Marvel T&A: Cover Swaps And Character Comebacks

If it's Friday, it must be time to end your week with a little T&A!

CBR News is back again to present an open and honest Q&A with Marvel Comics Vice President Executive Editors Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso for our regular MARVEL T&A. Aside from being the minds behind the biggest franchises at the House of Ideas, the pair have taken the reins of the editorial staff on day-to-day since the many changes that have upped the profile of both Marvel and the company's senior staff in the past year. So who better to look inside the halls of Marvel and make some memorable reader Q&A?

Each Friday in addition to our regular Cup O' Joe installments, CBR will present a new interview with the T&A duo covering everything Marvel Comics, and this week we've got their editorial opinion on Marvel's latest "cover swap" promotion where retailers can turn in torn covers from Marvel books for an exclusive variant, reactions to hot button topics like the Rogue/Sentry retcon and exclusive news and art centering on "Secret Avengers," a brand-new Iron Man Marvel Knights mini, "Avengers: The Children's Crusade," Greg Rucka's return to Marvel and more!

Kiel Phegley: I wanted to start this week by digging into a bit of news, that being Marvel's second round of "cover swap" promotions...this time seeing you guys accept covers of your own unsold books rather than DC's. I know a lot of these decisions come down from sales, but Tom, you were very open in your promotion of the previous attempt which was viewed by many as a shot at DC. In accepting Marvel books this time, should we be seeing this as an admission that sometimes you're putting out these event tie-ins and the readers aren't buying them, even when the sales numbers are up?

Tom Brevoort: I don't think it's an admission of anything. The motivation for doing this is really no different than our motivation for doing it the last time, except that this time there are no rings involved. It's still not the most welcoming economic environment out there in the world, and there may be retailers who, for one reason or another, have more copies of these books than they can move off the shelves. They've tied up money in this inventory, and this is our little way of helping out those people who are instrumental in making our business work. Certainly, in this case too there's a little bit of "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" because in the first case it was fun and got us a lot of attention, and we got an enormous stack of returned ring books, but there were certainly a number of people upset about it. You only need to go over to where Robot 6 was covering this when it was announced, where there were a dozen comments from people trying to figure out how to be upset. [Alonso Laughs] They couldn't figure out what the angle was, but clearly this was something that people are supposed to be upset about. But it's just us going, "Okay, we took a cheap, but not unwarranted, shot at the competition last time, but what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and now we'll take a cheap, not unwarranted shot..."

Axel Alonso: At ourselves.

Brevoort: Right! Because when it comes to this sort of thing, we're the worst. We're the lowest and everybody knows it, and we're not afraid to say it! We'll back up our words with actions. And as for next time...hey, if you're a company out there, you might want to think twice about your publishing plan for next year. [Laughter]

When it comes to doing one of these things, is there a brainstorm session amongst editorial to find a particularly snarky cover image for the rare book as last time we saw the Deadpool rings image by J. Scott Campbell?

Alonso: We tossed around a few general ideas - all equally evil - then I talked with the artist, who fastened onto one of them. It's kind of like the process for any cover - only more laughing. [Laughs]

Brevoort: On the one hand, more thought was put into this than you think. On the other hand, less thought was put into this than you think. We take this very seriously and yet not seriously at all at the same time. It's all about having fun and helping out our retailer partners. I'd imagine that with this cover, which Axel is working on with David Gabriel and the artist right now, it will be just as absurd and ludicrous and inappropriate as the one we ran on "Siege" for the ring books...and equally desirable. Actually, more desirable, I'm willing to bet - and this is the quote that people will be upset about on Robot 6 - I'm willing to be there will be fewer copies of this "Wolverine" #1 variant in print than there were for "Siege #3" because I'm willing to bet that we'll get less Marvel books back than we got ring books.

