Marvel Makes Moves In April

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 get up to date with the Marvel Comics line as Axel digs in to the publisher's April solicitations. From the stories at the front line of the "AvX" event like the tie-in fight series "Versus" to creative changes on "Wolverine" and the wrap of Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev's "Moon Knight," the Editor-in-Chief hits all the marquee news. Plus, a discussion of the future of both Marvel's Point One initiative and a look at the changes to the Marvel Adventures kids line rolls out as well as fan questions covering the future of Hercules, Michael Avon Oeming and much more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: April seems like a big month for Marvel both in terms of the "AvX" rollout and the Avengers push that ties into the movie. Every time Marvel Studios has a new picture hitting, you guys in publishing are there to support it with reprints and new series and minis. After we heard last year that maybe there were too many books for Cap and Thor, how did you land on what you felt was the right level of comics for the market this summer?

Axel Alonso: When Marvel Studios' released "Iron Man," "Captain America" and "Thor," we didn't have lots of current titles to sell around movie-time, which is why we produced all those dedicated minis. When "Marvel Studios' The Avengers" hits the big screen in May, we'll have four series -- "Avengers," "New Avengers," "Secret Avengers," and "Avengers Academy" -- all in the thick of "Avengers Vs. X-Men," so we'll have plenty to sell. And for anyone who saw the movie and wants more, we'll have Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley's "Avengers Assemble," which will provide an accessible landing pad. It's the characters from the movie -- Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow -- starring in a story set firmly in the Marvel U that will have ramifications for the entire Marvel U. There are some big things being set up in the first arc.

On the "AvX" side of that push, we're seeing more details hit on the "Versus" tie-in series. Everyone knows that this book will be highlighting the slugfests from the story, but I thought it was also interesting how you're opening the story up in terms of creators. It's not just the five Architects or the regular series scribes telling these stories. What's been the process been of putting that book together? Do you just go through the pages for "AvX" with a highlighter going "We can use this fight...who can tell it?"

Alonso: Let's be clear: there's lots and lots of fighting in "AvX." [Laughs] In fact, so much fighting that we often found ourselves saying, "If only we had more space for this cool slugfest between Red Hulk and Colossus!" And that's where "AvX: Versus" comes in. It provides the real estate. It's pure eye-candy. Cover-to-cover fighting with little to no plot or exposition -- just some of our best artists cutting loose from scripts by some of our best writers, including some of our "AvX" writers. We're going right for the fanboy jugular. We're not looking to win an Eisner, you know? This is the least "essential" but most fun tie-ins we've ever done.

And as you put this together, it seems like you, Tom Brevoort and Nick Lowe are just playing mix and match with artists you think would be fun on the book?

Alonso: Exactly. It's really just as easy as asking Frank Cho or Adam Kubert, "Hey, which of these fights do you want to draw?" We just need to make sure that each slugfest locks into the larger puzzle.

Elsewhere in April, we've got a return to some Point One issues on regular monthlies like "Thor" and "Daredevil." A lot of people wondered what Marvel's measure of success was for the initial wave of jumping on comics. What do you think those one-shots have continued to provide for the ongoing series, and why is it helpful to go back to the line every so often and say, "What comic can we do this for next?"

Alonso: A Point One book is meant to provide an easy entry-point to a monthly series for new readers that is relevant to long-term readers. It counts. Simple as that. If you haven't read a single issue of Iron Man, here's a clean, told-on-one sampler. There was a time when the Annuals might have served this purpose, but in recent years retailers and fans lost confidence that they were essential reads. The first wave of Point One books did so well we had to do more. And we'll continue to do more for any title we think will benefit from it.

Was this also an early test program for the idea of double shipping books so there were more than 12 issues in a year?

Alonso: No. We didn't need to road-test that. The Point One initiative was about creating accessible told-in-one stories that retailers could sell.

