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 overseen both critically acclaimed and best-selling comics, Alonso stepped into the spot of Marvel’s editorial department in early 2011, and has since worked 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!
With “Original Sin” now at its halfway point — issue #5 is out this coming Wednesday — Alonso comments on the progress of the Jason Aaron-written, Mike Deodato-illustrated event series thus far. Additionally, Alonso discusses what motivated the launch of “Guardians 3000,” coming in October from Dan Abnett and Gerardo Sandoval, and starring the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, Alonso shares his thoughts on the latest cast announcement from the “Daredevil” Netflix series, DC Comics’ new creator participation payment plan, the freshly announced “Marvel 75th Anniversary Special,” and your questions, straight from the CBR Community!
Albert Ching: Axel, last week brought another name to the 2015-debuting Netflix “Daredevil” series, with the news that Rosario Dawson has joined the cast in an unspecified role. What do you think of that latest addition?
Axel Alonso: Totally cool. She’s terrific and I hear she’s a huge fangirl. I’ve never met her myself, but I know a number of people that say she really knows her comics — I think she’s even written some, right? — so we’ll have one of us up there, you know? [Laughs] I’m really digging the casting choices for this show.
RELATED: Rosario Dawson Joins “Daredevil”
And the chances of you meeting her have probably gone up considerably. Moving to comics, the “Original Sin” event is now at its halfway point, with four issues out and four issues left to go. How do you feel at this point about how the story developed, and the response? Has it met its goals — which seemed to be, at least in part, doing a different type of event, from genre to the approach to tie-ins?
Alonso: The response to the event has been tremendous; on top of healthy orders, we’ve seen an uptick in sales as the series progresses, which means it’s getting great word of mouth. And we’re on track to accomplish all of our creative goals, as well. We’ve only peeled back a couple layers of the onion, so far — plenty more to go — and we’ve managed to shine a spotlight on a few characters that will be vital figures in the Marvel Universe moving forward… well, those that survive the event, at least.
Uptick in sales — is that in terms of reorders?
Alonso: With every comic, attrition sets in and sales go down from issue to issue. With “Original Sin,” we’ve turned attrition upside-down; reorders have been steady and rising each week on all issues. By issues #4, 5 and 6, we’ve actually seen higher orders with each subsequent issue as readers get pulled into the story and retailers have the chance to revise their orders up.
Have you monitored fan reaction to “Original Sin” at all — obviously sales is one indication, but general talk and discussion?
Alonso: I don’t always have time to tune in, but when I do, the voices that get my attention are the ones that make their points with a degree of sophistication. I’ll agree with criticism and disagree with praise, depending on how it’s doled out. That said, I think the steady uptick in sales speaks loud about how fans feel about “Original Sin.”
This week, Marvel announced a 64-page “75th Anniversary Special” with classic names and current creators both contributing. From your perspective, what’s the right way to go about a project like that? It seems like the kind of thing where it can be very easier for it to feel obligatory, like it’s being done just to do it.
Alonso: Putting together a special like this relies on a certain creative… voodoo. There’s no formula to follow — just your gut. What you try to do is find a healthy mix of talent and stories. In this case, you’re celebrating seven-plus decades’ worth of stories, so you want to make sure you hit a lot of different notes.
Were you involved much in that book? Based on the initial interviews, it seems to be mostly a Tom Brevoort project.
Alonso: This is a Tom Brevoort Joint Â© TM. I made a call to a creator, that’s it.
Marvel also made a “Guardians 3000” series official this week, starring the classic Guardians team first seen back in the ’70s. What inspired bringing that team back full time?
Alonso: Uhm…Because we could! [Laughs] We figured we’d make use of the original team at some point, but with the Guardians’ Q-rating about to reach global proportions, we figured, why wait? People are responding to the Guardians in a major way so we figured, why not go back to the roots, to the originals, and have some fun? A group of scrappy underdogs battling to save the galaxy from the hostile alien armies of the Badoon? Sounds like a win-win.
It actually does feel a little surprising, since this team is so different, in setting, characters and concept. It seems like there might be a possibility of brand confusion. Was that a concern at all?
Alonso: At this point, the Guardians are well known enough that we’re confident brand confusion won’t be an issue. It’s time to have some fun and stretch the concept, and who better than Dan Abnett, whose debut novel for the Marvel Prose line — “Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon & Groot Steal The Galaxy” — is in stores July 2?
Obviously, he and Andy Lanning introduced the current-day Guardians back in 2008, so was he always the obvious choice for this series?