Alonso: My idea for tiny plastic claws was shot down. [Laughter]

Well, moving on into some questions off the boards, I wanted to start with a question that contained a criticism, but the rare kind of level-headed critique that we sometimes don't see from people who post a lot on message boards. DownInAHole asked "Why did you think it was necessary to retcon a Sentry/Rogue relationship into Siege: Fallen Sun? If you take that scene out of the book it doesn't alter the story in a substantial way, but by including it you have made a significant change to Rogue's established history. I'm having a hard time understanding why you thought it was necessary to make this change. What purpose did it serve? Any insights from you on the matter would be appreciated."

Brevoort: I don't think necessary is the right word here. What, really, is necessary? But what it was was interesting, and it gave us a character who could react to the Sentry's death in a different way from everybody else, and in a meaningful way. So it was just something interesting that Paul Jenkins came up with in the writing of that story, no different than any other untold exploit of the Sentry's that we've revealed over the years. I know Rogue fans like to think of her as having been chaste, but she's always been a bit of a hot-blooded girl, and we've seen her take up with Magneto and other folks at different points - why not the Sentry?

Alonso: Paul Jenkins had the idea for a past relationship that we didn't see as substantial as DownInAHole does. At the time, it made sense that Rogue would seek some kind of affection with a character as powerful as the Sentry.  We haven't gotten to see any of that relationship, so it's hard to say what the extent of their dealings was, but it made some character sense to us.

On the flip side of support for a book, podmark asked, "Is there any chance of the New X-Men students getting a new series in the near future? I do really enjoy their appearances in X-Men Legacy, but so far they've felt more like guest stars there than main cast members. You guys do seem intent to keep them around, is there anything I and other fans can do to encourage a book that stars the kids?"

Alonso: There will be no shortage of books focusing on young mutants in the future. They'll continue to be supporting characters in "X-Men Legacy," for one, and we have a series that will be spinning out of "Second Coming," details for which we'll announce soon.  Apart from that, we continue to do the anthology titles that key into our big events, which usually focus on smaller characters, like the cast of "New X-Men." That said, the road is paved with "young mutant" titles that didn't last long-term. We have to plan them right.

Brevoort: Certainly those characters haven't fallen by the wayside. They're very visible, whether it's in "Uncanny" or "Legacy" or "New Mutants" - all across the X-line of books. The characters may not be quite as front and center as they were when they were headlining their own series, but the opportunity exists, whether it be stories in these titles or if a situation comes up or a change of events where it makes sense to do a story of Rockslide somewhere - that opportunity absolutely exists going forward.

Alonso: All the X-Men characters - Rockslide, Magma, whoever - have their hardcore fans, but that doesn't mean the market will support a Rockslide miniseries. The best place to keep those characters relevant and vital is through supporting roles in monthly titles and starring roles in anthology stories.

Speaking of supporting characters and what role they fit into when they're not backing someone else up, DamonO asked, "Of the three people closest to Steve Rogers - the Falcon, Sharon Carter, and Bucky - only the Falcon wasn't invited to join an Avengers team. My question is, do you have any plans for the Falcon and is it possible that he might join the Avengers in the future?"

Brevoort: To start with, I think there's a presupposition that the Falcon wasn't asked. Even though we haven't seen a scene where Sam was asked, being familiar with that character, there's the fact that he tends to focus his activities at a very street level. He's a social worker, a super hero and very grounded in the community. I don't know that the Avengers is the best fit for him as an individual. I wouldn't blink at the notion that there was perhaps a conversation between Steve and the Falcon at some point where Sam said, "If you need me, I'm there, but really what I'm all about and what I want to do is right here on the street. It's not saving the world on a larger scale." The Falcon is virtually the co-star of "Captain America" at this point. He came back into the book right after "Reborn" along with Bucky, and that will continue to be the case. I don't know that he'll be turning up in an Avengers title anytime soon, but I wouldn't rule it out. He was in the Avengers a couple of times in the past and sometimes to good effect. But I don't think the fact that we didn't specifically see a scene where he says "No" or "Yes" means he wasn't approached and asked.

Alonso: Falcon would be a great for Deadpool Corps. [Laughter]

Brevoort: Then he's free.

Alonso: Did you hear that, Dogpool? Tell the rest of the team!