The other big new launch in April is the new push for kids comics, which folks have been expecting for a few weeks. The twist this time is that the monthly series will be tied to the new Marvel TV cartoons that Jeph Loeb's group has been putting together in "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" and "Ultimate Spider-Man." What's been the plan there? We all know that when Marvel started producing their own films, that creativity had a big impact on publishing. Have guys like Loeb and Joe Quesada taking a hand in TV created a similar wave of synchronicity with cartoons and kids comics?

Alonso: Face it: Every kid is going to discover Spider-Man at some point in their young life -- whether through the "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon, a comic book or a videogame -- so it's extremely important that we provide that child with a consistent message about who Spidey is, what he stands for, what his world is. I say that as the father of a 9-year-old boy who loves Spider-Man -- well, actually Deadpool is his favorite! [Laughs] -- and as someone who discovered Spider-Man through that old-school '70s cartoon and then went down the five-and-dime to find a copy of the comic. The last thing we want is for a kid to turn on a Saturday morning cartoon and see the Avengers in all their glory, then open an age-appropriate comic book and not recognize them. That's why we're taking such pains to line things up.

And obviously the guys working on the shows have been hiring guys with comics experience to work on these cartoons, but for the first time we're seeing a lot of that talent also coming back to the comics. Chris Yost who story edits "Avengers: EMH" will write the new comic while the Man of Action guys are working on "Ultimate Spider-Man Adventures" alongside Spider-Man super writer Dan Slott (not to mention Ty Templeton who Dan did some great kids Batman books with a while back). Has leaning on those guys made the process of gearing these books to the right audience a bit less of a challenge?

Alonso: Yes, it's made the process easier. Those guys are pro's who've proved that they know how to hit the sweet spot of the demographic we're appealing to. The Man of Action guys? Don't get me started on how obsessed my son, Tito, was over "Ben Ten" and "Generator Rex" when he was 6 and 7! [Laughs] They speak a language that young kids clearly understand.

There are also some changes hitting this April, first of which is Jason Aaron ending his "Wolverine" run with the handoff going to Cullen Bunn. We've spoken in the past about allowing guys to finish their runs as they want and then finding a good voice to step in after. With this specific example, what did you all want to accomplish with the book after Jason had been with the character for quite a lengthy run?

Alonso: Jason told the story he wanted to tell and at his own pace. Heck, we knew exactly how long Jason's run was going to be and how it would end way back when he presented his first outline -- including his desire to tee up Jeph [Loeb] and Simone [Bianchi]'s upcoming run that reveals how Sabretooth returned from the dead [in issue #300]. As for Cullen, Jason was the one who brought him to my attention. I liked his work, and a few of my editors did, too. We're excited to see what Cullen does.

And this is a case where even in a tie-in month for "AvX," the "Wolverine" title is staying with its own story on its own terms for now. Did you see a need for the solo book to remain just that for fans who are looking for one kind of Wolverine fix?
Alonso: Yeah. Also, we knew that much of the major Wolverine beats could be handled in "Wolverine And The X-Men," which Jason writes.  It seemed redundant at the time to have Wolverine's "AvX" story told in two books so we decided to keep "Wolverine" as a solo adventure.  But that's part of our overall game plan for this event: Only books with Avengers or X-Men in the titles will be doing tie-ins. We're capping it there.

We've also got an end coming for "Moon Knight" by Bendis and Alex Maleev with issue #12. That seems like a double-edged sword in that there's a definite end for the run those guys were doing that I assume will make for a handsome graphic novel, but I also know that you personally have done a lot of work to make Moon Knight a regular part of the Marvel U again. What can you say about where that character may go next?
Alonso: I love Moon Knight.  He's a strong character that's brought out the best in everyone who's worked on him -- Brian and Alex's run being the most recent example.  Where will he go next?  I have to bite my tongue.  All I can say is that Brian and Alex have a crazy, uhm, resolution planned.

