Haden Blackman Joins "Elektra" & The Art of All-New Marvel NOW!

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

This week, we've got a special look inside the artists of All-New Marvel NOW! But before we get too deep into the inkwell's of talents like Ryan Stegman, Phil Noto, Tradd Moore and others, Axel breaks some special news about a change in the creative team of "Elektra" (HINT: we put it in the title of this story). Plus, the Editor-in-Chief takes your questions on X-Force and more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, this week let's shift our discussion a bit and focus on the art side of Marvel's latest. With All-New Marvel NOW!, you're employing some artists who break a bit from the norm on superhero comics and some who are breaking from their own previous work. Was that a conscious move on the part of Editorial for this wave of books?

Axel Alonso: Well, there wasn't a meeting or anything. Really, what you're seeing is a reflection of an office culture where editors understand that a variety of art styles is welcome. The fact that we have Tradd Moore, Phil Noto, Mitch Gerads, Javier Pulido, Adrian Alphona, Mike Del Mundo, Rock-He Kim and others shows that editors know it's all about finding the right artist for the right job.

Everyone who goes to a Marvel panel at a con knows who Marvel Talent Manager C.B. Cebulski is, but shed some light for me on how he and his people work to match artists to books or make folks available to editors for launch.

Alonso: C.B. and the talent management group help editors in getting books to the printer, looking good and on time. Their primary function is to alert editors to the availability of artists -- both established and new -- for upcoming arcs and new projects, and to make recommendations, based on an artist's style, speed and schedule. Sometimes they'll provide a list of options to an editor. Ultimately, it's the editor who takes their recommendation up the food chain.

As Marvel's Talent Liaison, C.B. is always on a plane to one place or another, recruiting new talent. Rock-He Kim was a standout. For a franchise like "X-Force," whose launches have benefitted from a slugger's row of exceptional artists -- from Clayton Crain to Jerome Opeña to Mike Allred -- Rock-He brings just the right visual stamp, the right swagger to make it stand out on the racks.

Looking at some of the specific assignments on the new books, one of the standouts to me so far has been Mike Del Mundo who's done a lot of cover work so far, but his early images from "Elektra" seem to be really picking up in the visual tradition of past Elektra stories. Was it important to find someone who could stand on the shoulders of the folks who originally brought her to life?

Alonso: All the classic Elektra stories -- from what Frank Miller did on "Daredevil" to what Bill Sienkiewicz did on "Elektra: Assassin" -- had a unique visual identity, a sort of progressive, experimental aesthetic. So I'm certain that was bouncing around in the back of [Editor] Sana Amanat's brain when she tapped Mike. He's a versatile draftsman and amazing conceptual artist, and I reckon he'll bend a few reader's brains with his storytelling and layouts. That said, Sana and her Group Editor, Steve [Wacker] decided to hold the book off for one month because of some curveballs that came up soon after we announced the book. In fact, let me bring in special guest Zeb Wells to explain...

Zeb Wells: Anyone who knows me knows this book has been a dream of mine since I started writing comics ten years ago. Unfortunately, after Steve moved heaven and earth to make the book happen, commitments in television won't allow me the time to craft it with the care it deserves.

So I had to make the heartbreaking decision to walk away, and Steve and Sana had to make the less-heartbreaking decision to replace me with someone twice as talented: Haden Blackman of "Batwoman" fame.

It's a surreal feeling to be this excited for a book I wanted to be writing so badly, but I can't wait to get it at my comics store in April. And I want to thank everyone at Marvel for being understanding about the whole situation. Hopefully, I'll be back at Marvel soon with a new project when my schedule opens up.

NYCC: Wells' "Elektra" Hunts for Redemption

Alonso: So there you go. We're obviously sad to see Zeb go, but happy for his opportunities out in TV land. The good news for readers is that Haden's sizzling pitch makes me and the editors confident that the character is in terrific hands. Haden's done some terrific work across town, but I think "Elektra" will send his name skyrocketing. And because you've been so patient, here is a sneak peek at some of the breathtaking work Mike Del Mundo has been up to in the meantime.

Another stand out is Tradd Moore who impressed on his Image work, but I'll admit to being surprised how impressed I was by his first "Ghost Rider" pages. You've spoken a lot about looking for guys in the indie side of things and bringing them in for projects from Marvel Knights to the main Marvel U. Do you look to match an artist you find to a particular book or let the artist render the character to their strengths?

