Developing a "Spider-Verse," Growing the Talent Pool

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

This week, Alonso addresses Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel uniting "Every Spider-Man ever" in the recently announced "Spider-Verse" event, set to launch in November. Sticking with the Spidey territory, Alonso talks the promise of the new "Spider-Man 2099" series from Peter David and "Silver Surfer" ongoing series, with Mike Allred on art. Plus, Alonso talks writer recruitment, the success of "Revolutionary War" and the future of Marvel Knights.

Albert Ching: Let's start with the big news of the week -- "Spider-Verse." It's notable how positive the reaction seems to have been so far -- it's early still, but I haven't yet really seen the cynical fans come out. It seems that most that hear the idea are genuinely excited about it. There's something very appealing on a very basic level about the concept. What was your reaction when the idea was pitched to you?

Axel Alonso: Well, I think the fan response proves the great amount of trust they have in Dan, plain and simple. Dan pitched this story at an editorial retreat, as an arc of "The Superior Spider-Man," and my reaction -- which was pretty much everyone in the room's reaction -- was, "You've described the biggest Spider-Man epic of all time! We've got to get Peter into it!" Of course, Dan got it immediately. It was a bit of a pain for him to export it from "Superior Spider-Man," but it was well worth it. It's not just hype. "Spider-Verse" truly does feature "Every Spider-Man ever," and Peter Parker is right where he should be: at the center of everything.

Given what you just said, it seems like the kind of story you really only get one shot at. The timing has to be right, and everything has to be right -- the choice of artist, the way it's rolled out, the promotion of it. How often do you see stories like this come across, and how much extra thought and work needs to get put into something like this?

Alonso: This kind of story doesn't come around often. Let alone, fully formed and wrapped up in a bright blue and red ribbon. Pretty much all of Dan's story beats survived the gauntlet -- it was that tight. Editorial's contribution to the story was just that macro-note: Let's get Peter at the center of this story. It was that easy. And you hit the nail on the head when you said "right choice of artist." Olivier [Coipel] has never really gotten to draw Spider-Man and this is the perfect project for him.

MORE ON "SPIDER-VERSE": Dan Slott Unveils "Spider-Verse" Featuring "Every Spider-Man Ever"

Another Spidey-related topic in the news this week is the new "Spider-Man 2099" series. It's set in current storylines, but with Peter David writing Miguel O'Hara again, there's obviously a bit of nostalgia in play. Why is now the right time to for that ongoing, and to grow the Spidey franchise even further?

Alonso: Let's just say, don't be surprised if Spider-Man 2099 plays a key role in "Spider-Verse" or if the new series foreshadows some of the big stuff that's going to happen in the event. It's a good time to be a fan of the character, but you won't need to be a fan to want to read this series.

MORE ON "SPIDER-MAN 2099": David's "Spider-Man 2099" Fights to Reshape the Future

Moving to a related topic -- related not to Spider-Man, but to Dan Slott -- this week saw the release of Slott and Mike and Laura Allred's "Silver Surfer" #1, one of the most anticipated new Marvel books since it was announced last fall at New York Comic Con. What do you like about the current take on Silver Surfer?

Alonso: First of all, let me say, I've got every issue of the original run [of "Silver Surfer"] in a long box in my mom's basement in San Francisco. I've got a lot of affection for the character, and I've wanted to do an ongoing series since, well, since I first came to Marvel.

The Surfer plays a unique role in the Marvel Universe -- a cosmic pacifist that glides through the cosmos, pondering the big existential questions, looking to avoid, but always finding, trouble. His story is very different and it's very cool, but there's always been something a little, well, passive about him -- something about his nature that doesn't lend itself to the type of long-term active mission statement that drives an ongoing series. I felt -- and I wasn't alone -- that it was time to try something new with the character. So we tossed around a bunch of ideas at a couple of editorial retreats -- we even contemplated events that would cross him over to the dark side -- but nothing quite stuck because it seemed out of character. Then Dan [Slott] came back with a pitch for a series that cut the opposite direction, a series that was very low on existential angst and very high on universe-spanning adventure, that tipped its hat to old Surfer stories, classic Marvel stories, and even "Doctor Who," and that was that.

