Fridays on CBR mean Axel’s In Charge.
An editor with years of experience in comics receiving 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!
For Marvel, it was a week dominated by events. One ended, with the recently released “Secret Wars” #9 bringing the universe-shifting miniseries from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic to a memorable close. One is still months away from starting — “Civil War II,” by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez — yet this week saw plenty of new details being released, including the news that the central conflict will be Iron Man vs. Captain Marvel, and the story will be sparked by the death of a notable Marvel hero. Alonso also talks the freshly announced “Star Wars: Poe Dameron” series by Charles Soule and Phil Noto, plus more, including answers to your questions, direct from the CBR Community.
Albert Ching: Axel, a lot of new “Civil War II” details were revealed in a New York Daily News article that hit this past Sunday. First thing I wanted to ask about was the positioning of Captain Marvel as the leader of the opposing force against Iron Man. Not only does that create a twist from the original — it’s not Iron Man vs. Captain America again — it’s another sign of the prominence of Carol Danvers. Was she always the choice within Marvel for that role? What can you say about the process of putting Captain Marvel in that spot?
Axel Alonso: She wasn’t. Neither was Tony [Stark]. We let the story guide us. Like [the original] “Civil War,” this conflict revolves around an issue that divides the Marvel Universe into two sides with very clear, understandable and defensible points of view. We needed to find two characters who’d have the weight and muscle to step forward and take the lead, and Carol and Tony fit the bill — their personalities and power-levels.
Do you see it as a testament to the cumulative effect of the work Marvel has done with that character over the last four years — who at one point was something of a secondary character and is now opposing Iron Man, who’s maybe the most well-known character at Marvel at this point?
Alonso: Yep. It was definitely fortuitous that all the work we’ve done with Carol over the past few years positioned her for this moment. When you read the upcoming “Captain Marvel” #1, you’ll see that she is now an extremely powerful and influential character in the Marvel Universe. She now presides over the Alpha Flight, which, for all intents and purposes, is Earth’s first line of defense from threats far and wide. Her new role feeds directly into her role in “Civil War II.”
A big part of the fun of the original, especially for readers, was seeing which heroes would go on which side. We’ve seen the first glimpses of that in “Civil War II” on the cover to #1. In terms of the planning process within Marvel, as someone who was part of the original “Civil War” 10 years ago now, do you see similarities in the process — or is this story different enough, and it’s been so long, that the similarities aren’t really there, and it’s like doing it for the first time?
Alonso: If there is one thing that “Civil War II” shares in common with [the original] “Civil War,” it’s that it came from out of nowhere — remember, “Civil War” came out of a retreat to discuss an even that eventually became “World War Hulk.” So, unlike “Secret Wars,” which was planned over two years and several retreats, this event started small: a discussion between myself, Tom Brevoort and Brian Bendis that gained enough steam to soon include Joe Quesada, Sana Amanat, C.B. Cebulski, Steve Wacker and my boss, Dan Buckley. We were talking about what the issues are on everyone’s mind right now, and we laid down a few scattered seeds for a story — a story that didn’t have a title. As that story came more into focus, and we saw just how big it was, it was Dan who turned to be and said, “You know what the title of this is, right? Civil War II.'”
So this event sort of snuck up on us. We didn’t go into this with me saying, “Hey guys, let’s do ‘Civil War II’. Come up with an idea.” We came up with a great story and backed into the title. And when people know more about the series — the ideas driving it, the core debate and how it resonates with what’s going on in the world right now — they’ll see that it’s an entirely new story that’s going to deserve the lofty title. And while it shares a thing or two with “Civil War,” it is not a retread or sequel.
Another major detail that came from that article was the revelation that there’s a big character death that sets things off. I know you can’t get into details of that, but talking in broad strokes, comic book deaths are what they are, but this is clearly an important one in terms of driving this story. What can you say about the approach for this one in making sure it had the right impact for “Civil War II”?
Alonso: The death referred to in the article is an extremely pivotal moment in the story, a turning point that affects everything and everyone. A big character dies, and another… well, you won’t look at them quite the same way ever again. But this wasn’t an instance where we said, “Hey, we gotta kill somebody!” This death — some might even call it murder — was the natural outcome of a scene of escalating tension, an important beat in the story that turns the story upside down. A lot of fans that thought they knew who they were rooting for will change sides, believe me. When Brian laid out the scene to the room, after workshopping it with me during a break, jaws dropped and then there was actual applause. That never happens.
