From ComiXology to Ageism To "Age of Ultron"

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

This week, Axel follows up on his recent trip to South By Southwest in Austin to update fans on Marvel's plans for their free #1 issue promotion that crashed comiXology as well as share some new details on the ongoing Infinite Comics projects. Plus, he sounds off on the issues surrounding artist Jerry Ordway's recent debate-sparking blog posts on continuing a long term career in comics. And don't miss his responses to your questions on "Guardians of the Galaxy," Skottie Young's variant covers and more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, let's start off the week by talking SXSW. I saw your Tweet about how you were guilty of saying "Innovate" maybe 200 times during the panel, but even in the joke I get the picture that you had a crowd to pitch Marvel's message to. What kind of response and what kind of people did you interact with bringing Marvel back to that show?

Axel Alonso: SXSW isn't a comic book convention. It draws a very diverse crowd -- people who're interested in entertainment, tech, gaming, etc., only some of whom are what you'd call comic book fans. I'd guess that a lot of the people that attended our panel were drawn like flies to a light bulb by the big, red Marvel logo. And the subject of our panel wasn't new events in the Marvel Universe, it was Marvel's innovations in the digital realm -- and we had plenty to talk about.

"Project Gamma," which offers a whole new layer to the digital comic book-reading experience: an adaptive, non-lyrical score that moves at the reader's pace.

The weekly Infinite Comic series that debuts this July 9 with "Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted," written by Jason Aaron and Jason LaTour and illustrated by Paco Diaz.

The Marvel Unlimited app, which brings fans a great new app to take over 13,000 of Marvel's greatest comics on the go.

The Marvel Original Video initiative, for which we're producing high-quality, in-depth digital-first programming this summer that'll kick off with "Marvel Presents: Earth's Mightiest Show," hosted by Blair Butler.

And finally, the Marvel #1 initiative, which offers 700 free digital comics -- all first issues -- the response to which exceeded our -- and, evidently, comiXology's -- wildest expectations. [Laughter] I mean, holy crap!

I wanted to ask about that. There was a lot of talk about what happened with the server crash, but I think the most immediate question for readers is whether comiXology "pausing" the sale means that at some point in the near future we'll see those #1s go up for free again?

Alonso: We want to deliver on our promise. As ComiXology has made clear over the past few days, they did some test-runs, but the huge demand for Marvel #1 was more than they prepared for. We're looking to find a way to resolve this ASAP and will have something to announce regarding the promotion soon.

The other big question coming out of the weekend was on the new weekly Infinite Comics offered starting this summer. Mostly this was a question of price for each installment, but what can you say about how this rollout and package will be different from previous Infinite Comics that were shorter and offered either in addition to other full comics or at a reduced price?

Alonso: A lot of work goes into each Infinite Comic and they'll be priced fairly. Marvel is developing a new language for comics storytelling. We're exploring and defining the parameters of how people create and read comics, and we're putting a lot of sweat, love and production work into each installment. Every time we do one of these, our writers and artists continue to up their game, flex new muscles and push the limits of the Infinite Comics experience. This will be evident right out the gate with "Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted."

What's different about this weekly Infinite Comic series is that it's our first attempt at doing a long-form, episodic story in this format. Over 52 weeks, we will tell four stories, broken into 13 weekly chapters. Each of these stories will feature a flagship character, written -- or co-written -- by the writer of the monthly series so that it's as relevant to current continuity as anything you find at the comic book store.

Shifting topics to the news of the day, I'm sure you saw artist Jerry Ordway's recent post about his frustration getting work and the talk around ageism in comics it sparked. I wanted to ask you a little bit of your response to all of that. I know that you've worked to bring certain classic artists like John Severin into modern stories, and of course now Walt Simonson is doing regular Marvel work again. But do you struggle with that challenge of carving a place for creators with long careers who are still striving to work with a market that can focus on "young gun" creators? Is comics just a work environment that can be harsh for older creators?

Alonso: As I understand it, Jerry asserted that he wasn't able to make a living under the terms of his contract with DC Comics; editors weren't providing him with enough work to pay his mortgage and his contract prevented him from pursuing work elsewhere. That is, of course, Jerry's side of the story, and it's a matter best resolved between him and his employer. Whether his predicament has anything to do with ageism -- that's not my call to make.

