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Navigating “Secret Wars'” Battleworld, the Power of the All-New Cap

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Navigating “Secret Wars'” Battleworld, the Power of the All-New Cap

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 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!

Following the video reveal earlier this week that the past three weeks of Marvel event-based teasers were indeed connected to Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic‘s impending “Secret Wars” event — in fact, locations in a new version of “Battleworld” — Alonso talks the origins of those images, what they mean for the larger story and the Marvel Universe and the extent in which this “Secret Wars” relates to the original. With “Spider-Verse” in full, ahem, swing, Alonso also discusses Spidey’s ability to be many different things while retaining a central appeal — something that’s certainly in play with the dozens of Spider-Men in Dan Slott and Olivier Coipel‘s story. Alonso also addresses Rick Remender and Stuart Immonen‘s soon-to-debut “All-New Captain America,” the new “Constantine” TV series on NBC, plus answers your questions, straight from the CBR Community!

Albert Ching: Axel, let’s start with the video Marvel released on Thursday, which definitively established that the teasers from the past three-plus weeks are indeed tied to “Secret Wars,” and in fact are locations in a new Battleworld. At least part of that was widely speculated, but now it’s officially out there. Since every one of those teasers suggests its own story — there are some new concepts along with tweaked ideas from past events — where did those ideas come from? Was it a group effort, or all Jonathan Hickman?

Axel Alonso: Jonathan conceived of Battleworld, and laid down the geography that was essential to the story he’s going to tell in “Secret Wars,” but he left lots of real estate wide open for everyone else’s imagination to run wild. So each piece of real estate you see in that teaser is its own story, and all those pieces comprise one huge story. With “Secret Wars,” we are, to paraphrase the guitarist from “Spinal Tap” [Nigel Tufnel], “turning the amp up to eleven.”

RELATED: Marvel Reveals the Creation of “Secret Wars'” Battleworld!

To an extent some of this probably goes without saying, but does that mean we’ll be seeing a lot of the larger world of this story? Maybe a lot of one-shot spinoffs, ancillary miniseries, that kind of thing?

Alonso: Yes, each teaser refers to a story that will be told. And none of these stories are, as I said, “What If?” stories or alternate reality stories. They really happen, they happen now, and each of them is going to have an impact on the Marvel Universe going forward. And there’s more to come.

As noted, video establishes that there is a new Battleworld that connects all of these teasers. That struck me, because of course that’s the name of the main setting of the original “Secret Wars.” This is a new story with presumably a very different set of circumstances, but that certainly hints there are some conceptual similarities between the two — beyond similar situations and a common name. Are the two stories maybe more connected than people might think?

Alonso: “Secret Wars” isn’t the same story as the original “Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars,” but it did find inspiration in certain elements of Marvel’s first-ever crossover event. So while there are some similar touch points, “Secret Wars” is an original story, and it’s unprecedented in its scope, because it has ramifications across all of our other media platforms. We’ve never done an event where the all the divisions were in the loop like this; where all were poised to tap into what it does.

And that’s something of an outgrowth of how long this story has been planned, right? You’ve had the room to plan in that way, explore the broader possibilities.

Alonso: Without a doubt. This event has been a living document for some time now. There is still open real estate to be claimed in Battleworld, and any new piece of the puzzle could have a ripple effect on what’s already been claimed. So our next Marvel retreat is going to be very interesting…

One last thing on this topic: When you put out a teaser that says “Everything Ends,” as Marvel did earlier this week, and tease an event that involves a lot of aspects of continuity and different versions of characters, people start to wonder if this is leading to something like a reboot. In this column, there has been at least playful teases that something like that might happen down the line. For a long time at Marvel, the conventional wisdom seemed to be that it wasn’t something that needed to happen — I’m not expecting a definitive reveal or anything like that, but lately you’ve been making the point that nothing is safe at Marvel right now, so is it possible that philosophies on a reboot have changed somewhat in recent years?

Alonso: Next question? [Laughs]

RELATED: All of Marvel’s Mysterious Event-Based Teasers in One Place

Well, at least I tried. Let’s move subjects to “Spider-Verse,” which started officially this week. One thing I’ve heard a lot of times this year, at different Batman 75th Anniversary events, is how malleable Batman is as a character — he’s been so many different things, but there’s a central element that remains, and a lot of people can relate to him on a lot of different levels. In a story like this, where we’re seeing dozens of different Spider-Man iterations, it feels that Spidey has a similar ability to be adaptable, in a way most other superheroes aren’t — do you see that same quality in the character?

