Behind the Scenes on Iceman's Outing, "1872" Changes

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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

Bendis Talks Iceman's Outing: "I'm Not Done With This Story Yet"

It's been a big week for original X-Men team member Iceman, with the reveal in the freshly released "All-New X-Men" #40 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mahmud Asrar that the time-displaced younger version of the character is gay, as revealed through telepathic prodding by teenaged Jean Grey. That news generated headlines across the Internet, and Alonso shares his perspective as Marvel Editor-in-Chief and a former X-Men group editor -- including his initial conversations with Bendis on the story, the reaction and conversation the story has incited and what the story might mean for the adult version of Iceman.

Plus, Alonso gives his insight on the departure of artist Evan Shaner from anticipated "Secret Wars" book 1872, and previews the first interior pages by new series artist Nik Virella. And following a big week of Star Wars news, Alonso talks Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto taking on "Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens -- Shattered Empire," and Simone Bianchi joining the main "Star Wars" series as a guest artist. All that and more, including answers to your questions, direct from the CBR Community.

CBR News: Axel, first, congratulations to the team on Marvel's multiple Eisner nominations.

Axel Alonso: It's always good to see creators get recognized for their great work. And what about "Ms. Marvel" -- with five nominations, including "Best Penciller," "Best Writer," "Best Cover Artist" and "Best New Series!"

You look at the list and Marvel's nods, and it also has to be gratifying to see some more under-the-radar books like "Rocket Raccoon" and "Superior Foes of Spider-Man" get recognized.

Alonso: To see some of our quirkier, less mainstream series get recognition is really heartening. It proves the broadening appetites of comic readers. I love living in a comics world where Skottie Young is a superstar.

Let's get into what's become the big news of the week -- Jean Grey outing Iceman in "All-New X-Men" #40. A lot has been said about it already, but I'm curious to hear your reaction from when it was first pitched to you. You worked on the X-Men books as group editor for several years, and there's long been speculation among fans about Iceman's sexual orientation. What was your initial reaction when the story was brought to you?

Alonso: I was in a "Star Wars" story meeting in San Francisco when I got a call from [then-X-Men editor] Mike Marts, who said there was an "All-New X-Men" script in my inbox that I needed to read. So I read the script, and when I got to the scene with Bobby, I knew why Mike had sent it to me. I thought it was a very well written scene, but it wasn't something I'd ever discussed with Brian, so I needed to know more.

Let's just say Brian wasn't surprised to get a call from me! [Laughs] He told me that he'd been thinking about Bobby for a while, and rather than pitch his idea to us, he thought it best to just write the scene and let it speak for itself -- if it worked out, great; if not, back to the drawing board. I thought the scene was very sensitive, very elegant, and I'm a former X-Men group editor so I'm aware of the buzz around Bobby -- both the Internet speculation and the small signs in past stories that indicated Bobby was dealing with something -- so this moment didn't come from out of nowhere. When I consulted with other editors, it became apparent that it wasn't inconsistent with a character we'd built up over decades.

Of course, we realized that if young Bobby were to come to this moment of clarity there would be ramifications for adult Bobby. So we talked about that, and we agreed what they would be, and Brian will deal with them when he drops the mic with "Uncanny X-Men" #600. I'm very excited about the stories ahead.

As you mentioned, there has been a "buzz" and speculation surrounding the character in the past. During your time as X-Men group editor, were there ever any discussions of this nature internally about Iceman, or was this the first time it took traction within Marvel?

Alonso: The fact that Bobby might be gay was something that came up in conversation, but it wasn't anything we actively pursued. And we never, ever had any discussions where we said, "Let's make Iceman gay." It was just something that Brian pondered for a while, and did so knowing that I might have turned around and said, "I don't buy it."

Looking at the reaction so far, it does seem mostly positive, and also appears -- and certainly this is never a guarantee in this situation -- that it's led to some very thoughtful discussion of different issues, due to the layers involved. What's your take on how people have received this story so far?

