"AXIS" Access, Personnel Shifts and an "Ultimate" Road Bump

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!

It's been a busy seven days for Marvel, with last weekend's Special Edition NYC revealing more of the October-debuting "AXIS" event, written by Rick Remender, illustrated by multiple high-profile artist and starring the Avengers and the X-Men. Alonso discusses the timing of the event, the approach to tie-ins and the appeal of gathering characters that fans won't see together on the big screen anytime soon. Alonso also details the recent personnel news at the publisher, with both talent liaison C.B. Cebulski and editor Jeanine Schaefer promoted into new positions, and former DC Comics editor Katie Kubert moving to Marvel. Plus, talk of the new "Thunderbolts" writing team of Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, what the end of "Ultimate FF" might mean for the Ultimate line in general, Alonso's thoughts on the NBA Finals and your questions, straight from the CBR Community!

Albert Ching: Axel, before we get to comics -- I know it's what you were hoping for, but were you surprised to see the Miami Heat go down in only five games?

Axel Alonso: A little, but it just goes to show how weak the Eastern Conference is. The Spurs' victory was a triumph of team basketball. You know those five guys in their mid-30s who hold the pickup court all afternoon against the younger, more athletic guys, because they hit the midrange jumper, make the extra pass and execute the pick-and-roll? The Spurs are the NBA equivalent of them. [Laughs]

Oh, and Mexico's 0-0 victory -- I mean tie -- with Brazil in the first round of World Cup added five years to my life!

Let's talk about "AXIS," now that more of the cat's out of the bag regarding that story. From a publishing standpoint, what's the strategy behind having two big events in the same year? Marvel did it last year with "Age of Ultron" and "Infinity," but this appears even bigger in terms of two events with a large scope and significant amount of tie-ins.

Alonso: This is just an instance where we had "Original Sin" cooking on the front-burner when a story Rick [Remender] was building to in "Uncanny Avengers" got such traction at a summit that he workshopped into an Avengers and X-Men event. Sometimes the road ahead of you is wide open; sometimes it's not and you've got squeeze into your lane. The Marvel Universe is big enough for both of these stories.

RELATED: Remender, Brevoort Tilt Marvel's "AXIS"

Since the two events are hitting fairly close together, do you see a correlation? Is one leading to the other at all? Obviously both have been in the works for a while, on seemingly separate tracks.

Alonso: We worked to build separation between the events so they would collide or overlap. When "Original Sin" concludes, it'll lay the seeds for plenty of big stuff in the Marvel Universe -- including big changes for a few of its characters -- but "AXIS" ain't one of them. "AXIS" is its own event. You'll know that from page 1.

Big events come with tie-ins, and it appears for "AXIS" it's more traditional tie-ins than readers are seeing now for "Original Sin" -- and quite a bit of them, as well?

Alonso: Yes. But it's only select titles that will tie in. Not everything. Like I said, "AXIS" is an Avengers and X-Men event -- it doesn't get any bigger than that. The tie-ins are "traditional" only insofar as they deal with the ripple effects of the event. The stories are anything but traditional.

This is another event starring the Avengers and X-Men, something made very clear in the early marketing, and you can't help but think of 2012's "Avengers vs. X-Men" event. Is it safe to say Marvel has similar expectations for this one?

Alonso: Without a doubt. Like I said, "AXIS" grew out of a story that Rick was planning for "Uncanny Avengers." He was happily playing in his own sandbox, but there was so much incredible raw material, everybody was like, "Spill it over the edges!" And he did. And that's when it became an Avengers and X-Men event.

"AXIS" affects the world's two greatest super-teams -- team whose fan bases don't overlap that much. There are people who read X-Men and don't read Avengers, and vice versa. "AXIS" -- like the mega-selling "Avengers vs. X-Men" -- is an event where stakes are the same for both teams, so I expect we're going to get the attention of a lot of fans. Especially when they see what Rick has planned.

It's a time where people speculate how comics will affect plans for movies, and different characters with different movie rights, but part of the appeal of an event with Avengers and X-Men is getting characters together that can't happen in a movie. Is that a big part of the appeal for Marvel?

Alonso: I think it's certainly part of the appeal. Over here in publishing, we've got an unlimited special effects budget and no constraints on what characters can appear "on screen" together. We're the only place you can see Winter Soldier kill Wolver -- wait.

