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 overseen both critically acclaimed and best-selling comics, Alonso stepped into the spot of Marvel’s editorial department in early 2011, and has since worked to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
Following the massive initial reaction to Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy” — the biggest August opening in box office history, and plenty of critical acclaim — Alonso shares his thoughts on the film, how he sees its success as spiritually similar to the initial “Iron Man” and the ways that the movie has helped shape the current direction of the characters in Marvel’s comics. Alonso also provides insight onto some of Marvel’s announcements from late last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego — including “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin,” the new “Spider-Woman” solo series and John Layman taking on “Cyclops” — plus the initial reaction to Marvel’s unveiling of their first three “Star Wars” series since re-acquiring the license that had long been with Dark Horse Comics. All that, plus talk of this week’s “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation” original graphic novel by Jim Starlin and your questions, straight from the CBR Community!
Albert Ching: Axel, following that $94 million opening weekend — have you gotten a chance to see the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie yet?
Axel Alonso: Yeah, it’s great. I love it.
The film attracted a lot of talk prior to release about being a “risky” Marvel movie. From your perspective, did you have faith in it as being every bit of a success as the other Marvel Studios films?
Alonso: I did. “Guardians” was an opportunity for us to weigh in on a completely new genre we hadn’t explored before — the space opera. The fact that Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot weren’t household names didn’t worry me. I mean, not a lot of people knew who “Iron Man” was before the movie, but Marvel Studios made a lot of canny decisions — from casting to a script that respected the source material — and delivered a movie that introduced viewers to Marvel Universe through a science-fiction lens. “Iron Man” was a super hero movie and a science fiction movie — and I think that’s part of the reason it connected with so many people.
With “Guardians,” Marvel Studios has made a film that’s a superhero movie, a spaghetti western, a comedy and a space opera. And ultimately, it connects with viewers because you care about the characters. They’re #$@#-ups — misfits that become a team and a family. If you don’t get a teary-eyed during that pivotal Rocket and Groot scene that shows the depth of their bro-mance, shame on you. [Laughs]
It also seems like a movie that Marvel has been very well prepared for on the publishing side. Ever since the start of the most recent “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic book series, while it’s obviously a different continuity and context, things have started to line up pretty closely to how they are in the movie; possibly more than in past Marvel films.
Alonso: You’re probably right. We took the advance word of the movie as an opportunity to prime the pump with our audience. We devoted a lot of resources and promotion to the efforts, starting with the talent — Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven for the launch — and obviously, we were pulling from some incredible source material, dating back to the original stuff, and, of course, the amazing contributions of DnA [Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning], as well as what we knew about the film. And I think it’s safe to say we’ve created a legitimate franchise: From “Guardians of the Galaxy” to “The Legendary Star-Lord” to “Rocket Raccoon,” readers are responding.
Let’s switch gears and look at the recent past — this is our first time talking since Comic-Con, and I was curious to get your take on the show in general. For years some folks have been saying, “San Diego’s not a good show for comics, it’s all about movies and TV.” That sentiment seems to be turning around a bit this year. Marvel has always seemed to have a lot of faith in it from the comics side, as one of the only major publishers still making big announcements at the show. How do you see Comic-Con as a whole, and how important it is for Marvel?
Alonso: I fail to see how Comic-Con isn’t a comic book convention. Yeah, there’s a lot of announcement for movies, video games, animation and TV, but 90 percent of the stuff that’s being trumpeted grew out of a comic book page. So Comic-Con is really a celebration of characters and stories and mythology that started in comics and exploded onto other platforms, and we take it seriously. It’s definitely an important convention for us to connect with fans, get them psyched about everything we’re doing — comics, movies, novels, animation, TV, Rocket Raccoon plush toys… which, by the way, I haven’t been able to score myself.
Let’s touch on a couple of things that were announced there, starting with the upcoming “Angela: Asgard’s Assassin” ongoing series. It’s been nearly a year and a half now that Angela has been at Marvel. Is an Angela solo series something Marvel was always working towards since that point?
Alonso: It absolutely was always part of the plan. We regard Angela as a huge character. Neil Gaiman helped devise an origin that explains how she’s always been here, that weaves her history into that of Asgard, and positions her as a character of real consequence to Thor and Loki. She’s powerful and she’s got a huge chip on her shoulder, as you’ll see, and we’ve assembled a great creative team in Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans to tell her story. Kieron has described her as “an Asgardian Black Widow,” and that’s a pretty good way of putting it.
Speaking of that creative team, wanted to ask specifically about Marguerite Bennett — her star is definitely on the rise, and this is her most prominent Marvel work yet. What type of potential do you see in her as a writer?
Alonso: We approached Kieron about “Angela,” based on his incredible work on “Thor” and “Journey Into Mystery.” He was very interested, but slightly worried about his schedule — don’t know if you heard, but he’s writing a “Star Wars: Darth Vader” ongoing series — so we discussed a few potential co-writers — up-and-comers we thought had the right kind of chops for a book with this scope — and Marguerite was the clear winner. Marguerite’s proven she can write diverse characters — from Lobo to Lois — and she’s got the keen ability to establish new characters and new settings. She’s already brought a lot of great ideas to the table, and we think her contributions to the book are really going help make it succeed.
