Looking Up To Marvel's Solo Heroes

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, we pull back from the big teams and big events that dominate so much of our talks to focus on the heroes kicking it solo across the Marvel Universe. From the acclaimed "Daredevil" relaunch and its relationship to the resurgent "Amazing Spider-Man" to "Punisher's" stoic, violent ways, Axel expounds on why the big name stand alones of the Marvel Universe are in good shape and how they continue to inspire. Plus, the NBA is on again! Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, I wanted to start this week with something that has nothing to do with comics at all. It appears the NBA went out on Black Friday and got us what we wanted, and we have to wait until Christmas to open it. What was your first thought when you knew there was going to be a basketball season this year?

Axel Alonso: I've read every piece of commentary on the [NBA] lockout -- who's been operating from a position of strength and who hasn't, the foolishness on either side -- but [Laughs]all is forgiven now that I'm going to get to take my [8-year-old] son Tito to Madison Square Garden to see the Knicks.

It's a good thing all around. I think my fantasy league is going to do our live draft on Christmas Eve to celebrate.

Alonso: Yeah. Tito discovered the NBA last year after he boldly predicted the Mavericks would win it all -- based on nothing more than the fact that Dirk Nowitzki has the same haircut as him. [Laughs]

And somehow, against all odds, the Mavs -- who looked like one of those perennial Western Conference also-rans -- ended up winning it all. I'll tell you, after the refs handed Game 3 to the Heat by not calling the back-court violation that resulted in a 3-pointer, every cynical bone in my body kicked in. But Tito said, "No Papa, I really think [the Mavs] are going to win Game 4," and they did, and the rest was history. Good triumphed over evil in a classic good-versus-evil narrative that Marvel Comics could have produced. [Laughs]

Well, keeping on that happy feeling, I wanted to talk this week about some Marvel books that have gotten a lot of positive response from readers and what their place in the line -- particularly "Daredevil." I don't know if I've seen one even middling review of that book, let alone an outright bad one. What was your initial reaction to the pitch of taking that book in such a new direction?

Alonso: I'm in love with that book and I'm not alone. It's one of our most dynamic books, and it's trending upward sale wise, which is a mean feat in this market. I'll be honest: When [Daredevil editor] Steve [Wacker] and [writer] Mark [Waid] pitched a series that would step out from under the shadow of Frank Miller, I was skeptical that they'd hold to it. A lot of times, people promise something in a pitch, and then deliver something entirely different in the execution. Muscle memory kicks in and they go back into the same old zone. Well, Mark and Steve really kept their promise.

Let's talk about that idea of the sales trending upward. We talk so much in this column about how a fan favorite title can survive in a tough market and in a crowded market, and I think there's a comparison to be drawn between "Daredevil" now and where "Amazing Spider-Man" was when Dan Slott took over full time with the Big Time arc. Obviously, "Amazing" wasn't a totally new relaunch, but it seemed like from Big Time, the book slowly moved up in sales and buzz. Is there something beyond the simple "people like it" to learn from a book like "Amazing" when talking about how "Daredevil" can do?

Alonso: The one thing that's common of both titles is that there's a real sense of optimism and hope at their core. This has come up in conversation around here -- how these titles provide refuge from a world that, right now, is kind of scary and frustrating. Peter Parker and Matt Murdock have big problems, but there's something fun at the core of those books that may in some small way contribute to their appeal.

b>Alonso: Well, Greg [Rucka] is a writer in whom I have a lot of confidence. Steve [Wacker] didn't have to hard sell me on him. When they were pitching it, I just reminded them to do what Rick [Remender] had done before Greg and give "PunisherMAX" wide berth -- make sure the series had a decidedly different flavor that reminded fans this was the Marvel Universe. They've done just that; using that creepy new Vulture from Spider-Man is a perfect example. Even creepier is the hairdresser named "Alonso" who cameos in issue #3. [Laughs]

That's an interesting comparison between Rucka and Remender because the one thing I think they've shared at times is an approach that's very sparse on dialogue. There are whole sequences in "Uncanny X-Force" where no one speaks at all, and Frank is as stoic as we've ever seen him in "Punisher." The art has to carry the story there in a big way, and I wonder if that's a risky choice for a team to make. Do you resist that kind of storytelling in some ways? Is there a way in which dialogue needs to carry a story?

Alonso: No. Comics are words and pictures, and sometimes the best dialog is the sparsest dialog. The risk of employing lots of silent scenes, however, is the occasional internet complaint about "decompression" or what have you. But at the end of the day, a comic book should entertain and affect the reader, and it doesn't always need lots of words to do that.

Moving forward with these solo heroes, we know that a big event is coming, and we know that to some extent the team franchises have seen their stories synch up for this event. In what ways will the solo characters be working to retain this buzz and grow interest as all that launches? Will we be seeing some more crossovers there, like the incoming "Amazing"/"Daredevil" story that Waid is working on, or is letting those brands stand apart an important thing?

Alonso: All the buzz over "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Daredevil" is a testament to their creative teams and their editor. They got attention out the gate and kept it. I can't reveal how "Amazing Spider-Man" or "Daredevil" might be involved in the big event that's coming, but I will say that this universe-spanning event will not interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of all monthlies.

Wrapping with some quick fan questions on our solo hero theme, we've got Tracks who asks, "Is it likely that we'll see the return of the Ultimate versions of Ghost Rider, Blade or Punisher in any upcoming arc?"

Alonso: We've got big plans for the Ultimate Universe, but no immediate plans for any of the three you mention.

With a broader query, FiddleFaddle wants to know, "Are there any plans for a female solo? Maybe, geez I dunno -- Songbird?"

Alonso: There are no plans for a Songbird series, but a couple of female characters have been the subject of discussion for new series. But strong female characters abound in the Marvel Universe: Valkyrie and Sin headline "Fear Itself: The Fearless," Hope is the lead character in [the X-Men series] "Generation Hope," Rogue is the lead character in "X-Men: Legacy," Emma Frost, Storm, Magik, Pyslocke, Jubilee and Danger are key players in "Uncanny X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Force," and two high-profile female characters will play major roles in our upcoming event.

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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