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 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, Axel breaks some news here in A-i-C as a brand new anthology series gets its moment in the spotlight…or maybe the shadows. This summer, acclaimed artist Lee Weeks will kick-off “Daredevil: Dark Nights” a new eight-part anthology series of rotating creative teams telling their own stories with old hornhead. Meanwhile, Mike Deodato joins “New Avengers,” Stefano Caselli joins “Avengers” and Sara Pichelli joins “Guardians of the Galaxy.” We’ve got a look inside all the moves, plus your fan questions. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, there’s a lot of news to break this week on Marvel’s books, starting with “Daredevil: Dark Nights” — a new eight-issue anthology series with short serialized stories by various talents. The book starts with a three-issue story written and drawn by Lee Weeks, who I’ve been reading Daredevil comics from for years now. It seems he’s always found a place to come in and draw a killer one-off or short arc and has largely been unappreciated for his work. How did the project come together, and why was Lee the guy to kickstart things?
Axel Alonso: First let me say a little bit about Lee, who was one of the first artists I worked with when I came to Marvel. He’s a master storyteller and classic-clean draftsman in the mold of John or Sal Buscema. I couldn’t think higher of him, and I’m personally thrilled he’s getting a chance to writw and draw the 3-issue arc that kicks off this series.
Okay… How’d it come together? Mark Waid’s “Daredevil” is hot and we figured Marvel fans are hungry for more stories about Daredevil and his world so we tapped creators that either knew the character intimately or had a great story to tell. The result is “Daredevil: Dark Nights,” an 8-issue limited series, launching in June, that features three evergreen stories — all present-day and in-continuity — by different creative teams. Lee — who’s one of the greatest Daredevil artists ever — had a story he’s been mulling over for years, set in the middle of a snowstorm that brings New York City to a standstill, that’s the perfect story to open this series. There is so much snow, Lee barely has to draw anything. [Laughs] I’m kidding.
The anthology format is something some of us love dearly, but they only come around so often. Daredevil seems like a character particularly set up for this kind of thing as he’s a character you could go to anyone in comics and say, “Yeah, I’ve got a Daredevil story.”
Alonso: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.
So is the anthology a draw for you in general or was getting this project out for DD heads the driving factor?
Alonso: Daredevil is, no doubt about it, a great character to anchor an anthology, but I’m a sucker for anthologies in general. I love the experience of reading one comic book that offers multiple stories or a series that turns over the creative reigns to new creators every few issues. And as an editor, I think the unique canvas of the anthology format — the creative latitude, shorter story lengths — results in extra-inspired work from creators. Back when I worked for Vertigo, I was able to lure Richard Corben to mainstream comics, Jim Lee to draw his first story for DC Comics [“Rocket Man” in “Flinch”] and Brian Bolland to write and draw two excellent stories [“The Princess and the Frog,” in “Heart Throbs” and “The Kapas” in “Strange Adventures.”] And when I came to Marvel, I got superb stories by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo [“Flowers for Rhino”], Greg Rucka and Eduardo Risso [“Severance Package”] and, if I recall, two stories by Darwyn Cooke [“Open All Night,” “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”] — to name just a few — in the anthology “Spider-Man’s Tangled Web.” There was something about the blank canvas of the anthology that brought out everyone’s A-game.
The fact that an ongoing anthology is a challenge in this current market baffles me, especially given its rich history — from E.C. through Warren through all the fine anthology titles from Marvel and DC I grew up reading. But the recent success of “Versus,” “A+X” and other titles gives us reason to be optimistic that “Daredevil: Dark Nights” — with its talent line-up and relevance to DD readers — will find a wide audience.
What is it about Daredevil that allows people to come in and play like this? The crime tone? The Frank Miller work that set him apart?
Alonso: Part of it probably owes to the fact that Daredevil is, by far, the perfect crime noir superhero. The lone avenger patrolling his turf, squaring off against street-level villains, lends itself to a story that’s draped in shadows. Frank Miller recognized that when he redefined the character all those years ago and the crime noir tone he established carried through most of the best Daredevil stories ever since — Brian [Michael Bendis] and Alex [Maleev], Ed [Brubaker] and Michael [Lark]. But, as you can see from what Mark Waid and crew are doing right now, it’s possible to keep the “crime” in Daredevil, without so much of the “noir.”
Shifting gears, we’ve got some other artist-driven news as some new players are stepping to the Marvel NOW! rotation on some of the titles. To start, we’ve got Stefano Caselli doing an arc on “Avengers” and Mike Deodato doing an arc on “New Avengers.” That second announcement is something that will strike folks as a no brainer considering his recent work on books like Brian’s “New Avengers” or Warren Ellis’ “Thunderbolts.” Is part of the discussion you have with Tom Brevoort just finding the guys who seem like locks for the tone established by the first artists even if they’re styles can be a little different?
