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, Alonso gives the most information Marvel has revealed yet on the nature of the mysterious event-based teasers that the publisher has been rolling out over the past couple of weeks. That’s not saying it’s a ton of information, but he does confirm that they’re not “What If…?” stories or flashbacks — “they count.” Additionally, Alonso provides his thoughts on the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” trailer that debuted this week, and gives some hope to the many fans distraught over the news that “She-Hulk” will wrap in January 2015 — calling it the end of “volume one.” Alonso also talks the “Death of Wolverine” — as in, his actual death at the end of issue #4 of that miniseries — gives his take on a couple of announcements from earlier this month at New York Comic Con, and even talks the ongoing World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals — and answers your questions, straight from the CBR Community!
Albert Ching: Axel, first things first — feeling confident about your San Francisco Giants’ chances in the World Series?
Axel Alonso: When my son, Tito, asked me who was going to the World Series, at the beginning of the season, I told him the same thing I did in 2012: it would the Giants, because we win every other year. So I’m feeling pretty good right now.
But I bet you didn’t see the Royals getting this far.
Alonso: No one did. But at the beginning of the playoffs, [my son], who’s a sports Nostradamus, picked them to go the World Series. “Sports Illustrated,” Grantland, all the sports pundits picked against the Royals every series, but not him. [Laughs]
[The Royals] are really hard to root against. If they were playing anyone but the Giants, I’d be rooting for them.
Moving to the week in Marvel news, the first “Avengers: Age of Ultron” trailer arrived online this week — a little earlier than expected. That’s not publishing, but it’s definitely something that people are already dissecting frame by frame. As editor-in-chief of Marvel, you’ve got a unique perspective on these types of things – what in particular stuck out to you as especially noteworthy from the clip?
Alonso: I love the mood of the trailer. It’s ominous and scary and it makes me worry about the Avengers. At the Marvel Unlimited panel [at NYCC], we showed the crowd the extended trailer, and they roared so loud, we had to play it for them a second time, to even bigger applause. This trailer is doing exactly what it should be doing: getting everyone talking.
Speaking of major Marvel events — for the last two weeks, folks have certainly been speculating about these event-based teasers that have been rolling out daily, with the latest debuting earlier today on CBR and teasing an end to the Ultimate Universe. The general consensus appears to be that it’s tied to the new “Secret Wars” somehow, but what can you say about the teasers at this point?
Alonso: What I can say is that none of these teasers are for “What If?” stories. These stories really happen. And they happen in real-time — they’re not flashbacks. They count.
That’s something! And beyond trying to decipher what these teasers are about, they’re striking images on their own — high-profile artists and fun representations of different Marvel eras. Do you have a favorite so far?
Alonso: I’ve got to say, I like them all but the big surprise was the “Planet Hulk” teaser. It blew me away. Steve Rogers with a battle-axe, Devil Dinosaur, Hulks with handlebar mustaches and receding hairlines!
Speaking of Hulks and also from this past week, Marvel’s January 2015 solicitations revealed that “She-Hulk” is ending in that month. There’s been a huge outpouring of support for the book, including in our own Brett White’s “In Your Face Jam” column, following that news surfacing — what can you say about the decision to end it that month?
Alonso: All I’ll say to those who voiced their support is, we’re ending volume one.
Was any of the decision to end it here possibly at least partially a matter of Charles Soule’s schedule, given how he’s clearly one of the busiest writers in comics?
Alonso: Charles always planned “She-Hulk” as a 12-issue arc, with one long plot running through the background of several short stories. That said, the decision to end this volume of “She-Hulk” is an internal business decision that came down to a number of factors, one of which was Charles’ schedule.
And on a positive note, we’ve discussed before this push that Marvel has given to some of these lower-tier — or perceived lower-tier — characters like She-Hulk. To see this amount of support from fans over “She-Hulk,” do you see that as a sign the push is working?
Alonso: No doubt. After “Guardians of the Galaxy,” can we really say there are lower tier-characters? [Laughs] Look, any lower-tier character is just a creative team with a killer pitch away from becoming a top-tier character. Fans’ appetite for diversity and change is re-shaping the market, and we’re doing our best to nudge that change along. Take “Ms. Marvel,” for example. We’ve gone into a seventh printing of issue #1, and the digital sales are off the charts. Fans of all colors and creeds are embracing Kamala Khan because her story is universal. She is a direct descendent of Peter Parker. We’ve got plenty more to come.
Sure, and we already know there’s a “Squirrel Girl” book on the way in January. To keep on the topic of Charles Soule-written comics, we didn’t get a chance to talk about it last week — “Death of Wolverine #4” is now out in the world. Let’s talk about the actual death. That’s a big moment for Marvel, and I’m sure there was quite a bit of discussion behind the scenes on how to get it right. What can you say about what went into that process?
Alonso: It was Charles and [X-Men Group Editor] Mike Marts that decided the specifics on how Logan would die. They wanted him to die a true hero’s death and they wanted there to be some symbolism in the method of this death. And I think they delivered.
