SPOILER WARNING: Some minor “Avengers” movie spoilers lie below for those who haven’t seen it yet.
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, in the wake of Free Comic Book Day, Axel discusses Marvel’s most recent creative moves to integrate characters and ideas from the movies into the printed Marvel U from Agent Coulson to Thanos. Meanwhile, he discusses some creator-to-character matching that’s helped shine a spotlight on some of Marvel’s cult favorite characters with Garth Ennis’ work on “FuryMAX” and Alan Davis’ return to “ClanDestine.” Plus, check the latest on your fan questions on “AvX” and more. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, last week we spoke just before Free Comic Book Day hit. I wanted to swing back around and see what you got up to this year?
Axel Alonso: My contribution to Free Comic Book Day? I took eight nine-year-olds – my son’s basketball team – to my local store. They all picked out one free comic, and I bought them all one comic book. They gravitated toward Avengers and Spider-Man, which was just fine with me.
And I’m sure you had a little undo influence on that.
Alonso: I sure hope so. [Laughs] I bought a few packs of basketball cards, too.
Like we talked about last week, Marvel’s goal in its releases this year was to have an accessible slate of free books for readers interested in the Marvel movies hitting this summer. But seeing as “AvX” also has the goal of drawing some of that general interest heat, I was wondering what connection you were seeing if any between the two?
Alonso: That’s more a question for David Gabriel, who is constant contact with retailers. I’d guess that a lot of people that show up on Free Comic Book Day are new foot traffic – folks who are very aware at what’s going on at the multiplex, whether it be with “Avengers,” “Spider-Man” or “Batman.”
One big reveal that hit after FCBD was that Thanos not only popped up in the “Avengers” film, but he’s also been unveiled as the big bad in Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley’s “Avengers Assemble.” That’s the second major point of connectivity between the film and the publishing line after Agent Coulson’s comic debut in “Battle Scars.” Those are definitely headline grabbers, but how will those characters make a long term impact on the Marvel U once the movie’s out of theaters?
Alonso: Marvel Publishing and Marvel Studios are the same team. We’re aware of what they’re actively developing and what they’re considering developing. In the case of Agent Coulson, he just became a breakout character in the movies that was a surprise to everyone – no one more than [the actor who plays him] Clark Gregg. [Laughter] Look, when Coulson became so popular on the big screen, we thought it might be fun to make bring him – and his patented brand of comic relief – to the Marvel U, [Marvel Studios head] Kevin [Feige] was receptive, and that was that. Agent Coulson is a fun character to have in the Marvel Universe, a wild card to play with. And of course he’s one of those little details that someone who saw the movie will appreciate if they pick up a Marvel Comic for the first time.
Thanos’ return will play out in “Avengers Assemble,” but can we expect him to remain a major player in the Marvel U moving forward?
Alonso: All I’ll say is that Tom [Brevoort] and I read Joss’ script several months ago, so [if] we wanted to do something with Thanos, we’ve had plenty of time to plan.
Flipping to the more personal side of the books these days, we also just saw the debut of the long-awaited “FuryMAX” series by Garth Ennis. Garth is one of the guys you’ve worked with for a long time in your career, and I know you set this book on its path. Have you been a bit more hands on with this series than others in the line, or have you been missing that part of the job?
Alonso: It comes with the territory. I loved reading the scripts as they came in, and I’m happy to see Garth reunited with [artist] Goran [Parlov] and [colorist] Lee [Loughridge]. It was a challenge stepping back from being hands-on, but I love my job. There aren’t enough books like “FuryMAX,” in my opinion. I enjoy “FuryMAX” every bit as much as I enjoy “AvX.” They’re two different flavors, is all.
Garth had done many war comics in eras from World War II to Vietnam. “FuryMAX” deals with a different piece of military history setting the future superspy against the backdrop of Europe’s unsteady relationship with Asia in the years following the Korean War. What led to that marriage of character and history that we haven’t seen Fury interact with before?
Alonso: It was Garth’s decision. He’s an avid reader of history, and it’s reflected in his work. He loves to find forgotten moments from history – seedy alliances, unpunished war crimes – and incorporate them into his work. All you’ve got to do is read the first three pages of this story to know you’re in for a wild ride. [Laughs] Literally the first three pages. Fury has done a lot for his country.
