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, Axel shares some of the behind the scenes planning on Marvel’s next major events as he checks in from a recent Editorial summit on 2014 plans from “Infinity” and beyond. Plus, he shares a look at what it took to put Angela in the Marvel Universe with an exclusive peek at her first “Guardians of the Galaxy” appearance, notes what it takes to make “Infinity” stand out on the page and answers your questions on titles you will and won’t see in the future of Marvel. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, as I understand it you guys had an editorial retreat this week. What was the focus there? Were you finalizing plans for things surrounding “Infinity” or looking more long term?
Axel Alonso: We didn’t doing any story sculpting at this summit. We just did a big picture analysis of the Marvel Universe — took a look at where each book is headed, where books potentially intersect, how everything maps out. Between “Infinity” and its aftermath, we’ve got a lot of exciting stuff ahead.
Did you have any books that surprised you in terms of where they were going? Do you learn things you don’t expect in a big overview like this?
Alonso: Because we spend so much of our time at the larger summits going over the core titles — “Avengers,” “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” — the true surprises of this meeting were titles like “Daredevil,” “Deadpool” and “Avengers Arena.” The talent lineup for “Savage Wolverine” after [Frank] Cho and Joe Mad, for instance, or Gerry [Duggan] and Brian [Poesehn]’s hilariously twisted plans for “Deadpool.” Seeing how these titles and others lock into our post-“Infinity” plans was a blast.
Well, not to give those books the short shrift, but there is some big book stuff to talk about this week starting with the end of “Age of Ultron.” Marvel debuted Joe Quesada’s new design for Angela yesterday, and we’ve got some more looks at how she’ll appear in “Guardians of the Galaxy” right here. As a team, how has the secrecy surrounding the event and the coordination of having Neil, Brian and Joe all chipping in to this character debut been on the task of getting the event wrapped in a satisfactory manner?
Alonso: It hasn’t been that complicated. Between conference calls, Skyping and the old-fashioned way — just getting together in one room to talk [Laughs] — it’s been easy. The moment we knew we were bringing back Angela at the end of “Age of Ultron,” the pressing question was, “How’s she going to look?” so Joe [Quesada] could get cracking. So we dealt with that quickly. To solve the larger stuff — how she fits into the Marvel Universe — we convened a small group of editors, Joe and Brian Bendis to review Angela’s existing mythology and see how it could map against the Marvel Universe. We had some ideas that we sent to [Angela creator] Neil [Gaiman], who incorporated what he liked, discarded what he didn’t, and put together a rich backstory that shows that Angela has always been here, and a mythology that is fascinating, easy to understand and tethered to the Marvel Universe readers know and love. Angela doesn’t come from another dimension; she’s always been a part of the Marvel Universe.
I feel like there haven’t been as many stories in Marvel’s past about Heaven and angels and the like. We’ve had Mephisto and Son of Satan and plenty of the Hell side of things, but not from up above. Did you explore that as you were discussing this?
Alonso: No one will be able to guess Angela’s mythology. Who she is, how she fits into the Marvel Universe and, indeed, what the term “angel” means will surprise people. That’s part of the genius of what Neil, Brian and the whole Editorial team has cooked up. We’ll peel back the layers of Angela’s origin, backstory and the culture she comes from over time. And there will be plenty of clues the first few times you see her.
Bendis has made some pretty big declarations about the end of this series being unguessable. Are you done on production for the final issue yet, and if not, are you being pretty clandestine about who sees what as it comes in?
Alonso: I think Brian might have been referring to the Angela reveal, but there are, of course, other big surprises in store at the end of “Age of Ultron,” and we’ll take steps to protect them. That said, there will always be people out there who delight in leaking information and spoiling it for readers. There are so many people who have access to information after the book goes to the printer, after it’s printed, after it’s distributed — it’s impossible to prevent leaks, even if it is possible to track down culprits after the fact. That said, I actually think pirates and gossips hurt fans a lot more than their intended victims: creators and publishers. Does it hurt sales? I dunno. The sales of “Amazing Spider-Man #700” sure don’t seem to indicate that. Does it hurt fans that want to enjoy the surprise as a part of their actual reading experience? My guess is yes. I mean, if can get through “Madmen” Season 5 without someone spoiling the ending for me, it’ll be a miracle.
We’re also just on the other side of Free Comic Book Day, and that brought people their first taste of the “Infinity” event. It felt very much like you guys worked in some visual cues to the scene at the end of the “Avengers” movie, but it also swerved away to let Jonathan Hickman build his own mythology around some of the supporting players. In general, are you working to be easily identifiable to broader pop culture and movie fans without being beholden to what the movies are doing?
