Welcoming Back Creators, Experimenting with Numbering

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 overseen both critically acclaimed and best-selling comics, Alonso stepped into the spot of Marvel's editorial department in early 2011, and has since worked 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 discuss a cornucopia of recent Marvel-related developments -- including the publisher's long-awaited remastered "Miracleman" #1, Chris Claremont and the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning duo all returning to the Marvel fold, and weekly April miniseries "What If: Age of Ultron," from writer Joe Keatinge and multiple artists. All that, and noted San Francisco 49ers fan Alonso's take on this past Sunday's NFC Championship game. Read on!

Albert Ching: Axel, let's address the important news right off the bat -- how are you feeling after the 49ers loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship this past Sunday?

Axel Alonso: That was tough to witness -- especially with my 10-year-old son. Between the questionable calls, the non-reviewable fumble recovery that resulted in [49ers middle linebacker] Navarro Bowman's gruesome injury, and [Seahawks cornerback] Richard Sherman's super-classy display of sportsmanship at the close of the game, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

Comic book-wise, the first thing I wanted to ask about is a book that came out last week -- "Miracleman." After so many years of getting to this point, how did it feel to see that big "Miracleman" #1 from Marvel in print, having finally come together?

Alonso: It's a great feeling. It was a Herculean task to get to this moment. "Miracleman" made quite an impression as a young adult so I'm thrilled that a new generation of readers can finally read it, without having to spend $500 on eBay. And I think the production work we've done -- from Steve Oliff's brilliant re-coloring to the new lettering to variant covers -- really brings an extra-sheen to this seminal series.

The story was lauded decades ago as being ahead of its time, and it sounds like you're definitely in the mindset that it holds up against current material?

Alonso: I do. This story builds to a crescendo that one can't anticipate. It takes readers through the full gamut of emotions. And the artists involved are all top-notch, some for them doing career-defining work. We've seen a lot of series that deconstruct the super hero paradigm over the years -- this is where it all started.

A major recent announcement is the news "Amazing Spider-Man" is coming back in April -- you addressed it in last week's column, but I wanted to discuss the success of "Superior Spider-Man" a bit. By all accounts, it's been one of the great victories Marvel has had in the past year-plus, but at the start, it seemed like a pretty big risk. How does it feel to see it pay off in such a big way?

Alonso: Obviously, it feels great. The thing that sold me on "The Superior Spider-Man," ultimately, was that Dan knew how he wanted to end this chapter in Spider-Man's history. Whether the story ran for six issues or 30 issues, Dan knew how Peter's and Otto's fates would dovetail and come to a climax, and what types of stories this would set up. Because once Peter comes back, the big questions are "Has he changed?" and "What does he come back to?" Dan intends to mine that. Fans have grown to love Otto, but they really miss Peter Parker, and when he comes back, it's going to be seismic.

Also happening in April is the launch of a new "Nightcrawler" series, which marks the return of Chris Claremont to the X-Men fold, after being mostly away for a few years. When he had been writing actively most recently at Marvel, it was mainly books like "X-Men Forever," outside of the primary continuity -- but this is Claremont back in the midst of the mainline, current X-titles. How do you see a veteran and legend like him fitting in with the current X-Men landscape?

Alonso: I'm excited to have Chris back, but even more excited that the stories he's going to write are going to count. [X-Men Group Editor] Nick Lowe and his crew have created a varied and complex landscape that's created opportunities for exciting new books -- from "Magneto" to "X-Force" to "Nightcrawler." It was editor Daniel Ketchum who suggested Chris for this gig, and it should play to Chris's strengths. Nightcrawler is classic and much-beloved character.

RELATED: Chris Claremont Returns to the X-Men with "Nightcrawler" Ongoing Series

An April return of a different kind is "What If?" -- this time in the form of the "What If: Age of Ultron" miniseries. Marvel has been doing these "What If?" special for a few years now, with the last few revolving around the big events. From your stance, what do you see as the value of keeping the "What If?" brand and concept alive, even though it hasn't been a monthly series in many years?

Alonso: The appeal of "What If?" is that it taps into the nagging questions in the back of your fanboy brain. Its stories allow you to see what would happen if the road forked a different direction. Bad guys became good guys -- and vice versa. Your favorite characters died! [Laughs] But these days, when fans put a premium on stories that are relevant to continuity, keeping the "What If?" brand vibrant is a bit of a challenge. Because no matter how good the story is, it ultimately doesn't count. That's the reason we've used "What If?" to explore forks in the road that might have happened with some of our biggest event stories, stories that everybody knows and that were extremely relevant to Marvel's shared universe. It's a creative strategy that's worked.

Obviously, they're also different in that they're longer stories than in the past.

Alonso: Yeah, the scope of those stories doesn't lend itself to one-shot. That said, I love one-shots. "What If?" #3 ("What if the Avengers Had Never Been?") was one of my favorite comic book stories as a kid. I read it, like, a hundred times. The Avengers are like, "Later," so Tony Stark, Ant-Man and Wasp and, I think, Giant-Man all suit up in armor to battle evil Namor and Hulk. Tony dies saving the day. That story packed a punch. You've got me thinking...