Marvel has, of course, killed off a number of its marquee characters over the years, but the “Death of Wolverine” was clearly a major deal. The creative team, Steve McNiven on art, the amount of months Marvel had built up to it, the fact that it happened in its own separate miniseries rather than within an ongoing title and the simple fact that this is a story that genuinely hadn’t been told before. Given the grand history of death stories in superhero comics, what do you think were some of the specific strengths of the story that Soule and McNiven told here, and the distinct way in which they approached and structured it?
Alonso: Obviously, when you do a story this big, you want to bring to it the highest level of craft, and that’s why we tapped Charles and Steve to do it. If I had to talk to what I deem to be specific strength of the story, I’d say it was Charles and Steve’s ability to touch upon the full tapestry of Logan’s life in just four issues. I’m very pleased by the response to the series, and sales were excellent. Now everyone’s going to see what it’s like to live in a Wolverine-free Marvel Universe. A Marvel Universe where Thor is a woman, Captain America is African-American, Iron Man’s a bad guy, and Rocket Raccoon and Groot is everyone’s favorite bromance.
One last thing on this topic — Soule has on multiple occasions described Wolverine’s actual death as a “gut punch,” even to him as the writer of that scene. Wolverine is a fictional character and the odds are that he’ll be back at some point, even if Marvel isn’t sure when — but, and this may be a silly question, as someone who had a long history editing both his solo book and multiple X-titles in which he co-starred in, was there emotion for you in regards to the “Death of Wolverine”?
Alonso: To be honest, I didn’t feel that much emotion when I gave my blessing to killing Logan, but I did feel lots of emotion when I read the silent sequence where Logan’s life flashed before his eyes.
Also wanted to catch up on a couple of New York Comic Con announcements we haven’t had a chance to address yet. At the show, Marvel announced the “Black Vortex” event, bringing together much of the current cosmic books. The cosmic line has been growing in the past two years — I believe it was NYCC 2012 where the Brian Michael Bendis-written “Guardians of the Galaxy” was announced, kicking off this current era — and this seems to be the biggest push for it yet as a whole. Is this something Marvel had been angling towards for a while, to have a story that brings those books together?
Alonso: The seeds for this event were sown in both the GotG and X-Men family of titles, as early as “The Trial of Jean Grey” and as recent as our new “The Legendary Star-Lord” series, but the whole thing came about organically. A couple of writers talked, they talked with some editors; everyone gauged each other’s interest. This was an instance where the writers – Brian, Sam [Humphries], Gerry [Duggan], Kelly Sue [DeConnick] — just saw the potential to tie everything together. The fact that all the characters occupy the same neck of the woods was clearly a factor, but there was no mandate from me to do anything like this.
A “Spider-Gwen” ongoing was made official at NYCC. We’ve talked about how warm the reception to the character was right away — was it the kind of thing that once that became clear, Marvel decided to capitalize on it and move on an ongoing series?
Alonso: That’s exactly what happened! [Laughs] The reception to “Spider-Verse” and “Edge of Spider-Verse” has been fantastic. Sellouts galore. And amidst all the noise, the reaction to Spider-Gwen was perhaps the loudest. [Spider-Man Group Editor] Nick Lowe wasted no time bee-lining to my office to see if I’d be interested in an ongoing. It was a no-brainer.
Let’s wrap with a few reader questions from the CBR Community — Spidey616, the Cal Ripken Jr. of fan Q&As, asks, “Been loving what Skottie Young has been doing with ‘Rocket Raccoon,’ so when ‘Black Vortex’ was announced at NYCC it had me wondering if Young has plans to tie-in with that storyline, or will Young’s ‘RR’ book keep out of events?”
Alonso: There are no plans for Skottie’s “Rocket Raccoon” series to tie-in. But the Guardians of the Galaxy will be very involved, so he will play a big part of the event.
Then UltimateGuardiansFan has a question about, you guessed it, “Guardians” — specifically, “I read your comments saying all Marvel titles will be affected by ‘Secret Wars’… does that include ‘Guardians 3000’ which is set in the 31st century of an alternate universe? I’m guessing so since we’ve seen 2099 characters as well as characters from alternative universes.”
Alonso: All titles will be affected by “Secret Wars.”
Straight from this week’s prime-time TV to the AiC Q&A, Sasquatch by Night asks, “It was absolutely amazing to see Mockingbird in action on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Will this lead to more Mockingbird action in the comics?”
Alonso: I’d bet it will, but there are no definitive plans at this stage.
We’ll wrap with a question from one of the all-time great online handles, Banjos in Space, who is among those sad to see “She-Hulk” go, at least for a little bit: “I was so disappointed to see that ‘She-Hulk’ was cancelled! I love Javier Pulido’s artwork. Does he have any other titles coming from Marvel that I should be watching for?”
Alonso: We love what Javier brought to “She-Hulk” so this isn’t the last you’ll see of him here. Hoping we’ll be able to give you more details soon.
Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!