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, Alonso reveals new details about “Infinity” – the incoming Marvel event spinning out of Jonathan Hickman’s run on “Avengers.” Featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the cosmic team of the Guardians of the Galaxy facing down multiple cosmic threats including Thanos, the event will kick off with a Free Comic Book Day preview issue on May 4 before continuing as a full on event by Hickman and artists Dustin Weaver and Jerome Opeña. Below, Axel discusses how the event grew from an Avengers story to a fully-fledged event, how Marvel is approaching the kind and number of tie-ins to the series and what role Marvel characters The Inhumans will play in the proceedings and more. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, let’s talk about “Infinity” now that it’s officially out there. Hearing Tom Brevoort and Jonathan Hickman talk about how this event grew out of Hickman’s plans on “Avengers” reminded me of “Fear Itself” which was originally planned as a crossover between Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s books but also got big at Marvel summits. What’s the process like on a story like “Infinity” that takes a story from concept to big publishing platform? What gets the ball rolling there?
Axel Alonso: Well, Jonathan was hatching a huge Avengers story that had cosmic undercurrents — or overcurrents, might be a more accurate description [Laughs] — so the potential to involve the cosmic characters — the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, and Thanos — as well as other characters we were interested in shining a spotlight on — namely, the Inhumans — was always there. Over the course of three editorial summits, Jonathan workshopped his big story into an even bigger story — a story that is truly Marvel Universe-spanning because earthbound and cosmic heroes fight side by side for the same stakes.
How do different books get folded into a story like this? We know that the new cosmic books will play a large role here. Sometimes do these things spread across the line because, say, Dan Slott is in the room when it’s pitched and then a Spider-Man tie-in grows out of it?
Alonso: Yeah. When ideas hatch in the editorial summits for universe-spanning stories, it’s the prerogative of any writer to build connective tissue to the series he writes. But we don’t mandate that. During “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” we only did tie-ins with the titles that made sense. That’s going to be the game-plan with “Infinity,” as well.
When we talked about “Avengers Vs. X-Men” in its buildup, you spoke a lot about how that inciting incident of the Phoenix Force hitting earth really brought everything together. Is there a similar hook that’s galvanized what “Infinity” is for you?
Alonso: In “AvX,” an extinction-level event galvanized the Marvel heroes into camps, and everything exploded out of that. In “Infinity,” there are a couple of inciting events — or one inciting event whose ripple effect creates another inciting event. Let’s just say Marvel’s heroes have their collective hands full, the battle is fought on two fronts, and when things seem to get about as bad as they can, they get worse. Like I said before, no event narrows the gap between our earthbound and cosmic heroes like “Infinity.” Anyone who is not reading “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Nova” — and judging from sales, a lot of fans are — will be searching for back issues or trades when “Infinity” is underway. And I wouldn’t be surprised is back-issues of the Inhumans heat up, too.
I remember when Brian Bendis was writing “Secret Invasion,” there was a beat-sheet of what happened in issue #1 that was pitched out to writers across the line asking if they wanted to tap into that in their own books. Is there a similar pitch going out to determine the tie-ins for “Infinity”?
Alonso: Yes. We want things to be organic. It’s the writer and editor huddling and deciding to pitch a tie-in; not me saying, “Yo, Jordan [White]! Get me a “Deadpool” tie-in!” We don’t lean on any of our writers to tie in. Although, a Deadpool tie-in might be kinda cool…
Look, Marvel NOW! did what we wanted it to do. It revitalized the monthlies and reenergized the talent pool. Events add a dimension to the Marvel Universe that should compliment the monthly publishing plan, not uproot it. If a writer and artist think there’s an opportunity to tell a good tie-in story to an event, I won’t discourage that, but I won’t demand it, either. It’s better for a writer to come up with the best story within the universe of that character than search for connective tissue that doesn’t exist.
The first line of defense for this is Tom [Brevoort], who always stands at the epicenter of our big events. If he’s not convinced it’s a legitimate tie-in story, I probably won’t be. And we both agree that oversaturating the market with tie-ins that aren’t really relevant is a bad long-term strategy that erodes fan and retailer confidence.
Earlier you mentioned the Inhumans as big players in this story. Those are characters who are classic Lee/Kirby concepts whose number seems to come around every ten years or so. What’s your conception of those characters in the Marvel U, and why was now the time to bring them back?
Alonso: : I’ve loved the Inhumans since I was first exposed to them in some stories drawn by Neal Adams back in the day. Karnak, Gorgon, Medusa — they looked like the hippies of the Marvel Universe. I remember thinking, if any super hero had a bong and a black light poster on his bedroom wall, it would be an Inhuman. [Laughs]
It’s starts with who the Inhumans are: the ultimate outsiders of the Marvel Universe — a rootless nation of outcasts.
