of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze‘s “Black Panther” and more, in the last pre-holiday edition of AXEL-IN-CHARGE.

Albert Ching: Axel, since Star Wars is what everyone is talking about this week, I wanted to start with a Star Wars question. Star Wars has meant a lot to Marvel in 2015 — certainly sales-wise, but also a lot of well-received books. I’m curious to how this process has been for you personally, as Editor-in-Chief. I know you’ve been heavily involved in these books, and Star Wars at Marvel isn’t something that was even possible when you started in the job — what has this experience meant to you?

Axel Alonso: I’m really proud of the team. I picked up “Star Wars” #1 right off the rack at a five and dime a few weeks before I stood in line at the Coronet Theatre [in San Francisco] for nine hours to see the movie. So I go back a ways with “Star Wars,” both as a comic book and a movie.

When we got Star Wars, we knew that our first few books would define the line moving forward. I think it’s clear we made the right choices in terms of the talent — Jason [Aaron], John [Cassaday], Kieron [Gillen], Salva[dor Larocca], Mark [Waid] and Terry [Dodson] — and types of stories we told. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished — particularly what [Editor] Jordan [D. White] and [Assistant Editor] Heather [Antos] have managed to do. We have a rock solid base that we can build upon, diversify upon, in the coming year.

Speaking of which, I was just recently looking at some of Marvel’s old “Star Wars” comics, and Howard Chaykin’s art really holds up.

Alonso: Oh, yeah. He was way ahead of his day.

We know a bit about some of the “Star Wars” comics planned from Marvel in 2016, but in general, what are you looking for in the second year of Marvel’s Star Wars comics? Are you looking to keep the same number of books?

Alonso: We’re going to keep it lean and mean, and put a premium on telling great stories with great talent. That said, the future is a bit like a white canvas. After the movie’s out, we’re going to meet with Lucasfilm to talk about the larger tapestry. There will be windows of opportunity to explore that we don’t even see right now.

RELATED: Coates & Stelfreeze’s “Black Panther” Will Rise in April 2016

This week fans found out a release month for Ta-Nehisi-Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s “Black Panther” #1: April 2016. Was that always the timing Marvel had in mind? You’ve said here before that there the first issue was already just about done.

Alonso: We probably could have launched as soon as February or March, but April was the sweet spot for it to get a maximum attention. Issue #1 is fully drawn and issues #1-5 are fully scripted, so we know exactly where this series is going and we have a lot of art to preview art to show when the time comes; we can get people excited based on what they actually see, not just on what we tell them. A few well-timed media hits to remind readers who the creative team is, the broad strokes of the epic they’re going to tell, and this book should explode like a bomb in April.

Also, I want to clarify one thing: Another site reported that we’ve announced “Black Panther” as an ongoing despite the fact that Ta-Nehisi said he only has a 12-issue story arc. That is incorrect. What Ta-Nehisi has said is that he only knows the details of his first year-long story arc; he has not said he is done after that. Far from it. He’s made it clear he’d like to continue, and we are, in fact, planning our next editorial retreat, keeping his schedule conflicts in mind. I’ll let Ta-Nehisi speak to this matter himself, but “Black Panther” is not a limited series; it is an ongoing series.

There are still a lot of Marvel #1s rolling out, and this week saw the debut of “Squadron Supreme” #1 — certainly an eventful issue by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. We already knew Namor was a goner in this issue, but the team also destroyed the city of Atlantis — certainly the stakes seem large in this series. What are the broader implications for these developments on the rest of the Marvel line?

Alonso: This team’s opening statement should put the rest of the Marvel Universe on notice. A group of extremely powerful, extremely volatile super-beings has landed in the middle of the Marvel Universe proper. They’re not your standard heroes, but they’re not what you’d call villains either. And they match up pretty well with, say, the Avengers. The question fans should be asking themselves is, “How long before other power players in the Marvel Universe take exception to their methods?”

Also debuting this week was “Weirdworld” #1, with Sam Humphries joining and Mike Del Mundo remaining on board post-‘Secret Wars.” The “Weirdworld” series was a big part of “Secret Wars,” but some fans, from the outside, may be unsure as to how this book (and Weirdworld itself) fits in with All-New, All-Different Marvel — what would you advise to those readers?

Alonso: I’ll start by saying Sam and Mike just came in and owned this book. Sam stepped into Jason [Aaron]’s big shoes and walked the walk.

To fans, I’d say: Weirdworld is here to stay. It’s an essential component of the Marvel Universe. Anyone that’s been jonesing for the type of dark fantasy that was pioneered by Robert E. Howard or Tolkien or Marvel’s classic “Weirdworld” series from back in the day, will find what they want in this series. Barbarians — check. Wizards — check. Elves — check. Cavemen — check. Dragons — check. The Punish — Next question!

I see what you did there! This week saw the announcement of “Amazing Spider-Man/Silk: The Spider(fly) Effect” by Robbie Thompson and Todd Nauck. I wanted to ask specifically about Robbie Thompson — he started at Marvel known as a writer from TV, something of a part-timer in comics, and now he’s been such a big part of Marvel’s output, especially in the Spider-Man line. What do you credit to Thompson’s rise at Marvel?

Alonso: Well, Robbie loves writing comics, and people seem to love him writing comics — it’s really as simple as that. No one more than editor Nick Lowe, who is his greatest advocate. What Robbie did (with Stacey Lee and a few other outstanding artists) on “Silk” impressed us and the work he’s done since on “Venom” and “Spidey” just continued to impress. You should also check out his short story in “Guardians of Infinity” #2 that is setting up some interesting new things for Galactic Marvel. Big shout out to former Editor Ellie Pyle for bringing Robbie to Marvel!

Marvel’s Infinite Comics are nearing its four-year birthday — has it been a challenge to continually push the needle with what’s possible in that format?

Alonso: It’s a challenge in a fun way. We get better and better at doing them because we learn something new with each one we do. And as new technological developments come along, we are able to reassess what we are able to do. It’s like having a box of crayons, and every once in a while you open it up and there are a few new ones in there for you to play with. We really think the sky’s the limit with Infinite Comics — they’re absolutely a part of our future moving forward.

Let’s wrap with a fan question from the CBR Community. Chief Jon has a query partly involving the aforementioned Robbie Thompson: “With all the new series launching at the moment I’m wondering if there’s room for series spotlighting untold tales from the Marvel Universe’s past? ‘Spidey’ by Robbie Thompson and Nick Bradshaw seems to be doing this for our friendly neighborhood webslinger, but I’d love to see something that gives fans of Marvel history and classic publishing a chance at seeing other classic characters similarly showcased.”

Alonso: Never say never. “Spidey” has been really successful so far in its short life!

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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