Tom, as I understand it, we're going to be seeing a few more players in "Secret Avengers" coming up, is that right?

Brevoort: Not team members so much as there are some other characters that will be coming into the series. The second major arc in "Secret Avengers" starts in issue #6, and the two additional characters that will come into play during the course of that story are Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, whom Ed is very excited to play with, and the Prince of Orphans from "Iron Fist," whom I think everybody else is excited about seeing Ed bring back and write again. It's a big globe-trotting chase as mysterious forces are attempting to resurrect Shang Chi's father-who-shall-not-be-named. And should they be successful in this, bad and terrible things will happen. So for the course of that arc, Shang Chi and the Prince of Orphans will be in the book, and all the while the continuing mysteries and stories will role on through that.

Now I've got to ask a follow up in terms of the father "who can't be named." Is that name and its possibility something that will be grappled with in the arc, or are we still in a place where that piece of the character history just has to remain out of bounds?

Brevoort: I think we can state this pretty straightforwardly. Marvel no longer has the rights to Fu Manchu. Somebody else owns the rights to that character. Those rights were licensed and have long since lapsed, and so we can't actually use Fu Manchu. It's been a limitation that we've been grappling with for Shang Chi for the last decade or so. And maybe here is where we'll finally solve it! Or not.

Fu Deadpool maybe?

For Axel, we've got Count Yoda who says, "I am a huge Moon Knight fan, and I was brought in to not only Moon Knight, but comics in general, by the Huston & Benson era of Moon Knight, and I was wondering if there was any chance of them getting together to do even one issue of Moon Knight after Hurwitz's run is over?"

Alonso: We don't have any immediate plans for that, but I know that Charlie and Mike have lots of love for the character. Who knows, maybe he'll show up in Charlie's "Wolverine: The Best There Is" series?

Well, this question made me think about how you sometimes play across the various lines you've built up be it MAX or Marvel Knights. How do you generally find places for characters and creators to meet up and tell stories that won't necessarily fit in the ongoing Marvel U titles?

Alonso: We try to find a place in the Marvel Universe for all Marvel Universe characters, But there are times when you've got a concept for a story that just doesn't fit into continuity - stories like Kaare Andrews' "Spider-Man: Reign," or Peter Milligan and Esad Ribic's "Sub-Mariner: The Depths." That's where Marvel Knights or MAX come in handy. Yes, the zeitgeist of the day is stories that "count," but if a story is strong enough, it doesn't need to tie into continuity to find an audience.

Case in point, we've got a new Marvel Knights series coming up - "Iron Man: The Rapture" by Alexander Irvine and Lan Medina - that looks at Iron Man through a cyberpunk lens. Tony Stark's got Hawking's brains, Buffet's bank and Clooney's looks - the future is his. Until he has a heart attack and almost loses everything. So he replaces his bad ticker with a new one, a cybernetic one that makes him feel more vital, more alive, than ever, and then he figures, why stop there? And that's when things take a bad turn. In an era of body modification - when men are get pectoral implants and women shoot their faces full of collagen - and countless apps meant to improve our day-to-day lives, this is an interesting story to tell. And it all grows out of the world OF Iron Man - it's not a story you could tell with Cap or Moon Knight or Deadpool...well, actually, maybe you could tell it with Deadpool. [Laughter]

This one is a quick question that comes up often as IconicMarvel asks, "Is there anything lined up for Blue Marvel after the 'Age Of Heroes' #3 appearance?"

Brevoort: The first thing I would say is that "Age of Heroes" #3 hasn't even come out yet, so I'm loathe to talk about what happens after that. I will say that, right at this moment, there are no concrete plans, but that can always chance if the right opportunity shows up or the right story happens. Adam is a character that gets a ton of chatter on the boards, and I wish that that chatter had more concretely translated into sales on his limited series, but it didn't, and that provides us with certain challenges. We'll see how well this "Age of Heroes" issue does. If it does spectacularly well, or there seems to be a huge outpouring, then we'll work a little more aggressively to figure out what to do with this character next and how to put him back in the forefront of the Marvel Universe. But it can be a difficult thing when it's a character that a small portion of the audience really, really digs and connects with but that hasn't found financial viability in the larger marketplace.

