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!
Fresh off Marvel’s latest three-day editorial retreat, Alonso talked about the contributions of a new addition to that usual crew — “Ms. Marvel” writer G. Willow Wilson, who the E-i-C revealed is now Marvel exclusive and working on as-yet unrevealed material along with the monthly adventures of Kamala Khan. Alonso also reflected on the recently confirmed news that more than one million copies of the new “Star Wars” #1 have been sold to retailers, and the alternate means of distribution the publisher has employed for the issue. All that, plus insights into the latest Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver-related revelations, the new “Moon Knight” creative team of Cullen Bunn and Ron Ackins, Gerry Conway returning to “Amazing Spider-Man” and answers to your questions, directly from the CBR Community.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains discussion of the events of the “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” midseason finale, which aired this past Tuesday; and “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” #7, released this past Wednesday.
Albert Ching: Axel, how’d the editorial retreat go this week? Based on the group photo I saw, looked like a big crew.
Axel Alonso: It was. We laughed, we cried. The usual.
Noticed a notable new face in the group — G. Willow Wilson was there for her first-ever Marvel retreat. Marvel has received some outside criticism in the past for not having women writers at these retreats before. What kind of new perspective did Wilson provide?
Alonso: Well, she’s a really talented writer with a unique voice who’s contributed something extremely valuable to the Marvel Universe and helped expand what our publishing line is about. I view “Ms. Marvel” as the flagship book for “All-New Marvel NOW!” It’s a huge hit — in print and digital form — and it’s here for the long haul. And Ms. Marvel’s role in the Marvel Universe will expand exponentially in the coming year. Oh — and she’s not the only character Willow will be writing down the road. We discussed a new series that I’m very excited about.
So is it official that Wilson is now Marvel exclusive?
Alonso: She is. She’s got a lot of work on her plate.
Were there any other new creators there? Looked like a lot of the regular names returned.
Alonso: Just Willow. And Adam Kubert back again, doing sketches of everything we talked about. For our closing ceremonies, we did a slide show of them. Hilarious stuff.
I wanted to ask about some big news — specifically, a really big number. Marvel confirmed this week that “Star Wars” #1 has sold one million copies, which is obviously an impressive number, especially in this day and age. Surely expectations were big for this issue, but I don’t know if Marvel legitimately expected that figure — what was the initial reaction, other than likely a lot of high fives?
Alonso: We had a hunch that we could get the number into the stratosphere, based on any number of factors. One: We’d be bringing out the big guns with our talent line-up: John Cassaday, Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larrocca, Mark Waid, Terry Dodson. Two: It’s “Star Wars.” Three: “Star Wars ” would be coming home to Marvel, where its comic life began. And four: Our stories would be as relevant to official continuity as anything onscreen because we’d be working with the Lucasfilm Story Group. We felt kind of good about our odds. But we didn’t predict a million — well, maybe [SVP – Sales & Marketing] David Gabriel did.
Obviously, that has to be encouraging for that plan that Marvel’s had for the line — of course Star Wars is very popular, but there’s been Star Wars comics for decades, that haven’t necessarily been top-sellers. That’s a sign of confidence that people are specifically interested in what Marvel’s doing with the property.
Alonso: For people that remember [the original] Marvel “Star Wars” comics, this move hits the nostalgic button. For people that don’t know, the move represents the marrying of two of the most exciting brands in the world. I mean, Star Wars plus Marvel! What it really all boils down to is the fact that we are getting the chance to help shape one of the world’s most resonant popular mythologies going forward, and we are excited by the challenge.
Our goal — and I am certain we achieve this — is to present issue #1’s that are exciting to anyone who’s ever seen a “Star Wars” film, cartoon, whatever, and anyone who hasn’t. We’ll introduce you to this universe from scratch. Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO, Vader — we give all of them the royal treatment when we pull them on screen, so to speak, for the first time. You will know who they are, and what they stand for.
It’s also been confirmed that a number of as-yet unrevealed alternate distribution methods were used for this issue. What has you excited about getting this issue in particular in the hands of potential new readers separate from the traditional comic book store market?