Moving on to some fan questions for the week, we've got Nova2814.1 who's following up on an earlier A-i-C discussion: "A few months back, you mentioned that Marvel would be offering subscriptions to new books like Ultimate Comics: Ultimates and Wolverine & the X-Men by December or thereabouts. They haven't been added yet, so can you tell us if it's still the plan to offer these (and other) new titles and if so, when?"

Alonso: We're working on it, Nova2814. Check back in a month.

On the story side of the equation, Spidey 616 had an interesting observation: "I love how Warren Ellis and Brian Bendis and other creators have built up Norman Osborn into the Avengers level threat he is today, but I'll always have a soft spot for his time as the Green Goblin. Do you think we'll ever see Osborn return as a mainly Spidey villain and/or go back to the Goblin identity on a permanent basis? "

Alonso: It's likely you'll see Osborn battling Spidey and impacting on his world again sooner or later, but not necessarily as the Green Goblin. He's undergoing a metamorphosis into something new right now in the pages of "Avengers" and "New Avengers."

Vic's Aegis is playing detective in following the fate of one specific Marvel character, asking: "Axel, Pak and Van Lente turned Hercules into my favorite Marvel character. Herc has had two great series recently and I know he is to appear in Hulk 49. Are there any plans to have him in any new series soon as a regular? A team book perhaps?"
Alonso: Let me turn this one over to Senior Editor Mark Paniccia. Mark?
Mark Paniccia: Herc was a character I never had any affinity for, but when Greg and Fred wrote him in "Incredible Hercules," they had such an undeniable magic, I couldn't help but love the big ol' lunk.  And, thus, he became one of MY favorite, too, Vic.  There aren't any plans for a new series right now.  We had a great run -- about 40 issues worth -- and we're grateful for the fan support that made that possible.  But don't let that stop you from passing the love and recommending the collections of all those crazy adventures to your friends and family.  And look for Herc in "Avengers Academy" during the months of "AvX."

Comicbookfan stopped by the boards to ask: "I have a question about Two artist and what they might be doing for marvel in the near future. One is Arthur Adams what will his next work for marvel be? the other is Michael Avon Oeming, he is doing Black Panther right now and it is awesome but Black Panther is going to end(sad for so many reasons) will Mr. Oeming be working on anything after the Panther?"

Alonso: Art's mostly doing covers, including stellar ones for "Secret Avengers" and "Fear Itself: The Fearless." Fingers crossed we can find time for him to draw a story in "AvX: Versus." I mean, how cool would that be?

As for Michael... Comicbookfan, you're in luck. Not only is he working on "Powers" again -- the first new issue in months drops in a week, with the subsequent issue out a month later -- but he rocked his "Black Panther" issues so hard, we immediately asked him if he'd be interested in drawing the final issue in our upcoming decade-spanning "Hulk Smash Avengers" miniseries! Check out his art from issue #5, written by Fred Van Lente and featuring Red Hulk vs. the Mighty Avengers, out May 30.

Finally, CMBMOOL stopped by to inquire: "Hey, I was wondering given that this is Spider-man's 50th anniversary at Marvel comics, I was wondering if there will be a miniseries and/or a one-shot that features new stories of showcasing Spider-man's legacy and those who are inspired by it? You know characters like Spider-man of 2099 or Spider-girl of the MC-2 or even the new Ultimate comics Spider-man, will we be seeing characters like that involved in the 50th anniversary?"

Alonso: What? No love for Spider-Ham, CMBMOOL? No plans for anything like that as we want to keep the focus on Peter Parker, the guy at the center of the Marvel Universe. 2012 is looking to be a big one for Spider-Man with a lot of big things happening -- the 50th Anniversary as you, mention, a big movie in July, and issue #700 on Broadway. Seems like a pretty good final year for ol' Pete, doesn't it?

And as one last piece of celebration on that front, next week AXEL-IN-CHARGE will welcome special guest DAN SLOTT to the column. So folks who have questions for the writer of "Amazing Spider-Man" can submit them over the next few days!

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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