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, we wrap our two-part “Year In Review” edition of A-i-C. Last week went from the heights of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” to the planning for Marvel NOW! This time out, we looking in on critical darlings like “Daredevil” and “Hawkeye” and say farewell to Ed Brubaker’s “Captain America,” Brian Bendis’ “Avengers” and more as the story behind the relaunch’s genesis can finally be told. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Looking back on 2012, there were a number of Marvel series that really seemed to stand out with fans and critics which were just getting going as the year began. The first that come to mind are “Daredevil” which had only published a few issues at the start of the year. As you got to Marvel NOW! and just the state of the 2013 line in general, what did you learn from a book like “DD” that you wanted to replicate?
Axel Alonso: “Daredevil” proved that comics are voodoo, not a mathematical equation. In art, two plus two does not always equal four. It equal zero or it can equal ten. It’s all about chemistry. If you find the right creative chemistry, the sky is the limit. [Writer] Mark [Waid], [editor] Steve [Wacker] and [artists] Paolo [Rivera] and Marcos [Martin] set a goal for themselves with “Daredevil” — to step out from under the shadow of the noir trappings of Frank Miller — and they achieved it. It’s the same type of thinking — the hostile takeover mentality — that’s inspiring Marvel NOW! Rick Remender is taking “Captain America” in a decidedly different direction than the road paved by Ed Brubaker did. Matt [Fraction] is taking the “Fantastic Four” on a very different adventure than Jonathan [Hickman} did. Etcetera, etcetera.
Another big change in 2012 was the fact that a lot of guys left books after long runs. Ed Brubaker on “Cap.” Bendis on “Avengers.” Matt Fraction on “Iron Man.” Jonathan Hickman on “Fantastic Four.” Those all synched up to help make Marvel NOW! happen, but what was the first domino in all that change? Was there a guy who declared his finish first, and did that impact what the others did?
Alonso: The first piece was Brian embracing X-Men. He loved the seeds that were in place to bring the Lee & Kirby X-Men into the present and he stepped forward and owned it. When that happened, the game of creative musical chairs began. The question then became, “What writer or writers can take on Avengers?” It was like dominoes.
On the flipside, one title that came out across 2012 that didn’t seem to find its place was “Defenders.” Back when you and Tom Brevoort were doing this column together, you both spoke a lot about wanting to find the right pitch to make that franchise a success. I think that people who picked up the series by Matt Fraction and the Dodsons were really into it, but it never got enough readers to make it for the long run. What happened there?
Alonso: Go figure. Look, in this market, the road is littered with worthy books that didn’t find a big enough audience to hit their margin. We put out a quality series that just didn’t stick. I think part of it was timing, too. If we’d launched it against the backdrop of Marvel NOW!, things might have been different.
All in all, what was the biggest takeaway for you in 2012? What is the lesson you’ll most look back on in terms of making the kinds of Marvel Comics you want to see out there?
Alonso: I’m particularly proud to see a series like “Hawkeye” enjoy the type of critical and financial success it has. By proving that a Marvel comic book doesn’t have to look a certain way on the rack to get attention and find a loyal fan base, it changed the internal discourse around what makes a successful commercial cover. Early on, I told [editor] Steve Wacker that we needed to send a loud-and-clear message to retailers and fans that this wouldn’t be like any other “Hawkeye” book they’d ever bought — starting with the cover. The gorgeous logo and cover designs he and [artist] David Aja came back with had some folks scratching their heads, but I thought sent exactly the right message. In a similar vein, by discarding the iconic team shot in favor of a more conceptual approach, the covers for “Avengers Arena” perfectly telegraph the high concept of the series, and contribute to the considerable buzz around the series. We leaned into the “Hunger Games” of it, the “Lord of the Flies” of it. Yes, folks, this book is “Battle Royale” with superheroes.
Another thing I learned was the power of collaborative writing. This wasn’t my first rodeo with a big event story featuring multiple writers and artists — I’d cut my teeth on “Messiah CompleX” and “Second Coming” — but “Avengers Vs. X-Men” was so much bigger in its scope. And I truly believe that the story benefitted from the combined might of its five writers and three editors. “AvX” gave me a lot of confidence that we can do more of this in the future.
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!