Like Axel looks at Marvel Knights or MAX as a specific opportunity, Tom, what's your view of how these anthologies should work in terms of showing something you can't get somewhere else? I hear you're bringing Greg Rucka on for a Steve Rogers tale in one of these?

Brevoort: I think with the anthologies, much like Axel was saying about the young mutants being featured there, doing them allows us to explore the width and breadth of the Marvel Universe and showcase characters that maybe haven't been at the forefront in a way that will maybe get some of our readers to pay attention to them and get interested in. The impetus isn't on the Blue Marvel to sell that issue of "Age of Heroes" by himself as much as it is for the Blue Marvel and the creative team and a bunch of other stories featuring other characters and the whole Heroic Age paradigm to sell it. So the pressure's off him a little bit. Really, I don't have a formula for it. Each anthology we've done has a theme or a premise, whether it be "Nation X" which focused on mutants moving or not moving to Utopia or just the fact that there was now this "mutant Israel" nation, or with "Age of Heroes," it's about this shift in the zeitgeist where Norman Osborn is out of power and Steve Rogers is now in power and what that means for the rank and file from the biggest heroes all the way down to the man on the street.

The specific anthology that Greg is writing a story for is "I Am An Avenger," and on that project the remit is that in some way, shape or form the story needs to reflect on or relate to the notion of what being an Avenger is all about. What makes one an Avenger? What qualifies one to be an Avenger? In the case of Greg, he spoke to Steve Wacker as he often does, and there was a moment towards the end of "Siege" that Greg felt deserved a little more examination and a little more consequence, and so he's going to tell that story in this particular issue of "I Am An Avenger." I read the script just this morning, it's great. He found a very specific moment and action to explore, and built it into a very personal story that's about Steve Rogers. That's a great place to bring in someone like Greg, who hasn't played on this side of the aisle for a while, and put him in a position where he's telling a story that means something to him. He can do what he does best and what he wants to do and get his feet wet in our waters again. Hopefully that leads to more work down the line.

With the anthologies, it's a combination of all of those factors. It's a good place to try out and bring back talent that hasn't been working with us regularly. It's a good place to dust off and examine characters that haven't gotten the spotlight in so long or even look at characters that are in the spotlight in a slightly different context than what the action/adventure of the month happens to be. And to make stories that are silly and goofy and wacky just as much as the ones that are serious and dramatic and heartfelt. Hopefully, each anthology book we do has a whole range of material and is as entertaining in its variety even though it's specific in its mission statement.

Alonso: Like, say, "Deadpool" #1000 - out next week! [Laughter]

Alonso: I'm not touching this one. Tom?

Brevoort: It's a little known fact and one of the secrets of that graphic that in fact I posed for Axel's drawing and he posed for mine.

Well, there's a follow up here for you...

Brevoort: Of course there's a follow up! How did I know there'd be a follow up?

He added, "Also Tom, it's well established in 'Fantastic Force' #14 that you don't wear underwear. Why the change? Mephisto?"

Brevoort: [Laughs] I'm just astonished that anybody read "Fantastic Force" #14. I didn't even read "Fantastic Force" #14!

And to close this out, I thought it'd be fun to turn the column from fan concerns to your own personal picks on things now and again. What are the books you think deserve a bit of extra love from readers who may not have picked them up yet?

Brevoort: Well, "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" #1 sold out last week - but as we're going back for a second printing, it's not too late for people to get on board one of the most heartfelt and beautiful-looking projects we've got coming out of the Avengers office at the moment.

Alonso: "X-Men" #1 went back to press just recently - and for a good reason. Victor Gischler, Paco Medina and team have put together an epic story that pits Mutants against a united Vampire Nation. I guarantee lots of thrills and chills, guest-stars, jarring plot twists and some mutants getting bit.

Have some questions for Marvel T&A? 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 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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