Landing Marvel NOW!, Expanding Ultimate

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, after Marvel came out on top of the November sales rankings with a string of strong debuts form the Marvel NOW! relaunch, a returned Axel explains how the publisher plans to capitalize on that success for the long term, and he gives insight onto how Marvel will support non-relaunch titles amongst the hub bub. Meanwhile, the Ultimate line grows by one for a few months as Cullen Bunn's "Ultimate Wolverine" series highlights the changing nature of that universe. Plus, your questions on the teens of "Young Avengers" and more. But first, a message from Axel on Marvel's behalf about the tragic events today in Newtown, Connecticut.

Axel Alonso: Kiel, before we begin, I want to take a moment on Marvel's behalf, to express our deepest sympathies to the people of Newtown, Connecticut, in the aftermath of the senseless act of violence that unfolded earlier today. Our hearts go out to the children, parents and teachers that were affected. The victims and survivors will be in our prayers.

Kiel Phegley: Well put.

We just saw the numbers for the first full month of Marvel NOW! launches, and the results seemed very strong for you guys as you took a majority of the top ten. I always like to start these things with the basics: was this where you'd hoped the books would land? More so? Less so?

We're very happy with the numbers. The majority of titles debuted above 100,000, and several tracked above 200,000. And [SVP of Sales] David Gabriel informs me that the orders for issue #2's were very good, with multiple second printings - not just on core titles like "All-New X-Men" and "Uncanny Avengers" but also titles like "Deadpool," "Avengers Arena" and "Thunderbolts." By any standard, Marvel NOW! has been a success, and now it's on us to keep people coming back for more. It's very important to us - to me - that readers understand that each of these stories has a long-term plan that will be realized, and that retailers understand that the second arcs of these titles will offer compelling reasons to stay tuned.

I was surprised to see "Deadpool" rank higher - even if it was by a small margin - than titles like "Indestructible Hulk" and "Iron Man." Do you lay that at the feet of specific incentive and variant programs or a general interest in one title's specific pitch?

Alonso: There's just something about Deadpool that excites fans. He scratches an itch no other character does. I mean, amidst the sea of NBA posters and stickers that adorn my son's bedroom walls, are not one but two Deadpool posters - the Dave Johnson piece from "Deadpool Corps" and Geoff Darrow's amazing cover for the Marvel NOW! relaunch. Not Spider-Man or Hulk or X-Men - Deadpool. Go figure. That said, I think "Deadpool" #1 might have garnered one more variant that the rest - the Hastings Entertainment variant - but the fact that it competed with perennials like "Hulk" says a lot about his appeal.

But I don't like to compare my children. [Laughs] I'm thrilled with the numbers across the board. To see the numbers on a book like "Indestructible Hulk" be so high, especially on the heels of another terrific run by Jason Aaron, says a lot about the fact that all the creators came in bringing their A game. They came in with that goal of bringing their best in some respects so they wouldn't prove the weak link.

One thing I was curious about that you may not have data on yet is how Marvel NOW! is affecting the line overall. You've rebranded a number of books like "Red She-Hulk" alongside the #1 issues. Even other recent launches like "Hawkeye" or Mark Waid's "Daredevil" are starting up new stories to capitalize on all this. Has a rising tide lifted all boats in the line?

Alonso: The success of "Hawkeye" owes to the chemistry and vision of the creative team - Matt [Fraction] and David [Aja]. They created a series that stands apart from all other titles in the line in its sensibility, tone and graphic sensibility - and the message starts with Aja's covers. If anything, the excitement of Marvel NOW! blew some wind into the sails of a book that already had lots of self-earned momentum.

Shifting to another side of the line, we've had some moves in the Ultimate line recently. Aside from story fallout coming from the "Divided We Fall" story, we've also got a new "Ultimate Wolverine" mini series just announced. In terms of the broader ongoing series, are you guys happy to let the individual books develop on their own for a while, or do you now start to look for other big stories to shake things up in 2013?

