"Secret Wars" Thus Far, "Star Wars" Impact and Increasing Diversity

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

This week brings the arrival of a special CBR TV edition of AXEL-IN-CHARGE as Managing Editor Albert Ching talked with Alonso inside CBR's Enchanted Tiki Room at New York Comic Con. With Marvel's far-reaching "Secret Wars" event announced a year ago at NYCC, Alonso reflected a bit on the progression of the still-unfolding storyline, and the way it shapes the All-New, All-Different Marvel series and status quos. Alonso also discusses issues of diversity and representation in new series like "Totally Awesome Hulk," plus the impact the "Star Wars" line has had on Marvel in 2015. Finally, Alonso also shares his thoughts on what corner of Marvel publishing he'd like to see grow in the year to come.

In the first part of his conversation with CBR TV, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso spoke about the epic "Secret Wars" event by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic. The event series saw the Marvel Universe destroyed and replaced with a patchwork planet known as Battleworld, in addition to the majority of Marvel's ongoing titles replaced by limited series taking place in and around the conflict. He also discusses why All-New, All-Different Marvel is being pushed in a different way than previous line revamps, and how diversity is really the key driving Marvel's publishing efforts into the future.

On how he feels "Secret Wars" creatively and in terms of setting up the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe:

Axel Alonso: Our hopes were that "Secret Wars" would be as big as it has been. I think that, obviously, ultimately you can't really judge the work until it's completed, but I think what you've seen so far speaks for itself. Jonathan [Hickman] and Esad [Ribic] have turned in an epic. It's beautiful, it's mind-bending, and it's been exciting, and there's plenty more to come. One of the things about the event is it really allowed editors and creators to, you know, take the taffy of the Marvel Universe and twist it and come up with new things, and to end up with viable pieces for the Marvel Universe moving forward. Some of which have been revealed in our solicitations for All-New, All-Different Marvel, some of which haven't. I'm happy with the result. I'm happy with the outcome, and the goal was to get here with All-New, All-Different Marvel, to get these wonderful launches.

On how the risk of "Secret Wars," which replaced the majority of Marvel's mainstay titles for several months has paid off:

Going in, we were aware that if we didn't bring game, if people looked at this at just being an alternate reality that didn't count, and if we didn't bring quality stories, we were dead. And thankfully that wasn't the case.

On how All-New, All-Different stands apart from previous relaunches:

I think it's diversity. Diversity of everything. Diversity of styles, diversity of books, diversity of artistic styles, diversity of characters, diversity of talent. And the fact that all of these things gain momentum. We live in a world right now where Thor is a woman, Captain America is African-American and where the strongest character in the Marvel Universe is the 19 year-old Korean-American, Amadeus Cho, who's become the new Incredible Hulk. That's not to mention Kamala Khan is the new Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American girl; the fact that we have a "Black Panther" series now that will be written by Ta-Nehisi Coates that's bound to be epic. We have a wide range of offerings right now from, you know, the upper echelon titles -- let's just say the more commercial books -- to more offbeat stuff like a book I'm really rooting for, "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur." We live in an era where at this point we've lost count of how many female-led titles we're doing, and the only time we count them is when people ask. ... And the ethnic representation. I've been asked a lot of questions by people, "Where's the hispanic books?" They're coming. It's, again, patience. Wait, we've got a plan. We said when we launched the hip-hop covers, this is the head of the spear. These covers are a reflection of the diversity of our line, our output moving forward, and we hope that we continue to keep this momentum moving forward as well.

In part two, Alonso continues the diversity thread, explaining how the process was not done simply for the sake of being diverse, using the genesis of Amadeus Cho becoming Marvel's new Hulk as an example of how this process grows organically from the stories the company wants to tell. He also gives his personal recommendations for under-the-radar All-New, All-Different Marvel books that should not fly under your radar.

