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, the shape of Marvel’s incoming Marvel NOW! initiative took new shape after a packed weekend at Fan Expo Toronto and a packed call with retailers addressing the state of the relaunch. To help sort out who’s left standing when the brand new #1s come into shops, Axel takes on legacy titles from “Daredevil” to “Uncanny X-Men” explaining why some changed and why some had to go. Plus, he addressed perpetual fan favorite series like “Alpha Flight” and “Runaways” while digging into recent news of new projects for Marvel’s mature readers MAX line. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, we’re talking shortly after your return from Fan Expo in Toronto. How was the show this year? Any standout moments? Any great Deadpool cosplayers?
Axel Alonso: The standout moment was when we had not one, but two Deadpools on stage at one of the panels — a female Kidpool and a guy who called himself “Chubbypool” who kidnapped the mic and asked us some rather pointed questions of [Marvel NOW! “Deadpool” artist] Tony Moore. Apparently, Chubbypool didn’t get the memo about Wade’s redesigned costume. The other highlight of the con was bumping into the always gracious Stan Lee on the customs line going home. I mean, what’re the odds? And about three places behind us was John Carpenter, who directed my all-time favorite movie, “The Thing.” Pretty cool.
Having gone to panels at cons for years, I’ve gotten used to hearing certain questions from fans over and over again — the Runaways one is a common occurrence, for example. Now that you’ve done a few shows after the Marvel NOW! announcement, are you getting a feeling for what people are asking after the most on that front?
Alonso: People want to how the Marvel Universe is going to be different after “Avengers Vs. X-Men.” They want to know who lives, who dies, and why there’s a team called “Uncanny Avengers.” And yeah, there were a lot Runaways questions. As usual. [Laughs] There’s a hardcore fan base that can’t wait to see that book and those characters again.
And how many people asked you if there was going to be an “Alpha Flight” book in Marvel NOW!?
Alonso: [Laughs] They always ask about Alpha Flight in Canada. Always. [Senior Editor] Steve Wacker, in fact, infiltrated the audience at the X-Men panel and chided us for not having an “Alpha Flight” ongoing.
Well, at least they know there’s someone on staff speaking up on their behalf.
Alonso: At least we know who’s going to edit it. We’ll do it again. We need to find the right pitch and pick the right time.
Speaking of common questions, this week you and David Gabriel did some calls with retailers about their expectations for Marvel NOW! and one of the interesting questions that seemed to pop up there were fears that this was not so much a jumping on point as a jumping off point for some readers. What do you say to fans who feel like the end of runs like Bendis on “Avengers,” Hickman on “FF,” Brubaker on “Cap” and Fraction on “Iron Man” feel like places to stop picking up those books?
Alonso: I’d say this is a bad time to drop a title because you’re likely to regret it. If you’re a fan of a certain title, you’re going to be treated to a fresh creative take that’ll knock your socks off; if you’ve been curious about a title you’ve never read, you’re looking at an ideal jumping-on point that will give you good reason to come back. Every single creative team is bringing their A-game to their title. The stories count and we’re making sure that they’re accessible to both lapsed and new readers. If you pick up an issue #1, you’re not going to be lost — we’ll provide enough information to get you up to speed and enough good story to keep your attention.
One of the other topics that came up in the call was lessons learned from the New 52, to which you specifically brought up creator burnout and turnaround. How do you view that challenge in your line? In what ways can you ensure that Marvel NOW! is more a marathon than a sprint?
Alonso: You will not — repeat not — see a creative team of a Marvel NOW! series kicked to the curb off after the fourth, fifth or even seventeenth issue. The writers of the books we’ve announced — Brian Bendis on “All-New X-Men,” Jonathan Hickman on “Avengers,” Matt Fraction on “Fantastic Four,” Rick Remender on “Captain America,” Jason Aaron on “Thor: God of Thunder,” Kieron Gillen on “Iron Man,” Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn on “Deadpool” — have long-term plans for the titles that they will see through. We’re talking 2- to 3-year plans, at the least. And 85-90% of the time, the artist who draws #1 will be the regular artists on the title: John Romita Jr. on “Captain America,” Mark Bagley on “Fantastic Four,” Mike Allred on “FF,” Greg Land on “Iron Man,” Esad Ribic on “Thor: God of Thunder”… With the exception of one yet-unannounced title that will feature rotating creative teams, these books will be the product of long-term vision.
