Inside "A+X" With Loeb, Lowe & Slott

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 earlier this year 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, Axel is out on a week of international vacationing so he's turned the keys of the column over to Marvel Senior Editor Nick Lowe who in turn invited along all-star writers Jeph Loeb and Dan Slott to discuss their roles crafting the incoming team-up book "A+X." Following on the heels of the best-selling "AvX: Versus," the new series again sees big name creators tell a story (two shorts per issue) starring one member each of the Mighty Avengers and the Uncanny X-Men. But this time out, the two heroes will be teaming up rather than squaring off, starting with Captain American and Cable by Slott and Ron Garney and Hulk and Wolverine by Loeb and Dale Keown. Below, the trio behind the series discuss its origins, how the book plays off the new reality of Marvel NOW! and what other surprises will be in store beyond its November debut. Read on!

CBR News: "A + X" is the follow up to the mega event that has been "Avengers Vs. X-Men," and while Nick has been riding along with that story in a major way, Jeph and Dan have been less involved, though Jeph did kick start things with Nova's introduction and contributed an "AvX: Versus" short with Ed McGuinness. Still, for each of you as writers watching the action from the outside, what's been your take on "AvX" as a whole and how it impacts the Marvel U?

Dan Slott: Well, I for one want more AR apps of Axel [Alonso] popping up in my comics. [Laughter] It only heightens it. I think with all the AR stuff, to me the fun isn't just watching the story behind Marvel's biggest powerhouse hitters, not just the artists and writers and not just seeing all the extra effort that Nick and Tom and everybody has been putting in with the AR. It's every character, every creator, every bell and whistle. Just wow. How could this not be the greatest comic of the last decade?

Nick Lowe: Ha! That was well said.

Slott: Thank you!

Lowe: You get a raise, Dan. You get a raise.

Jeph Loeb: We had a great deal of fun kicking it off with "X-Sanction" and having Cable play the role of setting up where Hope would be in the story, what Cyclops knew and how that played into what Brian was doing in particular at the beginning with "AvX" #0. But this was absolutely something that as a fan and a reader I got to enjoy. They did allow us to play along a little bit when Nick asked Ed McGuinness and I to do a story in "Versus" with Colossus and The Thing, and Ed draws the most bad-ass Thing in the world.

But when we came around to "A + X," this was something that as soon as I heard about it, I called up Nick and said, "How and when can we do this?" And then I happened to be in the New York office, and Nick had everything laid out. It was kind of fantastic. First when he told me that Dan and Ron Garney were doing the first half of the book with Cap and Cable, I was jealous because I knew that story was going to rock. And then Nick had brought to the table that Dale Keown wanted to come back and play -- and specifically that we wanted to come back and play with the Hulk. We "plussed in" Wolverine and knowing Dale would be drawing that made it even cooler.

Slott: I just read that story yesterday, and it was awesome. It was all red meat and candy!

Loeb: [Laughs] You know, what's so fun is that Dan writes stories that very much speak to the way I like to read comics. They're big popcorn adventures that are also filled with proper emotion and great character stuff. So the idea of taking these two warriors in Captain America and Cable -- who I've always felt were kindred spirits -- and setting a story in World War II was the perfect match of story and writer. When we were doing "X-Sanction," one of the things that I wanted to get across was that in many ways, Cable was the mutant version of Captain America. He's a man out of time. He was a warrior, and that's all he knew. He believed in this cause, and he was willing to die for it. Those are all Captain America-esque kind of things. So watching Dan take those toys and play with them has been great.

Slott: And for me, it's allowed me to scratch this itch where Nick has let me and Ron play not just with "A + X" in the present but with the whole Marvel Universe. It's jumping back in time to World War II because Cable can do that. It's almost like he's jumping into the middle of a Captain America movie serial. It's lots of fun with big Nazi robots!

Loeb: You can't go wrong with Nazi robots.

Lowe: You certainly can't! [Laughter]

Slott: One of the things I loved about "AvX" and "Versus" was watching these big slobberknockers -- just all this big action and classic Marvel style. It's nonstop fun whenever you read one of these books. And "A + X" just keeps that going. You're going to get to see all these characters in this evolved Marvel NOW! landscape that usually don't interact. For so long, A has been over there, and X has been over there. Now we get to throw all the toys together and see what happens.

Loeb: Also, what Nick has provided both for the creator and the reader are these "one-and-done" kinds of stories. You can jump on to "A + X" at any point -- although you're absolutely want to read it every month -- and read a story with some top-level talent. I mean, you've got Ron Garney back on Captain America and Dale Keown back on the Hulk! In so many ways, this is just the reader's dream. Iin the "Versus" game, it was this character versus that character, and at the end it'd say "Winner." This really feels like with "A + X" the real winner is the reader because they get the chance to see their favorite artists work on characters that they've either made their bones on or, like in the case Dan on Cap and Cable, work on characters they're not associated with.