There’s also a new “Spider-Woman” series on the way from Dennis Hopeless and Greg Land. I know just from gathering fan questions for this column, people are always asking about Spider-Woman, and where she’s going to be next. Definitely a character with a lot of support. I know with a lot of those lower-profile characters, Marvel is often very careful to make sure they have the proper take before getting a new series out there. What was it about this take on the character that made it the right one for right now?
Alonso: Well, Albert, we’ve got a little event called “Spider-Verse” starting this November that you may have heard about… It features “Every Spider-Man Ever.” Let’s just say that Spider-Woman’s role in the story is significant enough to give us a launching pad for a solo series.
Last news bit from Comic-Con I wanted to touch on “Chew” co-creator John Layman has returned to Marvel, and is taking over writing “Cyclops” from Greg Rucka in the fall. It’s his first project at Marvel in about three years – what excites you about having him back in the fold?
Alonso: John’s really got a taste for the fantastic, as we’ve seen both in “Chew” and in his “Detective Comics” run, and we thought he’d nail the father/son connection at the heart of the series. He’s definitely going to deliver a series that’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” meets “Star Wars.”
The “Thanos: Infinity Revelation” original graphic novel is out this week, with Jim Starlin back on Thanos, both writing and drawing. How significant is that to you? It’s not only his first work at Marvel in a good while, but he’s back on some of his most famous characters, in a long-form story.
Alonso: It’s huge. As a kid, I loved Jim’s work on “Captain Marvel” and “Warlock.” It was mind-bending, psychedelic, truly cosmic stuff that was ground-breaking, intellectually and visually. So it’s not lost on me why for many people, Jim Starlin’s synonymous with “cosmic.” Or why for many people, he’s synonymous with Thanos.
So, offering Jim a Thanos OGN was just respect due. I’ve got a copy of “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation” on my desk right now, and I’m three-quarters through reading it. Now I get to see how it all plays out on the page, and it’s tremendous. The visuals just blast off the page.
One last thing I wanted to ask about from this week — the news came out that Marvel is going back to press on a “Howard the Duck” omnibus, and that’s a character that people are thinking a lot about right now. I know you’re a fan of the more unconventional Marvel material of the ’70, so I’m guessing that you have affection for “Howard the Duck.” Do you see the potential for more from the character at Marvel?
Alonso: Without a doubt. I read the original Frank Brunner comics straight off the rack, and when I gave up comics in my preteens — due to a weakness of character — I snuck in a few issues of the black-and-white “Howard the Duck” magazine during my hiatus.
Howard is a unique character. Like Deadpool, he allows you tell a story that no other character else can. He’s equally at home in almost any type of adventure or setting, and the opportunity for satire or comedy goes without saying. So, yes, I do see a lot of potential for the character in the near future. In fact, when I was in San Francisco after Comic-Con and I searched my mom’s basement room for my old copies of “Howard the Duck” to see what condition they were in, it felt a little bit like insider-trading. [Laughs]
Before we get to fan questions, this is our first talk since Marvel’s initial “Star Wars” lineup of books was announced — how relieved are you to finally unveil your plans, many months in the making?
Alonso: Just getting to the finish line without the announcement being spoiled was a huge relief. All it takes is one industry professional leaking the news to a website with no qualms about publishing it, and that’s that. But we got to the finish line, and now we can just apply to ourselves to making the best “Star Wars” comic books ever.
I was a bit surprised the news didn’t leak out in advance of the show.
Alonso: I understand how some fans like to get news or gossip in advance, but I do wonder how they feel about the comics pros who leak information that’s confidential? Putting aside that individuals’ motive or the fact that they’re breaking a non-disclosure agreement, who they’re actually hurting is their peers. When someone leaks the news that Marvel is planning a female Thor — or the identity of that Thor — because they have access to that information, the person they’re most hurting is the writer, Jason Aaron. It was his idea, his secret to reveal, and someone with a big mouth, or a gripe, or both, ruined it. It’s really uncool.
And it’s an example of Marvel announcing something big at San Diego, when the convention wisdom can be that comic book news often gets lost in the noise.
Alonso: Absolutely. We felt that was a big announcement, we thought that it was a good platform. We wanted to give that to the folks that waited in line at Comic-Con.
Let’s end with some questions from the CBR Community: With the “Ant-Man” film likely in mind, marvelfan27 asks, “Any plans for Scott Lang/Hank Pym soon?”
And Spidey616 asks: “2014 is a big year for a certain ‘Hawkguy,’ besides winning winning another Eisner for best single issue, this year also sadly sees [Matt] Fraction/[David] Aja leaving this great title. No doubt Clint will still have a presence in the Marvel U, but what about the future of his solo title? “
Alonso: Let’s just say that the upcoming limited series “Hawkeye vs. Deadpool” is a tasty appetizer.
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!