On how Marvel got to a point where they could tell stories with diverse subjects and characters that served more than just addressing a broader audience:

The way you get here is by ignoring the chatter. It's not about diversity for diversity's sake. Either it's in your DNA and you want to do it, or it's not. Because trust me, we'll get yelled at by the left and the right. We'll get yelled at by people who are homophobic and racist as well as people who are politically correct and want to ram it down your throat or tell you you're not politically correct enough. We're used to that. We can't be afraid of either group. We have to move forward believing in what we're doing and do what we're doing. But diversity for diversity's sake, it doesn't make any sense.

On how Amadeus Cho became the "Totally Awesome Hulk":

Amadeus Cho isn't the new Hulk because we thought it was an amazing stunt, that the marketing hook was there. It started with a question, posed by me at a retreat, which is -- or maybe not so much a question as an assertion -- I'm kind of tired of seeing us go back to the well with [Bruce] Banner and seeing him once again confront the enormous burden of being the Hulk. It was at that point that the ever opportunistic Mark Paniccia jumped in and said, "How about Amadeus Cho?" A character he was responsible for the creation of from the beginning, and who he will recommend for everything including Black Panther and Captain America, and this time it absolutely made sense. You have an 18 year-old, 98-pound weakling genius. Who better to give that power to. Who better to see what it does to him, how it transforms him, and indeed if it does transform him. We've said in our early discussions about this book, Banner carried that weight around like it was a boulder on his shoulders, and so Amadeus Cho is going to carry it around like it's a feather. We think that makes for very interesting stories. The question is, how long will it remain a feather?

On which characters and titles Alonso doesn't want readers to miss amid a sea of new launches:

I'd start right with "Power Man & Iron Fist," which we announced just a couple of days ago. You've got David Walker and Sanford Greene doing the ultimate buddy book. Power Man and Iron Fist, two characters with a long history that we haven't seen in print for 25, 30 years at this point, and they're being reunited and they're gonna be a duo again, and work through the growing pains of being a duo again. I can't think of a better team to do this book. We've been talking about this for about a year. We've been trying to figure out how to do it, how to plan it and get it absolutely right, and we're there. Again, it's a street-level book, it's a buddy book, about two characters who might not seem to have a whole hell of a lot in common at first but just have a special bond.

The final part of the discussion turns to "Star Wars," and how it has affected Marvel since they started producing books for the legendary license. He discusses the expansion of titles and talent on the line, as well as the upcoming "Vader Down" crossover and recently announced "Obi-Wan & Anakin" miniseries. He closes out with some thoughts about what he'd like to see at Marvel in 2016 and areas where the company can continue to improve.

On how the Star Wars books have affected Marvel's publishing plans:

It's done more than I ever though it could, to tell you the truth. When we got "Star Wars," we were cocky. We can do a great job with this, but it's sort of like the attitude you take when you're going into a championship game, which is, "We're gonna win this game," but you might not. We deployed some of our best and brightest talent to do the trick and it worked, and obviously you've seen us diversify that line now to include new writers and artists and I think readers and fans are getting it. What we're doing, and why it's special, and part of why it's special is because it counts. I'm very excited about the future. Obviously I know where we're headed in the future and I see bigger and better things ahead.

On what he wants to see in Marvel's future:

One of the really exciting areas of growth that we've seen is humor. It used to be that the only time we could combine comedy and drama was in "Deadpool," and Deadpool only. And we've seen over the last year that books like "Howard the Duck" and "[Unbeatable] Squirrel Girl" -- books like "Secret Love" -- can tap into this. It's possible you come to a comic book and want your funny bone hit. You can look at some of our future offerings. I should also include "Rocket Raccoon" in that list that I just mentioned. But we have other things coming -- "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur," "Starbrand and Nightmask" -- books that will not be absent of humor, let's put it that way. So I think that seeing that area grow is gonna be important, just the same way seeing more female titles was important, or seeing more cultures reflected in the Marvel Universe. I think that seeing more humor, seeing more books that make you feel different, have a different experience -- and not just aesthetically -- but just emotionally, I think is important.

Marvel Just Teased the Return of Its Strongest. Hulk. Ever.

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