Alonso: I’m excited when any good comic book reaches a huge audience, but especially when that comic book features characters that have an appeal way beyond the comic books. Any time you get someone new to read a comic book, you’re one step closer to getting them to read another comic book. And people that find a comic book in a digital form are much more likely to care about it in print form. It’s all additive. We’re not looking to sustain an audience, we’re looking to grow our audience. Movies, TV, comics books both print and digital — everything should feed into the next. And that’s certainly true with as “Star Wars.” When “Episode VII” hits theaters, no doubt getting a lot of new fans, we’re going to be ready and waiting with great comics for them to read.
Let’s switch gears, and talk about the major revelation in “Avengers & X-Men: AXIS” #7, where it looks like Magneto might not be Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s father after all. That triggered a reaction and certainly a lot of speculation among fans. Is there any insight you can share at this point on that story beat, and on the behind-the-scenes motivation?
Alonso: The motivation? An exciting story that raises eyebrows and positions characters for big things down the road. The Scarlet Witch is going to be a buzz character in 2015.
Specifically — and this seems especially timely after this week’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” midseason finale — can you respond to speculation that this might lead to a reveal that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are in fact not mutants, but Inhumans?
Alonso: Keep reading.
Before we get to fan questions, let’s talk a couple announcements from this week — it was revealed today that there’s a new “Moon Knight” team, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Ron Ackins. That series has been something of a prestige title for Marvel, with high-profile creative teams starting with this volume and Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. What made Bunn and Ackins the right team to take on the baton next on “Moon Knight”?
Alonso: With “Moon Knight,” we are experimenting with a short seasonal format. Creative teams come in to do about a trade’s worth of stories — not necessarily a story or a story arc, but a “season” in the life of the character. We knew Warren and Declan would be on for six, so our strategy was to go with creative teams that were “fellow travelers” — creators with similar sensibilities and approaches. Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood are in the midst of telling their season, and it’s fantastic. And Cullen’s standout work on “Magneto” should give readers confidence that he — and Ron — can keep up the high standard of the title.
Also, it’s been announced that Gerry Conway is returning to “Amazing Spider-Man” — a title he succeeded Stan Lee on back in 1972 — in March for a five-part story, running through “.1” issues of the series. What are you looking forward to seeing him back on that character and writing in that world?
Alonso: Well, he’s Gerry $%#ing Conway. [Laughs] He wrote tons of stories that I myself grew up reading, then went off and conquered TV as a key player in the creation of “Law & Order,” and he’s still interested and energized by these characters to come back and tell more stories. It’s inspiring. And I’m really impressed by what he’s written for us, and I really hope he does more.
Let’s wrap with a few questions from the CBR Community. Hypestyle, looking towards the new year, asks, “What can we expect from horror/supernatural characters in 2015?”
Alonso: It was a topic of discussion at the retreat, Hypestyle. We have lots of ideas that come at the genre from all sorts of different angles.
Then SpiderX asks a question on a lot of Ultimate Universe fans’ minds: “Can you give us any updates in regards to the Ultimate line? ‘All-New Ultimates’ cancellation in January leaves ‘Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man’ as the sole remaining book for the line. Will we see a return to the early days of the Ultimate line with Spider-Man anchoring and other limited series running frequently/infrequently?”
Alonso: In five months, time. Runs. Out.
Let’s stick with the spider theme, as Spidey616 is curious about some recent revelations on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and how it may affect the upcoming “S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic book series: “Way back at SDCC when the new S.H.I.E.L.D. ongoing was announced as bringing in characters from the ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ show into the comics, a cover by Mike Deodato was released featuring among other characters, Skye. Given the latest reveal of Skye as an established Marvel character I’m curious when the image was first created did editorial not know ahead of time about the reveal. That said, do you plan on introducing a new Skye character into the comics or will that established Marvel character be returning to S.H.I.E.L.D. in Mark Waid’s series?”
I think we can boil it down to this: Was the character with a purple jacket next to Thing on the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” #1 cover indeed intended to be Skye, and now that it’s been revealed that Skye is the TV series’ version of Daisy Johnson, will Daisy play a part in the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” comic?
Alonso: Yes, the character in that promo piece was Skye. And yes, we knew the reveal was coming. We decided to include her in the promo because not doing so would have raised questions, since she’s so central to the show. While she won’t appear at all in any of our early issues — we wanted the TV show to take point and we didn’t want to step on their toes — you can count on Quake appearing in the series at some point.
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!