Reflecting Back on Marvel's 2015 on New Year's Eve

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 in comics receiving 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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

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Hey, it's New Year's Eve! And in the spirit of the year-end articles all around the Internet this week (including on this very website), this week's edition of AXEL-IN-CHARGE takes a look back at 2015 in Marvel publishing, with Alonso reflecting on the massive event series "Secret Wars," the line-wide All-New, All-Different Marvel launch, the rise of humor books such as "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" and "Howard the Duck," the influence of Netflix series "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones," and the greater diversity in Marvel's output. Plus, a brief look ahead to 2016, and Alonso's picks for his favorite film, TV show and album of the past year.

Albert Ching: Axel, it's December 31, but before we start thinking too much about 2016, let's take one last look at 2015. This is a bit of a generic question, but it feels right given the date: For you, personally, what are some of the things Marvel accomplished in the past year that you're proudest of?

Axel Alonso: I'm proud of the way that we organically diversified our line. Diversity of content, tone, style, characters and creators.

On a similar note, what surprised you with Marvel Publishing this year, either positively or negatively? Maybe a book or character you didn't think would take hold the way it did, or something that didn't quite make your expectations?

Alonso: Spider-Gwen took everyone by surprise. When we saw the love that character was getting, we pivoted on a dime and I'm very proud of the series [Editor] Nick Lowe put together. Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi have created a truly unique book.

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To get a bit more specific, obviously the biggest initiative -- certainly in volume -- from Marvel publishing this year was "Secret Wars." While we've seen plenty of big events at Marvel, it was a bit unprecedented to see an event transform a line like that, with all of the related series taking the place of virtually all of Marvel's core titles. Now that we only have one more "Secret Wars" issue left to go, how do you feel it fared, both creatively and as something of a risky publishing venture?

Alonso: I think "Secret Wars" was an incredible success across the board: Jonathan [Hickman] and Esad [Ribic] hit it out of the park, the core series was a perennial top 5 title, the tie-ins were very successful, and the event set the stage for "All-New, All-Different Marvel." So, yeah, I think the risk paid off.

"Secret Wars" led to the All-New All-Different Marvel launch, which we're still in the midst of. Certainly, we've seen results in terms of the high sales numbers of the launch books thus far, but there's also been some scrutiny of things like steep drops on second issue sales. A lot of new stuff has been thrown at readers at once -- how do you like the response to the initiative thus far?

Alonso: Well, the results are not as drastic as folks on the Internet try to point out -- the numbers on the regular covers of first issues do not get reported, nor do digital or subscription numbers. But we do keep track of the numbers on regular covers for issue #1s, and across the board, all titles are doing as well if not better than they were a year ago. So we consider "All-New, All-Different Marvel" to be a huge success from a numbers perspective.

And, of course, there are benefits that are not reflected in the top 100 comics chart: "Secret Wars" set the stage for a diverse crop of new titles featuring new characters and new talent, many of which are designed to appeal to the new and, we think, growing audience, plenty of which we think will sell phenomenally well in trades, carving new channels to reach new readers. All of this strengthens our entire line.

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There are a couple of common themes we've talked about extensively this past year. One, certainly, is diversity and representation. Marvel grew its number of female-led titles greatly in 2015, and also announced David Walker and Ta-Nehisi Coates on new books after receiving criticism for at one point not having any Black writers on current ongoing series. How do you rate the strides made in this year, and how much do you see as left to accomplish?

Alonso: Ta-Nehisi Coates and David Walker -- among others -- were working on their books a long time before anyone questioned our commitment to diversity. I'm very excited about those series, and about the coming year.

It's also notable to see the amount of success Marvel has had in books with a lighter tone -- "Deadpool" has led this way for years, but 2015 saw the debuts of "Howard the Duck," "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl," "Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat" and other series that really embrace humor. Do you see this as an area with even further growth potential in 2016 and beyond?

Alonso: I definitely do. "Deadpool" continues to be a phenomenon, "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" is, well, unbeatable in collected edition, and Gwenpool has been a wild success. It's clear that readers crave comic books that'll make them laugh. Yes, I see more series that will work your funny bone. That said, you can find plenty of laughs in some of our other titles, as well. I've yet to read an issue of "Invincible Iron Man" or "Sam Wilson: Captain America" that hasn't made me chuckle.

Speaking of "Gwenpool," an ongoing series from Christopher Hastings & Gurihiru was announced last week. That's an interesting prospect, because it really is a unique (if not bizarre) premise with some offbeat origins, though clearly one that's captured a lot of interest. What intrigued you about this offshoot of two of Marvel's trendiest characters?

Alonso: When we were doing the Gwen variants, the "Gwenpool" cover just... felt right. It was weird voodoo. That's pretty much it.

Also in 2015, while Marvel movies certainly remained hugely popular as seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Ant-Man," it really felt like a year owned by the debuting Marvel-based Netflix series, "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones." In what ways do you see the success of those shows affecting Marvel publishing? Given a closer match to the episodic storytelling of comics, do you see a major potential in bringing audiences from these shows into Marvel's books, maybe in an even more effective way than the movies have?

Alonso: Just the same way that Marvel Studios made Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye into household names, the Netflix shows are shining a huge spotlight on our street-level characters. That means when we are launching a new series featuring characters like Luke Cage, Iron Fist or Jessica Jones, we are already a few steps up the ladder when looking to get people excited about them -- both long-term fans and new readers. That is an incredible advantage. The idea that Joe Public knows who Luke Cage is blows my mind.

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Let's wrap the Marvel talk with a look forward -- what are you most excited about what's coming from Marvel in 2016? What should readers really be paying attention to?

Alonso: Everything! [Laughs]

Honestly, that's not a question I can -- or should -- answer because it comes down to the taste of the individual reader. If you crave a full picture of the Marvel Universe, then you'll want to read "Civil War II" and core series like "Invincible Iron Man," "All-New, All-Different Avengers" and "Captain America." but if you're looking for a compelling solo title with a unique creative team and flavor, then we've got Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze's "Black Panther," Greg Pak and Frank Cho's "Totally Awesome Hulk," David Walker and Sanford Greene's "Power Man and Iron Fist," Kate Leth and Brittney Williams' "Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!", Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos' "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur." Those are very diverse series. If you're craving "meat and potatoes," we've got that. But we've also got a terrific a la carte menu.

Let's end this column the same way we ended 2014, by putting you on the spot a bit: What are your picks for your favorite film, TV show and album of the year?

Alonso: Favorite film: "Mad Max."

Favorite TV Show: "Fargo."

Album of the year: Vince Staples' "Summertime '06."

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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