The Question of a Bisexual "Hercules," Looking Inside "Invincible Iron Man"

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!

Marvel Addresses "Hercules'" Sexuality

In last week's installment of AXEL-IN-CHARGE, Alonso stated that the Hercules of the mainstream Marvel Universe is straight, disappointing fans who believed the character to be bisexual, mainly due to a scene hinting at such in 2010's "Hercules: Fall of an Avenger" #1 and an alternate universe version of the character that appeared in "X-Treme X-Men." The statement resulted in a loud response from some fans and observers, with critics accusing Marvel of dropping the ball at an opportunity for further diversity. Alonso responds to the criticism, stating that "Marvel has absolutely no issue with LGBT characters," and that Hercules wasn't on the creative team's radar as a bisexual character as the series was being put together. Alonso also talks the new "Black Knight," the upcoming "Invincible Iron Man," Marvel's remastered versions of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham's "Miracleman" and more, including answers to your questions direct from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, your reply to our question last week about Hercules' sexuality -- hinted in the past as potentially bisexual, but said by you to be straight in the mainstream Marvel Universe -- sparked vocal criticism online, with people disappointed that Marvel was seemingly shying away from an opportunity to be more diverse in its lead characters and stronger accusations of bisexual erasure. Do you have any further thoughts on the subject or Marvel's plans for other LGBT characters you'd like to share?

Axel Alonso: Marvel has absolutely no issue with LGBT characters in the Marvel Universe. We are sympathetic to the community that may have viewed Hercules as bisexual based on an implication in "Hercules: Fall of an Avenger." I thought that Brett White's op-ed "Why Bisexual Hercules Matters to Me," was very thoughtful, I took it to heart and I made it recommended reading for my staff.

That said, the simple fact is: Hercules wasn't on anyone's radar as a bisexual character -- not the series writer, Dan Abnett and editors Katie Kubert and Tom Brevoort, who pitched this series, and not mine.

The question of Hercules' sexual orientation was posed to me last week when you sent us some last-minute questions, [Editor's note: Last week's AXEL-IN-CHARGE was conducted over e-mail rather than phone due to technical difficulties], so I conferred with the editors, and was told that there was never any discussion of Hercules being bisexual as the pitch was being put together. Dan [Abnett] pitched a solo Hercules series because he was having fun writing the character in his "Secret Wars" series ("The Korvac Saga"), and he thought it might be cool to re-position Hercules as a more heroic, less comedic hero in the Marvel Universe; Hercules' sexuality was not something he considered and he was unaware of any hints out there that Hercules was anything other than heterosexual.

The only implication that shows or suggests that Herc is bisexual is an alternate universe story ("X-Treme X-Men"), two-three scenes in Marvel Universe stories, where other characters speculate about his sexuality, and a Marvel Wikia page that is fan-generated content -- none of which was on Dan's radar or his editor's radar. Had it been, and had they felt there was completing evidence that Herc was bisexual, it's something that they might have explored in their pitch, and it's something that I would read with an open mind. But it wasn't.

That said, I've spoken with Dan and I know he is processing all of the feedback and taking it to heart. How that is reflected in his stories -- who knows? But I want to remind everyone that Marvel has a long history of LGBT characters that have taken the front-line in the Marvel Universe, including Northstar, Daken, Hulking and Wiccan, America Chavez, the Rawhide Kid and more recently the new Giant-Man, Raz Malhotra, and Iceman, to name only a few. And there will definitely be more in the future. And Iceman's story is far from over -- both of them.

Tieri & Pizzari Bring "Black Knight" to All-New All-Different Marvel

Let's talk another series announcement from last week -- a new "Black Knight" series, written by Frank Tieri and drawn by Luca Pizzari. I certainly have fond memories of that character dating back to his time on the '90s "Avengers," but it's a bit of a surprise to see him get a solo book. What makes now the right time for Black Knight to get his own series?