Alonso: Again, it all comes down to the current culture of Marvel. Find the right artist for the right job. In the case of "All-New Ghost Rider," all kudos go to [Senior Editor] Mark Paniccia for thinking way outside the box. Panic looked at Tradd's work on "Luther Strode" and those "Deadpool" covers and just connected the dots. And let me tell you, Tradd's performance on this book exceeds my wildest expectations. So dynamic and detailed. He really creates a unique world.

Adrian Alphona coming back to Marvel for the new "Ms. Marvel" seems like a mix of someone who has experience with action and teen drama, but is it more challenging to find artists to match a book where you're working hard to really expand the diversity of the Marvel U in a significant way?

Alonso: This is just a matter of perfect casting. There are few super hero stories told form the perspective of teenagers that are as beloved and respected as "Runaways" -- and Adrians's contribution to that series can't be overstated. It's a seminal work. We are so lucky to have him on board for this series. He will bring dynamism and depth to Kamala's journey.

There are a few artists working on these series who are moving around in the Marvel line like recently announced exclusive artist Mahmud Asrar on "Wolverine & The X-Men," Ryan Stegman on "Wolverine" and even Phil Noto on "Black Widow." When you take someone who's worked with Marvel in the past, do you hope to challenge them to adapt their style a bit with new series like these?

Alonso: Absolutely. You always want the artist to be hungry and inspired and ready to challenge him- or herself. When you see what Paul Cornell has planned for "Wolverine," you'll understand why Ryan is the perfect artist to draw this story. And I mean, seriously, who hasn't wanted to see Stegman draw Wolverine? Ditto for Mahmud on "Wolverine and the X-Men." These are stars on the rise who are taking on new challenges. As for Phil Noto, "Black Widow" provides him with the right character and the sufficient lead-time to take complete artistic control of the visuals. Phil is delivering fully-rendered color art that's the best work of his career. Totally inspired.

Looking at fan questions this week, Elektra fan scouse mouse was wondering after the new book's debut, saying, "Just read the March solicits and noticed Elektra #1 was missing! I'm assuming it's been delayed but when can us impatient fans of Ms Natchios expect to get our hands on this?"

Alonso: It's scheduled for April 2014, just a month back, scouse mouse.

The Teacher Is In When Latour & Asrar Tackle "Wolverine & the X-Men"

In addition, TsaiMeLemoni asked, "Will Elektra's supporting cast be made up of existing MU characters, or will they be original creations? Additionally, it would be amazing if you all could get Olivier Coipel to do one issue of the series!"

Alonso: Elektra's supporting cast will be original creations for the most part, but don't be surprised if we run into a few Marvel Universe characters along the way that reflect the dark and unpredictable shades of the Elektra mythos. As for Olivier -- he's already scheduled to draw something else, but maybe he can squeeze a variant in to his busy schedule?

Meanwhile, AntiPatriot wanted to know: "After it's official that UXF and CatXF will merge into one book I'm kinda worried, because I really loved the cast of CatXF. It's safe to assume that Hope (as Cable's daughter) will have some role in the new X-Force book, but what about Boomer, Doc Nemesis, Forge, Domino and Colossus? I kinda liked Dom and Pete together, Forge and Nemesis' bickering was hilarious and Boomer is always good for a little fun."

Alonso: "Cable and X-Force" writer Dennis Hopeless has indeed penned fun new takes on fan favorite X-Men characters, AntiPatriot. And without giving away too much, I'll say that incoming "X-Force" writer Simon Spurrier isn't about to just completely walk away from what Dennis has built. At least one of the characters you've named turns up in "X-Force" in February.

On the other side of the X-Force equation, marvell2100 had this: "What are your plans for Bishop now that UXF is coming to an end? It would be terrible for his character to return and go back to limbo after being gone for so long. Is it possible that he could find a home on Uncanny Avengers? I think that may be the best fit for him since it's unlikely any other X-Team would want him."

Alonso: With Rick Remender killing off his cast like it's going out of style -- did you see what happened in "Uncanny Avengers" #14? -- there's certainly enough room on the Uncanny Avengers roster now for somebody like Bishop. But the only way to know for sure is to keep reading.

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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