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, Axel is looking forward to infinity and beyond! No, it’s not time for more “Toy Story” comics. It’s time to look at what’s on tap for Marvel in 2013, and the watchword will be Cosmic. Below, Alonso explains what series will eb driving the Marvel line across this recently begun year, how “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova” will no longer sit off in their own corner, what autonomy creators like Jonathan Hickman will have on marquee titles like “Avengers” and other choices that will lead the Marvel U through its next event and beyond. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Axel, after going over the books on 2012, I thought it’d be best to talk about Marvel’s plans for 2013. When you come into a new year, do you try and set specific goals for what you want to do in the line over the next 12 months? Do you think in terms of topping initiatives like “AvX” and Marvel NOW! this year?
Axel Alonso: There’s always a goal for the year. In 2012, the goal was to make “AvX” a huge hit that set the stage for Marvel NOW! In 2013, the goal is to remind fans why our playground is called the “Marvel Universe.” From deep space to the Negative Zone, the stakes have never been just Earth; in 2013, we’ll close the gap between Earth and the so-called Cosmic Universe like never before. Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy — and a few other characters we’ve yet to reveal — will be just as important to the fate of the Marvel Universe as the Avengers or X-Men.
In the past, we’ve seen certain books play a real central, leading role in the line. For a long while, I think a lot of other books took their cues from Bendis’ Avengers titles, for example. Is there any one book leading the line this year?
Alonso: Not really. Everything’s connected because the stories take place against the same backdrop, but we really try to create breathing room for the individual titles to do their own thing. There’s no doubt that core titles — like “Avengers,” “All-New X-Men” and “Superior Spider-Man” –will provide a lot of the game-changing moments that have a ripple effect across the Marvel Universe, but I think it’s important that series like “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” “Thor: God of Thunder,” “FF” continue to forge their own paths — telling stories they are unique to tell — and tie in when the creators think it’s organic. They should be mindful of the unfolding macro events, but not shackled by them. The goal of Marvel NOW! was to let creators bring a new vision to each title. Reading “Iron Man” should offer a different experience than reading “Thor: God of Thunder.”
I spent a big chunk of my Christmas break reading over Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.” It’s really quite good, but my favorite part was the chapters focusing on the Lee/Kirby era of the company — how easily and organically they were able to tie the original titles together as a fictional universe because there were so few titles being published by one office of three people. Because Marvel Editorial is such a bigger thing now, how do you try and keep some of that mojo going across all these titles that are each going for their own unique feel?
Alonso: It’s all about communication. Editors go out to lunch and discuss about what’s happening in their books, and, of course, there are the editorial summits, where writers outline what they’re doing in their series, ideas fly, and larger stories are hatched. Building connections between titles is an organic process. Sometimes, two writers hatch a plan and bring it to an editor. Sometimes, an editor will initiate a conversation with a group of writers.
So as you say, the Cosmic line is going to be a pretty big piece of what Marvel does in 2013. Are those places where it can connect up with the rest of the books already in place, or are you waiting for the next summit to really find the way to roll the first arcs of “Guardians” and “Nova” into the rest of what’s going on?
Alonso: It’s a mistake to label this the “Cosmic line.” Nova, the Guardians of the Galaxy are as deeply woven into the fabric of the Marvel Universe as Spider-Man or the X-Men, and we’re going to remind readers of that in 2013. The Guardians won’t be fueling up their spacecraft on the planet Gronk when the $#!% hits the fan — they’ll be right in the thick of it.
Look, “Marvel Studios’ The Avengers” underscored the fact that the heroes fought for Earth in the context of a larger universe — hello, Thanos! — and we’ll be doing the same thing in 2013. The creative teams on “Nova” [Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness] and “Guardians of the Galaxy” [Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven] have put their heart and souls into telling exciting and accessible stories that exist in — and will be relevant to — the Marvel Universe and reflect deep affection for the characters and their history. And the art? Oh my God. Ed McGuiness and Steve McNiven are killing it! You won’t find two better-looking books on comic racks.
The other big thing to talk about for 2013 is X-Men because this will be the 50th anniversary of that team. Two years ago we had the Fantastic Four’s 50th which revolved around the “Three” story, the death of the Human Torch and everything Hickman had going. This past year was Spidey’s 50th, which involved a lot of publishing that culminated in “Amazing” #700 and the start of “Superior Spider-Man.” What can you do to give the X-Men a similar spotlight over the next year? Do you pick up any cues from those stories, or will this be different by dint of Bendis taking over the X-books for a new start?
Alonso: We are well aware it’s the X-Men’s 50th anniversary, and we intend to celebrate it in the biggest way possible. It’s a little too early for details, but, of course, Brian will be deeply involved.
Let me ask you about something Brian did this past week with Stuart Immonen — redesign the of Beast in “All-New X-Men.” This has got to be one of the top message board and convention topics I’ve seen over the past ten years: do you love or hate cat-Beast. How did you guys decide to finally change that up?
Alonso: It come as no surprise to us that this has become a hotly debated topic amongst fans — because it was hotly debated amongst us!
[X-Men Group Editor] Nick Lowe absorbed a lot of body punches for his strident defense of “Cat Beast” at two editorial summits! [Laughs] Ultimately, Beast’s redesign made sense in the context of Brian’s story, so we did it.
And can we assume that this is status quo for a while going forward? Even if people complain as much as they did about the cat design?
Alonso: Yeah, it’s status quo.
Overall, you talk a lot about trying to shape the line to bring out as many things about Marvel as you love. But on the flip side of that, do you look at things and go, “This is something I feel we haven’t done. This is a gap in the line I’m looking to plug in 2013”?
Alonso: It’s not so much that there’ s a gap in the line, so much as there’s a window of opportunity that I want us to jump through. “AvX” set the stage for Marvel NOW! to turbo-charge the core monthlies. Now that the foundation for the next chapter of the Marvel Universe is in place, the next step is expanding the universe — shining a spotlight on characters that expand and enhance the line. “Nova” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” do just that. Getting them into the heart of the Marvel Universe where they belong is long overdue, and I’m thrilled by our all-in commitment to doing so. I’m excited about Black Panther’s role in “New Avengers,” and what that team will mean to the Marvel Universe. I’m excited about Ant-Man’s future — or futures, as the case may be. And I’m excited about upcoming announcements for a few more characters, who’ll factor big into our plans for 2013.
Look, this is a unique time in comics history because everyone knows who the Avengers and Spider-Man and X-Men are. They’re up on the silver screen, they’re on t-shirts, hats. They’re action figures. Who’d have imagined that 15 years ago? I like to imagine a world where everyone knows who Black Panther, Ant-Man and Iron Fist are. Each of these characters exists to tell a unique story.
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!