In certain “MAX” books for the past, you’ve come out and said that the stories function in their own world because they’re so much different from their Marvel U counterparts. “Punisher MAX” is probably the prime example. But this series doesn’t in any way feel like it couldn’t have happened to the Nick Fury we see standing on the bridge of a Hellicarrier. Are linking those two ideas anything you’ve talked about?
Alonso: If a reader want to imagine that this is world in which Captain America exits, fine – we don’t do anything to discourage that. But Garth is focused on crafting a story about a Cold Warrior who’s lived longer than he ever should have, and during that time he’s killed a lot of people, loved a lot of women, and done a lot of things that booze helps him forget. That story is very much set in the real world. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the Helicarrier to show up. [Laughter]
Fair enough. But you know, you explaining it that way made me just go, “Man, a Captain America MAX series would be CRAZY.” What’s the current state of the MAX line? Of late, we’ve seen it used as a place for idiosyncratic creators like Garth and Kyle Baker and David Lapham to do Marvel stories in their own styles. Are there more projects in the works beyond those?
Alonso: Yes, we have a few things in development. There are plenty of characters in Marvel’s catalogue that are due for a MAX treatment, and you’ll be seeing more in the next couple of years. Our formula for MAX is creators + character + concept. We need to feel we’ve got the right juice, the right creative pedigree to create a decently-performing periodical that turns into a wonderfully-performing collection. Garth is one of those writers who brings a healthy fanbase to even the most obscure character, and his name moves trades.
Speaking of creator/character match ups, we’ll soon be seeing Alan Davis’ ClanDestine characters return in some annuals he’s been working on. Those are characters for Alan that are similar to, say, Howard Chaykin doing Dominic Fortune. They’re just always associated with his work and style. When you’ve got a situation like that with a big name creator and some cult characters, how do you best make them connect?
Alonso: It just comes down to the fact that Alan is a top-tier creator, and ClanDestine are his creation. There’s a hardcore group of ClanDestine fans out there, but we figured, why not have that team interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe and go for the biggest audience possible? It’s a win-win for everyone.
This reminds me of the dust up about a year back when Marvel UK stopped publishing original material and people were wondering on the ultimate fate of the characters who were originally developed for that market. Are the Marvel UK characters something you’ve ever thought on using, or have you had creators try and pitch for them at all?
Alonso: I can’t recall anyone coming to us with an interest in those UK characters. That said, I am interested in some of those characters – Death’s Head, for instance. Be cool to see what Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis would do with him. I’m also intrigued by the 2099 Universe – thought at this point, maybe it needs to be 3099. In the current market, either would be a challenge, but given the amazing sales of “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” and the fact that we’re entering into another daring period for publishing, who knows what we might attempt?
For fan questions this week, let’s swing around to the topic of that synergy between the screen and the page as Spidey616 asks: “With the Chitauri alien race used in the Avengers film loosely inspired by their appearance in Ultimates, curious if we’ll be seeing the Chitauri or something more in line with the film’s version appearing in the mainstream Marvel Universe?”
Alonso: All I can say is, keep your eyes peeled.
Prince Of Orphans starts pretty serious with his question: “Are you and Slash ever going to set aside your differences and go on a Guns n’ Roses reunion tour? Sorry, I had to. On to my serious question now. Will we see character tension between Iron Fist, Dr. Strange and Namor in the Defenders following what happens in AvX, seeing how they are on opposite sides of the conflict? And generally speaking, will we see implications in books not currently tied into AvX? Books like Winter Soldier, Deadpool or Fantastic Four?”
Alonso: “Avengers Vs. X-Men” and its aftermath is going to have a pretty massive effect on the Marvel Universe, that’ll include books such as “Fantastic Four,” “Deadpool,” etc. As for character conflicts within “Defenders,” it kind of depends on how the events of the story play out, doesn’t it? While Strange, Iron Fist and Namor may be on different sides, which has more to do with their individual allegiances than it does a deeply-held belief in one side or the other of the conflict – at least at the outset. So it really all depends on how events unfold from here. Keep reading!
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!