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 Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
This week, we take a look inside the more unexpected relaunches of All-New Marvel NOW!. From Mark Waid setting “Hulk” up for a new era with Mark Bagley to Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’ “Amazing Spider-Man” revival of Peter Parker and on through the entire Ultimate Universe getting a new facelift, the biggest series get their due from Axel. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, I understand this has been a busy week at Marvel with another creative summit taking place. Who came in and what was on the agenda?
Axel Alonso: This was a one-day, editors-only planning summit. We gathered to go over the broad-strokes of major storylines and take a look at how the stories in the ongoing series overlap. We do this 2-3 times a year to see how everything maps out for the next 18 or so months. Helps us avert potential car crashes…and arrange for some nifty carpools. [Laughs]
With a ton of series launches just having hit, are the writers far enough out in their work that the newly minted All-New Marvel NOW! titles are already plotting out their long game here, or do you stagger how the schedule and plots all come together?
Alonso: Many of the newly-minted Marvel NOW! series are planned several months ahead, including an instance where two series overlap for a very cool story.
I also understand that you’ve had a number of sellouts on this first wave of titles and are going back to press. I’d assume this is something you never expect to happen, but do the numbers for these series impact how you’ll approach print runs on All-New Marvel NOW! moving forward?
Alonso: We sure did. “Avengers World #1,” “Black Widow #1, “All-New X-Factor #1,” “Avengers A.I. 8.NOW,” Savage Wolverine 14.NOW” and “All-New Marvel NOW Point One” all sold out and are getting second prints. And to be honest, I’m not surprised at all. How this affects future print-runs is more a question for David Gabriel, but I’d guess he’ll factor this into the equation. We have some great stuff ahead. “Thunderbolts 20.NOW” came out this week, and next week, there’s “All-New Invaders #1,” “Black Widow #2,” “All-New X-Factor #2,” “All-New X-Men 22.NOW,” the first part of the “Trial of Jean Grey” arc. Oh, and there’s also “Empire of the Dead,” scripted by George A. Romero, and illustrated by Alex Maleev.
Let’s continue unpacking some of the announcements that hit in the roll up to Marvel’s April solicitations, starting with the new “Hulk” series. As with the soon to wrap “Indestructible Hulk” run, Mark Waid is at the helm, and it seems similar on the face to what happened with Mark’s “Daredevil.” But since so many series in All-New Marvel NOW! are only having #1-esque launches, what made you guys relaunch certain books entirely as with this one?
Alonso: In the case of “Hulk,” it’s just the simple fact that the “Indestructible Hulk” era is over. The story Mark is about to tell represents a fresh start for Bruce Banner, and the arrival of Mark Bagley is going to give the series a completely new visual identity.
I don’t think Waid and Bagley have ever worked together, which is surprising seeing as they seem to both fit that “modern creator who owes a debt to classic style” camp.
Alonso: We were talking about that the other day. It seems like such a natural fit, doesn’t it? You’d think it would have happened sooner.
I spoke to Kaare Andrews last week about his coming on to “Iron Fist: The Living Weapon,” and he said it was your suggestion he take a look at that particular character. What was it about Iron Fist you thought would be a good fit for him?
Alonso: Kaare and I have worked together since I first came to Marvel, and we just click. We’ve had lots of conversations about the comics, books and movies — from Bruce Lee to Kurosawa — that influence us, so he immediately came to mind when I saw an opportunity to launch a new “Iron Fist” ongoing as part of All-New Marvel NOW!
Iron Fist is one of my favorite characters because he bridges the gap between martial arts and mysticism. His first appearance — “Marvel Premiere Edition #15” — made such an impression on me, I actually remember buying it off the rack at the five and dime on Clement street in San Francisco. When I asked Kaare to consider writing and drawing a new Iron Fist story, I told him to start with that comic. He dug it, he kept reading, and he eventually came back with an incredible story that’s rooted in the snowy Himalayan mountaintop that took the lives of Danny Rand’s mother and father. It’s a revenge — or avenge — story in which K’un L’un’s prodigal son comes home, literally and figuratively to fight a demon from his past. Kaare has put together a story that takes full measure of Iron Fist’s mythology and supporting cast — from Steel Serpent to the Thunderer to Shou-Lao the Undying — and reconcile Danny’s place in both the Western world where Danny Rand was born and currently lives and the Eastern world where Iron Fist was born. It’s an incredible story.