Alonso: What you’re asking is really a variation on, “What came first — the chicken or the egg?” Don’t forget: The Thanos that popped up in the epilogue to “Marvel’s The Avengers” — the guy with the purple skin and dimpled chin — looked like the Thanos comic readers know and love.
Look, when we found out about the Thanos epilog and Marvel Studios’ plans for a “Guardians of the Galaxy,” we decided to take advantage of both and make the cosmic universe as relevant to the core Marvel reader as anything you’d find in “Avengers,” “X-Men” or “Spider-Man.” So far, the response to “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova” has been fantastic. “Guardians” was the number one book in April. While we don’t want our cosmic universe to present an aesthetic that is completely at odds with the movies, we aren’t worried about matching up 100 percent.
On “Infinity,” we’re seeing the latest permutation of Marvel’s new model of getting multiple artists for a book but finding ways to not make that transition jarring to readers. Jim Cheung is doing the first wave of the story before Dustin Weaver and Jerome Opeña come in to do some specific parts of their own. How did you work to assign them beats that would work to their strengths?
Alonso: It’s the same challenge that “AvX” presented, that any multi-shipping ongoing series presents. You have a story that’s going to be told on an accelerated schedule, so you sit down to figure out which artists are appropriate and available. And with an event story like this, you tend to have enough advance time to get the artists you want. There was no one better to set the stage for this story than Jimmy, and the Jerome and Dustin are top-flight artists who excel at drawing the kind of free-wheeling science fiction this story is all about.
Jonathan has done big events before between his parts of “AvX” and his various “Fantastic Four” milestones. Do you get a sense of whether there’s something different in how he’s taking on a big crossover event?
Alonso: A writer flexes a different set of muscles on an event. For one thing, his ideas run the gauntlet of 1, 2 or even 3 Editorial Summits before they cement. With great power comes great responsibility! [Laughter] When Jonathan accepted “Avengers,” he knew he’d likely find himself in the driver’s seat of a big event, and that cosmic forces were in the wind. It was simple math. What he’s concocted is an epic that will remind everyone that it’s called the “Marvel Universe” for a reason. Cosmic and earthbound heroes fighting side by side for the same stakes. It’s not just hype when we say that, in terms of pure scope, this is the biggest Marvel event ever.
Well speaking of size, we’ve got the news this week of some of the “Infinity” tie-ins including the August issue of “Avengers Assemble” which join the already announced tie-in for “Thunderbolts.” Tom Brevoort has talked before about trying to find the right size for the number of tie-ins on this event, knowing it would be bigger than “Age of Ultron” has been in that regard. How did you determine how books like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s series would jump in and out of the event as it started rolling?
Alonso: With “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” we limited tie-ins to Avengers and X-Men titles. Since “Infinity” presents the Marvel Universe with —
potential spoiler alert — two vast threats that must be met on two different battlefields, there will be two different types of tie-in stories, but we’ll manage them carefully. We want to make sure that each tie-in is meaningful. We won’t stretch to make connections. And, we will make sure that the core series, “Infinity,” stands on its own two feet as a complete story — a satisfying seven-course meal — with the tie-in series bringing additional layers to that story.
Looking at a few fan questions this week, Mix_Masta_Micah hit a common question from the crew, asking, “I’ve really been digging all of the Marvel NOW titles, especially New Avengers with Black Panther, and loved the news that there would be even more Marvel NOW titles coming down the pipe. I also applaud the genuine efforts made for diversity within the company recently. Is there any hope we will be seeing T’Challa have an ongoing or more spotlight in the future?”
Alonso: There are no plans for a Black Panther ongoing right now, Mix_Masta_Micah, but he will remain a major player in “New Avengers.”
mushroom2703 wants to know, “Now that Winter Soldier is about gone, can we look forward to any new espionage titles to keep that corner of the MU fleshed out alongside Secret Avengers?”
Alonso: Count on it, mushroom2703!
Taral-DLOS says, “With Puck in Uncanny X-Force, Northstar in Astonishing X-Men, and Omega Flight featuring in Avengers #10, I’m hoping for a revival of Alpha Flight. I’m hoping for a Marvel NOW (phase 2) Alpha Flight series, and for you to continue putting 1983 Alpha Flight books on the Marvel/Comixology app (the first 8 issues are there; but please more!) So my question is: will Alpha Flight be coming back in 2013/14?”
Alonso: No immediate plans for a new “Alpha Flight” series, Taral-DLOS…at least in its last incarnation.
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!