Alonso: Like all events, "Divided We Fall, United We Stand" bound together a few titles before offering a forks in the road where each could go off on its own path. It's up to each individual writer [Brian Bendis, Brian Wood and Sam Humphries] now to determine what each road will be. That said - spoiler alert - there's a concept we've be batting for the last year that might see the light of day sometime down the road. It's nothing we're committed to yet, but I love the potential of this event. Speculate away! The Ultimate Comic Universe is huge, but the Ultimate Comics line line is small - and that's because we want to keep it a focused universe that allows creators to do things they can't do in the Marvel Universe.

With the "Ultimate Wolverine" mini series, we seem to be following on the promise made at the post-"Death of Spider-Man" relaunch that there would be regular mini series to run alongside the three monthly titles. What made this younger version of the character - original Wolverine's son created by Jeph Loeb and Arthur Adams in "Ultimate X" - the Ultimate cast member to be next on the mini series docket, and why was Cullen Bunn the go-to choice as writer?

Alonso: Back when we relaunched the Ultimate Comics line, we staked a flag in the ground to do this story. It was a no-brainer to give this character his own spotlight, independent of the core title. I mean, Wolverine's Wolverine.

In a way, this is the latest take on the idea of a "legacy character" in superhero comics - a young hero stepping into the mantle of a fallen one. For a while, those kinds of stories seemed to be very popular, though lately they've declined a bit. Is there still an original story to be told in that vein?

Alonso: Of course. Hey, a good story is a good story. In the Ultimate Comics Universe, dead is dead. We didn't kill Ultimate Peter Parker without a plan for who'd replace him. And when "Ultimatum wiped dozens of characters off the map, we knew we had to replace them with characters that'd be able step out from their shadow. Of course, success boils down to execution. Once the canvas is clean, you put down some pencils lines before you go to ink. That's where we are with the mythology of Ultimate Comics Wolverine; we're ready to start laying down some ink. I think what we've got planned qualifies as "original."

Getting into fan questions, let's get into some of those books not renumbering with Marvel NOW! starting with Whalers77 who asks, "Really enjoying the Gambit solo and it seems to be doing well, especially given the extra "push" Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye seemed to get relative his. Given this, can we expect to see Gambit in a core title soon as he has been out of one for a very long time (no offense Astonishing or X-23), while Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye are in multiple ones? I'm a Wolverine fan, but even I wouldn't mind seeing him switched out for Gambit in a title or two."

Alonso: Offense taken on the "Astonishing X-Men" front, Whalers77. That series and "Gambit" are the best places to catch your favorite Cajun for the near future.

jameszahra, who appears to be a Daken superfan, has this: "Now that 'Winter Soldier' has been running for a good while will we get to see daken make an appearance? the 2 of them have some loose ends that need tying up and if WS is looking to redeem himself then id say dakens someone he might want to make peace with."

Alonso: jameszahra. Uh-oh, brother. You obviously haven't been reading "Uncanny X-Force." But as people reading "Uncanny X-Force" know - spoiler alert - Daken was sent to meet his maker by his father Wolverine. Still, that sort of thing hasn't stopped him in the past, so who knows what tomorrow might bring?

Shifting focus to some "Young Avengers" talk, KurtW95 wonders, "Looking forward to 'Young Avengers.' But I was wondering about the ending to the final Loki 'JIM' issue? Is the old evil Loki now inhabiting Kid Loki's body? Shame if it's true. I loved Kid Loki (and Leah)."

Alonso: Hey KurtW95, thanks for the support. Alas, the news is true. Mean old Loki has indeed taken over Kid Loki's body and Kid Loki is no more. However, as is always the case with everything Loki, things are never are clean cut as they appear.

Finally, randomlee26 has this to share: "The Young Avengers was the first comic book I ever read, and I was hooked from then on for two reasons: 1) Because it was a good entry point to the Marvel Universe, and 2) It had two relatable gay teens (I went as Wiccan for Halloween one year). This is kind of a weird question, but since Marvel has several quality LGBT characters, has there ever been any thoughts about doing a one-shot or a mini focused around the LGBT experience in the Marvel U?"

Alonso: randomlee26, one of the staples of Marvel Comics is reflecting the world in all its diversity so there are a few characters and series that might touch upon what you're talking about. For starters, Wiccan and Hulkling continue to be an important part of Kieron [Gillen] and Jamie's [McKelvie's] relaunch of "Young Avengers." And Northstar and his partner Kyle, along with Karma are key cast members of "Astonishing X-Men."

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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