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 explains the whys and wherefores of Marvel’s summer event planning. Between “Age of Ultron” and “Infinity,” the publisher is unleashing an extra dose of “must read” books over the summer months, and that opens questions on how much is too much. As part and parcel of their growth around the books, Alonso addresses what makes DC Comics’ Villain Month campaign like and unlike Marvel’s own Point 1 initiatives and why even with a second wave of Marvel NOW! titles on tap, the publisher has no plans to flood the market with more comics than it can sustain. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, summer is officially here, and I think we’ve seen a change in the publishing pattern because for a while you guys would launch summer events so the big story beats carried over the next few months and convention season. This year, we’re wrapping one event in “Age of Ultron” shortly and will be seeing another with “Infinity” start in early fall. How do you view the place of events on the calendar?
Axel Alonso: Convention season is relevant, but it’s not a determining factor. We view summer events kind of like summer blockbuster movies — they’re a great escape at a time when it’s hotter out and people have a bit more free time — so we do like that June/July launching pad, but if the stars don’t align, we don’t force it.
With “Age of Ultron,” we’re starting to see the seeds sewn for what will crash back into the Marvel U and even some things that will line up with “Infinity.” Everyone knows the front half of this story was written and drawn quite a while ago, but how did the latter story beats develop? Did you and Brian Bendis have to dig back in and figure out how this was going to work in the current Marvel U?
Alonso: Absolutely. When we saw the window of opportunity to ubnleash “Age of Ultron,” Brian was the first to recognize that this event could build bridges to stuff we were planning for the future. The fact that the clay was still wet helped a lot.
There are a few big Marvel U stories hitting that summer gap this year like Mark Waid’s Hank Pym one-shot or the incoming “Hunger” series. But how much coordination has been done between Brian and Jonathan to link the two events?
Alonso: “Age of Ultron” has a number of ripple effects in the Marvel Universe -Â one of those being the emergence of Angela as a key player — but it doesn’t directly tee up “Infinity” the way that, say, “Avengers Vs. X-Men teed up “Uncanny Avengers” or “Uncanny X-Men.”
Like all our summer events, “Infinity” is kicked off by an inciting incident — or incidents — that takes place in that series. So whether “Infinity” #1 happens to be your first comic book in years, or you’re a weekly reader, you will be sucked into the story. We’ll establish from scratch the world — or, this case, universe — the players and the stakes, and we’ll make sure that core series stands on its own two feet as riveting story. The tie-ins will allow for a deeper dive into the characters, themes and subplots.
We’ve been seeing teasers for “Infinity” this week with something called “Mighty,” and while often these things are very similar in approach, I liked seeing Jonathan Hickman’s own fingerprints on these as they use his hexagon design approach. Does he come in with this stuff prepped, or have you been working to find how to make your efforts match his?
Alonso: To be honest, I don’t know exactly how that image came together — I was in Jamaica last week! [Laughs] But I love it! I know what it refers to, of course, but what inspired the graphic, I’m not sure?
Well, the going assumption on a word like “Mighty” is that it’s foretelling a new wrinkle in the makeup of the Avengers or even a new team. Is that the right direction to be leaning in?
Alonso: Okay, okay — it’s “Mighty Avengers,” a new ongoing series that will be launching in the course of “Infinity.” The writer is Al Ewing, who’s gotten strong notices for his recent “Avengers Assemble” issues during “Age of Ultron,” and the artist is the amazing Greg Land. In addition to the cast members we’ve revealed in the teaser campaign — Luke Cage, Superior Spider-Man, Blue Marvel, She-Hulk, Power Man, White Tiger — there’ll also be other characters in the mix, including Spectrum (the new code-name for Monica Rambeau), the Falcon and a new mysterious iteration of Ronin. With the Avengers off in space dealing with the threat of the builders, somebody’s got to step up in the face of Thanos’ assault-and these are the guys who are going to do the job.
All right, then! As I said a minute ago, you’ve got some stories following up on “Age of Ultron” including the #10A.I issue which is a slightly different take on comics you’ve done before from the Point-1 issues to the follow ups to “Fear Itself.” At the same time, DC has announced that it’s using its own “point” style numbering for its villains month, though as Robot 6 pointed out, that’s coming after they ribbed you a bit about that in the past. What was your reaction to that piece of the playbook proliferating?
Alonso: It’s always flattering when another publisher adopts an aspect of your business model. It’s a great measure that you’re doing something right.Â [Laughs] That said, I don’t think DC is using the concept of the program the way we did.
Drawing this out more broadly, the criticism we hear about things like Point books or post-event series or any kind of extra project is that they can flood the market. How do you warn against putting out books just for the sake of filling those shelves?