And of course, the news is finally out that “Amazing Spider-Man” is coming back this spring. I think many people expected this to happen in a general sense eventually, but as someone who’s said you had an initial reticence to the “Superior Spider-Man” switch with Doc Ock, what was your standard for how and when the return of Peter Parker would go down?
Alonso: What sold me on Dan Slott’s pitch was the entirety of the story — and a big part of that is what’s about to unfold in coming months, as Otto and Peter’s fates dovetail. Once we knew the ending of the story, the only question was how long we were prepared to keep Otto in the driver’s seat. We knew the longer the road Otto and Peter traveled, the more textured the story would become, and the more meaningful it would be when Peter eventually came back. How does Peter come back? You’re about to find out. What does he come back to? Will he be accountable for what transpired in his absence? Will his experience on the other side have changed him? Keep reading. The best Spider-Man stories have Peter Parker striving against great odds, and suffice it to say, Peter is going to have a lot to strive against. It’s not going to be that easy to slip back into his life.
Let’s wrap with some talk on something that’s not strictly All-New Marvel NOW!, but you guys are also relaunching the Ultimate Universe after a fashion once “Cataclysm” ends. Was there a specific status quo or end point you were looking to set up with that series?
Alonso: In terms of endpoints, what we had was an epic enough story that warranted major status quo changes. “Cataclysm” gave us an opportunity to redefine the Ultimate Line with a new canvas while retaining the rich continuity of the line.
Particularly with the new “Ultimate FF,” this seems like a book that people have been asking after for a while. But this seems like a very far afield version of a Fantastic Four than a traditional “ultimazation” of the original series. Was that your goal in brining it back?
Alonso: Josh Fialkov had a strong pitch for the series. He’s a huge fan and had all these great pieces from his run on “The Ultimates” and “Hunger” that, when put together, formed the basis for the new direction. And this isn’t the Fantastic Four, this is the Ultimate Future Foundation.
Board member 5cents wanted to put in their…well, 5 cents on the Ultimate line, asking, “Any plans for Ultimate Jean Grey after ‘Cataclysm’?” And comic book fan gets more broad with “Why not Ultimate X-men?”
Alonso: Trying to trick us into finding out who dies in “Cataclysm”? Nice try. You’ll need to read the last issue to see who survives.
As for why no X-Men, their story had run its natural course and we felt it was time to do something different. Besides, Josh Fialkov had a strong pitch for “FF” so it was perfect timing to bring it back. It doesn’t mean you won’t see some of the X-characters interacting in the Ultimate U.
Meanwhile, Spidergreen12 said, “I’m very happy to see that Peter Parker is going to be taking back his consciousness and return to his mantle as The Amazing Spider-Man. ‘Superior Spider-Man’ has been a great ride, but I’m happy the real Peter is coming back. With all that said, I have to ask what I’m sure you’ve probably been asked a thousand times: What is your stance on “death” in Marvel comics? There are many that feel like death is much less impactful than it should be because of the rate in which characters return. How does the decision come to fruition on whether to resurrect a character or not? Do you personally feel that it’s an issue?”
Alonso: Death and resurrection is a decades-old tradition in comics that we should embrace and be proud of. It is, like super-powers, capes and tights, a device — a convention — that makes our medium unique, and that’s helped it to survive the test of time. The Marvel Universe is unprecedented, really — an ongoing narrative, featuring hundreds of characters, that’s captivated generations of readers; nothing exists, or has ever existed, quite like it. Death and resurrection is part of the elasticity that has helped it survive and thrive.
That said, when you decide to resurrect a character, you’ve got a responsibility. You’ve got to earn it. When any character dies, the savvy comic book reader knows there’s a high chance that they’re going to come back from the dead at some point; the two questions are when? and how? “When?” might be a few months later, a few years later — or never. “How?” — well, that’s the tricky part, the riddle that needs to be solved, the challenge that the writer must contend with. They have to sell the moment. That was the challenge before Jonathan Hickman, with Johnny Storm, and Jason Aaron, with Nightcrawler. In Jonathan’s case, he killed and resurrected Johnny, so the onus was really on him to make Johnny’s death as dramatic and emotionally harrowing as possible, then months later, make Johnny’s resurrection equally stirring and uplifting. I think he did both.
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!