The New Kids of Marvel NOW!

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, we dig into Marvel NOW! titles outside the meat-and-potatoes Marvel classics like X-Men, Captain America and Hulk. Below, Axel discusses how to make books like "Uncanny X-Force" stand out in the crowd, why young heroes still exist in titles including "Young Avengers" and "Wolverine & The X-Men" and what his rules are for diversifying the Marvel line with books like "Fearless Defenders." Read on!

Kiel Phegley: Axel, this week I wanted to dive into a few Marvel NOW! titles we haven't talked about much yet in A-i-C. Let's start with "Young Avengers" and "Uncanny X-Force." I'll admit that I'm always wary when lines expand out too much, and I think there are just too many X-Men comics for me to keep a good grasp on the line. But books like these two seem like a good argument for having a deep bench of titles. How do you take on that challenge of trying to make series feel unique that aren't part of the "core" line?

Axel Alonso: It all comes down to giving each title a distinct mission statement. With the Marvel NOW! X-Men line, it was pretty clear out the gate that "All-New X-Men" -- which focused on the Lee and Kirby X-Men, returned to the present -- would be the core X-Men series, and that the "Uncanny X-Men" would now focus on Cyclops and his band of mutant revolutionaries. Once these two pieces were in place, we knew what space was left for other series. " Wolverine and the X-Men" stayed focused young mutants at the Jean Grey School, struggling to find their place in the universe. [Editor] Daniel Ketchum and [writer] Si Spurrier relaunched "X-Men Legacy" so Legion replaced Rogue as the core character. [Editor] Jeanine Schaefer and [writer] Brian Wood redefined adjectiveless "X-Men" as an all-female X-Men team. And [X-Men Group Editor] Nick Lowe conferred with two writers -- Sam Humphries and Dennis Hopeless -- and saw the potential for two X-Force titles: "Uncanny X-Force," which focused on two characters from Rick Remender's run, Fantomex and Psylocke, and "Cable & The X-Force," which focused on a team of X-Men that became fugitives for a crime they didn't commit. The goal was to provide enough variety in the line that a reader could decide what they want to read.

You launched a few titles while you were running the X-Men group that helped scratch the itch fans have for a "Young" X-Men book of some sort -- that kind of YA take on mutants people seem to enjoy. Right now, do you see "Young Avengers" as taking that role in the line on the whole?

Alonso: No doubt, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's "Young Avengers" is a great place to read about the trials and tribulations that come with being a young super hero -- and it's one of my favorite new launces. But there are other places to follow the adventures of young super heroes -- or young mutants. As I mentioned before, Brian [Michael Bendis]' "All-New X-Men" focuses on young Scott, Jean, Warren and Hank, plopped down in the middle of a world they never made. And Jason Aaron has pretty much made exploring the lives of young mutants the mission statement for "Wolverine & The X-Men."

There's something we haven't had time to talk about much in the column yet that I wanted to note: Peter David. Fans know he's recovering from a stroke suffered recently, and of course, they can support him with a purchase of his own books through his website right now, but in terms of his ongoing work with Marvel, have you discussed whether there will have to be any changes in "X-Factor" while he gets better?

Alonso: Peter is healing, and he'd written ahead, so we should be able to continue without a hitch. While he suffered a serious medical emergency, he's making great progress with his physical therapy and he's already making big plans for the future. We here at Marvel are 110% behind his recovery and wish him the best.

Shifting to more recent releases, the next Marvel NOW! launch to hit is "Fearless Defenders" which is another book with a specific mission statement to set it apart. Now that we're this far into the relaunch, have you learned anything on how best to draw those differences out in the eyes of potential new readers?

Alonso: With Marvel NOW!, we promised a new jumping on point for new readers and a patient rollout that would put a new issue #1 on the stands every week to greet readers -- old, lapsed and new. The challenge in front of the whole editorial staff was to make each issue #1 a distinct door into the Marvel Universe -- and I think we've delivered on that. Take "Young Avengers," for instance: [editor] Lauren [Sankovitch]'s casting was #$%$ing inspired. She tapped Kieron [Gillen] and Jamie [McKelvie], two creators who enjoy a very distinct chemistry, and who brought to that series an entirely new sensibility and vibe. They came in and owned that book right out the gate, and the reaction to it has been wonderful. Early feedback shows that it's really appealing to lapsed and new readers.

So, yeah, "Fearless Defenders" is another book driven by a distinct mission statement and featuring an all-female cast that' delivers a vibe you won't see elsewhere, and there are some twists that are sure to raise eyebrows and body temperatures of the fans. [Editor] Ellie [Pyle] rose to the challenge.

For a while we were having discussions about whether or not we had enough books with female leads. Marvel NOW! seems to be answering that challenge. Was that something you asked for going in or a natural result of the staff's pitches?

Alonso: We wanted more titles anchored by female characters -- that was a goal -- but that doesn't mean that any pitch that featured a female protagonist got rubber-stamped for approval.  "Fearless Defenders" was approved because Ellie [Pyle] submitted a great pitch.  Elsewhere, adjectiveless "X-Men" got a gust of wind in its sails when Jeanine Schaefer and Brian pitched a phenomenal concept for an all-female team.  And -- spoiler alert -- perhaps there's something on the horizon for Bla>cough< Wid>cough

Moving into a few fan questions, Kickbutjr has one that ties into some upcoming Marvel anniversaries and events: "With the Avengers and the X-Men both having their 50th anniversary this year, after the age of ultron event which sounds like it will devastate both teams, will their be a later event that kind've shows the importance of these two teams? Why fans for 50 years have been sticking with them and kind've give back to the fans for that long time? A treat like a big wedding with the two teams together, or something from their past that comes back? Something positive after the darkness of Age of Ultron?"

Alonso: Sadly, Kickbutjr, one of the consequences of "Age of Ultron" is that marriage no longer exists in the Marvel Universe, so there can't be an Avenger/X-Men wedding. However, plans are being hatched for big 50th Anniversary happenings. More on that as we announce them.

And speaking of diversifying the line, deClench wants to know, "A couple years ago, there was a mention of more magic coming to Marvel. This seemed to fade after the cancellation of Dr. Voodoo. Any chance of more magic coming? Maybe a Dr. Strange or Magik solo title?"

Alonso: Not necessarily a solo title, DeClench, but with Strange a regular part of "New Avengers," Magik a key player in "Uncanny X-Men," as well as other series that dabble in the mystical such as "Fearless Defenders," there ought to be a number of places around the Marvel Universe where you can get your magical fix.

And Potty-Man was one of a few folks wondering, "Can you tell us anything about the plans for the Punisher in Marvel NOW!, beyond his Thunderbolts membership? Will he be getting a new solo title? (please say yes!)"

Alonso: Right now, the Thunderbolts feature prominently in Frank's future. Look for lots of fireworks -- including some between him and the rest of the cast. And then there's this:

Play on playa.

Indeed! As as a last note on the column this week, I think it's time to reveal that we've got another special guest coming next Friday. Drumroll please, it's...

Alonso: Brian Michael Bendis!

That's right! So anyone who has their own questions for the man behind "All-New X-Men," "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" -- and he promised to take on anything -- can add their two cents to the A-i-C thread just below here!

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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