"Fantastic Four" Future, "Doctor Strange" Plans & the New "Moon Knight"

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!

With "Doctor Strange" movie news hitting the Internet this week, Alonso talks about the character's current place in Marvel's comic books, including hints on significant plans for the Sorcerer Supreme post-"Original Sin." Speaking of that event series, Alonso sheds some insight into the latest issue's brutal ending -- don't read further if you haven't read it yet -- and talks the new writing talent that received a spotlight in this week's "Amazing X-Men Annual." Alonso also comments on the ongoing reports that "Fantastic Four" may be headed for hiatus, the new "Moon Knight" creative team of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood, and answers your questions, straight from the CBR Community!

[SPOILER WARNING: This article contains a major spoiler for "Original Sin" #3, released this past Wednesday.]

Albert Ching: Axel, this week there's been a lot of talk about the Marvel Studios "Doctor Strange" movie, with reports that Scott Derrickson has been tapped to direct. Right now, there isn't a "Doctor Strange" solo comic book series, and a lot of characters roughly on his same level have gotten solo books recently as part of All-New Marvel NOW! Has a Doctor Strange series gotten a lot of talk within Marvel?

Axel Alonso: Without a doubt. There's a lot of love out there for Dr. Strange in the creative community: Almost everybody's got a "Doctor Strange" pitch! [Laughs] We've been waiting for the right one, and the right time, and we've finally got a writer with a great plan, and springboard in sight. I can't say when it'll happen, but I will say that Dr. Strange plays a big role in "Original Sin," and in the Marvel Universe going forward.

RELATED: Marvel Studios Reportedly Finds Its "Doctor Strange" Director

As you said, everyone has a Doctor Strange pitch, and it does seem like a character who has a lot of love. But at the same time, he's seen as one of those characters where it's hard to make a solo series stick. Why do you think that might be the case?

Alonso: Don't know. Perhaps part of the challenge is that some readers view magic as tangential to the Marvel Universe or the use of magic as a deus ex machina. Whatever. At the end of the day, Doctor Strange is, like any character, just waiting for the right creative team and the right moment to shine. "Original Sin" should do a little to increase his Q-rating tin the Marvel Universe, and position for the future. In the hands of the right writer and artists -- and we've already got the first part of that equation -- odds are good you'll have a series that will stick for some time.

Speaking of "Original Sin" -- the end of this week's issue #3 certainly contained a big moment, with what certainly appears to be the brutally violent death of the original Nick Fury at the hands of the Winter Soldier. Obviously that's a big moment, and people have speculated since the onset of the story about Nick Fury's fate -- but given Fury's history of using Life Model Decoys and the like, should readers take this moment at face value?

Alonso: All I'll say is that this is one of the "oh $#!#" moments we promised, and it's one of many. We promised carnage. We promised death. We promised surprises. And this is just one of them. Just what is the Winter Solider up to...?

Also out this week was the "Amazing X-Men" annual, which featured some new writing talent in the Marvel mix, like "Death Sentence" scribe Monty Nero. What led him to Marvel, and writing this comic?

Alonso: Mark Millar brought Monty's work to my attention. "Death Sentence" is a terrific book with a high concept that's somewhat similar to "Strikeforce: Morituri" -- normal people are granted incredible powers, but with a ticking clock -- but that's where all similarities end. It's a deft piece of work, with great characterization and crisp dialogue. Monty hooked me with the first issue. He's currently in contact with a couple of editors who are looking for just the right assignment to play to his strengths. The "Amazing X-Men Annual" is only a glimpse of what we can expect from him.

That same book has a shorter story written by Marguerite Bennett, who's been making a name for herself at DC Comics, and made her Marvel debut there. Similar question -- what landed her on Marvel's radar?

Alonso: Marguerite specializes in character development -- she did amazing work with both "Batgirl" and "Joker's Daughter" for DC -- and this story in "Amazing X-Men Annual" #1 called for just that -- an in-depth exploration into Firestar's character and how she's perceived by those around her.

RELATED: Wood & Smallwood Take Over "Moon Knight" with September's Issue #7

It was announced earlier this week that Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood would be the new "Moon Knight" team, taking over from Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. Following years in the X-world, it's a new book and a new character for Wood. What made him the right choice to follow Ellis?

