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 the debut of Spider-Man’s all-new sidekick Alpha in the pages of the 50th anniversary our conversation swings to the concept of new superhero characters. Why is it so hard to launch new ideas into the Marvel U? Who are the recent characters that have broken through? When will we see the Runaways next? All these questions and more are answered below. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: This week, Marvel celebrated Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary with the introduction of Alpha — Peter Parker’s new sidekick. This isn’t the first time in recent memory that you guys have used an issue or event with a spotlight on it to introduce a new character. We hear a lot of talk about this online, but why do you think it remains hard to introduce a new superhero character to the market?
Axel Alonso: All I know is that it takes time for a new character — no matter how well they’re initially received — to acquire the juice to anchor their own series. Readers are invested in characters that have been around for a long time, and maybe they’re cautious that a new character won’t be around for the long haul? I dunno. But it is a challenge.
That said, we’ve introduced several new characters over the last few years that’ve anchored their own series — from Miles Morales to Hit-Monkey — and we’ll continue to do so when inspiration strikes. In the case of Miles, we killed a very popular character — Ultimate Peter Parker — and replaced him with a totally new character and the solo series is doing very well.
A character like Miles, Brian Bendis took the lead crafting who he is on the page, but everyone in the office got together early and had some input. What was the process like for Alpha? Was there as much discussion around this idea in advance, or did Dan Slott bring this idea in and run with it?
Alonso: Like with most things surrounding “Amazing Spider-Man” right now, this all came down to Dan’s desire to do the story. He work-shopped it with [Senior Editor] Steve [Wacker] and [Assistant Editor] Ellie [Pyle] to make Alpha’s story the centerpiece of the 50th Anniversary Spidey issue, on sale this week. The idea all along had been to sort of re-imagine the Spidey origin story taking the out the key lesson that Peter Parker learned at the end. I think it’s something people are going to dig.
With Alpha, you’re talking about Spider-Man taking on a sidekick, which is a paradigm shift for the character: Peter Parker, the eternal student becoming a mentor. What better place to tell that story than “Amazing Spider-Man” and what better time than Spidey’s 50th anniversary?
If one of the creators comes in with a pitch for a new character, does Editorial often try to find a specific platform to debut them on?
Alonso: The best platform is usually hiding in plain sight — meaning, it’s the title that the creator is working on that moment. You just look to position it carefully. Alpha was always going to appear in “Amazing Spider-Man,” but making him a central part of our 50th anniversary plans made him more special. “Hit-Monkey,” on the other hand, was just a cool idea and a cool title and it was different so we did it. When my boss, [Publisher & President] Dan Buckley, said, “Okay let’s do this.” I said, “Can I get that on tape?”
There have been a few characters in recent years that have worked their way through the Marvel U organically. Amadeus Cho stands out in that regard, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve been at convention in five years where someone hasn’t asked after the Runaways. What do you do in cases like that where a character or group has proven popular but maybe not strong enough to hold their own title of late? Is there a way to keep that interest from waning?
Alonso: We’re well aware that “Runaways” has its fans — hell, there are plenty on staff — so they’re always on our radar. But we’re in no rush to do it wrong. It’s all about timing and execution. And we do have a plan for them, about which you’ll be hearing soon — even if you don’t know you are.
We’ve been talking for a while here about the ability to launch new titles with fan favorite characters as opposed to brand new ones. Marvel has just had a few brand-new series debut on the market. How’s the response been in terms of your expectations for these kinds of books?
Alonso: The buzz around new series like “Hawkeye” and “Captain Marvel” has been very encouraging. Both are top-quality series that went back for second prints within days. When you’ve got a book selling big numbers like “Avengers Vs. X-Men” is, that creates the oxygen for a great series like “Hawkeye” to really thrive. And if we’d launched it during the excitement of Marvel NOW!, who knows if it might have scored even higher sales?
In the past, events have been used to launch new series like “Secret Warriors” coming out of the overall tapestry of “Secret Invasion.” With “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” we’ve focused mostly on the big name heroes who already have their own book, but there have been other characters with some time in the spotlight like Hope, Namor…
Alonso: Iron Fist!
Exactly. Do you have a sense of any new series that may spin out of this event? Are there any books coming that you couldn’t have done before “AvX”?
Alonso: Well, for starters there’s “Uncanny Avengers” and “A+X,” neither of which could never have happened without “AvX.” And don’t forget Nova, whose crash-landing in “AvX” #1 set the stage for the series. And then there’s Iron Fist. We didn’t go into “AvX” saying, “Let’s make Iron Fist pop.” He just became an organic part of the story as it unfolded, and his role grew as the story came into focus. I’m thrilled because I’ve been a huge fan of Iron Fist since I bought “Marvel Premiere #15” at the local five-and-dime.
Moving into fan questions, vin31 asks, “Will we see more Vision in Marvel NOW!? I think he is the most underestimated Avenger!! What do you think?”
Alonso: Love the Vision, vin31! But you’ll have to wait and see whether he has a place among Earth’s Mightiest as we announce and reveal more about the Marvel NOW! titles in the weeks and months to come. But we’ve not forgotten him.
On a related front, joshc167 follows up last week’s Ant-Man discussion asking, “Any chance of Hank Pym showing up as Ant Man again? Will he even play a role in Marvel NOW!? When will he bring Jan back to life? It’s long overdue. I may be in the minority on this, but I would Love a new Ant Man and Wasp ongoing. Hank and Jan please.”
Alonso: Sorry, joshhc167, but at the moment Hank Pym is Giant-Man, and it’s as Giant-Man he’ll remain in the world of Marvel NOW! But he’ll definitely be around, in a couple of places, actually.
Finally, CowboyCliche wants to know: “Will we be seeing Elektra pop up any time soon? I heard that Zeb Wells had an “Avenging Spider-Man” story with her. Any new developments?”
Alonso: Yes. This, for starters.
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!