Slott: That's been so much fun. At first when Nick approached me to do this...well, first he had to get through the castle gates past Steve Wacker and unchain me from "Amazing Spider-Man" for a minute.

Loeb: The worst part was getting past the Nazi robots! [Laughter]

Slott: But I thought this was great because normally, I'm living a one hundred percent Spider-Man life. Which is awesome. It's like ordering in pizza every night. But "A + X" is like a big plate of Mac N Cheese for me. It's like, "Cap and Cable? Yaaaaaaay!" There's not a web in sight.

Lowe: I love that idea of "Mac N Cheese." That's exactly what this book is all about. We were just having so much fun with "Versus" and getting the top talent in the industry together to tell these big stories that are just action-based. They were tonally different from a lot of what we were doing a well as fun for anyone to come and pick up. So we wanted to keep on going, and that was the whole genesis of "A + X." And these stories are all grounded. They take place in continuity.

Part of the fun is that you'll see in some stories like what Jeph has planned for Wolverine and Hulk where he's definitely making the start of something. It's not something that's going to start next month, but he's laying seeds. And I'd like to think we're doing the same thing in the Cable and Cap story. That goes through all the stories in "A + X" -- laying out plans for stories in the future, paying off stories told in the past and all doing it within 10-page, action-packed visuals by great artists. Like we've said, it's Dale Keown and Ron Garney in the first issue. Holy crap. The second issue has got Kaare Andrews and one of our rising stars in Mike del Mundo who's done some amazing work on "Uncanny X-Men" and is also doing some of the best covers in the business including the "X-Men Legacy" Marvel NOW! cover. The third issue we'll be releasing info on soon, but I can tell you now that Chris Bachelo is drawing one of those stories. It's really special stuff.

Tell me about the difference between this and "AvX: Versus" in terms of what's setting the stage. In "Versus," things would flow from the main "AvX" series where two characters would square off or we'd have a big melee brawl, and then the creators would come and tell that fight's story in detail. Here, is there a similar tie-in to something like "Uncanny Avengers" or are we more picking up each cast member at whatever state they're in after the event has wrapped?

Lowe: The story definitely comes first. I want a good story with great visuals. The goal is to tell a great story that can be read in one go which is also part of a greater tapestry. So the Chris Bachelo story stars Black Widow and Rogue, and it both picks up on some elements of "Uncanny Avengers" but also picks up on some elements of Chris' work on "Wolverine & The X-Men" as well. We want these things to be meaningful to the reader while also being great stories that stand on their own and stick with you for a long time. There's not one underlying story that ties them all together. To me, that betrays the essence of what "Versus" was and what we want this to be to follow it. But as much as we can, we want it to have an impact on the Marvel Universe. But for the most part, we just want awesome short stories.

Looking a bit more at the specifics, Jeph you've got Dale coming back to the Hulk as we've said, and for so long in your career, we've seen you work really hard to write to your artist's strengths. As a fan of Dale's Hulk work, did you come in saying, "I've got to get him to draw this"?

Loeb: I got the nicest note from Dale after he finished reading the script saying that it was exactly what he wanted to draw. He and I had only worked together a long time ago on a Superman story that featured Krypto where Krypto took on Mongul. Dale drew it in two different styles. The big part was in his super cool bombastic style. And then he'd drawn it like a children's book with Krypto as a puppy running around the bottom of the page.

Slott: I remember this one! It was great!

Loeb: That was the last chance we really had to work together on a full story. He helped out on the "Who Is The Red Hulk?" origin story, but actually being able to tell a sequential story was great. And again, I have to give credit to Nick for bringing Dale in. Usually, I'll come in with a story and then we'll go, "Who's the right artist to draw this?" Here we had Dale, and he was looking for a writer. I'm such a huge fan of his work and particularly of his work on the Hulk that being able to tell a story with big action and visuals combined with someone as scrappy and antagonistic as Logan is perfect. Now that the Hulk is being repositioned in the Marvel U as a hero figure, when you take two characters who are so borderline in how people perceived them -- Wolverine as a savage killer and Hulk as an engine of destruction -- and then put them into the roles of heroes, it gives you the opportunity to comment on the world of Marvel NOW! while showing where they're headed in the future.

And in a very odd way without even talking about it, Dan and I both told stories with elements of men out of time in them. And I don't want to give up the surprise at the end of my story, but there is a theme we both bumped into on accident -- unless Nick Lowe has been secretly talking to us in our dreams. [Laughter] It may be some kind of Professor Xavier double whammy.