Alonso: I think you're exactly right. It has led to some really healthy discussion. Obviously, I'm inclined to embrace the praise. [Laughs] As for those who are angry, or think this is a stunt or that "Secret Wars" will undo this, I'd just say, keep reading. The X-Men universe has always been a great place to examine change and the consequences of change in your life -- to examine identity -- and this is just an expression of that. Bobby is a core X-Man, but he doesn't have the profile of Wolverine or Cyclops or Storm. He's always been more of supporting player, so maybe this revelation will bring him an extra level of nuance that will allow him to step more into the spotlight?

By the same token, I do want to make one thing clear: Young Bobby's sexual identity is just one shading of his character. It doesn't alter who he is -- it just opens up opportunities for stories. Bobby is still the Bobby you loved or hated. Anyone expecting drastic and sweeping change to his character will be disappointed.

You've said it wasn't a directive, but as an Editor-in-Chief that has championed diversity, there has to be some pride attached to this, right? To see an extra layer added to a character that has the long history and stature of Iceman.

Alonso: Well, it's nice to help foster an environment where creators know they can think outside the box -- that they can challenge themselves and readers.

Also this week, it came to light that Evan Shaner is not going to be able to draw "1872," something he's already publicly acknowledged. He's disclosed his reasons, but I wanted to ask -- do you had any more insight on him having to step away from the series?

Alonso: The fact that Evan took full responsibility for what happened speaks to his character. And I commend him for that. We were disappointed that it didn't work out schedule-wise, but we are thrilled that Nik Virella has holstered up for the gig. She's a major talent. "1872" presents the Marvel Universe through the lens of the Western paradigm so it's a fantastic opportunity for any artist, and Nik is going to really put her stamp on it. Not only are Nik's first pages spectacular, but we are going to ship every issue of this series on time. Bank on it.

And she's still a relative newcomer to Marvel -- "Return of the Living Deadpool" was her first project for Marvel, correct?

Alonso: Yes. We were looking for something big for her when this opportunity presented itself. There was no debate that she was perfect for it. She owns this book.

Marvel Reveals "Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens -- Shattered Empire" Creative Team

Late last week brought some major Marvel/Star Wars news, with word that the former "Punisher" team of writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto are reuniting on "Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens -- Shattered Empire," bringing the gap between "Return of the Jedi" and "The Force Awakens." Both creators have demonstrated a lot of range in their careers, but obviously there's some thematic distance between "Punisher" and Star Wars -- what made them the right team for this book?

Alonso: As the series unfolds, the biggest benefit of having Greg involved will become increasingly clear. As for Marco -- his stupendous work on "Avengers World" showcased his range, but it's his chemistry with Greg that has us most excited.

Also, it was confirmed that Simone Bianchi will be the guest artist in "Star Wars" #7, before the debut of new series artist Stuart Immonen. What are you looking forward to with Bianchi's unique visual style taking on the Star Wars universe?

Alonso: Did you see Simone's work on "Thanos Rising"!? He was born to do cosmic-themed books.

X-POSITION: Sam Humphries Charts A Course Through "The Black Vortex"

"Guardians of the Galaxy"/"X-Men" crossover "The Black Vortex" wrapped this week, ending with -- spoiler alert -- an engagement between Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde. That's a fresh pairing within recent stories that's even inspired an upcoming series during "Secret Wars" -- what do you like about those characters together, and what it's meant for storylines so far and going forward?

Alonso: Well, the two have... interesting chemistry. Here's hoping they survive "Secret Wars"...

Let's wrap the week with a couple of fan questions from the CBR Community. Stormcrow asks, "After Rosario Dawson's excellent work in the 'Daredevil' Netflix series can we look forward to seeing the Claire Temple character return to comics?"

Alonso: Claire hasn't been around in the Marvel Universe for some time, but given her appearances in "Marvel's Daredevil," now might be the time. In the meantime, we'll be publishing a "Night Nurse" one-shot in May featuring the character's early appearances.

And Chief Jon has a "Lando" question: "Will Charles Soule's story be tying into any of the other new Star Wars comics? or is this going to be some standalone fun?"

Alonso: "Lando" won't directly tie in with our main "Star Wars series" -- as we know, most of our main characters never meet him until "The Empire Strikes Back" -- but it's definitely part of the larger tapestry of the new "Star Wars" canon. At least two other characters from the films not yet mentioned in the solicits will be making an appearance in the series, plus a handful of new characters who could end up in any number of future stories.

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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