Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era

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 Announces "Black Widow" From Entire "Daredevil" Team

With less than a week to go before New York Comic Con, Alonso talks the big news that broke earlier today -- that the full "Daredevil" creative team of Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Matthew Wilson and Joe Caramagna will move on to a new "Black Widow" series starting in early 2016, with some of Marvel's most acclaimed creators taking on one of the company's biggest characters. Also, Alonso previews next week's new #1s, the initial launches of the All-New, All-Different Marvel era that picks up six months after "Secret Wars" -- "Invincible Iron Man" from Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, "Amazing Spider-Man" from Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli, "Doctor Strange" from Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo and "Contest of Champions" from Al Ewing & Paco Medina. All that, plus answers to your questions, direct from the CBR Community.

Albert Ching: Axel, are you ready -- are you excited -- for New York Comic Con next week?

Axel Alonso: Of course. It's our hometown con, y'know?

And it'll be here before we know it. Earlier today, it was announced that the multiple award-winning "Daredevil" team of will launch a new "Black Widow" series. How happy are you to see that team sticking together, and doing something new at Marvel?

Alonso: They're a great team. Great chemistry. To see them shift their skills over to another street-level character after such a long and prosperous run on "Daredevil" is great casting. I've seen script and art -- and there's reason to be excited. On "Daredevil," Mark and Chris perfectly balanced the nuances of Matt Murdock's life; Matt was a complex character living in a complex world. Ditto for Natasha. Like Daredevil, Black Widow lives in the crawlspace between light and darkness, and that's a place that Mark and Chris play in very well together.

Was "Black Widow" something they were looking to do, or was it Marvel's idea? Or something of a mutual conclusion?

Alonso: There was a point where Mark and Chris said they were running out of ways to tell stories that involved radar sense, so we got to thinking about what character they could work on as a team. We threw a couple at them before ["Black Widow" Editor] Jake Thomas suggested Black Widow, and that was that.

Daredevil and Black Widow are characters that have history together, so it seems like an especially natural transition.

Alonso: Exactly. Black Widow's a great character, an important character. An award-winning team like this sends a message how important she is.

It's also another female-led title. You discussed in this column a few weeks about how Marvel had gone from 0 when "X-23" was canceled a few years back to 16 currently -- that's a big number, and feels fairly unprecedented. You've talked about the process of it before, but as editor-in-chief, what do you see as the cumulative effect of that? In what ways has it made Marvel's lineup a different entity?

Alonso: It's transformed the line. We made a course correction, got traction and rode the momentum. At this point, the only reason we count [female-led titles] is because we're asked to. [Laughs] Our output of female-led titles is healthy enough that it can expand or contract a little, and it won't be an issue.

That's is a big thing. Diversity of content, characters, aesthetic styles and creators is vital to any publishing line -- and it's in our DNA. Keep your ears peeled for more announcements next week and during NYCC, series we've been developing for months.

There of course have always been women comic book readers, but we're seeing that audience grow in a big way, and a lot of it in the mainstream has stemmed from Marvel books like "Captain Marvel" and "Ms. Marvel," which have really energized their audiences. How much of that was part of the motivation in pushing things forward to get to that number of 16 female-led books, and really supporting that growing readership?

Alonso: When we started, there wasn't necessarily evidence there was a huge audience clamoring for these characters. We just figured they were plenty of cool female characters in the catalog that, done right, could attract their own audience, and perhaps part of that audience would be female readers. So the goal was to make good comics, to come at the characters from diverse creative angles, and see what happened. My staff did a great job finding the right talent to put out a diverse line of wave one titles -- from "Ms. Marvel" to "She-Hulk" -- and kept the pedal to the metal after that, resulting in series like "Squirrel Girl" and "Angela," and stuff that's yet to come, like "Gamora" and "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur."

"All-New, All-Different Marvel" Arrives in Marvel's Complete October 2015 Solicitations

Next week is big for Marvel, with the official kick-off of the All-New, All-Different Marvel era. Let's start with "Amazing Spider-Man" #1. With these new launches, readers are seeing a lot of familiar talent taking on characters for the first time, but of course Dan Slott has been writing Spider-Man since 2008, and has explored and evolved the character in a number of notable ways. We know a little about what he's got planned for Peter Parker here, but what has you most excited about this latest phase of Slott's Spidey run?