Alonso: The goal of our Point 1 initiative was to present a clear entry point into the universe of an ongoing series through the addition of ONE Point 1-labeled title that provided a self-contained read. A reader could toe-test the waters of a monthly series to determine if they wanted to go for a deeper swim. Our Point 1 initiative did not compel retailer or reader buy-in, and we didn’t — to use your word — “flood” the racks with multiple Point 1’s that fell under the logo of one series.
As for how we handle events: From “Civil War” to “AvX” to the upcoming “Infinity,” our policy is to provide a core event series that stands as an independent story, and complement it with a modest amount of tie-ins that provide a deeper dive into that story for the reader. We never promote the idea that a reader HAS to buy all the tie-ins to understand or appreciate the core story.
We extended this general philosophy to how we handled our Marvel NOW! campaign. Marvel NOW! was always about the individual series — the strength of the writers and artists and the stories they were telling. While a one-month explosion might have made more headlines, and potentially spiked the sales of some smaller launches, we thought that a more patient, 4-month rollout was better long-term for everyone — retailers, fans, and us. And we were right.
To zig and then zag, I know that James Robinson Tweeted for a moment this week that he may be working on something involving Namor for Marvel, though it turned out to be a joke. Any chance he’s part of the second wave of Marvel NOW! titles?
Alonso: Hmmm. I’m told James is a weekly Marvel reader. I think he’d be a really valuable contributor to Marvel.
But connecting our conversations here, we’re waiting to hear on Wave 2 while most of the original books are still going strong. Are you discussing how the line can hold itself as a practical level if you’re introducing more and more titles regardless of their staggered shipping out the gate?
Alonso: Our second wave of Marvel NOW! titles should be every bit as appealing to readers and retailers as the first wave, and a lot more surprising. The creators, characters and high concepts driving these new series really flesh out the line. I can think of two launches already underway that have a decidedly different sensibility and flavor from anything we’re publishing right now. So, if we find ourselves in a situation where we have a few more hits…well… I guess we’ll deal with that problem when we get there! [Laughs] Right now, the Marvel NOW! Wave 1 books are very healthy, and we see no reasons to pull our punches.
Looking at fan questions this week, we had some dissent on the boards about something, and I thought I’d air both sides to see what your take was on character redesigns on the whole. So first, Toboe asked, “Any chance that the Falcon will get a costume update to be similar to his Ultimate/movie suit like Hawkeye did? Right now he even looks out of place on the Avengers with his silly red costume next to the redesigned Captain America.” But shortly after that, KurtW95 asked, “Could you tell us the next time we’ll see the classic costumes of Cap and Hawkeye? The movie equivalents are just not cutting it for me. Also, will Falcon’s, Winter Soldier’s and Quicksilver’s costumes be changed too once they appear in movies. Because that would be a shame.” How do you lean on the argument of tighter uniformity with the movies on this?
Alonso: In most instances, Toboe, our aesthetic and design decisions aren’t driven so much by editorial mandate as by the artists themselves, who are influenced by the film treatments and start skewing towards them in their own work. After the first Spider-Man film, for instance, everybody suddenly wanted to draw Spidey’s costume with a raised web-pattern. I’d imagine that the same will be true of the Falcon and Quicksilver and whomever else down the road.
Surprisingly, Spidergreen12 asked the following before DC made their announcements this week: “Hey Axel, I would like to know if Marvel has any plans to launch any ongoing or even mini-series focused on Villains. I was excited to here about the launch of “Superior foes of Spider-Man” and for the longest time, I’ve been thinking that Marvel could really benefit from ongoing series based off some of their most iconic villains. I for one, would be all over a Dr. Doom series.”
Alonso: It’s something we discuss often, Spidergreen 212. Look for some surprising moves from major villains in 2013-2014, starting with Thanos in “Infinity.” Speaking of which, I sure hope you’re reading “Thanos Rising,” which is sort of an informal prequel to “Infinity.” Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi are crafting an amazing origin story that will show you why everyone has good reason to fear this guy.
Icey1999 is asking about something that’s a hot topic online now when he says, “Any BIG plans for Ultimate Marvel in the works, like a new event?”
Alonso: Ultimate plans are TOP SECRET right now, Icey1999, but we have something huge planned for October. Look for some clues in Josh Fialkov and Carmine di Giandomenico’s current arc of “Ultimates.”
And let’s wraps with two from Spidey616 who asks first, “The end of Frank Cho’s Savage Wolverine arc seemed to hint at a larger story. Will Cho or another creator be following up on the storyline’s events with a future project?”
Alonso: Nope. That’s the end. We’ll never see those characters again. Ever. Promise. Though they seemed like a major threat to Earth and other major planets and are headed toward Earth, there’s no way we’ll ever see those characters again. Ever.
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!