In the past when we discussed books that would and wouldn’t be included in the line, you had said that you could think of one specific title that wasn’t going to change. After hearing about some of the plans, I can name a few that don’t seem set to change. “Daredevil” is locked in place with Mark Waid’s vision. “Amazing Spider-Man” is on course for #700. Then there are things like “Dark Avengers” with a new mission statement but the same creative team. What overall is the main criteria for not making a piece of the Marvel U a part of the relaunch?
Alonso: The #1 on every Marvel NOW! cover is a message — indeed, a promise — to fans that this is where the future for that title begins. That you’ll be picking up a book that presents a clean entry point into the universe of that character that’s new and fresh and exciting and different from what preceded it. In the case of “Daredevil,” the future began 18 months ago when Mark Waid, Paulo Rivera and Marcos Marin walked Daredevil out from under Frank Miller’s shadow and haven’t looked back. We’re not changing anything about it, so putting a #1 on the cover at, say, the beginning of a new story arc would be false advertising.
For a while, we’d see Marvel relaunching frequently with a new #1 for a movie or what have you. This happened with “Captain America” and with “Thor” last year. Did you learn any lessons from previous relaunches that informed how Marvel NOW! took shape as a whole?
Alonso: This is the biggest initiative of its kind here at Marvel since I first came here, and Joe [Quesada] was E-I-C. A line-wide creative change that’s affecting about 90% of the line. So it’s about a lot more than just reenergizing one title, or a cluster of titles — it’s about reenergizing the entire line. A number of our top creators — Bendis, Fraction, Aaron, Brubaker — have enjoyed long and prosperous runs on core monthly titles and are ready for new challenges; the conclusion to “AvX” provides the platform for them to do just that.
I am personally passionate about Marvel NOW! because it reminds me of the way I felt when I first came to Marvel 12 years ago as part of the editorial team that was tasked to revitalize the line. Our strategy was simple: put a great creative team on a great title, and task them to tell a great story that’s accessible to all types of fans. The only difference now is that we’re telling all these stories in a universe we’ve spent the last decade building. A universe we’re invested in. Everything we’ve built counts; everything fans have read counts.
One other interesting tidbit I heard out of Fan Expo that I wanted to confirm is the idea that “Uncanny X-Men” may not be coming back. We know that “All-New X-Men” seems to be leading the charge for the mutant line, so does that mean that for the first time in decades there will be no “Uncanny” book to serve as the franchises anchor?
Alonso: Yes. “All-New X-Men” is the new flagship X-Men title. “Uncanny X-Men” simply wasn’t an appropriate title for the series that Brian and Stuart Immonen have planned. This is a book where the Lee & Kirby X-Men jump into the future, the same world inhabited by the current X-Men — or what’s left of them after “AvX” — and everyone takes a good look at one another and goes, “Oh $#!#” Believe me, if you are an X-Men fan or if you’ve ever been curious, now is the time to start reading.
When all is said and done, are there any other long established series that won’t be coming back?
Alonso: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be coming out with a new round of teasers that will hint at new titles and new creative teams. Some of these will be easy to decipher, some will have readers guessing.
For fan questions this week, I thought we’d take things in a completely different direction by zeroing in on a corner of the Marvel U near and dear to you: the MAX line. First up MarvelMaster616 stopped by to ask, “First off, I want to say I’m a big fan of the MAX series and I’m glad that Wolverine is finally getting the MAX treatment. Can you tell us how long this series will run? What else can we expect from the MAX series in the future?”
Alonso: “Wolverine MAX” is an ongoing series written by crime novelist Jason Starr and illustrated by Roland Boschi and Connor Willumsen, with covers by the incomparable Jock. I’m super-excited about this series and can’t wait for you guys to read it.
In a similar corner, Wolverine12 wanted to know: “I really enjoyed Kyle Higgins Supreme Power mini series, I was wondering if you have any plans on using these characters again?”
Alonso: We have no current plans for “Supreme Power” right now. Maybe somewhere down the line.
Finally, Sissel had two questions, asking, “Do you think Garth Ennis will write another MAX title?” and “If Wolverine MAX is a success, could we see more MU characters in this universe? Hulk or Spider-Man MAX would be awesome.”
Alonso: I sure do hope that Garth writes another MAX title. Maybe it’s time he and I go out for a beer… As far as other Marvel Universe characters go, who knows? Show of hands for Shang Chi? Howard the Duck? Luke Cage?
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!