Spider-Woman's Practical New Costume and the Accessibility of "Secret Wars"

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!

It's the last AXEL-IN-CHARGE before Christmas, and this week, Alonso shares his take on the new Kris Anka-designed "Spider-Woman" costume that has already attracted a very vocal -- and heavily positive -- response from comics observers. Following the reveal of this year's Free Comic Book Day lineup and the news that Marvel's lead offering would be a "Secret Wars" lead-in, Alonso talks what makes that story the right fit for the annual comic shop celebration, and its accessibility to new and casual fans. Alonso also talks some of the revelations from Marvel's recently released March 2015 solicitations, gives his thoughts on the ongoing fallout of the illegal Sony hack and "The Interview" subsequently being pulled from theaters, and answers your questions, directly from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, first off, saw you on CBS News earlier this week talking about the diversity in Marvel's current offerings. Since we're firmly in "look back at the past year" season, do you think that a concerted push for greater diversity is maybe the biggest change in Marvel -- perhaps in comics as a whole -- in this last year?

Axel Alonso: I definitely think that 2014 was a big year for diversity in Marvel Comics. So many new titles featuring female leads, the explosion that was "Ms. Marvel" as the breakout character of the year, the Mexican-American All-New Ghost Rider, the new Thor, the All-New Captain America.

Speaking of new additions to the Marvel Universe --Thursday brought news that Spider-Woman is getting a new costume, designed by Kris Anka. The design immediately received a lot of positive reactions online, and seems to fits in with other popular superhero outfits from this year, like Spider-Gwen and DC's new Batgirl costume -- what do you like about Jessica Drew's new look?

Alonso: I love it. ["Spider-Woman" editor] Nick Lowe thought it was time for Spider-Woman to get a new look, since she's worn the same costume since the late seventies. Nick and Dennis [Hopeless] planned on making some big status quo changes with her after "Spider-Verse" -- something a bit more practical but with a bit of bounce fit the bill. Kris Anka did a great job.

It feels like it's the latest example in a larger movement in comics -- to put it simply, female superheroes with more practical costumes. It appears to be something that publishers are taking seriously -- how much do you see that as a trend that's growing?

Alonso: It might be, but most super heroes - male and female - still wear Spandex. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. All that matters is a good design that suits the character who's wearing it.

And I have to ask, since people may draw a conclusion, but given that there was a controversy [with Milo Manara's depiction of Spider-Woman on a "Spider-Woman" #1 variant cover]...

Alonso: The decision to change he costume preceded the controversy.

RELATED: Spider-Woman Debuts Modern Makeover with New Costume

Switching gears then, it was announced this week that "Secret Wars" will be Marvel's Free Comic Book Day "Gold" offering. Was it always a no-brainer to make this the lead Free Comic Book Day issue, since it has been positioned as such a big event for Marvel?

Alonso: Indeed it was. There's nothing bigger, nothing that is more relevant to the Marvel Universe, or all of its characters, than "Secret Wars," so we figured this was the perfect place to give readers a taste of what's in store for them. And our other FCBD offering is going to be equally provocative.

I'm extrapolating a bit here, but FCBD issues, especially the ones Marvel has been putting out over the years, are usually designed to be as accessible as possible for new and casual fans, for obvious reasons. The little that's been revealed of "Secret Wars" looks like it may be aimed at the more hardcore audience, just given the amount of characters and history at play. Is a big priority of the story making sure it appeals to both sides?

Alonso: Without a doubt. Jonathan is bringing brain-twisting, universe-contorting concepts to the table, but you don't need to have a PhD in Marvel continuity to understand what's going on. The FCBD story will be accessible to, say, anyone who's been to a Marvel movie and will offer a clean lead-in to a transformed Marvel Universe.

RELATED: Marvel, DC, Valiant, Dark Horse & More FCBD 2015 Titles Announced

People are going to get nervous when you say "transformed Marvel Universe."

Alonso: Well, we gave them a glimpse of it already. Battleworld is the Marvel Universe. There is no Marvel Universe but Battleworld.

Let's touch on a couple more things from this past week -- this week saw the release of Marvel's March 2015 solicitations, which included something that may seem relatively small (no pun intended), but feels like it could lead to bigger things -- that Cliff Chiang, fresh off of an acclaimed stint on "Wonder Woman" is doing a variant cover for "Ant-Man" #3, which I believe would be his first Marvel work after many years at DC Comics and Vertigo. Any indication if that cover will lead to more from Chiang at Marvel?

Alonso: I'd welcome it.

Fair enough. March also brings another "Women of Marvel" variant cover theme -- with a lot of exciting artists, some outside of the usual superhero scene. From your perspective, what makes that an important initiative, and one worth revisiting?

Alonso: Well, for one thing, it showcases female artists that span generations, so there's a bit of a history lesson there. For another, it demonstrates the great range of female artists -- the styles and sensibility that drive their work.

