Perfecting Creative Pairs

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, hot on the heels of our earlier interview about the launch of Marvel U/Ultimate U crossover "Spider-Men," Axel talks about the creative partnership that makes that book and "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" tick: Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. From there, we dig into his views on how to match the perfect creative partnership, including hints at the new series incoming from Matt Fraction and David Aja as well as looking at your questions on the Black Panther, Luke Cage, Cain Marko and more. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, we spoke earlier this week about "Spider-Men," and both that series and some other recent news from Marvel got me thinking about one of the more invisible pieces of comics making: creative synergy. Last week, we spoke about tapping John Romita, Jr. to kick-off "Avengers Vs. X-Men" and how tough scheduling can be when it comes to getting talent for a specific book, and you mentioned the additional challenge of getting Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña to start off "Uncanny X-Force." How often do you work to keep certain creators as a pair on a series, and how challenging is it to bring a desired team together to see how they spark?

Axel Alonso: Sometimes you wander into it; sometimes you shoot for it. When you're casting a title, you'll always wonder about the compatibility of writer and artist. I'm not talking personality-wise; I'm talking creatively. It has everything to do with style and tone. Some artists live for the big moments, and it shows in their work. They're not as interested in the smaller, quieter moments. When casting one of those artists, you avoid those types of scripts, or at least let them know that's the kind of script they're committing to. Another case in point: Some artists are fantastic designers and world-builders -- like, say, Chris Bachalo. When you're launching a new title, you look for an artist who can define its visual sensibility, from costumes to environments to new characters.

So much of what made the original "Ultimate Spider-Man" series work was the Bendis/Bagley team. And though there were a number of artists who did a fine job on that character in Brian's hands in Ultimate books over the years, I think it's fair to say that people have seen a real similar compatibility in Brian's work with Sara Pichelli. What about their synergy impacts how a big story like "Spider-Men" plays out?

Alonso: The moment Brian had his first taste of working with Sara, he knew he found a fellow traveler, someone who knew exactly how to get what he had in his head -- and more -- onto the page. Sara is one of those artists who's able to do the quiet moments. She doesn't half-step in those moments when you have to rely on subtle choreography and facial expressions, and she certainly doesn't fall down when you've got a two-page action splash either. When Brian turns a script over to Sara, he knows she understands what he sees in his mind's eye and she either hits that or improve on it when she puts it down on the art board.

We've also been teased this week of a new project from Matt Fraction and David Aja. There's a "putting the band back together" aspect from the ad because everyone instantly identifies their names with "Immortal Iron Fist." Is this a case where you were looking for a project to re-pair those guys?

Alonso: I asked Matt to mull over a certain character I wanted to put the spotlight on, and he bit. He sent in a pitch and I loved it, but there was no artist attached at that point. Once the story came into focus, we discussed artists and the moment we realized Aja was an option we seized on it -- because A) he's already demonstrated chemistry with Matt, and B) he brings a certain "something else" to this project, a certain swagger. David will give the book a look, a pedigree, a vibe that will make it stand out. From the cover through the last page, we're looking to send a message with this book. It's a familiar character done in a whole new way.

Do you personally have creative relationships in comics where it's not just "I like working with this guy" as much as it is "I like working with this team, and I want to see them get into the same room as much as possible"?

Alonso: Every editor builds these types of relationships over time. Sometimes, it's just that you and a writer or artist are just plain simpatico. Sometimes, you develop a level of trust that turns into real chemistry. The writer or artist trusts the recommendations that you make, they trust that you're not going to steer them towards a poisoned chalice -- that you'll challenge them in a way that's best for everyone, not just solve a problem with them. I've got a lot of these relationships, and most of them know who they are. [Laughs] When I work with someone more than once, that's usually a sign that I enjoyed the experience and have a lot of faith in them.

Moving into fan questions for the week, let's start with JaggedFel who's hoping you can assuage some of his fears when he asks: "I was really disappointed to see Kenji get killed it reminded me of Bishop. Are we going to see minority males be major players in the x-books? they just seem to get killed all the time, de-powered or stuffed in the lower tier titles. So it would be nice to see some step up or get some new ones who look normal, have cool powers and don't get killed quickly. At least on the Avengers side you see Luke Cage and it looks like Black Panther is going to be getting some love."

Alonso: First, how do you know Kenji is dead? He had been torn apart before and not died. Second, you are correct that we have more female minority characters in the X-Books right now than males. That's not something we did on purpose. Generally, creators pick up on characters that interest them. We try to continue the tradition stemming back from "Giant Size X-Men" to keep as diverse a cast as possible, but sometimes it's more visible than others.

He follows up with: "When is Miles going to interact with the Ultimates and the rest of the Ultimate Universe and their big problems? Really excited about the new talent coming in though. Also when are getting told what Spider-men is?"

Alonso: He's already met the Ultimates and helped them put Electro down. That's how he got his cool, new costume. But if you're looking for more interaction, don't worry -- we're revealing something during C2E2 that's going to excite everyone looking for some more interplay with Miles and the Ultimate Comics Universe. Not only that, how 'bout that Spider-Men news huh? It's going to be a big year for Miles, and we get to see it unfold.

Keeping Black Panther as a hot topic, blanchett asked, "T'Challa is now apart of a military force that invaded Storm's home and attacked her friends and family. I can't help thinking if the shoe was on the other foot, and Storm attacked the Wakandan Royal family and the country along with the X-Men regardless of the cause he'd disolve the marriage. Could AVX bring about the end of this polarising union?"

Alonso: Only time and the remainder of AvX will tell the tale, Blanchett. But the Panther's role in things and his position as a head of state is something that will be addressed more in-depth as future issues come out.

Jabare stopped by with a more classic fanboy question: "How durable is Luke Cage's skin now? If he got into a fight with Wolverine could Wolverine cut him?"

Alonso: Luke's skin is bulletproof, so it's pretty strong. But Wolverine's claws could definitely cut it.

And finally, Spidey616 wondered, "Ever since the end of Fear Itself when Colossus became the new Juggernaut we haven't seen what became of the original- Cain Marko. Are there plans in place for the character as well as some of the other Fear Itself "Worthy" villains like Absorbing Man, Titania, and Attuma?"

Alonso: There aren't immediate plans for those characters right now. But none of those characters seem to stay away for long.

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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