Knights to the MAX: Alonso on Marvel Imprints + "Logan"

The Marvel Universe is home to a multitude of characters, some of them big names, some of them obscure, but any one of them could generate a variety of interesting stories. Unfortunately, because of things like continuity, many such tales can't be told in a regular Marvel title. Fortunately, though, there's Marvel Knights and MAX, the imprints that exist to give creators a chance to tell different kinds of stories starring the heroes or villains of the MU. CBR News spoke with Editor Axel Alonso about the extra-continuity lines and Marvel Knights' next big offering, the four-issue "Logan" miniseries.

The Marvel Knights imprint began in 1998 as a way to tell stories that looked at existing Marvel characters in new ways. Today, almost ten years later, the mission statement of MK remains the same. "Marvel Knights challenges readers to look at characters they love from a different angle," Axel Alonso told CBR News. "Because the stories don't need to be woven into the fabric of what's currently going on in the Marvel Universe, creators can take their stories into territory that they couldn't if they had to reconcile them against the larger backdrop of continuity. So there's more freedom. The writer and artist are freer to interpret the character, push the limits of their flaws, their neuroses, and their heroism.

"So far, this freedom has produced great results: 'Spider-Man: Reign,''Silver Surfer: Requiem' and 'Captain America: the Chosen' all went to second prints, and that's on top of very healthy initial orders.

When one reads a Marvel Knights title, one doesn't need to know anything before one begins reading. "The onus is on us to make sure that we've introduced you into the self-contained world of that story," Alonso explained. "It's not important that you are up to speed with current continuity to understand it. If you were picking up an Iron Man title, for instance, you wouldn't need to know that Tony Stark is currently the head of the Initiative or that Cap was dead or that the Hulk had taken over Manhattan. All you'd need to know is the basics: Tony Stark is a billionaire industrialist with an addictive streak and an incredible suit of armor.

"That said, these stories are rooted in the core continuity, so they should suggest plausible ways of looking at the characters. If you wanted to look at a story like, say, 'Silver Surfer: Requiem' as a possible future for the title character, feel free."

There are no rules about which characters are eligible for a Marvel Knights treatment. "What's important is the high concept," Alonso said. "Past series that we'd currently do under the Marvel Knights banner: Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic's 'Loki,' which told a chapter of the Asgardian legend from the eyes of the villain; Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben's 'Banner,' which imagined Bruce Banner as the repository for a murderous monster; 'Truth,' which reconciled the creation of Captain America against the backdrop of American history; or 'Rawhide Kid,' which turned the western paradigm on its ear."

Telling out-of-continuity stories with existing Marvel Characters is a hallmark of Marvel's MAX line as well, but there's a bigger difference between MAX and Marvel Knights than just mature content. "With Marvel Knights, it's all about coming up with a great high concept to tell a great story," Alonso said. "There are no rules regarding which characters we can use. All that matters is that the story resonates both with fans and non-fans of the character. MAX is more about cutting creators slack to take characters into darker territory so they can position them for the future. And there are limitations on which characters we can play with -- no Spider-Man, for instance.

What it does allow us to do, of course, is dust off some supremely cool characters and titles from the past, and give them new life. 'Terror Inc,' for instance, is back in play due to David Lapham and Patrick Zircher's wicked limited series-- and while it tells a complete story, it also tees up stories for the future."

Indeed, telling continuing stories is another distinctive difference between Marvel Knights and Marvel MAX. The MAX line features ongoing series like "Punisher," but the books in the Marvel Knights line are all limited series. "These stories have a beginning and an ending," Alonso stated.

Marvel Knight's next big miniseries the three-issue "Logan," starring Wolverine and written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Eduardo Risso. "I'd expect first quarter of 2008," Alonso said of the series' debut. "Eduardo's just about done."

Alonso personally recruited both creators for the project. "I'd been talking with Eduardo about illustrating a Wolverine story, and I'd been talking with Brian about writing something for me," Alonso explained. "When I mentioned that I'd been talking with Eduardo to Brian, he was all over it. No surprise. There's not a writer out there who doesn't want to work with Eduardo Risso -- Millar, Ellis, Brubaker.

[And if Brian's] script were just the ingredients of a toothpaste tube, he'd find a way to captivate the reader."

For "Logan," Risso is bringing to life an action packed story that sends Wolverine to a familiar locale. "It's a contemporary story set in Japan that dovetails beautifully with a WW2 flashback story," Alonso revealed, adding, "All I'll say is, there's a bad guy, a good girl, and a very big explosion."

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