Alonso: Dan's earned the job, over and over again. The ideas he's bringing to Spider-Man are totally out the box and all of them hit nothing but net. I'm on record saying it took me a long time before I was sold on "Superior Spider-Man" -- shows what I know! Keeping the sports analogy alive, he's like Michael Jordan in the zone. This time around, there's the obvious big departure that Peter Parker is now a globe-trotting captain of industry, but the thing that's going to really hook headers is the endings of the first three issues -- each of which kicks off a major story that'll have everyone talking.

Another new #1 out next week that hasn't gotten as much press is "Contest of Champions." That's a different type of book, and was inspired by a Marvel video game -- what intrigued you about this series?

Alonso: Well, we're talking about a comic book inspired by a game inspired by a comic book! That might be a first. But the choice of words is important: "Inspired by." "Contest of Champions" is not a direct translation, by any means, of the game. We're just taking the logline [of the game] and letting Al Ewing run wild, as evidenced by him taking a character like Outlaw, who showed up in 5 or 6 issues of "Punisher" issues over a decade ago, and making him the star of the first issue. Issue #2 does something similar for Ares, and there's another character that makes his return in this series that I hope will stick around... if he lives through the Contest.

If you're still unsure what "Contest of Champions" is, try this: It's everything you love about "Secret Wars" and its tie-ins -- where any character from any era and any universe can show up and have lasting ramifications for the Marvel U going forward -- only it's an ongoing series, set in continuity. It counts.

Also next week is the new "Doctor Strange" #1, from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. We've talked before about Aaron's versatility in writing multiple genres, and certainly Bachalo seems like a natural fit for this series, but now, having watched the book develop over the past few months, how do you assess the mesh here between creative team and character?

Alonso: It's a fresh, original, accessible take on the character. Full disclosure: Doctor Strange is not my favorite character. [Laughs] I just never personally connected with the character. Part of that is the fact that he seems to get out of any jam just by casting the right spell, you know? Jason and Chris have changed that. Jason's found a way to ground that magic, to position it as something other than a Deus Ex Machina at Strange's automatic disposal. There are costs -- consequences -- to using magic, and you will see that in this series. And Jason's found some great comedic moments. Poor Wong! [Laughs]

And Chris -- he is perfectly matched to this story. He's so closely associated with X-Men that people forget the supernatural stories he did at Vertigo. "Doctor Strange" isn't the kind of comic book story that benefits from a six-panel grid, you know? You've got to bend and break panel borders -- and Chris is doing that.

"Doctor Strange" seems like it can be a hard series to figure out, sort of like "Silver Surfer," but this sounds like a book you're confident in -- like, say, Dan Slott and Mike Allred on "Silver Surfer."

Alonso: I am. We're delivering a quality book. It's a team with pedigree, and chemistry and a character with a passionate fan base and a movie on the horizon, so fans better pay attention.

Bendis, Marquez Push "Invincible Iron Man" To Forefront Of The Marvel Universe

Last but not least is "Invincible Iron Man," which is a book we've talked a good amount about before, but I wanted to ask this: When the series was first announced, Marvel made it clear that it was considered the flagship book of the new Marvel launches. Despite how high-profile Iron Man has become to the world at large, despite what big names Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez are, that still surprised some comics fans, who haven't seen an Iron Man series pushed to quite that level. Will it be obvious to readers from issue #1 why this book is seen at such a lofty position?

Alonso: Iron Man is the flagship character of the Marvel films, so in the eyes of much of the world, Iron Man is Marvel. Bearing that in mind, Iron Man is the lynchpin to our future plans for the Marvel Universe -- and it starts with "Invincible Iron Man."

It's funny, when we first pursued Brian to write Iron Man for all of these years, it was because we thought he'd bring to the character the same sort of gravitas that was a hallmark of his work on "Daredevil." And that's there, but what he and David do on this series shares a bit of the DNA of "Ultimate Spider-Man." It's a much funnier, much breezier, much bubblier approach than I think that most are used to seeing in an Iron Man comic. Brian and David deliver a Tony Stark that people are going to want to spend time with.

We'll wrap with fan questions from the CBR Community, and it's a double-header from the venerable Spidey616. His first question shows he's paying attention to hints that have been dropped in "Avengers: Ultron Forever" and more: "You teased the next big Marvel event in a recent interview. Is it in any way related to the Qeng Dynasty that's been hinted in various titles in the last year?"

Alonso: In a way. But look for more on that in "All-New, All-Different Avengers."

He also asks: "Genndy Tartakovsky has voiced interest in finishing up his long awaited 'Luke Cage' miniseries that was announced years ago but never released, as has editor Tom Brevoort. What's the likelihood of seeing the mini released in the near future, perhaps in time for a certain Netflix series?

Alonso: Very good.

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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