Alonso: Yep. Dan’s a terrific prose writer, and we figured that his head would be swimming with ideas for an original Rocket and Groot story. We figured right. He’s serving up an all-new intergalactic bromance adventure that you won’t want to miss. During a spaceport brawl, Rocket and Groot rescue an android Recorder from a pack of Badoons, only to learn that everyone — from the Kree Empire to the Nova Corps — seems to want to get their mitts on this guy. Oh, and he’s bat$#!# crazy. It’s a wild ride, featuring the timely appearance of one of their Guardians teammates.
A “New Avengers Annual” was released this week, written by Frank Barbiere in his Marvel debut, after projects at Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment. What was it about his past work that landed him on Marvel’s radar?
Alonso: Barbiere’s work on “Five Ghosts” and “White Suits” caught the attention of Assistant Editor Jake Thomas. Jake thought Frank wrote dynamic stories and nuanced characters so he reached out to him for an annual he was casting. Frank delivered a pitch that delivered everything Jake wanted — most notably, a deep understanding of what makes Strange work and how to test him to spotlight his strengths and his weaknesses.
It’s notable that this “New Avengers Annual” is essentially a Doctor Strange solo story. Can it be seen as testing the waters at all for a future “Doctor Strange” solo series?
Alonso: There is a Doctor Strange plan. I’m not going to get into the who’s, when’s or what’s, but I will confirm that we have a writer, and he or she has got a very firm handle on what they’re going to do. Doctor Strange’s role in “Original Sin” helps us get there.
This week was also the debut of the new “Savage Hulk” anthology series, with the first story written and drawn by Alan Davis. What do you see as the importance of doing these types of series, that are a little bit outside the mainline continuity — more timeless stories?
Alonso: An anthology series like “Savage Hulk” gives a creator a wide-open canvas — the opportunity to tells a tory that is unencumbered by what’s going on at this precise moment in Marvel continuity. I think that’s always healthy, whether we’re talking about “Savage Wolverine,” “Savage Hulk” or “Savage Ant-Man.” Also, a series like this also allows an editor to go off the normal Rolodex when making assignments. The talent line-up we’ve got for “Savage Hulk” will prove that. After Alan Davis’ opening arc, Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko are co-writing an arc that Hardman is drawing, and as anyone who’s familiar with the pair’s writing on the “Planet of the Apes” books already knows, these two can tell a terrifically savage, fun story. And then Jim Starlin takes the Hulk into outer space to battle a Hulked-out Annihilus. And Thanos wants a piece of him, too.
Also wanted to get your opinion on DC Comics’ major announcement this week to their talent, that they were restructuring their participation payment plan for creators — notably now including colorists as royalty recipients, and giving them cover credits.
Alonso: We’ve had that policy for years, but we didn’t think it warranted an announcement to the comics industry fan press… but kudos to DC for doing it. Colorists are an integral part of the creative process; they’re artists.
Another element of what DC announced is factoring digital and print sales as the same for meeting royalty thresholds. Is that Marvel’s current policy?
Alonso: I’m not familiar with DC’s plan. But regardless, it’s inappropriate for me to publicly discuss or compare payment policies.
Before we get into fan questions, do you have any words you want to share following the news that Warren Simons, who you worked with during his time at Marvel, is now a fellow editor-in-chief, over at Valiant Entertainment?
Alonso: I’m really happy for him. Warren grew up here, he did great work here, and he’s wielded his Rolodex well over there at Valiant, so more power to him.
You worked on quite a few books together at Marvel, correct?
Alonso: Yeah, Warren started as my assistant and worked his way up to full editor. We were very simpatico. He was a great hire for Valiant.
Diving into questions from the CBR Community, CityofAngels has a question about one of the most perennially popular mutants: “I’m really enjoying the trouble Gambit is getting himself into in “All New X-Factor.” But are their any plans for the character outside that book? It seems like he’s been on the outside of the X-Men for a while now.”
Alonso: We’ve got plenty of trouble planned for Gambit in “X-Factor” right now — like sleeping with the wife of corporate head that founded his team — but nothing just now for him outside of that book. I’m sure he’ll pop up like a bad penny just when it will upset things most.
Let’s wrap the week with Sasquatch by Night, interested in James Rhodes’ future whereabouts: “Ales Kot and Garry Brown’s ‘Iron Patriot’ has been one of my favorite comics this year, and while I’m sad to see it ending with #5, it was an entertaining read. My question is, where will we see Rhodey popping up next?
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!