The other big topic of the week is definitely the finale of “Secret Wars,” with issue #9 out this week. It’s been a long process — fans found out about the series 15 months ago, and it’s been a much longer journey than that on Marvel’s end. If course the work never stops, but do you get a moment to reflect on what Marvel’s done, or is it full force toward the next one?
Alonso: We’re always running on all cylinders. [Laughs] But people that think we get more fatigued by doing events are wrong. Events require a higher level of coordination between offices, but apart from that, you’re basically flexing the same set of muscles you do when you launch “Totally Awesome Hulk” or “Howard the Duck.” You’re telling a story.
That said, it is satisfying to see “Secret Wars” come to a close. We spent years planning it, months producing it. It’s nice to finally bring the closing chapter to the fans and see what they think.
In terms of that, obviously this was very ambitious — not just in terms of the impact on Marvel’s publishing line as a whole and the amount of books — but the main series itself. It wasn’t a story that provided easy answers or just showed big fights, it was as layered and complex as you’d expect from a Jonathan Hickman-written comic. What are some of the things you’re proudest of with the finale, and the main series as a whole?
Alonso: I’m proud of a number of things. That Jonathan stuck the landing; the Esad survived drawing the whole thing! [Laughs] What am I most proud of…? I think there’s something elegant, poetic and downright deconstructionist about Jonathan’s decision to end such a huge story with a hand-to-hand battle between two men: Reed Richards and Doctor Doom, both of whom laid the bedrock of the Marvel Universe. To put Reed in the position to save the entire Marvel Universe… was a nice touch.
At first, the belief was this was going to be Jonathan Hickman’s last Marvel story for a while, but it’s known he was in attendance at the most recent Marvel editorial retreat, and I imagine he was there for a reason. Can you give any hints on when we might see Hickman at Marvel next?
Alonso: Hickman will continue to be a regular participant at our retreats. And he just might fasten onto something soon. But hey, like we said before, Jonathan has carried the weight of the Marvel Universe for the last few months; he deserves a break. It goes without saying that whatever he does next will be smaller in scale. [Laughs]
On that same note, anything new in the works from Esad Ribic?
Alonso: Esad is also taking a little bit of a break. He’s going to be doing a lot of covers right now and there is a project he’s expressed a lot of interest in doing. I can’t really divulge more than that.
A new Star Wars series, one that certainly got people excited, was announced this week: “Poe Dameron” by Charles Soule and Phil Noto. That’s a big one following up on the success of “The Force Awakens,” what can you say about how that came about?
Alonso: Like I said last week, when we launched the “Star Wars” line we knew there would come a time when we’d pivot and tell stories set in different pockets of time in Star Wars continuity. This is one of them. It’s our latest solo series, it’s an ongoing series, it launches in April, and it’s set before the events of “The Force Awakens.” Poe Dameron is handpicked by General Leia to lead a squadron of pilots on a top-secret mission for the Resistance. Obviously, all the new characters from the film have made a big splash, but we’re especially excited to shine a spotlight on Poe, who didn’t get nearly enough screen time, if you ask me.
Poe certainly seems like a natural choice for a lead character — and it’s targeted as an ongoing at this point?
Alonso: It is an ongoing series, not a limited series.
On Tuesday, Marvel released a teaser that got a lot of people talking, simply stating “Dead No More,” which naturally fueled speculation instantly. It’s a teaser for a reason, but is there any insight you’d like to provide on that?
Let’s wrap with a couple of questions from the CBR Community. This is something that’s been asked about before, but given what we’ve been talking about today, feels appropriate to see if there’s any update: duxavier asks, “I have been following the great Hickman since the ‘Secret Warriors’ days, is there any word on if 2016 will see the release of the final issues of his ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ series?”
Alonso: The artwork is completed, so once Jonathan can find time to write the final [letter] scripts, we’ll be ready to release the remaining issues. So we’ll be looking for an advantageous time in our sales calendar to do so.
Then AIC question-asker Hall of Famer Spidey616 asks, “Will the approach to tie-in issues for ‘Civil War II’ be as encompassing as and similar to the original ‘Civil War’ with certain ongoing titles remaining completely connected to ‘CWII’ for the duration of the event?”
Alonso: Some series will connect, some won’t. We are not forcing any title to stop its regularly scheduled programming if that messes things up.
That said, we did a 1-day editor’s retreat yesterday, and we will have a healthy list of tie-ins. Writers are excited about the premise and the core conflict and they want a piece of the action.
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!