RELATED: "What If? Age of Ultron" & "Daredevil" #1.5 Coming in April

One more return to talk about in April is DnA -- Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning -- returning to "Guardians of the Galaxy" on a couple of different things solicited for April; a back-up story in "Guardians of the Galaxy" #14 and the "Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude" set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What do you see as the importance of bringing them back into the fold at this point?

Alonso: DnA's contribution to the cosmic universe and the Guardians of the Galaxy is unquestionable, and their adoring fan base proves that. It was just a matter of time before we got them involved -- and we felt an anniversary issue was the perfect opportunity. Dan and Andy will each be writing their own separate backup stories for Guardians of the Galaxy #14, featuring the characters they helped bring to the forefront of the Marvel U.

It's interesting, because even though they were working with some of the same characters, they had something of a different take on the characters and concepts, and it seems that maybe at first Marvel wanted to present a different take on the cosmic books when relaunching them over the past year. Is it at a point where the current cosmic material is established enough that it makes sense to bring back DnA?

Alonso: DnA's contribution to the cosmic universe goes without saying, and no one overlooks the contribution of any of the creators who contributed to building the cosmic mythology. That said, when you're rebooting a franchise with the goals we had for "Guardians," it's about more than supplying a quality book - you've got to send a loud-and-clear message to retailers and fans that this is an event, and the most sure-fire way to do that is to bring in your big guns: talent that's associated with top-quality, high-selling work. We tapped Brian [Michael] Bendis and Steve McNiven in the hopes that we'd achieve a quality book that would achieve certain sales goals, and it worked. "Guardians of the Galaxy" #1 was one of the best-selling titles of the year, and the series continues to perform. But again, we weren't building on rubble; we were building on something solid.

With that "Guardians of the Galaxy" #14, the solicitations mark that it's the celebration of the series' 100th overall issue, and "Ultimate Spider-Man" #200 also hits in April. Given there's been some discussion out there lately about numbering in general, how closely does Marvel monitor these opportunities?

Alonso: We always look for opportunities to shine a spotlight on our characters and anniversaries present us with the opportunity to celebrate not only the characters, but the writers and artists who contributed along the road. [Editor] Jordan D. White's plans for the giant-sized "Deadpool" #27, for instance, will includes short stories by every writer who has ever written "Deadpool," wrapped up in a cover that Guinness is currently reviewing to determine if it sets the world record for the most characters ever on a comic book cover.

With these latest milestones, it seems Marvel is marking these occasions and then moving on with the numbering as scheduled -- in the past, at Marvel and other places, it would often be used to renumber the book completely. It seems that at least for the foreseeable future, though, that Marvel seems intent on keeping numbers low in general. Do you see that trend continuing?

Alonso: Comic books are part of the spectrum of pop culture, and we'd be foolish not to take note of the different ways that people are absorbing stories right now. With so many TV shows structured and, indeed, packaged as "seasons," and so many of us "binge-viewing," comics publishers would be foolish not to take note, and see if any of these trends - if they are, indeed, just trends -- apply to our medium.

So, yeah, we're experimenting. If a new creative team or new story line represents a clean enough break that it could be viewed as a new "season" in a series, putting a big #1 on the cover is one way to announce that. But not the only way.

That feels like something of an important shift, to widely adopt a "seasons"-type approach for superhero comics.

Alonso: In a world of where characters created on the comic book page pop up on the silver screen, in video games, on TV, we're always looking to drive people to the comic books where it all began. And for the layperson, seeing "Daredevil" #1 on the shelf is a lot friendlier than, say, "Daredevil" #34. Apologies to fans whose long boxes sport a few more cardboard dividers, but the most important thing - always - is the story. That the story entertains, provokes, educates - or all of the above. When we launch, say, "Iron Fist: The Living Weapon"," we hope the amazing cover art and the big #1 on the cover provide a big welcome mat for readers who know [the character] and those who don't.

Let's end with a couple of reader questions, starting off with the inimitable Spidey616: "In a previous column you mentioned interest in getting Bruce Timm to draw for Marvel and lo and behold, he's been announced as one of the artist contributing to 'All-New X-Men' #25. Any chance of seeing more Marvel work from Timm -- be it covers, promotional artwork, or if we're lucky more interior projects?"

Alonso: I sure hope so. I regard Bruce as being one of the true geniuses of our medium. As for right now, it's just a little bit in "All-New X-Men" #25, but I'm hoping he enjoys it and wants to do more.

marco19 says: "Loved the free issue of "Deadpool: The Gauntlet" you guys gave away. I'm not anti-digital but really prefer the tangible copy of a book, any plans to release these books as singles?"

Alonso: At some point, it will be reformatted and released as a hardcover collection, but there are no plans to release the rest of the individual chapters as issues for this series. Reading Infinite Comics digitally provides a completely unique reading experience that's much different from a standard print comic, and we want readers to experience it the way it was meant to be experienced. Plus, in the case of "Deadpool: The Gauntlet," the story is going to directly feed into April's gi-normous Deadpool #27, so you'll want to read the story as it happens. Especially next week's issue #4.

Last one's from Icey1999 is something a lot of folks are curious about: "With 'Superior Spider-Man' ending in April, can we expect new Spider-family titles?"

Alonso: I know Dan's plans, Icey, and you're thinking way too small.

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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