It's somewhat odd to think of Silver Surfer as necessarily a hard sell, but it's been years since the character's last ongoing.

Alonso: With the growing relevance of Marvel's cosmic universe, there's never been a better time to launch a "Silver Surfer" series. The gap between earthbound and cosmic heroes has never been narrower. And this is one hell of a creative team. Mike Allred is one of the true geniuses of our medium. It's cover-to-cover fun.

Speaking of covers... let me say that Francesco Francavilla's variant cover for issue #1 has got to be one of the most gorgeous covers I've ever seen in my life. After I saw it online, I tweeted that we should buy if as a variant if we ever did a series, and -- BAM! -- there it is. One of my favorite covers ever. Less truly is more.

MORE ON "SILVER SURFER": Allred Rides the Waves Cosmic in "Silver Surfer"

Another book debuting this week is "Iron Patriot" #1, and there are at least two very significant things here -- a new title with a minority lead, and it also seems like a book that is designed to perhaps be a little more accessible to fans of the Marvel movies, by featuring the character in his "Iron Man 3" guise. What's interesting to you about this book, and this take on James Rhodes?

Alonso: Ales got on my radar with his creator-owned series, "Zero," which blends the fantastic with boots-on-the-ground black ops. I think "Iron Patriot" is a good platform for him to show those skills, but Ales is also telling a very human story, really adding depth and background to Rhodey. I think you'll get to know him in a way you haven't before. While there's intrigue and action, at its core this is a very personal story.

Speaking of Ales Kot, he's a fairly new name to Marvel. He's been around the company for a few months, but now he has two big ongoing books currently ongoing. Marvel's June 2014 solicitations also feature some new names there, like Frank Barbiere, who's done quite a bit at Dark Horse and Image Comics, making his Marvel debut with a "New Avengers" annual. It seems there's been a significant amount of new faces at Marvel in the past few months -- how important is growing the writer pool at marvel, currently? is it something that Marvel is fairly active in right now, or is this normal ebb and flow?

Alonso: It's normal ebb and flow. All-New Marvel NOW! is all about diversity -- of characters, approach, sensibility, aesthetic, attitude. Thinking outside the box was encouraged. You don't come up with books like [G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona's] "Ms. Marvel," [Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto's] "Black Widow," [Felipe Smith & Tradd Moore's] "All-New Ghost Rider," or [Charles Soule & Javier Pulido's] "She-Hulk" if you're trying to play it safe.

MORE ON "IRON PATRIOT": NYCC: Kot & Brown Prep "Iron Patriot"

You're obviously busy as editor-in-chief, but how active do you get in bringing new talent in? How often are you reading a comic from elsewhere and saying, 'Oh, I'd like to bring that person in'?"

Alonso: While I don't directly edit any titles, I'm always making recommendations for writers and artists, and sometimes I'll help set up the creative team for a new series. So yeah, I'm always scouting new talent, in print, online and in other media. Nathan Edmondson, Charles Soule, Gerry Duggan were all guys who got onto my radar early. And there's a British writer I'm talking with right now I'm very excited about -- I'm not going to mention his name because he's in conversations with a couple of my editors.

It's nice to hear your schedule still allows a good amount of reading..

Alonso: I do make time.

Let's end by touching on a couple of the more unconventional Marvel projects recently -- the "Revolutionary War" series with the return of Marvel UK heroes had its last issue out this week. It's an interesting project, because it was never going to be a huge seller, but presumably was very pleasing to the fans of those characters. From your perspective, why was it an important thing story to tell, and how do you rate the success of that story?

Alonso: It was a shoutout to those fans. Every once in a while, we'll look at an opportunity to give a pocket of Marvel fandom exactly what they want. We had a window open for a limited series, and [former Marvel senior editor] Steve [Wacker] came back with this -- a solid performer that'll trade well, keep those characters alive in the hearts and minds of old readers, and introduce them to an entirely new generation. Characters like Dark Angel have already started making appearances in the Marvel U.

Last week saw the conclusion of "Marvel Knights: Hulk," which wrapped the three recent Marvel Knights books -- the first entry in that line for many years. Are there any current plans to do more in that line, or to be determined?

Alonso: Yes, I expect that we'll do more, though probably with different characters.

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!

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