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“Star Wars” #1 and the Future of the Line

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“Star Wars” #1 and the Future of the Line

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!

CONFIRMED: “Star Wars” #1 Will Exceed One Million Copies Sold

With “Star Wars” #1 finally released to the world, Alonso discusses the earliest stages of development for the series, hitting one million copies sold to retailers and why Jason Aaron was Marvel’s first choice to write the book. Alonso also provides some insight on what the future of the line may be, which is already known to include forthcoming “Darth Vader,” “Princess Leia” and “Kanan” series. Additionally, Alonso teases next Tuesday’s “Secret Wars” press conference in New York City, which has been promoted as containing “the announcement to end all announcements.” All that, plus word on Marvel and ESPN’s latest collaboration, the recently unveiled Run the Jewels-inspired variant covers and answers to your questions, picked fresh from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, wanted to start with the very big launch this week of “Star Wars” #1 — we already know more than a million copies sold to retailers, there are dozens of variant covers and alternate distributors like Loot Crate on board. Taking all of that together, how unique was this launch for you to be involved in, in terms of what you’ve seen in your comic book career?

Axel Alonso: It’s funny. About 18 months ago, C.B. Cebulski, Jordan White, David Gabriel, Jason Aaron, John Cassaday, Kieron Gillen and I traveled to Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters for our first strategy session. I remember coming back to the office and telling David Gabriel, “You know, if we hit this right, we might be able to sell 300,000 to 400,000 of issue #1.” My math was way off. A million? Who’d have thought? It’s really a testament to everybody doing their jobs right, starting with a great story and great art.

And it has to be satisfying after being in development for this long — it was a year ago this month it was publicly announced Marvel had reacquired the Star Wars license — to reach the finish line in this fashion.

Alonso: Exactly. I couldn’t be happier.

Let’s talk about the “Star Wars” creative team. John Cassaday drawing this feels like something of a no-brainer. But Jason Aaron, for all of his talents and the range that we’ve seen from him over the years, I don’t think a lot of people would have necessarily seen him as the obvious choice to write “Star Wars,” especially the lead book. Then you read #1, and he seems like a natural. What was it about Jason that you saw that made him the right writer for this?

Alonso: Jason was our first choice right out the gate. We knew he was a huge “Star Wars” fan, but we also knew that wouldn’t become baggage. A hallmark of Jason’s work is his ability to get characters onto the playing field quickly and efficiently, establishing who they are and what they stand for, to drill down and get to the point. It was very important to us that “Star Wars” #1 be exciting and accessible to everyone — from the hardest hardcore fan to the one or two poor souls who came out of their sensory deprivation chambers who had no idea what “Star Wars” is — and we figured Jason gave us our best shot at doing just that. We told him to treat issue #1 like the sequel to “A New Hope.” The Death Star has just been destroyed, Luke Skywalker has just felt the first pangs of the force, Darth Vader has some ‘splainin’ to do…

Marvel SVP Talks “Star Wars” Success, Reveals Sales of #2 Near 200K

One more question on the subject for this week: Clearly there was a huge launch for “Star Wars” #1, it’s been revealed that “Darth Vader” is launching near 200K and presumably “Princess Leia” will also have a strong debut. At this point, how big do you see the line growing? Could you see it getting much bigger than three or four books? Or is it something you’re looking to keep fairly select?

Alonso: We have more coming, but we’re going to keep a tight publishing plan. Lean and mean. And we promise all-star lineups. There’s no absence of top-tier and emerging creators who really, really, really want to be a part of this. The “Star Wars” universe rivals the Marvel Universe in terms of the diversity of its characters. This is an incredible canvas to paint on.

Moving from “Star Wars” to “Secret Wars,” I wanted to touch on the big press conference that’s happening a few days from now — billing it as “the announcement to end all announcements” is intriguing and, perhaps, ominous. Is there anything that fans should be preparing themselves for on Tuesday?