What I do know is that comics are a competitive field, and veterans like Jerry face new challenges every year from a fresh crop of talented newcomers. The artists that stay in the game long-term do so because of lot of factors: their talent, speed, professionalism, likability, even the unquantifiable "voodoo" of their individual style. If there is one home-court advantage that veterans do enjoy, it's the relationships they build over the course of their careers: the editors and writers that want to work with them because they admire they work or, well, just plain like them. The reason I reached out to artists like John Severin and Richard Corben wasn't because of the inherent commerciality of their work, but because I really, really, really love their work. What they'd done in the past made me wonder what they'd do in the future, and I wanted to be a part of that. Turning Corben loose on the Hulk, Luke Cage and Ghost Rider was a dream come true. And working with John Severin on Rawhide Kid was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my professional life. I asked him to adopt me. And I assure you I'm not the only editor to operate that way -- ALL editors are fans.

The editors on my staff span several generations. Some, like me and [SVP -- Publishing] Tom [Brevoort] became fans during the '70s, others in the '80s or '90s. And I'm certain each editor has a soft spot for an artist or two from the era that they discovered comics. As long as that's the case, any artist has a slugger's chance at landing an assignment. And I'll bet there are more than a few fans of Jerry Ordway down these halls.

Some publishing news that hit this week was that Joshua Hale Fialkov is going to be coming on to "Ultimates." That book is in a weird spot these days where it seems to get a creative team for one big story before a hand off comes along. Is there something specific to Joshua's run that we'll see develop in terms of its long term life, or is your conception of the title now one where guys come on to tell widescreen Avengers stories?

Alonso: The latter is a big part of it. The Ultimates Comics line provides a unique canvass for a writer because it allows you to bend and distort iconic characters in ways you couldn't in the Marvel U. And because there are only three [Ultimates Comics] titles per month, there's a lot less continuity to navigate and inter-series coordination before you put your foot on the gas. So it's a great place to think big and get noticed. And it's a great place for editors to see what you've got in your creative tank.

Which brings us to Josh Fialkov. I've know who he is "Elk's Run." He's got a real voice and it's going to show on this title. When [Senior Editor] Mark Paniccia suggested him as the new writer of "The Ultimates," I took no convincing. Josh's first two scripts really take advantage of the extra freedom afforded by the Ultimate Comics line and he's bringing his best work.

Lastly, we've heard that "Age of Ultron" will have its final pages drawn by Joe Quesada. This fits well into Brian Bendis' tease that "You'll never guess the ending" and that only a select number of the Marvel staff know what it is, but what else can we draw from this turn of events? Will this serve as a bookend in some ways to the redesigns Joe did at the start of Marvel NOW!?

Alonso: What happens is so unexpected, so eye-popping that we thought it would benefit from Joe's unique eye and...expertise.

Onto fan questions, the wonderfully named TheAcidSkull asks, "I was wondering, as i am a Huge hulk Fan, will Yu come back for The title of Indestructible Hulk? As i knew, the creative teams would remain for the most part. I know the Legendary Walt Simonson will be guest starring for a Thor arc, and after that we have yet another artist for the Daredevil arc. So will Leinil Francis Yu Come back?"

Alonso: Leinil will be back...on a top-secret project.

DownInAHole wants to know, " Are there any plans to collect Skottie Young's Marvel Now! "baby" variant covers into a one-shot?"

Alonso: Yes. Later this year.

He follows up with, " I have really loved Mark Brooks' covers (X-Men Legacy, Fearless Defenders) but can we expect to see him do some interior art?"

Alonso: Stay tuned, DownInAHole.

Tekkaman Blade is following up on last week's news, asking, "With the announcement that Mike Deodato is moving to New Avengers for a story arc, is this his new home title rotating with Steve Epting or just a temporary stop? I ask because he has consistently been able to produce monthly interior art for many years now and I hope to see a larger volume of work from him on a regular basis again."

Alonso: Mike is going to continue to make the Avengers world his home for the foreseeable future, Tekkaman. At the moment, it looks as though he'll be regularly a part of "New Avengers" - but given the accelerated shipping schedule on "Avengers," and the fact that it and "New Avengers" are both part of the same tapestry, I can't guarantee that he might not switch back over to the other book at a certain point. But you can expect to see his work on a regular basis on Hickman scripts going forward.

Finally, let's switch it up with a character question from the aptly named UltimateGuardiansFan who wonders, "With all of the hype with the Guardians Of The Galaxy I can't help but think that the originals are being left out in the dust somewhat. I'm talking specifically of new appearances (thank you for the Tomorrow's Avengers TPBs by the way). Is there anything planned for any of those guys? I'm not even asking to go into specifics. Vance Astro's return followed by Starhawk (my favorite) back in 2008 is actually what brought me back into comics after a 10+ year hiatus. The problem is I want more now :)"

Alonso: I don't know that we can help you with the "want more now" part, UGF, but we're all fans of that that classic team. At the moment, we're focused on the modern-day team, but who knows what could happen in the future?

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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