Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"

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 Reveals New Hulk's "Totally Awesome" Identity

This week, following the reveal earlier today that Amadeus Cho is the new, "Totally Awesome Hulk" -- and "the" Hulk of the post-"Secret Wars" Marvel Universe -- Alonso discusses the behind-the-scenes origins of the series, the importance of a Korean-American Hulk, its personal connection to his family and the book's creative team, writer Greg Pak and artist Frank Cho. Alonso also sheds some new light on three new Marvel series announced over the past week: "Weirdworld," "Starbrand & Nightmask" and "Guardians of Infinity". That and more, including questions from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, readers found out earlier today that Amadeus Cho is in fact the new, "Totally Awesome Hulk." An Asian-American Hulk certainly means something to me, but what does it mean to you and Marvel as a whole to be telling this story -- putting this character in that role?

Axel Alonso: I'll start at the top: My wife is Korean, and let me tell you, I scored a [lot] of points with this! [Laughs] I can only imagine the reaction of my [eomeoni] [mother] and two [cheo nams] [brothers] -- who're always asking me when the world is going to get an A-list Korean super hero. I think this fits the bill. Come December, the strongest character in the Marvel Universe is going to be a 19-year-old Korean kid that might have a thing or two in common with Banner -- huge intellect, small frame -- but that's where the comparisons end. Let's just say Amadeus has got a little too much swagger. [Laughs] Oh, and before I start an entire Internet controversy: Yes, I know, the new Thor is no pushover; I'm talking raw, brute strength. [Laughs]

Oh, and to anyone that thinks we're abandoning Banner, you are dead wrong. Banner's story does not end with him no longer being the Hulk. It begins a new chapter for him, and we are very excited about that, too.

I'm curious to hear a bit more about the development of this idea of Amadeus Cho as the Hulk -- based on the initial interviews with Greg Pak back when the book was first announced in June, this was an idea that started with editor Mark Paniccia, correct?

Alonso: Yeah. Panic has always been a huge advocate for Amadeus Cho, and he seized the moment! [Laughs] I think we were in an editorial meeting or retreat, discussing the 8-month gap between the end of "Secret Wars" and the beginning of "All-New, All-Different Marvel," and we wanted to swing for the fences with big ideas to drive each launch. At some point, I said I was I kind of bored by the prospect of going back to the well with Banner, and asked what if someone else, someone with a different attitude, were to be the Hulk? And Mark immediately suggested Amadeus, and pretty much everyone in the room loved it. It's such a no-brainer: Like Banner, Amadeus Cho is a 98-pound weakling with a giant-sized intellect, but that's where the similarities end. [Laughs] So that's a great place to start a new era of Hulk.

Amadeus is bit cocky and arrogant, like a lot of young guys are at that age, and he's ranked as the fifth or sixth smartest guy in the world so he's kind of got the right to be. And now he's been given this awesome power. He's going to have a very different attitude towards being the Hulk. He's been given the keys to a brand-new Maserati, he's going to see a wide-open road in front of him, and he's going to drive it fast.

The creative team of Greg Pak and Frank Cho would certainly be a high-profile for any book, but it's not insignificant that they're Korean-American themselves. I think that's an important part of it. How important is that part to you, to have this specific team telling this story?

Alonso: There was something in the air when we put this series together. Pretty much right after we decided we were all-in on Amadeus Cho, Greg Pak immediately came to mind, because he had a celebrated run on "Incredible Hulk," and he was, of course, the co-creator of Amadeus Cho. As for Frank, well, he used Amadeus Cho and the Hulk in his "Savage Wolverine" story, so we knew he loved both characters, he's Korean-American, and while he is very selective about his projects, we just figured he'd see the significance of this moment. And he did. He immediately agreed to be a part of the team, and was involved in the planning from the ground floor. He designed the new Hulk -- from his the MMA-inspired board shorts to his K-Pop hair -- and he very much collaborated on creating the villain for the first arc.

Humphries And Del Mundo Return To "Weirdworld" In New Ongoing

This week also included quite a few new series announcements: Let's start with the new "Weirdworld." It always appeared there was more in store for Weirdworld, at least the venue, post-"Secret Wars" -- was it always the plan to keep the momentum going with a new series?

Alonso: Yes. Going into "Secret Wars," we knew that Weirdworld was going to be a permanent part of the Marvel Universe, and we wanted to make that very clear to fans -- which is why Jason [Aaron] and Mike [Del Mundo] put down the first strokes to define it. Weirdworld is an official part of the new map of the Marvel Universe, and you'll see that come into play as an environment across the line, including the recently announced "Black Knight" series.

As noted, the "Secret Wars" series was written by Jason Aaron, but this ongoing sees Sam Humphries stepping in on writing duties. He feels like a natural choice -- someone with a lot of weird, fun ideas in his stories. From your perspective, what made him right for this book?

Alonso: Sam wanted it, and after his work on "Planet Hulk," which had a kind of "Weirdworld" vibe to it, he was really into it. He wrote a great pitch, he was into it from the get-go. "Weirdworld" gives a writer a unique opportunity to span a lot of different genres: elves, trolls, wizards, dinosaurs, cavemen, barbarians, knights in shining armor -- they've all got a home in Weirdworld. Sam saw the potential and wrote a great pitch.