Turning to some recent personnel news from Marvel -- C.B. Cebulski and Jeanine Schaefer are both taking new positions at Marvel, with Cebulski now Vice President of International Business Development & Brand Management and Schaefer now Senior Manager of Talent Relations. C.B. has been in that talent scout and liaison job for many years, and certainly has a big legacy in that role. To you, what has CB meant in that position?

Alonso: I wouldn't say "meant," I'd say "means." C.B. has been an invaluable talent recruiter for Marvel for the past decade, and he's still going to have a role in publishing, still going to scout talent, but his job is expanding so he can fully concentrate on the larger task of strengthening our brand and growing our talent base around the globe.

As a result, the day-to-day talent management, recruiting and scheduling that were an aspect of C.B.'s job will now be handled by Jeanine, who's already got relationships with a lot of our creators and all of our editors. Her work as an editor gave her she's a ground-eye's view of the process so she's perfectly suited for the position.

Is she still going to be editing books, or is that off of her plate?

Alonso: She will continue to edit "She-Hulk."

It was also announced this past weekend at Special Edition: NYC that Katie Kubert is joining Marvel editorial, from DC Comics. Obviously she's got quite the family lineage, and years of experience at DC. What was it about her work that caught Marvel's attention?

Alonso: Some of DC Comics' best and top-selling series had her name on them. [Executive Editor] Mike Marts had nothing but positive things to say about her. I liked her so much I completely forgot her last name was "Kubert"! [Laughs] It didn't factor into my decision to hire her until I'd already signed off on it. Of course, the fact that the Kuberts and Marvel have had good chemistry in the past...

Knowing that Jeanine is moving out of editing books directly and Katie Kubert's coming in, is she going to be taking on some of that workload?

Alonso: Katie will report to Mike Marts in the X-Men office. I think she's going to bring fresh ideas to the publishing plan.

It came out this week that "Ultimate FF" is ending in August after six issues. Obviously not every book is going to last forever, but seeing as how that was part of a high-profile launch of the Ultimate titles earlier this year, how do you view that? Does it weaken your confidence in the Ultimate line at all, or is it, "this is an example of a book that didn't take off"?

Alonso: The roadside is littered with series that might have deserved to stick around. All I'll say is that this is a road bump; everyone will be talking about the Ultimate Universe very soon.

On stands this week is "Thunderbolts" #27, marking the ongoing series debut of writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker. It's another example of what we talked about last week -- creators from outside of comics coming to Marvel. What do you like about that writing duo, and what they're bringing to "Thunderbolts"?

Alonso: Acker & Blacker are the creators of the Eisner-nominated "The Thrilling Adventure Hour" podcast and live show, and through that, they've shown that they really know how to tell serial stories, and how to grow an audience. [Marvel editor] Jordan D. White was a fan of their show and recognized that they would be a good fit for us, and since then, they've written a number of projects for us -- "Wolverine Season One," a "Deadpool" Annual, and a "Thunderbolts" Annual, among them. Obviously, comics is a very specific medium that one needs to learn how to utilize... but good storytelling transcends all media.

RELATED: Acker & Blacker Pit the Punisher Against the "Thunderbolts"

Marvel's September 2014 solicitations were released this week -- what are some things you're personally looking forward to in that month?

Alonso: We have some exciting things going on:

  • "Magneto" #9 and #10 are a prologue to "AXIS" that shows Magneto on the trail of the Red Skull right up to the events of "AXIS" #1.
  • "Guardians of the Galaxy" #19 reveals the truth behind how Star-Lord and Thanos escaped from the Cancerverse. It's Brian Bendis and Ed McGuinness, the story takes place directly after the events of Abnett and Lanning's "Thanos Imperative."
  • And in "Black Widow" #10, because fans demanded he show up in more than just two panels, it's Black Widow vs. Hawkeye.

Let's turn to some fan questions from the CBR Community -- Purplevit asks, "Is there anything in the works for James Asmus? I loved his Gambit solo."

Alonso: James is a terrific writer, but right now we don't have anything lined up with him.

Then the unstoppable Spidey616 asks, "With 'The Death of Wolverine' happening, will the 'Wolverine and the X-Men' book be changing the name of its title or keep it as is?"

Alonso: Seems it will have to! Looks for an exciting title change near the end of the year.

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!

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