Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"

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!

Marvel's "Secret Wars" Expands To Nine Issues

This week, Alonso shares more insight about the recent news that "Secret Wars" -- originally announced as an eight-issue series -- will now run for nine installments, and addresses how that will (or won't) affect the All-New, All-Different Marvel series set to launch starting in October. Alonso also talks a few of those books -- "Totally Awesome Hulk," "Karnak," "Scarlet Witch" and "Drax" -- and how they're poised to fit into the newly reconfigured Marvel Universe. Plus, an update on the status of "Gamora" -- announced last year at New York Comic Con -- and answers to your your questions, from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, let's start with the news that broke earlier this week that "Secret Wars" has expanded into a ninth and final issue -- it's exciting to hear that Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic have more real estate to tell their story, but with a book that's been in the works for as long as "Secret Wars" has, it's a little surprising, as well. What can you share about how that decision came about?

Axel Alonso: The story was bigger than we thought! [Laughs] Jonathan realized he needed more room for the climax, and we want Esad to draw the whole thing, so taking it across nine issues is the best way for us to achieve both. We think this should be good news for retailers, and fans, and it will help us maintain a regular shipping schedule.

That'll bring some relief -- and I'm also curious, timing-wise, because we're seeing new series launching, starting in October, that take place after-"Secret Wars," and now we know "Secret Wars" itself isn't ending until December. Does that affect things on Marvel's end?

Alonso: No. We considered all the possible ramifications of this move.

This has happened before with events, where readers have seen the outcome, or at least part of it, before the main story wraps. But was it a concern that there may not still be surprises left for the finale?

Alonso: Oh, there'll be plenty of surprises. We're not worried at all about stealing any thunder from Jonathan and Esad's close.

Also, the new launches pick up eight months after the conclusion of "Secret Wars," so there's a little bit of built-in buffer there. A large part of the surprise when you open each book -- apart from seeing some of the tapestry of the new Marvel Universe -- is what happened in the world of each character during those eight months.

Pak Gives Marvel's All-New, All-Different "Hulk" a "Totally Awesome" Life

I figured we could spend some time this week talk about a few of those upcoming series that we haven't talked much about -- last week, CBR ran an interview with Greg Pak on "Totally Awesome Hulk" and, traffic-wise, it exceeded our expectations and really took off on social media. It's clear to us that there's a high anticipation level on that series. What has you excited about what Greg and Frank Cho are doing on the book?

Alonso: I'm hard-pressed to think of a series launch that excites me more than this book. As a former Hulk editor who's been in countless discussions about Banner's predicament, this move just seems right because it leans into all the daydreams we've had about being the Hulk. In publishing, we're paid to pave the future, and that's what we're doing here: the new "Totally Awesome" Hulk absolutely loves being the Hulk. Carries this burden like it's a feather.

And, of course, the pedigree of the creative team speaks for itself. Frank Cho's pages are out-of-this-world good, and the story is fantastic. I expect that this will be a buzz book that attracts a lot of mass media attention.

Warren Ellis' Karnak is "A Dementedly Intense Philosopher"

Another book that's gotten some attention this past week is the "Karnak" series written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Gerardo Zaffino. We've spoken at length -- as recently as last week -- about the current importance of the Inhumans at Marvel, but Karnak is still a surprising choice to get the solo spotlight at this point, especially with a name like Ellis attached. What motivated Marvel in launching this series?

Alonso: Well, it's surprising to us as well. [Laughs] Warren is very selective about the projects that he does. [Editor] Nick Lowe had a hunch that Karnak and the crawlspace of the Inhumans universe would be something that might appeal to Warren, and he was right -- Warren really dug in. And we've all seen what he can do with solo character series when he digs in, from "Iron Man: Extremis" to "Moon Knight": Redefine a character so they're just, well, more interesting.

A "Scarlet Witch" series is less surprising than "Karnak," but still relatively new territory -- readers haven't really seen much of Scarlet Witch as a solo lead before, and it feels like there's still a lot we don't know about the character, despite 50 years of history (something writer James Robinson spoke about in a Marvel.com interview). What was intriguing to Marvel about further exploring "Scarlet Witch"?

Alonso: I think this book will show a different side of James. "Scarlet Witch is a character he has been thinking about for years, and this series will show that. The approach James is taking all but requires a new artist every issue. He'll be exploring a lot of thematic terrain with this series, and while it'll be relevant to the Marvel Universe, it won't be tethered too much to current continuity. It'll dance in its own space.

James Robinson Promises Unique Adventures for Wanda in New "Scarlet Witch" Series

And as noted this week in a Marvel.com interview, the series will have rotating artists, right -- different artist for each story?

Alonso: Yep.

The Last series I wanted to talk about this week was "Drax." We've known for months that former WWE Champion/current UFC fighter CM Punk would be co-writing the series, but in recent weeks we learned the full creative team: Cullen Bunn co-writing, and Scott Hepburn illustrating. Bunn is likely the hardest-working writer in comics right now, with what feels like a dozen books at multiple publishes a month -- what made him the right match to pair with relative newcomer CM Punk?

Alonso: Well, CM Punk is a big Cullen Bunn fan. [Laughs] He's very excited about Cullen's library of work. This was really just one of those no-brainers. Make no mistake, this story starts with CM -- it's his -- but in Cullen, you've got a veteran who'll make sure that story lives and breaths on the page. Who'd have thought we'd live in a world when we'd have "Rocket Raccoon," "Groot," "Drax" and "Gamora" series that generated so much excitement.

Speaking of which -- it's a question you've gotten before, but any update on the status of that "Gamora" series?

Alonso: The first script is in, and it's great. And we are close to announcing an artist and release date.

This week saw the release of "Hank Johnson, Agent of Hydra," written by TV veteran David Mandel and illustrated by Michael Walsh. Mandel's a busy guy as the new show runner of "Veep," but given the amount of TV writers working steadily at Marvel right now -- Tara Butters & Michele Fazekas on "Captain Marvel," for instance -- is there already talk of him doing more at the publisher?

Alonso: We'd sure love that. I loved the one-shot -- laugh out loud funny, but reverential of Marvel continuity and history. If you've every wondered about how the S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra softball game would go, this is the book for you. This book has been years in the making. Mandel pitched it to me when I first came to Marvel.

Years in the making indeed! We'll wrap the week with a couple of fan questions from the CBR Community. First-time poster Reed1610 asks: "Loving the last few years of FF reprint presence: Byrne and Lee/Kirby and Hickman omnibus, plus the recent Aguirre-Sacasa/McNiven TPB was top-notch; Any chance we'll see the Chris Claremont FF reprinted anytime soon? The world needs more Salvador Larroca art!"

Alonso: Noting on the horizon for that particular run, but we're always open to the possibilities.

And we'll close with Purplevit, perhaps inspired by the stream of recent news surrounding 20th Century Fox's "Gambit" movie: "Do you have any plans for Gambit after SW?"

Alonso: Yes, but nothing we can announce yet.

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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