It's definitely a visually diverse lineup. Marvel's March 2015 solicitations also revealed that "Nightcrawler" will end that month with issue #12. That series was X-Men legend's Chris Claremont's return to Marvel after a couple years away -- any indication at this point if readers will see him back at the publisher with something new following "Nightcrawler"?

Alonso: Chris has been so essential to the X-Men publishing line for so many years. We haven't quite begun discussions yet for what could be next, but we're sure it's only a matter of time.

Another thing announced this week was the "King-Sized Kirby Hardcover" collection, which will be 800 pages, and also include some of his non-superhero work, which some Marvel fans may not be quite as familiar with. How happy are you to see this tribute to one of the ultimate Marvel legends?

Alonso: If there were a Mount Rushmore of American comic book artists, Kirby would be front and center. I can't think of a more influential American comic book artist.

Kirby was literally my entry point into reading comics -- the first comic book I ever read was "New Gods" #7, which Kirby wrote and drew for DC Comics back in the day. Bought it at a flea market. One of the more bloody and violent comic books of that era, which says a lot about me, I guess. [Laughs]

Well, I have to ask: Do you have picks in mind for the rest of that Mount Rushmore?

Alonso: Oh boy, I don't want to go there! [Laughs]

Look, I don't know if it's possible to limit it to four heads. But Kirby's a no brainer because of the breadth and the scope of his work over several decades - at both Marvel and DC. He's like the Beatles insofar as there are "Kirby Eras." The Button-Down Tie Era: Captain America and Timely Comics. The Turtleneck Era: the early days of Marvel Comics, when he and Stan Lee laid down the foundation of the Marvel Universe. The Hippie Era: Kirby's Fourth World stuff for DC Comics -- "New Gods," "Mister Miracle," "Forever People." And the Long Sideburns Era: Kirby's return to Marvel, with wacky stuff like "Devil Dinosaur" and "Machine Man."

The last thing I wanted to ask you about this week isn't Marvel-related, but certainly is something with major implications for the entertainment industry at large -- the Sony hack, the ongoing revelations from that, and especially the decision to pull "The Interview" from release following threats. Do you have any reaction to that situation that you'd like to share?

Alonso: Well, first of all, my views are purely my own and do not reflect those of Marvel Comics. [Laughs]

When I first heard the premise of "The Interview," my wife, who is Korean, said, "Oh boy, there is going to be troooooouuuuublllllle!" [Laughs] So, the fact that the offended party -- North Korea --viewed a dark-humored Hollywood movie as a thinly veiled endorsement of terrorism and reacted with, um, vigor did not surprise me at all. [Laughs]

It's certainly upsetting to think about free speech being suppressed in any way, but obviously it's complicated to judge the validity of threats or how to best act when responsible for large numbers of people.

Alonso: Well, what you've got here, plain and simple, is a movie -- a, quote, work of art -- created in a free speech society that takes aim at the leader of a non-free speech society. Is it really a surprise that Kim Jong-un isn't chalking this up to good, old-fashioned parody and letting this roll off his back?

Look, North Korea's response to "The Interview" reminds me a lot of the fatwa that was placed on Salman Rushdie after he wrote "The Satanic Verses": Scary, but not surprising. But hey, silver lining: I'm more interested in seeing the film now than I was before. [Laughs]

Let's get to some fan questions from the CBR Community. macroblaster1999 has a question from one of this week's releases: "In 'All-New Captain America' #2, Misty Knight revealed to FalCap that all of the major superhero teams -- the Avengers, X-Men, Inhumans -- have been infiltrated by Hydra. Can we expect this to later be touched upon in separate books?"

Alonso: Watch the skies. And trust no one.

Two-part question from solletaire: "Are you planning for a cameo or more for Lance Hunter of former British spy organization S.T.R.I.K.E. and 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' fame? Will we see more of the international superhero/spy community introduced in 'Avengers World' and in the latest volume of 'X-Force'?

Alonso: We'll likely see more of them in the new S.H.I.E.L.D. series. And while there are no planned [Lance Hunter] appearances in "X-Force," you'll get a glimpse of some entirely new overseas spy agencies, as well as a few familiar ones, in the last couple issues of the current storyline. Keep your eyes peeled for the severed head of an international super-spy we introduced at the start of the series!

We'll wrap for the week with Sub-Mariner fan Reviresco, who asks, "I know you said things in Hickman's run is preventing Namor from getting an ongoing now, but will we be getting a Namor ongoing or project after Time Runs Out / Secret Wars? He was used in a lot of recent major plots in a way that really needs to be addressed in a book that focuses on him."

Alonso: What you're looking for will be dealt with in the pages of "Avengers" and "New Avengers," Revieresco. But after "Time Runs Out," nobody's going to be getting a book...

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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