And it has to be nice to have Mike Del Mundo remaining on art, continuing on after the previous "Weirdworld" series.

Alonso: Oh, yeah, Del Mundo's amazing, isn't he? What he did on the "Weirdworld: Secret Wars" series speaks for itself. We're really happy to have him continuing on the series, and he's working hand-in-hand with Sam as a true collaborator. The fact that he's drawing the series should demonstrate our commitment to this book.

EXCLUSIVE: "Gargoyles" Co-Creator & "Archer" Artist Launch Marvel's "Starbrand & Nightmask"

A new series with "Starbrand & Nightmask" was announced this past Monday on CBR. It seems to be keeping in the "Secret Wars" spirit of spotlighting lesser known characters and concepts -- what can you share about how this series, from Greg Weisman and Dominike Stanton, came together?

Alonso: This was another instance where we had a really fun, off-center pitch that, like "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" or "Squirrel Girl," scratched a different itch than other things we were publishing. The kind of series that would arch eyebrows and appeal to fans of some of our quirkier stuff right now. "Starbrand and Nightmask" is kind of like a cosmic Archie with super-powers.

It does seem to fit in with a "Squrriel Girl," as a book that looks to be aiming for more of the nontraditional audience.

Alonso:. Definitely. At its heart, "Starbrand & Nightmask" is about two friends figuring out their futures -- against the most perilous or backdrops: college. It's a buddy book featuring a guy who is all street-smarts, but doesn't know much about being a superhero (Starbrand) and a guy who is all book-smarts, but doesn't know much about humanity (Nightmask).

Generations Collide In Marvel's New "Guardians Of Infinity" Ongoing

Then there's "Guardians of Infinity" from Dan Abnett and Carlo Barberi, which looks like a continuation of the "Guardians 3000" book Abnett had been writing, but it additionally brings in the current "Guardians," who he's of course also very familiar with -- including Drax, Rocket and Groot. What can you say about how this book took shape, and what Marvel is aiming for in this latest "Guardians" title?

Alonso: The Guardians franchise is just so huge right now, we were looking for an opportunity to give Dan access to some of these toys, so we decided to give him all the toys. [Laughs] Not only that, he's adding more toys to the Guardians toy box by introducing the mysterious Guardians 1000. Are they good guys? Bad guys? Will they play nice with the Guardians of other eras? Dan's now got millennia worth of Guardians to play with, it's going to be a lot of fun. Oh, and each issue will also have a backup story by a guest writer and artist; in the first issue, Jason Latour and Jim Cheung tell a story of Rocket and new Guardian Ben Grimm on a planet whose culture is built entirely on professional wrestling. It's as out-there as it sounds, and it's fantastic.

At this point, there's a surprisingly high number of Guardians titles, team and solo books -- is Marvel close to the maximum, or, as long as the audience shows up, could it still broaden further?

Alonso: I think the market determines that. The flexibility in the Guardians universe is that you can do team books and solo books. And while we hope you'll want to read all the titles, out goal is to create titles with their own distinct flavors. The upcoming "Gamora" and "Drax" series have a very different flavor from the "Rocket Raccoon," "Groot," and "Star-Lord" -- as they should. And what Dan is doing with this team book is very different than what we've seen Brian [Michael Bendis] doing in the core series. I guess you could compare the Guardians to the Avengers: you can read stories about the dynamic between heroes that work together, or stories that focus in individuals, or both.

This week, Time spotlighted the growth of Marvel female superheroes, talking to you and others in the company. What really struck me was the first paragraph of the piece -- stating that Marvel went from 0 lead titles with female lead characters to 16. By my math, that means there must be one or two still to be announced -- how deliberate has that climb been? It's been established that Marvel was motivated after to produce more female-led titles after that number dropped to 0 in early 2012, but did it grow organically after a certain point?

Alonso: Yeah, it did. When we canceled "X-23," it started an alarm. We were aware there was a problem, and we course-corrected. We started slowly, meticulously, and it gained momentum.

Diversity of content, styles, and talent is a good thing. We are constantly looking for the best writers and artist to tell the best stories featuring what we think are the best characters in the world. And our catalogue goes deep. The success of "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Howard the Duck," "Squirrel Girl" makes me feel pretty good about the chances of a quirky series like "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" finding a healthy audience. From that series to "Totally Awesome Hulk" to series we haven't yet announced, series that span October though probably April, we are offering up a lot of diverse flavors.

Let's wrap with fan questions from the CBR Community. SpiderX has a question about Spider-Man -- seems on-brand. He asks: "We haven't received much information in the way of [Miles Morales]' new series. When will be able to find out some more about the series? (Interior art, logo... anything.)

Alonso: Soon.

We'll take off for the long weekend with kaijudo, who has an observation and a question: "No word yet in the ANAD Marvel U about two of my favorites: Captain Britain and Alpha Flight. Any plans for either of those characters/titles?"

Alonso: Stay tuned for good news, I think.

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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