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 opens the book on some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes coming to the Marvel Universe in the pages of its biggest titles. First, the Editor-in-Chief discusses Kieron Gillen and Dale Eaglesham’s incoming “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark” and explains how it will and won’t impact the Iron Man fans know and love. Then, he digs into Brian Bendis’ current signature series to reveal what the events of this week’s issue (spoiler’s ahead) means for the fate of Miles Morales in “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” as well as what Angel’s defection means for the time-lost teens of “All-New X-Men.” Plus, Alonso’s picks for the NBA playoffs! Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, this week comics folk are busy with C2E2, and there’s some comics stuff to chat up here as well, but I thought we’d start with the NBA playoffs because we haven’t talked basketball in a while. Predictions for the end of the season?
Axel Alonso: [Miami] Heat over [Oklahoma City] Thunder in 6. Evil triumphs over good. [Laughs] What’s scary is the Heat has a second, maybe even third gear, and OKC lost the X-factor that could’ve made the difference: James Hardin. In the East, there’s always the razor-thin chance that the [New York] Knicks could catch fire and shock the world — they’ve got proven Heat-killers [Jason] Kidd and [Tyson] Chandler on their roster, and if J.R. Smith goes bonkers, who knows? — but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Of course, I’m rooting for the [Golden State] Warriors to win it all. [Harrison] Barnes’ reverse dunk added two years to the end of my life. [Laughs]
Well if it’s any consolation, I think the Bulls’ choice to keep Derrick Rose out for the whole season has effectively killed Chicago’s chance of making a run too.
Alonso: Yeah, but I think it’s a wise move to sit Rose and wait until next year, and let him come back next season, fully healed. I was at Barclay’s Center for Game 1 of the Chicago [Bulls]/Brooklyn [Nets] playoff series — sat close enough to the court to see the spit coming out of [Bulls coach] Tom Thibodeau’s mouth when he yelled at his players — and those guys looked spent! They’ve had to persevere through a slew of injuries just to get here, so I thought it was kind of unfair. Just for ending the Heat’s winning streak, they deserve a bench in NBA heaven. [Laughs]
That game was amazing.
Alonso: It looked like one of those physical late-’80s/early ’90 playoff games — you know, Pistons/Bulls or Bulls/Knicks. Hulk vs. Thing, drawn by Jack Kirby.
Well, like all good comics and movies, everyone loves a sequel, and I think it’d be fun for another Heat/Thunder Finals. We’ll see.
Alonso: Look, any team is going to have to play out of its mind to beat the Heat, and it’s probably going to need two true superstars to do so. LeBron [James] is playing at a sublime level. I don’t think he warrants comparisons to [Michael] Jordan yet — the kind made by sports pornographers that celebrate statistics over actual accomplishment — but right now he’s the best player in the league, which is amazing when you consider how well [Kevin] Durant has played.
Okay, let’s get down to business on actual comics before the message board rebels against me. It seems we’re at a point with Marvel NOW! where some of the creators are taking a chance to shake things up after establishing their core pitch. “Iron Man” is a good example. The incoming “Secret Origin of Tony Stark” arc promises to make some big revelations about Iron Man’s past. How did Kieron Gillen sell you guys on a story with this focus?
Alonso: Kieron pretty much got the job on the strength of the ideas that drive “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark.” Fact is, Iron Man joining the Guardians of the Galaxy just forced Kieron to wait a little bit to tell this story. And understand: When Kieron pitched this story, he had to run the gauntlet of the editorial summit so, rest assured, what he’s crafted is a story that will be satisfying to the most continuity-minded reader. It’s bound to cause debate, but Kieron definitely did his homework.
Whenever we get a story that makes claims like that, you’re riding a fine line of what to change or keep or twist. Comics is littered with stories that tried to make changes to origins like that which failed miserably. In general, what do you look for in a pitch that redefines an origin that will prove its worth?
Alonso: Let’s be clear about one thing: This story doesn’t totally change Tony Stark’s origin. It reveals a heretofore-unrevealed pocket in his origin that, shall we say, deeply illuminates who he is and his relationship with his mother and his father. It also introduces a major new character who’ll be very important to Tony’s future — I can’t emphasize enough how important. You will look at Tony very differently at the end of the story.
What do you look for in a pitch that redefines an origin? Honesty and extra effort in the research. If you’re going to do something like this, you can’t contradict what’s held to be “canon” about the character, and you have to consider what it will subtract or add to the character down the road. If your story will lead to a well-spring of fascinating stories, you’re onto something.
Of course, the challenge of shaking things up isn’t just one people have to deal with when they’re new comers to a franchise. I know this week, we saw a big shake-up to “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” as Brian Bendis and company killed Miles Morales’ mother. So many comics start out with “the parents die” and then send the hero on a path from there. Is this specific wrinkle that Brian has been wanting to get to for a while, and how will it directly impact the flow of the story?
