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, with a brand-new event on the horizon for March in “Age of Ultron” and possibly another around the corner with whatever Marvel’s “X-Termination” is, the discussion swings back to events and what they mean for the publisher. Axel dives in on the lessons “Avengers Vs. X-Men” taught Marvel in regards to “Ultron’s” accelerated shipping schedule, explains the ins and outs of family events driven by creative and editorial and talks on some of the “event” stories hitting Marvel solo books in the weeks ahead including “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Hawkeye.” Read on!
Kiel Phegley: This week, I wanted to frame our talk around the idea of events. “Age of Ultron” just got announced, and from the look of it, we’ve got an X-event of some kind on the horizon for March. “Ultron” is running on a very accelerated shipping schedule, which follows up on a shorter publishing period for “AvX.” What did the latter do that helped inform how this next story is going to roll out?
Axel Alonso: One thing we learned from “AvX” was that the accelerated schedule increased the momentum of the story. Makes sense, really: If your event offers cliffhangers galore, readers don’t want to wait too long to see what happens. So when we looked at all the issues of “Age of Ultron” we’d banked, we realized we had the opportunity to do the same thing here. Brian [Bendis] has crafted a huge story with a massive cast, and amazing art, and readers won’t have to wait too long between issues to see what happens next.
We’ve talked in the past about the balance between letting monthly books have room to breath on their own while also feeding the summer blockbuster fun of events. Does the accelerated schedule help you strike that balance better?
Alonso: Yeah. First of all to address those who say that Marvel editors are woefully unaware of the event fatigue that is plaguing fandom, they’re ignoring the raw facts of the numbers. Events build community and remind readers of the shared universe, and readers come to them. That said, no one appreciates individual titles more than me. I grew up reading comic books that offered different flavors, and that hasn’t changed. That’s why I’m so excited about Marvel NOW! With what’s going on in core titles, like “All-New X-Men,” “Captain America,” and “Thor, as well as titles like “Deadpool,” “Hawkeye” and “Avengers Arena.” Each is guided by an individual vision.
How do you strike a balance between these titles and the big events? You leave it to the creators. You simply ask, “Who wants in?” If the path Thor is traveling doesn’t dovetail into the event, then Jason [Aaron] just opts out. And a series like “Hawkeye,” that’s not built to tie into events like this, you let it do its own thing. Will core titles like “Avengers” or “All-New X-Men” get involved? That really comes down to the creators. If they feel that what’s happening in the event is relevant to their books and what’s happening in them, then they can tie in.
For a while, we had two kinds of events – the line-wide event that a zillion books tie into and the “family” events that would encompass either the X-books or the street-level books or what have you. For a moment, Marvel was oscillating between the two. Now with “shorter” running line-wide events, how often are you looking to do smaller events like this “X-Termination” one that’s incoming?
Alonso: Editors know that I’m receptive to these kinds of events. If Steve Wacker comes to me and says, “Dan Slott and I have been discussing doing a Spider-Man event,” and it’s got meat on its bones and it ties to some of the other Spider titles, why wouldn’t I be interested? Look what happened with “Spider-Island.” Same thing if two editors come to me and propose a crossovers between, say, “Punisher” and “Daken,” and it yields something like “Franken-Castle.” It’s a shared universe.
You mention Spider-Man, and that to me often feels like a third plank which is event stories that aren’t multi-title publishing events. The recent story that’s building up to “Amazing” #700 feels like that kind of event even though its only three issue. What’s been the response you’ve gotten in the offices to the move?
Alonso: We’re thrilled. Both by the content and the sales. We’re already being told that this is a sales recording-breaking book! Dan [Slott]’s instinct’s for crafting Spider-Man events has proven rock solid over the past few years, and I have no doubt that this is going to be one of those stories that’s discussed for years.
Even though Spider-Man is a part of the broader Marvel U in being on the Avengers and what have you, his world still stands apart in many ways. “Amazing” has been on its own for a long time. How do you view his place in the Marvel U? It is the marquee title in the line, but do you want to keep it out of the larger event churn when possible?
Alonso: Spider-Man is our premier solo character. The twists and turns of his personal journey have sustained him for 50 years and counting. Remember: It was a radical move when he joined the Avengers – there were editors and writers that were adamantly opposed at the outset because he has traditionally been such a loner. At the end of the day, Spider-Man’s path is forged by the creators and editors who are entrusted with him. When they propose a story – like Dan did with the one in progress – it’s up to them to sell the room on why it’s a good idea. Spider-Man is in good hands. Dan and Steve always have a long-term plan for Spider-Man filled with cliffhangers, twists and turns that are super-fueled by an accelerated frequency.
In a smaller way, we heard this week about Matt Fraction’s plans to bring the real world into “Hawkeye” with a story about Hurricane Sandy. That’s obviously something driven by Matt’s own personal feelings on the storm and its aftermath, but as far as publishing goes, what does it take to upend the schedule in order to meet his creative desire without letting the book fall behind? Does that create an “all hands on deck” scenario there?
Alonso: Absolutely. Matt wanted to it, we crunched the numbers to figure out how it would work, and that was that. The fact that Matt’s story is topical, timely and relevant to people right now just deepened our resolve to find a way to make it work. And let’s face it, we kind of receptive given the fact that we were at the epicenter of the storm. Just like we did with “Heroes” and the classic black cover “Amazing Spider-Man” #36 9/11 tribute issue, there are times when you have to interrupt your regularly scheduled publishing and take stock of what’s going on in the world.
I’ve heard from a lot of folks in New York dealing with the after effects of the storm in ways that don’t reach across the country even in the 24 hour news cycle. Are folks in the offices still having storm problems on their plates?
Alonso: Yeah. Many of the staff’s lives were deeply inconvenienced by Sandy. Tom [Brevoort] and his family were without power for several days. Arune [Singh] and his wife were displaced when their apartment building was damaged, and have been crashing with family ever since. Several staffers walked miles to work in the days after the storm. Some braved 3-hour-long bus lines. I myself biked into work from Brooklyn. Downtown Brooklyn was like the fall of Saigon. Lower Manhattan looked like a scene from “I Am Legend.” Midtown Manhattan was business as usual. It was the most surreal bike ride I’ve ever taken. So yes, the whole staff was affected by the storm, it was just a matter of degrees. I don’t think anybody was fully prepared for it. You never are.
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!