Alonso: At the end of the day, we — writer, editor, [Marvel’s] talent management [group], and myself — strive to find a good rotation of complementary artists so each series has cohesiveness, an identity. Take Mike Deodato’s “New Avengers” pages, for instance, which have created quite a stir online. Those represent a stylistic shift for him, an adjustment he made for this particular series. His style is more open and cinematic, stripped of the dark shadows he usually uses, and perfect for this series.
With Stefano on “Avengers,” it’s an interesting fit. I think when he first came along, people thought of him more as an “animated” style artist because of his clean character cartooning, but he has been beefing up his detail work on the Spider-Man assignments he’s drawn in recent years. What made you think he was ready to step into that style established by guys like Jerome Opeña and Dustin Weaver?
Alonso: We wouldn’t have assigned Stefano to our flagship title if we didn’t think he was an appropriate follow-up to — and complement to — Jerome, Adam [Kubert] and Dustin. Stefano’s a rising star — I personally love his work — and while this casting might raise eyebrows, I have no doubt readers are going to see why we did it. We pride ourselves on having the best stable of artists, and we do our best to put them in positions to succeed and grow. Not to mention, the issues Stefano will be doing serve as a prelude to Infinity!
On the story front, what kind of action will he be taking on? I know Hickman said last time we talked that he’ll be swinging back and forth between solo stories and bigger arcs. Where does this fall?
Alonso: Jonathan is one of Marvel’s most methodical macro-planner. Every issue — long or short, seemingly standalone or not — is part of a puzzle that he’s carefully building. No standalone story is there to tread water; it’s all part of a carefully orchestrated plan that’s driving forward to a place Jonathan already knows. When we’re examining his work at the end of his run a few years from now, we’ll be saying, “Oh! That’s how that piece fit into the larger story!”
The last bit of artist news is that Sara Pichelli is going to be doing an arc on “Guardians of the Galaxy.” We’ve spoken so much on the new cosmic books in terms of their big universe-impacting story issues. But Sara is an artist we identify with character work first and foremost. How does her landing this gig expand on Bendis’ development of this team as people?
Alonso: Brian is writing “Guardians” because he’s uniquely qualified to inject the characters with the depth of personality that’s going to make them household names. And Sara enjoys a unique chemistry with Brian — check out her character work and her storytelling on “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” and tell me I’m wrong — so pairing them up on this series was a no-brainer. We are fully committed to make the “Guardians” live up to their reputation as “Tomorrow’s Avengers.”
Getting into some fan questions this week, SpiderX had a follow up from a previous column where he asked, “In a previous Axel-In-Charge Brian Michael Bendis answered a question of mine about Miles which resulted in him mentioning a time skip. Will this time skip be applied to the entire Ultimate Comics line?”
Alonso: Not at first, SpiderX, but eventually the timelines will catch up as current big arcs conclude. In the meantime, I’d make sure you have a new box of tissues ready when you read “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #22. What happens in this issue gives us a story-driven reason to move forward with Miles.
In a follow-up to another column here on CBR, jameszahra asked, “In the last x-position nick Lowe and the others covered a lot of information about alot of important mutants, but they missed one mutant that I consider important….Have you got anything planned for Daken in the next year or so? If so will he be playing an important role?”
Alonso: jameszahra, dude, Daken’s dead. His dad, Wolverine, killed him after Daken brought a new Brotherhood of Mutants together to go after X-Force. Daken might be dead, but he’s not forgotten — Logan carries his memory with him, and this will impact some decisions he makes in Paul Cornell and Alan Davis’s upcoming “Wolverine,” the first issue of which is out next week. Also, readers will want to keep their eyes peeled in Uncanny Avengers where something Daken related may or may not be happening — Rick may not be done with him yet.
He follows up with a few character specific questions including, “Does skaar have a place in marvel now post dark avengers?” and ” Does Shang chi have anything coming up outside of avengers?”
Alonso: There are no immediate plans for Skaar, jameszahr. And Shang Chi — one of my personal, all-time favorites — will continue to be an important part of “Avengers,” which gives him better exposure than he’s had in years.
Finally, Stewart is bringing a UK bent to his question, saying, “As a long term Marvel Comics reader from the UK I’ve been overjoyed to see my favourite character of all time popping up in recent weeks. Three Death’s Head appearances in the last month? It’s like it’s 1990 again (in a good way…)! Given the focus on the cosmic side of things can we expect Death’s Head to appear in other series (Nova? GotG?) once the ‘Godkiller’ arc is over? And should we conclude from the end of Avenging Spider-Man #17 that there are now 2 versions of Death’s Head active in the MU?”
Alonso: There are no current plans, Stewart. Though at least one intrepid editor — [cough] Ste cough cker — continues to express interest in pursuing some of the Marvel UK characters.
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!