Alonso: Puppets! [Laughs] There will be visual aids, and we’ll do a little bit to illuminate, a little bit to tease where we’re headed.

Marvel & ESPN Team Up for “1 of 1: Genesis” Film

Wanted to touch on a couple of unconventional projects you’ve been involved in — first, the Marvel/ESPN “Genesis” documentary, linking sports stars to Marvel superheroes. I’m sure as a sports fan, that was a treat for you — what was it like getting to participate in “Genesis”?

Alonso: It was great. And I was thrilled to see 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the list. As I’ve said before, professional athletes are, in many ways, the closest thing you’ve got to real-life super heroes. They’re bestowed great power, and they have to figure out what to do with it. Do they refine it, or squander it? That’s pretty much what this ESPN documentary is about: how real-life athletes at the top of their sport got to where they are, when they realized they had special ability, how they fine-tuned that ability, the obstacles they faced, the perseverance that it took not only to get where they are, but to maintain where they are.

Deadpool, Howard The Duck Homage Run The Jewels In Hip-Hop Variants

Also, a pair of Run the Jewels-inspired Marvel variants were announced earlier today. I know that’s one of your favorite current groups — “Run the Jewels 2” was your pick for 2014 album of the year — and that was something you were directly involved in, correct?

Alonso: I’m a huge fan. How’d it start? Well, for starters, I was aware of the “Tag the Jewels” movement, where artists around the world have painted murals reinterpreting Nicholas Gazin’s dope cover for “Run the Jewels 2.” I thought that spoke volumes about the power of that particular image. But the idea for the variants really crystallized when my 11-year-old son, who plays football, caught a touchdown pass, then he ripped off his receiver’s glove like it was on fire, and pointed at it with his other hand while his teammates gathered around him in the end zone, chanting, “Run them jewels fast!” That’s when I thought it would be cool for Marvel to do its own “Tag the Jewels” homage in the form of variant covers. And what better books than “Deadpool” #250 and “Howard the Duck” #2?

This was Jeanine Schaefer’s last week at Marvel after several years in editorial, and a recent stint as talent scout. Do you have thoughts you’d like to share about her leaving, her time at Marvel and the work she’s done as part of the team?

Alonso: We’ll miss Jeanine immensely. She was a huge contributor to our group, both as an editor and as our talent liaison/recruiter. Her legacy is her contribution to building Women of Marvel, being the torchbearer of that movement.

Let’s wrap the week with a few fan questions from the CBR Community: Sasquatch by Night wonders, “It was great seeing Stingray and U.S. Agent show up in Nick Spencer’s ‘Avengers World’ run; any chance they’ll be showing up elsewhere? Like, say in Spencer’s awesome ‘Ant-Man…'”

Alonso: Probably not in “Ant-Man,” Sasquatch, but maybe elsewhere within the Marvel Universe.

Then we’ve got macroblaster1999, who has a post-“AXIS” query: “During AXIS, villains like Sabretooth, Absorbing Man, Sandman, Carnage, and Hobgoblin played prominent roles. I know that Sabretooth is in ‘Uncanny Avengers’ and ‘Wolverines,’ but will these other villains either get new roles or possibly solo books?”

Alonso: When all the villains have their own series, who will the heroes fight?

Finally for the week, BenJGrimm reaches back to 2010: “It’s been stated ‘Secret Wars’ has been in planning for years. Does Tony Stark’s timeline in Bendis’ ‘Avengers’ #5 offer any clues to the big event or did planning for the event come after that? What about ‘Guardians 3000’? Some threads there seem to be tying in.

Alonso: The events of that timeline in “Avengers” #5 were all scattered to the wind when time was broken at the end of “Age of Ultron” #10, BenJGrimm. So while certain titles may be picking up on aspects of what was laid out there, all of those future events are no longer a certainty. As for “Guardians 3000,” it’s possible that it may connect in some unexpected ways.

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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