First, there’s their origin: They were created to be a weapon in an interstellar war – the Kree experimented on humans to create super-soldiers to defeat the Skrull – then abandoned the experiment when the feared it would seal their doom. So the Inhumans were test-subjects that were tossed in the trash, the bastard children of a genetic experiment.
Then, there’s their society they formed — strict, somewhat repressive, understandably paranoid, and rootless. I mean, they have a kingdom –
Attilan -Â but it’s always moving: one moment, it’s in the Himalayas; the next, it’s in Atlantis; currently, it hovers a few miles above Manhattan. So they’re kind of nomadic, really. And the monarchal society they’ve built enforces rigid rules of conformity, including a caste system that reminds everyone of his or her place in that society.
And then there’s the process by which they get their powers: Terrigenesis. At a young age, they’re exposed to magical vapor called Terrigen Mist that transforms them into something else – only they have no idea what that’ll be until they step out of the mist. It’s kind of like existential Russian roulette: Will the vapor transform you into something glorious and powerful, or ugly and pathetic? Actually, it’s a lot like puberty…
So it’s safe to say that the Inhumans are ripe with metaphor and meaning. [Laughs] And we intend to prove that. Our goal is to bring them to the same prominence as what we’ve managed to do with Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Inhumans will play a big role in “Infinity,” and continue to be key players in the Marvel Universe after that.
How has Jonathan been responding to that challenge of taking all these characters from Black Bolt in “New Avengers” on down to new faces like Smasher in “Avengers” and rolling all their subplots into one big series like “Infinity”? Are there any elements or characters he’s pulling to the forefront most as the event looms?
Alonso: I think you can always count on Jonathan to keep his eye on a few central characters, and bring them to the forefront of the story. But writing “The Avengers” or “Infinity” presents a very different challenge than writing the Fantastic Four, which is about one family. The Avengers is an army that is sometimes a family. [Laughs]
Jumping into some fan questions for the week, AnonymousMC asks, “Hey Axel, can’t wait for Infinity, Thanos is my favorite villain and I anticipate his return to earth. Quick questions: Will we see a return to any of Thanos’ foils in Infinity particular Genis Vell or Silver Surfer? Also being that earth will be some what sparse with super heroes, do you plan on using any obscure characters? I think someone like Blue Marvel would be great to throw down with Thanos.”
Alonso: Genis is dead, Anonymous, but it’s not unlikely that you might see the Surfer as part of “Infinity” — and also not impossible that some out-of-the-way players like the Blue Marvel might find a role to play.
Following up on that sentiment, Drew@616 asked, “Any plans for Spider-Woman in Infinity?”
Alonso: She’ll be among the Avengers in the series, yes, Drew.
Hey, let’s keep on the “Infinity” track all the way through with ian33407 asking, “Will we see Howard The Duck, Agent Of SWORD playing a role in Infinity?”
Alonso: Howard the Duck, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. — did we ever really get that desperate? Sorry, no plans for Howard — but with Leinil Yu drawing the “Avengers” tie-in issues to “Infinity,” and his penchant for inserting HTD in these big mega-event stories, it’s possible that he might yet show up!
Lastly, let’s get two from Spidey616 staring with, “Know Charles Soule is writing a few issues of Thunderbolts after Daniel Way leaves, is a new permanent writer in place? Tom Brevoort also mentioned T-Bolts having some Infinity tie-ins, will Soule or another writer be working on those specific issues?”
Alonso: Expect a full announcement “Thunderbolts” creative team by the end of the month, Spidey616. Issue #14 will be the first issue of the new ongoing creative team, as well as the first issue of the book’s “Infinity” tie-in, so it will be a must-see book. We’re very excited about the new team and what they’re going to bring to the book.
And then, “It’s been revealed the Skrull Empire will be back in prominence during Infinity, so gotta ask if we can expect the Young Avengers title to tie-in specifically Hulkling and his potential destiny with the Kree or Skrulls that fans are still wondering?”
Alonso: While “Young Avengers” won’t be tying into “Infinity” specifically, sharp-eyed readers might have noticed a few Skrulls in the very first issue of the series — and they’ve got beef with all things Kree.
And with that, I should wrap the week by announcing that next week, we’ll have another special guest here at A-i-C…Mr. Mark Waid! So if you’ve got questions on “Daredevil,” “Indestructible Hulk” or any of his Marvel work, head to the thread below to ask!
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!