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, we bring you a special CBR TV installment of AXEL-IN-CHARGE as we caught up with the Editor-in-Chief at the Marvel booth on the floor of last weekend’s C2E2. There, we discussed several new announcements at the show including why its time for “Hawkeye” to return to an ongoing series, what major event drives the Ultimate Universe crossover “Divided We Fall” and why it was time for Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi’s return to “Wolverine.” Plus, more NBA talk! Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, it’s a big show for Marvel in terms of announcements coming out of the gate. One of them we talked about last week in the column, which we now know is “Hawkeye” by Matt Fraction and David Aja. When we talked about that last time, you said that was a character you guys knew you wanted to put a spotlight on. What was it about the character that you wanted to make “Hawkeye” work as a solo book and about Matt and David and the approach of it that all came together?
Axel Alonso: Well, it was just one of those instances where Hawkeye has always been a character I’ve loved since I was a kid. I really wanted to take a swing at him in an “Avengers” movie year. It just made sense to me with Hawkeye’s profile going through the roof with “Avengers” that we would take our best stab at it. It began in a casual conversation with Matt, really not even pitching him. He loved the character as well, filed it away, continued to talk. He said, “I think I may have an angle on this.” We spoke of it further, so he gave me a three or four sentence pitch of what he would do. It was really in line with what we’d been talking about and where we saw the character moving and that was that. At that point, we started talking about an artist. We knew we wanted the book to have a distinct look, send a message to readers about the tone and the vibe of the book. David Aja emerged immediately as a possibility given his work with Matt before on “Immortal Iron Fist.” We knew they had creative chemistry and that was that.
One of the things about Hawkeye is that he’s always been so well known as the cocky Avenger. He’s been known as the foil against a lot of other people on that team. What was the challenge for you guys in making him to stand out in a solo book where he’s got no stiff guy like Captain America to play off of?
Alonso: Yeah, well, I think the important thing is – and I don’t want to give too much away about the tone and style and how Hawkeye’s rendered in this comic book -Â but we’re trying to step away from a lot of the previous conception about Hawkeye. We’re trying to keep the baby and lose the bathwater. I’ll leave it at that. I’m really excited about this book. I think it’s got a certain swagger that this character frankly needs.
So, another big announcement is the new Ultimate Comics imprint crossover, “Divided We Fall,” which is something you’ve been talking about in a vague terms for a while. In what ways were the initial meetings about the line something that helped lead to this? In what ways did [the change in writers] change the dynamic if at all of what the long-term plan for the Ultimate line was?
Alonso: Good question, big question. When we relaunched the Ultimate line, what was important to us was that each book have its own identity first and foremost but that we were moving down parallel roads to something that would allow us to show decisively that the books worked against the backdrop of one universe and that the stakes are real for all three books. There was a kernel of an idea in what Jonathan [Hickman] was writing and where he was headed. When we went through the writer switch, we got Sam Humphries and Brian Wood coming on board to join Brian Bendis, it was like a piece of clay that would be shaped a little bit. We knew we would be bringing back Ultimate Captain America and with some fanfare, explaining where he was, why he was gone, what was going on and why he’s back. We have a nifty story called “Divided We Fall, United We Stand” that we are fine-tuning even as we speak that I think is going to be fantastic. It has ramifications for the whole Ultimate Universe, you’ll see all three titles dealing with the same type of quandries, the same kind of problems. I’m thrilled as hell that Brian and Sam have joined us and I think that’s really what the Ultimate line is about is bending it, breaking it every once in a while like you can and using young up-and-coming talent with really unique voices.
We had the Diamond Retailer dinner the other night, and Arune [Singh] was up there talking a little bit about this series and saying in the past you guys have done things that have gotten a lot of attention because Johnny Storm died or because Miles Morales was a different kind of Spider-Man. He said that for this book, something that’s going to get people talking is a decision. Is that something you guys are thinking about what you can tell that a big, impactful story is that don’t fit the classic “we kill ’em off, we replace them” type of story?
Alonso: How can I answer around the edges of this? This is a really cool book because right out the gate, you’ve got your stirring “Avengers Assemble” moment when the big three are re-united. There’s no doubt why they’re reunited, the stakes are clear and understandable. There’s no time to mess around. It’s a spoiler a little bit, but Cap stands at the center of the story. He’s a character dressed in red, white and blue for a reason that should hint at part of why he’s back and what it is that he needs to do. It’s a big moment, a big moment for Captain America.
The other big project that’s getting announced this weekend is “Sabretooth Reborn.” Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi are coming back and finishing off a story that you edited originally I talked to Jeph Loeb a little bit earlier about this but he had said they knew they wanted to leave Sabretooth dead for a while and let that story lay there before they came back to it but maybe even they didn’t anticipate it was going to take six years. When it came time to finally put those two back together and you were Editor-in-Chief, what was your input in trying to get that second half of the story?
Alonso: To be honest, I just wanted to get it done. Again, I was really happy that we waited as long as we did because Sabretooth is of course a fan-favorite character, a really cool character. We’ve had him off the table now for many, many years and he’s back with a vengeance and you’ll understand why. The last time you saw him, he was being decapitated. How do you come back, what’s he about, what’s he want, all those questions are answered in this series. Jeph and Simone has a very unique chemistry. It’s that thing you catch lightning in a bottle with two – a writer and an artist – who just really understand one another. A writer who really knows how to write for his artist, an artist that knows exactly what the writer wants out of his script, and I think it’s going to tear things up in the pages of “Wolverine” very soon.
Alonso: I did, as a matter of fact. I attended the second game, the Utah game, that he started, and I believe that’s the game when Linsanity really started because previously, he’d had a good game against the Nets where he’d lit up Deron Williams and people were really surprised. “Who is this guy?” But almost anyone can have one stand-out game, but in this game, he just took over again. He drove hard to the rim and chants for MVP started. It was for me one of the first times I’ve ever really rooted for the Knicks. I’m a die-hard Golden State fan. I like the Sixers. I’ve never been a Knicks fan, no matter how hard I’ve tried, but as close as I’ve ever come is those games.
What do you think about the rest of the season? It’s been a short season, there’s been a lot of ups and downs for a lot of teams and people are kind of watching to see if it’s going to shake up with the teams on top. Do you have a pick for who you want to see in the finals?
Alonso: Well, I preface it by saying, “Anybody but the Heat.” I found myself last year for the first time in recorded history actually rooting for the Lakers, not once but twice. And on both those occasions, they went up against the Heat. I just don’t like that team. I don’t like the way it was put together. Nothing personal, but I just don’t like that team. You need villains when you’re watching sports, just like in comics. You need a good hero and you need a good villain. Right now, I’m really happy that the Bulls beat the Heat last night. That maintained a stranglehold on first place in the Eastern Division. I love the Bulls. I love Derrick Rose. They did so without Derrick Rose, which is very promising. My hope is that the Bulls will emerge out of the East and I’d expect the Thunder will emerge out of the West, although I wouldn’t count out the Lakers, and I think it’ll be a really exciting finals. If the Heat gets to the finals, I’ll root for whoever is opposing them, including the Lakers.
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!