Alonso: Without a doubt. Over the decades, fans have embraced Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, Miguel O’Hara, Ultimate Peter Parker, Miles Morales. The Superior Spider-Man was about as dark a reflection as you could do, and fans loved him! [Laughs] Now with “Spider-Verse,” we’ve brought Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen onto the map, brought back MC2 Spider-Girl, revived Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man India and there’s a ton more coming — who’s to say even more Spiders won’t get their own series? The red and blue tights and the spider-sign count for a lot, but what unites all these characters is that they are all relatable. And in an event that includes “every Spider-Man ever,” there’s bound to be a Spider-Man that everyone can connect with.

RELATED: SPIDER-MANDATE: Unlocking the First “Spider-Verse” Issue

And wanted to ask a bit about something out next week; the first issue of “All-New Captain America” with the former Falcon as Captain America. Readers have already gotten hints here and there on what it’s going to be like with him in that role, but I know he’s one of your favorite characters — how excited are you for the world to see Sam Wilson as the Captain America?

Alonso: I think it’s fantastic. Earlier this week, I tweeted a quote from Martin Luther King that encapsulates how I feel when I see Sam in the red, white and blue tights: “We may all have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” To me, that quote crystallizes what America’s about. I’m a first-generation American — Mexican/Spanish father, English mother — and never imagined I would live to see a President who was also mixed race. To see how Sam Wilson, a character I related to more than Captain America himself when was a kid, deals with the responsibility of being a superhero that’s clad in red, white and blue is fascinating. There’s a weight that comes with that job. We’ve seen how Steve Rogers carries it. Now we’re going to see how Sam Wilson carries it. What will being Captain America mean to him? What will he stand for?

The “Thor” launch last month proved there was a lot of mainstream interest in a female Thor — is Marvel expecting a similar reaction when this hits?

Alonso: Yes, [Laughs], I predict there’ll be a lot of discussion about this — inside and outside of comics fandom. Thanks to Marvel Studios, we live in a world where everyone from Brooklyn to Bangladesh knows who Captain America is. When you say “Captain America,” everyone has a mind’s eye image in their brain, so everyone is going to have a reaction when they see the All-New Captain America.

One more thing this week before we move to reader questions: You were the “Hellblazer” editor for years at Vertigo before moving to Marvel. Have you watched the “Constantine” TV show at all, now that there are couple of episodes out there?

Alonso: A few weeks ago, Slate magazine asked [former Vertigo Group Editor] Karen Berger the same question, she said that the series put the character in a “place that’s Constantine-light,” and the Internet lit up with bozos saying very ignorant and disrespectful things about her. On the Internet! [Laughs] Look, without Karen Berger, there wouldn’t be a “Constantine” TV show! She pioneered the type of edgy, mature, British-tinged comics that gave birth to “Hellblazer” #1, which she edited. She’s one of the most important editors ever to work in comics. If anyone is entitled to have an opinion about the show, it’s her.

That said [Laughs], I, too, am not the audience for “Constantine.” I’m not saying the show is bad, or that it won’t find an audience, or that it’s bereft of craft — [pilot director] Neil Marshall directed one of my favorite films, “The Descent.” I’m just saying that this version of Constantine is not one I connect with. I edited “Hellbazer” for several years, and to me, John Constantine is as shady and morally complex a character as there exists in fiction, and his story can’t be told in anything other than a cable TV-slash-mature audience format.

Let’s wrap the week with a few questions from the CBR Community: macroblaster1999 has taken note on some perceived lower-tier characters getting a spotlight recently at Marvel, and asks, “Are there plans for less-known teams like the Great Lakes Avengers or Alpha Flight?”

Alonso: I will consult my Magic 8-Ball.

Great Lakes Avengers…?

“Cannot predict now.”

Alpha Flight…?

“Signs point to yes.”

Then we’ve got solletaire, one of many people with a lot of thoughts about the imminent end of “Fantastic Four”: “Now that we know for sure that ‘Fantastic Four’ is cancelled is there any chance of getting an All-New, All-Different Fantastic four (kind of how the All-New, All-Different X-Men were introduced to revitalize the franchise in the 1970s)? Would you guys even consider ever having a new Fantastic Four with four new characters who are not based out of the Baxter Building and who have little to no ties with Ben, Sue, Reed, or Johnny? Maybe use the opportunity to define what the modern day family is and should be like much like Ben, Sue, Reed, and Johnny defined the family in the 60s?”

Alonso: You’re thinking too small, solletaire… and looking in the wrong place.

We’ll end things with the venerable Spidey616, who asks, “As fans may have already heard, looks like Dustin Weaver has finally completed the art on the long awaited SHIELD series by him and Jonathan Hickman. Don’t know if you can say when you can expect a release date, but is sometime in 2015 a safe bet?”

Alonso: 2015 is a safe bet, Spidey616.

Have some questions for Marvel’s AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the AXEL-IN-CHARGE Q&A thread in CBR’s Marvel Comics community. It’s the dedicated thread that CBR will pull questions for next week’s installment of our weekly fan-supported question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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