Free Hip-Hop Covers, Going Back to School with "Spidey"

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" #9 Delayed Until January, 2016

After taking a week off for Thanksgiving, Alonso returns to discuss this week's news that Marvel will release a free book on Jan. 6 reprinting 14 of the publisher's hip-hop variant covers, an initiative that the Editor-in-Chief has been closely involved with since the start. With the All-New, All-Different Marvel publishing initiative continue to unfold, Alonso shares his thoughts on "Totally Awesome Hulk," "All-New X-Men," "Daredevil," "Spidey" and "Red Wolf," all of which debuted with new #1s this past week. Plus, insight into the "Secret Wars" #9 shift and a hint that we haven't seen the last of the Ultimate Universe characters, even if their home world is gone.

Albert Ching: Axel, let's get back to it with the news that Marvel will reprint 14 of the hip-hop variant covers in a free book out next month. What inspired that decision, and what would you say is the goal of this release?

Axel Alonso: We've had so many requests for a collected edition of the covers we thought it'd be cool to do a little appetizer. So for the first week in January, we've produced a 32-page sampler that includes 14 of the covers that have been released so far, and it's free for fans. Each spread will feature a virgin image of the cover -- just black bars above and below -- that makes for a nifty pinup. It's a beautiful package, it's free, and it sports a really nice introduction by Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, who reflects on comics, Hip-Hop and what this initiative means to him. Since the Run the Jewels variants set the stage for this initiative, it's nice to go back full circle.

That's 14 covers, 32 pages -- any word on what the other content is going to be in the book?

Alonso: Right-hand page is the Hip-Hop cover; left-hand page is the main cover and interior pages from the series it's based on. So if you're looking to turn these into pinups, you don't have to make any hard choices -- they're all on right-hand pages.

Pak & Cho Have Fun, Break Stereotypes with "Totally Awesome Hulk"

It's now December and each week there are still a lot of Marvel #1s being released, as part of the All-New, All-Different initiative. Let's start with a book we've been talking about for months now, Greg Pak and Frank Cho's "Totally Awesome Hulk." You've made your enthusiasm clear for it, and have been fairly involved in this one personally -- what are your thoughts on how the first issue took shape now that it's out there in the world?

Alonso: We promised All-New, All-Different, and you can't get much more all-new and all-different than what Greg and Frank are doing with this book. It's looking at the Hulk predicament from the perspective of a completely different character [than Bruce Banner], a character that has some things in common with Banner -- the intellect, the physical frame -- but a whole lot less in common because he's young and brash. We called this series the "Totally Awesome Hulk," as opposed to the "Incredible Hulk" or the "Rampaging Hulk," because it leans so hard into the just-plain-fun aspect of being the Hulk. When this Hulk rampages, he has fun doing it.

Also out this week is the new "All-New X-Men" #1. The X-Men line is a bit smaller right now than it has been, and it feels as a result each X-book has a distinct sense of purpose -- what do you like about the story that Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley are telling here, which is related but feels very different than, say, "Extraordinary X-Men"?

Alonso: It should. We want all three core titles to have a distinct mission statement and overall vibe. So while "All-New X-Men" is the next stage of the journey that began with Brian Bendis, Stuart Immonen and Mahmud Asrar's run, Dennis and Mark are delivering a fresh take on our next-generation mutants as they struggle to carve their own place in the Marvel Universe. While the "Extraordinary X-Men" and the "Uncanny X-Men" deal with the biggest problems facing their race, the "All-New X-Men" will embark on a smaller, more personal adventure, their own sort of vision quest

New X-Men Issues Hint At Cyclops' Final Fate, Introduce Tiny Teammate

Just seeing Bagley on an X-Men ongoing series feels novel, since that's not something he's done in his many years at Marvel.

Alonso: It does, doesn't it? When we were casting the series, that occurred to us, too. Who'd have thought?

Speaking of people who had big shoes to fill, the new "Daredevil" #1 from Charles Soule and Ron Garney arrived this week, and they're the latest creative team to follow a groundbreaking run on "Daredevil." It's obvious from early on they're doing something different than what Waid and Samnee did -- what do you like about the different take on "Daredevil" the team is doing here?

Alonso: Everything about this series screams "noir." Charles' scripts drip urban and Garney's shadows-heavy, neo noir approach -- sort of a continuation of the style crafted for "Men of Wrath" -- as well as the limited color palette, is intended to give the book a very unique look. Factor in Murdock's return to New York City and Hell's Kitchen, the nasty new villains, and that sidekick, Blindspot -- and you've got a series that echoes the noir approach of some of the most successful runs on the character -- Miller, Bendis & Maleev -- but still feels new and different.

Robbie Thompson Swings Back To High School In "Spidey"

This week also brought "Spidey" #1 from Robbie Thompson and Nick Bradshaw, placing Peter Parker back in high school. At what point did Marvel see this as a book that was needed -- something that would serve an audience that maybe wasn't getting the type of Spider-Man stories they were looking for?

Alonso: We wanted a series that really hit hard to the nostalgic and classic beginnings of Spider-Man, that had a youthful flavor, but would be appealing to long-term fans. And that's what "Spidey" is. I think this series has a lot in common with the series launch of [Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley's] "Ultimate Spider-Man" more than a decade ago. It offers readers, new and old, the chance to look at a classic character through new eyes, a ground floor view of Peter Parker learning what it means to be Spider-Man. I think this is a great addition to [Marvel Senior Editor] Nick [Lowe]'s already excellent and diverse Spider-Man line. Each series has a clear mission statement.

This might be more of a Nick Lowe question, but "Spidey" presents a bit of a different take on the history of Spider-Man -- with, say, Gwen Stacy attending the same high school as Peter Parker. Is this meant to be outside of the mainline continuity?

Alonso: Decide for yourself. We're looking to tell fun stories that will hopefully connect with new readers or inspire old fans to look at Spider-Man in a new way.

One more #1 from this week was "Red Wolf." That's certainly a more obscure character than most Marvel solo stars -- what do you advise to readers who may overlook this one?

Alonso: This series springs out of "1872," which was a "Secret Wars" tie-in that imagined the Marvel Universe as a classic Western paradigm. Red Wolf was a key -- if not the key -- character in the series. Without him, the bad guys would've won. In this series, we're taking Red Wolf, and, spoiler alert, transporting him, like Arnold in "The Terminator," into a world that's not his own. That world is -- spoiler alert -- the Marvel Universe, and Red Wolf is going to see how much has changed and how little has changed in the past century and a half while dealing with some nasties that transcend time. [Writer] Nathan [Edmondson] and [artist] Dalibor [Talajic], along with consultant and cover artist, Jeffrey Veregge, are working hard to tell a story that speaks accurately to Native American culture and themes, and bring a new character in the Marvel Universe that it, well, needs.

The news broke earlier this week that the last issue of "Secret Wars," #9, had moved two weeks to early January. Do you have any comment on that shift?

Alonso: The story got bigger, the revelations more shocking, the scale of the action grander than any of us anticipated. Once you've read the event's truly cataclysmic conclusion -- and Esad's artwork is beyond anything you've seen so far -- you'll see for yourself, and you'll understand why [writer] Jonathan [Hickman] and [artist] Esad [Ribic] needed the extra time and space, and why we gave it to them. It has all been building to this.

Let's wrap with a fan question from the CBR Community. And speaking of the end of "Secret Wars," MarvelMaster616 asks, "As it stands, two Ultimate characters have survived 'Secret Wars' and set up shop in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe: Miles Morales and Reed Richards/The Maker. Will there be any other Ultimate characters showing up down the line?"

Alonso: Look for clues. Like this...

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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