SPOILER WARNING: Some minor “Avengers” movie spoilers lie below for those who haven’t seen it yet.
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, Axel returns from vacation to dive into the story that took over the comics internet last week Northstar headed towards his wedding in the pages of “Astonishing X-Men.” The Editor-in-Chief recalls his own role in the first Marvel series to make waves for its dealing with sexual orientation – “Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather” – while discussing the change in the industry over the past decade and the way story should lead characters gay or straight into their adventures rather than marketing. Plus, Axel answers your questions about the guest stars of “AvX” from Spider-Woman to She-Hulk and readies the world for a Doop-tastic Saturday. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Welcome back, Axel! Last week, there was so much talk around the “Astonishing X-Men” wedding issue, and I wanted to pick your brain about not just the story but also the reaction in a historical context. A decade ago, you were the editor who put together the “Rawhide Kid” miniseries that made a big splash on CNN and across the media landscape, often incurring a negative reaction from anti-gay groups. At that time, did you anticipate that series to become such a controversial thing for Marvel?
Axel Alonso: Truth be told, I thought “Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather” might draw fire from both sides of the battle-lines. [Laughter] I mean, we were doing a story that totally deconstructed the Western paradigm and the concept of the enigmatic gunslinger, in a tongue-in-cheek style. But I never expected that it would garner the worldwide attention it did. You can’t predict something like that.
Since that time, there’s been a lot more diversity in the Marvel U on this front. I assume there was some internal discussion before “Rawhide Kid” hit about the choice to portray the character as gay, but after that series, did those walls break down a bit more allowing creators to just tell the stories they were interested in?
Alonso: There are plenty of gay characters in Marvel Comics that fly under the radar. Take Phat and Vivisector, for instance: teammates on the [Peter] Milligan/[Mike] Allred “X-Force/X-Static” series that were also lovers. I don’t remember them provoking any controversy and I don’t think “Rawhide Kid” paved the road for them or any other gay characters; the opportunity was always there. Whenever you create a new character, the details of their interior or private life – stuff like their sexuality – will at some time become relevant.
The best example of this is my all-time favorite TV character: Omar from “The Wire.” Omar turns all the stereotypes upside-down because his sexuality is just one aspect of who he is. Watching this lone wolf stickup man operate, you immediately wonder why he works solo or with a very small crew, why he isn’t himself a drug kingpin or at least a high-ranking member of a large gang. And when you learn that he is gay, you immediately understand why perhaps those weren’t options for him. This subtle detail illuminates Omar as a character. And I’ll bet that no one in the writer’s room for the “Wire” said, “Hey! Let’s create a gay gangbanger!” They created a 3-dimensional character and let the details fill in themselves.
Fast forwarding to today, you said when the “Astonishing” news hit that the discussion around the wedding started after gay marriage became legal in New York. Did those discussions focus on Northstar because he was the Marvel character who had been most firmly established in regards to his sexuality – that he was the first and that he had a boyfriend in Kyle and so on?
Alonso: Our best stories reflect stuff that happens in the world outside your window. When the Twin Towers fell, we did the Spidey black cover issue [“Amazing Spider-Man #36”]. when New York State legalized gay marriage, we wondered how Northstar – an openly gay super hero who’s in a long-term monogamous relationship – would respond to that development.
The world outside New Yorkers’ windows is one where gay marriage is recognized. But remember: For Northstar and Kyle, getting married is just the beginning of the story – the easy part. Marriage isn’t about the week’s vacation in Tahiti – it’s about the weekend trip to the K-Mart. A year from now, who knows – we could be looking at the historic divorce issue! [Laughter]
Did you get a chance to see the segment on “The View” where the story was announced?
Alonso: No, I haven’t seen it yet. I was in Jamaica when it aired. I heard it went well.
I watched, and it was kind of noteworthy in how un-noteworthy the announcement was. They read the news, and everybody was extremely positive about the choice. It was a far cry from the “Rawhide Kid” days, and different than any of the kind of crazy fringe blowback that came in when Mile Morales was announced. Internally, have you guys found that this “Astonishing” wedding isn’t causing the kind of stir that we’ve come to expect from these storylines?
Alonso: The response has been mostly positive, you’re right. And we almost tripled sales so there’s definitely interest in the story. But we’re more interested in the long-term story possibilities of this development than a quick blip in sales. This is not an editorial; it’s a story. How anyone on the creative team feels about gay marriage, pro or con, is irrelevant. This is a story about something that happens to be law in New York, but we’d be doing the story a great disservice to ignore that gay marriage is a divisive issue. There are characters in this story – some very close to Northstar – that won’t acknowledge the legitimacy of Northstar’s vows, and their point of view will be fairly represented — in the wedding issue and in coming months.
Fan questions for the week had a strong thread of “AvX” supporting cast members to them, starting as Drew@616 asks, “Will Spider-Woman have a AvX VS issue? Now that Seems Marvel give a opportunities female characters Have Marvel plans about her?”
Alonso: Sorry, Drew@616, Spider-Woman isn’t featured in any of the “AvX Versus” issues, but she does have a central role in “New Avenger #28,” which is an AvX tie-in issue. That said, if you’re hankering for a throw down between two formidable female characters, check out the Black Widow/Magik fight in issue #4. And then there’s the Psylocke/Daredevil fight and the Emma Frost/Thor fight in issue #5. And the Storm/Black Panther fight in #6. And the…oops, we haven’t announced that yet.
O a similar bent, vin31 asks, “For years i was waiting Visions come back and thanks God you did it!I want to know if he will has a main role in AvX or he has a AvX VS battle!!Many new readers has no idea of him and his true powers,i think is a good opportunity for them to know more about him!”
Alonso: The Vision will be represented in “AvX,” but beyond that I can’t say any more.
And then Ravin’ Ray wants to know, “Given She-Hulk’s recent showings in AvX (albeit getting pwned), and her inclusion in the cover for one of the August issues, does it mean a return for her to active Avengers membership (in whatever shape or form the Avengers will be post-AvX)?”
Alonso: Only time will tell, Ray. But I wouldn’t rule it out.
Moving on to some movie-related questioning, we’ve got D. Perez asking, “Considering that both Avengers and Spider-man has a movie out this year, is there any chance for a Spider-man/Avengers miniseries by Christos Gage and Mario Alberti, like their Spider-man/x-men and Spider-man/Fantastic Four?”
Alonso: No plans for that at the moment, I’m afraid. Christos has his hands full with “X-Men: Legacy,” “Avengers Academy” and the upcoming “First X-Men.”
On a similar front, Spidey616 asks, “Since recent news on the Iron Man 3 film indicate the Ellis/Granov “Extremis” storyline as a major influence, curious if we’ll be seeing the Extremis concept or characters associated with it like Maya Hansen revisited?”
Alonso: Uhm…Next question!!!!
He follows up with, “It’s no secret you have a fondness for Doop, so gotta know if you had any influence on Doop’s first ever appearance in animation in the Ultimate Spidey cartoon?”
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!