Alonso: Going into "Secret Was," our goal was to come out the other side with all sorts of cool new books, featuring characters we hadn't seen, genres we hadn't experimented with. "Black Knight" gives us a window into a different type of genre than we normally do: a modern-day sword & sorcery book. Frank and Luca have a really gripping story to tell about the Ebony Blade corrupting the Black Knight, one we think readers will be hooked by. I love Frank's tagline for this: "Breaking Blade."

This week, the first interior lettered pages from Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez's "Invincible Iron Man" #1 were released. That's a book we've known about for a couple months, but first time we've really gotten a peek of the inside of it. There's been some very well-regarded Iron Man runs in recent years -- for you, what makes what Bendis and Marquez are doing here special?

Alonso: Have you seen those preview pages? [Laughs] Did you see what Brian did with "Guardians of the Galaxy" back when a lot of people said, "Rocket Raccoon who"? It's all about the talent, passion and chemistry that Brian and David share. Tony Stark is one of the world's most recognized superheroes, and we are all-in to remind you of that.

Marvel's upcoming new versions of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham's "Miracleman" also got some press this week. We've talked about how the earlier run Marvel has re-mastered, written by Alan Moore, holds up -- how do you think Gaiman and Buckingham's work fits in with the current marketplace?

Alonso: I remember reading "Miracleman" for the first time getting to the end of that first incredible run and thinking, "Might as well give up, there's no way to top that." But knowing it was Neil "Sandman" Gaiman at the writing reins, I kept reading and was incredibly glad I did. Neil and [artist] Mark [Buckingham] didn't try to play the same game as the previous creative team; they invented a whole new game. And just when I thought it was getting more distant and cerebral, it snuck up and hits me where it hurts over and over again.

Now, with new colors by Matt Hollingsworth, new lettering by Todd Klein and new breathtaking covers by Mark Buckingham, it looks better than ever. After all these years, it still feels ahead of the game. WATCH: First "Deadpool" Trailer, Plus R-Rated Version

This week also saw the release of 20th Century Fox's first "Deadpool" trailer. That's not a Marvel production, but Deadpool is a character I know is close to your heart -- what did you think of the first look at the film?

Alonso: At this point, I'll just say I'm curious.

Let's wrap the week with some fan questions. Prince of Orphans has his eye on the Winter Soldier, asking, "One character I'm surprised has seemed to go a bit under the radar is Bucky Barnes. Could we expect big things for him post-'Secret Wars'?"

Alonso: Bucky's continuing to appear in his own solo series "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" -- and beyond "Secret Wars," we'll see. Versions of Bucky have popped up in a few places during "Secret Wars," including "Planet Hulk" and "Runaways."

Then judaspaladin is looking for a little schedule clarification: "I'm really looking forward to the relaunch in October but I'm a little concerned because several books I'm looking forward to such as 'All-New Wolverine' and 'All-New X-Men' were not included in the solicitations for October. Are these titles still releasing in October or has there been a change in the schedule?"

Alonso: The big X-Men relaunch kicks off in October with "Extraordinary X-Men" #1 and #2 by Jeff Lemire and Humberto Ramos. It's followed in November by Dennis Hopeless and Mark Bagley's "All-New X-Men" and Tom Taylor and David Lopez's "All-New Wolverine." December will bring Cullen Bunn and Greg Land's "Uncanny X-Men," and then we'll get Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's "Old Man Logan" in January.

Rman has Heroes for Hire on the mind, asking, "Could you give any tease as to where Luke Cage and Iron Fist will end up in the ANAD universe and if they will be in a book together?"

Alonso: I like the sound of that.

We'll wrap with Teddard_Stark, whose questions seems appropriate given the date: "Would you be able to give any word, whether it's confirmation or even just a teaser, about a potential Fantastic Four book? They are being missed!"

Alonso: I can't tell you because "Secret Wars" isn't over.

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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