Alonso: Warren told us he had six stories to tell before he moved on -- he'd lay down the foundation for a series, the template for the writers who'd follow -- so we had a lot of time to prepare for who'd succeed him. The name that topped the list was Brian Wood, who's no stranger to telling gritty urban stories, and whose career has overlapped Warren's dating back to "Channel Zero." When Nick reached out to Brian, he was immediately intrigued.

Brian's first script is terrific. While it's tonally similar to what Warren brought to the series, he definitely brings his own -- what's the word? -- "oeuvre" to the table. It's a Brian Wood story. And he's got great chemistry with Greg Smallwood.

It definitely seems like a sign of continued commitment to the character, putting another high-profile writer on the series.

Alonso: Without a doubt. And anyone that's going to write "Moon Knight," has to be able to think outside the box. Anyone that's going to draw it, has to put their own visual stamp on the character, or it won't work. Go big or go home. Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood aren't just doing "Moon Knight" #7-#12, they're doing "Moon Knight, Volume 2."

Another announcement this week -- and more Marvel newcomers -- is "The League" star Paul Scheer and his "Aliens Vs. Parker" writing partner Nick Giovannetti teaming for the "Deadpool Bi-Annual." Marvel has had a lot of success with another comedian and TV actor, Brian Posehn, co-writing the main "Deadpool" series -- what has you excited about this project?

Alonso: Paul Scheer is hilarious. He had a few conversations with me and Jordan [D. White] before he pitched, and his story was fantastic. Laugh out loud funny.

RELATED: "Fantastic Four" May Live On-Screen, Disappear from Comics

There has been a lot of talk in the industry this week about the possible future of "Fantastic Four." Last week, CBR published a report saying the books may be taken off the table stemming from issues with 20th Century Fox, who hold the rights to FF films, following an initial report by Bleeding Cool. What can you can say on the record about the matter?

Alonso: The Fantastic Four -- Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben -- are a vital part of the Marvel Universe, and we have no plans to change that. James Robinson has exciting plans for them in the immediate future -- starting with the "Original Sin" tie-in story -- and we are continually devising plans to use them in new and surprising ways in the vast landscape of the Marvel Universe, like we do with any Marvel character; in fact, we already know that one of [the FF] will be a huge player in a universe-spanning event down the road.

Part of Marvel's success hinges on the fact that we aren't afraid to exercise massive flexibility with our catalog of characters. Sometimes, the way we move the pieces around on the board -- the death and/or replacement of a character, the dissolution and/or reconstitution of a team -- or our choice of characters to spotlight -- Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Inhumans -- causes controversy, but that doesn't inhibit us from taking chances and doing what we think is right for our universe and the characters within it. Wolverine and Spider-Man joining the Avengers was a hugely controversial move that ultimately contributed to the revitalization of that franchise and to the Marvel Universe as a whole. The death of Ultimate Peter Parker got a lot of fans screaming, but it resulted in the birth of the now-beloved Miles Morales. No guts, no glory.

One more thing from this week -- word circulated that "Rocket Raccoon" #1 by writer/artist Skottie Young will debut with around 300,000 initial retailer orders. Can you confirm that?

Alonso: Yes, we have hit 300K initial orders. This book has really been embraced by the coveted furry critter demographic. [Laughs]

Even with the publicity the character is getting through the movie, to open a "Rocket Raccoon" ongoing series with that kind of numbers has to be gratifying.

It's a tribute to the character. What we have here, it's that old thing where it's about voodoo. There's a character that people want to know more about, and we have the perfect creator to tell that story. Someone that's got heat. When you put the two together, you get more than the sum of their parts.

Let's dip into fan questions -- SpiderX asks, "When can we expect to see a new "Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe"? It seems like a great opportunity to have a book filled from cover to cover with amazing Marvel AR goodies."

Alonso: There may be some Handbooks scheduled for November 2014, May 2015 and September 2015.

Major Mojo fan Mathieu B asks, "I'm a big fan of the Mojoverse and all the satire that comes with it. So, I obviously was excited about the Uncanny Avengers annual and I really enjoyed. Is there any chance of seeing Longshot or Shatterstar in an ongoing X-book anytime soon?"

Alonso: Shatterstar, Longshot, Mojo, Spiral -- all could be showing up sometime in 2015!

We'll wrap with gurkle, who's curious about the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" cast additions: "Are there any plans to have the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in a story together (besides their wordless recent cameo in 'No More Humans')?"

Alonso: Wanda and Pietro will both appear in "AXIS."

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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