Slott: I just think our bio rhythms were in synch. [Laughter]

Loeb: Or we both read Page Six of "The New York Post" and came up with the same story.

Well, when I first heard the news of this book coming out of San Diego, and all we knew were the characters and the creator, I thought "Oh, Jeph is obviously writing the Cable/Cap story" so it shows how much I know. Dan, when you approached writing these characters specifically for Ron Garney, what became your main goals?

Slott: The minute you say "Ron Garney" and "Captain America" together, you know it's all gold. You can do no wrong. I've known Ron since way back from his "Moon Knight" days, so this has been a long-waiting dream for me. I finally get to work with Ron, and it's exciting. I'm glad I got to do it on a big slobberknocker. Do you really need to see two people talking at a diner or a story where it's "Aunt May needs to get her medicine"? No. Nazi robots! It's ten pages of fighting, and there is a story, but I really just can't wait to see Ron play with these pages. It's a lot of testosterone and World War II. It was so much fun to type in the phrase "Liefeld pouches." [Laughter] I'm happy. No one falls into comics. We all want to do this stuff and love it very much. So that's why it's exciting when you have to go, "Dan Slott is writing Cable? Whaaaat?" I'm having a blast writing it, and it's going to look great as drawn by Ron.

One of the things that's been fun watching in the fallout of Marvel NOW! being announced and that first Joe Quesada teaser image is how people really want to know what's up with Cable's eye patch. Dan, do you get to answer that question in this story?

Lowe: That's reserved for elsewhere. You'll be hearing more about it in the coming weeks, but sadly, Dan does not get to answer the eyepatch question. Jeph actually started this whole thing because where we're going all hinges on "X-Sanction" and the ending of "X-Sanction." The story runs with this idea in a way that Jeph inspired but he may not have foreseen. But we're taking care of a lot of that stuff. I was actually just talking to the writer who will be dealing with Cable in the future, and there is some other "X-Sanction" business we'll be pillaging.

Slott: I love how for Marvel NOW! we always have to talk in terms of "the writer of the person that I saw and the thing I maybe could be doing." [Laughs] We are hiding behind many veils of secrecy at Marvel these days.

Lowe: It is crazy trying to keep straight what's been announced and what hasn't.

Slott: I mentioned [Matt] Fraction's "FF" the other day, and then I had to cover my mouth and go, "Is that out yet? Oh, thank God, it is." We should make it like a little Advent calendar and reveal books by opening little doors.

Let's wrap by talking a little bit about Marvel NOW! and what's next. One thing we know someone on this call is involved in is Jeph and Ed McGuinness working on the "Point One" one-shot. I think everyone assumes that story will be the next step for our new Nova. Jeph, what do you want to say about that? is that the first of many projects for you in the initiative?

Loeb: What I want to say and what we're going to say are going to be two very different things. [Laughs] I have both Nazi AND Hydra robots all around my office to make sure I reveal nothing. I really do appreciate the curiosity, but I don't think what we're doing in "Point One NOW!" has been announced yet.

Lowe: Yeah, we haven't announced what they're doing with Forbush Man...oh no! Why did I let that slip?!?! [Laughter]

Loeb: But that reveal will obviously have its own surprises as to what comes after, but my own role in Marvel NOW! has yet to be unrolled.

Slott: What he said!

See Dan, there you go anticipating my question. I guess my last question would be, whether you're working on it or not, what books are you most looking forward to seeing out there in Marvel NOW!?

Slott: For me, when we go to these retreats and you hear secret stuff coming up, the one thing I can't wait to read based on that is the Jason Aaron/Esad Ribic "Thor" series. Man, I can't wait to read that!

Loeb: For me, it's the book that only came about because of "AvX" and that's Rick Remender and John Cassaday's "Uncanny Avengers," and I love the art we've seen online. Though I've got to say, every so often I have to write other pros fan letters, and when I saw Jerome Opeña's artwork for the new "Avengers" series, I had to write Hickman to say, "I can't believe how lucky you are to be working on this." And I'd be remiss if I didn't say that the other book that makes me giggle is what Bendis and Stuart Immonen are doing on "All-New X-Men." It's such a great, unexpected high concept of having the young X-Men in our time, and what has come because of it is nothing short of X-traordinary.

Slott: And yet again when you talk about the Hickman "Avengers," he's got this thing mapped out through the year 2021. There are labyrinthian schemes. We all laughed at him when he mapped out "FF" and said, "Yeah, you're going to make that." But then he showed us by delivering one of the most classic "FF" runs ever. And now what he's got for "Avengers" is amazing.

Lowe: The one I'm looking forward to the most hasn't been announced yet, but I think it'll be at New York Comic Con. But I am so stoked for "Uncanny Avengers" and can't wait to see what Jason and Esad do on "Thor."

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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