Alonso: The best superhero stories usually involve tragedy at some key moment in the life of the hero. And the best Ultimate Comics stories echo old Marvel stories, but veer in new and unexpected directions. What Brian is doing with “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” well, at this point, he’s proved he’s got something unique to say with Miles Morales, just the same way he had something to say with Ultimate Comics Peter Parker before him. The death of a parent is a transformative event in any child’s life, and the death of Miles’ mother is going to have a big impact on him.
It’s always tough when a moment like this comes because the immediate reaction from readers can be “How can you do this to us? We’ve invested ourselves these characters, and you’re taking that away.” Should good stories, when told well, be upsetting in some ways?
Alonso: You can’t be afraid to upset readers. You don’t go into a story with the [intent] to upset people, but you can’t worry about that being the result. Any good story is going to inspire a strong reaction, positive or negative. And a passionate response, pro or con, means you’ve touched a nerve. Which means you’re onto something.
When we decided to kill Ultimate Comics Peter Parker, it was a huge gamble. We were killing off a much-loved character, and there was no assurance that his replacement [Miles Morales] would inspire the same amount of love. That was the risk — and the challenge — in front of everyone, but most of all Brian. But we met it. Miles has connected with readers. He’s here to stay.
Splitting the difference between Kieron on “Iron Man” and Brian on “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” is Brian on the X-Men books. Here, he’s on all-new territory and already shaking things up with the makeup of his teams as Angel is defecting to Cyclops’ side of the street in the most recent “All-New X-Men” issues. I think this all counts as lead up to the still unnamed X-event you guys have in the offing. How do you see Brian’s process here being different from past long form event stories he’s done like all the seeds he sewed in “Avengers” before “Secret Invasion” hit?
Alonso: The Avengers and the X-Men are both team books, but there’s a very different dynamic driving each: The Avengers are linked by circumstance and choice — they choose to be an army; the X-Men are linked by circumstance and genetics — they’re “blood relatives” of a sort, whether they want to be or not. All the best X-Men writers mine gold in that distinction so it’s no surprise to me that Brian, who excels at writing young characters that are searching for a place in the world, a community to call their own, is doing that now in “All-New X-Men” and “Uncanny X-Men.”
Brian inherited an X-Men universe transformed by the events of “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” one that wasn’t defined by the competing philosophies of Xavier and Magneto debate, but those of Wolverine and Cyclops. And onto that stage appeared five young X-Men, stranded in time. That’s fascinating stuff. What Brian has managed to do is cut against the grain of expectation at every turn. He understood that each character has to forge his or her own path, that they’re individuals whose choice will reflect that. Who is right: Wolverine or Cyclops? Is there a third path? Keep reading.
Getting into some fan questions, SpiderX came along — and quite impacted by the events of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” #22, I should note — asking, “Bendis recently said in an interview that the Ultimate line will go through it’s own kind of Marvel Now phase. Does that mean that the series will start with new #1 comics?”
Alonso: There are some mind-blowing things about to happen in the Ultimate Comics line, SpiderX, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Keep an eye out for more news and announcements in weeks to come.
TheAcidSkull has mythology on the mind when he asks, “The only question i have is about Hercules, will he be appearing soon in the new Marvel NOW? Possibly with his powers back?”
Alonso: There are no current plans to do a new Hercules title, TheAcidSkull, but you can find his latest appearance in the “Avengers Vs. X-Men: Avengers Academy” trade paperback, where he and the kids battle an exceptionally dangerous Sebastian Shaw.
PaxHouse was thinking Avengers when he wondered, “Any chances of seeing either Jack/Mass Master and/or Katie/Energizer within the ‘Young Avengers’ series?
Alonso: While there are no current plans to see fan-favorite Power Pack in “Young Avengers,” PaxHouse, there’s a lot of love for them in these halls so who knows what might happen down the road?
And broadening that out to the whole franchise, let wrap with marvell2100 who wants to know, “Do you have plans for any Avengers related Annuals for this year? A New Avengers annual would be cool. And how soon will we see hardcovers for Avengers, NA and Uncanny? Will they include any bonus material?”
Alonso: The first hardcover collections of “Avengers” and “Uncanny Avengers” are both available now, with “New Avengers” close behind. Extras vary, depending on what is available and how much space we have to play with. At the moment, we’ve no plans for Annuals beyond the already-released “Avengers Assemble” Annual, but it’s a big year, and plans can change.
And with that, I’ll note that next week, we’ll have another extra special guest here at A-i-C…Mr. Matt Fraction! So if you’ve got questions on “Fantastic Four,” “Hawkeye” 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!