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 Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!
After covering the breaking news of Marvel's bringing in writer Charles Soule to replace Matt Fraction on April's "Inhuman" series earlier in the week, today we present the full interview with both writers and Axel about the shake-up. Below, the trio describe why Fraction's version of the series got put on the shelf, how a fresh take from Soule and Joe Madureira will look to meet Marvel's goals for introducing a new group of Inhumans into the Marvel U and what Fraction has cooking next in "Hawkeye" and beyond. Plus, Axel shares some brand new art from Joe Mad's first "Inhuman" issue as well as sharing details on "Wolverine's" incoming big year. Read on!
Kiel Phegley: Gentlemen, let's start with the basics. How exactly did the creative shift for "Inhuman" come about?
Axel Alonso: This is just an instance where we – meaning Marvel and the writer, Matt Fraction – came to the realization that we weren’t on the same page, we probably never would be, and no one would benefit if we tried to force it to work. The series that Matt wanted to write would have been good, no doubt about it, but it was not the series we need to lay the foundation for this new universe within the Marvel Universe.
The reason this [creative shift] came about a bit late is because of the mutual respect we’ve built over ten-plus years, and, well, because we really wanted it to work out. I go back with Matt to his debut on the “Punisher War Journal” that launched out of “Civil War” and he’s writing one of our best – and my personal favorite – series, “Hawkeye,” so we hoped we could find common ground. But if that “common ground” results in a series that no side is totally happy with, is that really worth pursuing?
That said, as Matt fills his Marvel dance card – and we’ve begun discussing a few exciting options already, speculate away – we’re excited about the future of “Inhuman.” Charles Soule is a gifted writer whose star is on the rise, and he actually listed the Inhumans as amongst his favorite characters shortly after he’d penned his first “Thunderbolts” script. That certainly got our attention. Joe Mad is already hard at work on Charles’ first script, and it’s wonderful.
Matt Fraction: Yeah, as un-dramatic and uninteresting as it sounds, my version of 'Inhuman' wasn’t what they were into and, y’know, it’s their company. It’s a legit case of “creative differences” in spite of everyone’s best intentions. After what? 5 or 6 months where this has been my primary focus and we’re still not on the same page... I can’t say they didn’t try, they can’t say I didn’t try, and at some point, you gotta move on. It happens. This is the reality of being a creative professional. Now they have a writer and a book they’re comfortable with and "Inhuman" gets the launch it deserves. Nobody wins with me writing a book I don’t want to write.
And just to be super clear because I'm sure there's plenty of conclusion jumping going on out there, it seems like your stepping aside on "Inhuman" was a mutually agreed decision and not some acrimonious split. Is that pretty accurate?
Yeah, it just…it didn’t make sense to continue working together on this book. I was not fired. I am not fired. We are all still friends. "Inhuman" is a really BIG DEAL for all involved. You need to be moving as one. To paraphrase "Pacific Rim": on "Inhuman," it turns out we weren’t drift compatible.
Besides, it’s kind of cool, on some level, to have a great “Lost Work” in my catalog now. In the imaginary library in Hicksville that houses "Hypertime," "Twilight Of The Superheroes," Frank Miller’s "Doctor Strange," "End Times" and all the rest, there now sits my "Inhuman." I mean, I’ve got a 64-issue outline and a couple of notebooks worth of it all for which I am being compensated. So the part of me that loves that kind of stuff is, in some weird way, totally into it.
And: the Anglouême thing happened, then this, then the "Time Magazine" book-of-the-year thing happened [for "Sex Criminals"] – boom-boom-boom – literally within days of each other. So, big picture? I'm having a pretty amazing year. There is no acrimony. I am having a very merry Christmas.
Charles, that anecdote about you already being a big Inhuman fan was in the PR for your involvement on the series as well. Where does this love for these characters come from, and how does it play into what "Inhuman" will be?
Charles Soule: I’ve always liked the grandeur of the concept - the scope and sweep of it. A royal family of ancient superpowered beings, with Black Bolt as their silent king who can literally change the world with a single word – amazing! And then you have the rest of the family, Maximus, Terrigenesis and everything else that makes them unique as a concept – it’s one potent idea after another.
They were on my Marvel list in part because I thought they were ripe for some new, cool stories – they aren’t underused, exactly, because they do show up a fair amount – but I thought there were things to explore, and, most importantly, I felt like I could do a good job with them. This particular project is even cooler because it’s not just the royal family – the core concept is being expanded massively, which is great.
What was your initial response to the offer of "Inhuman"?
Soule: I said, "Why me?" You want to know that you're being selected for a project in a way that makes sense for you. And it might seem like I take every project I'm offered, but that's really not the case. [Laughs] I always want to make sure that whatever book I pick fits my skill set and that I have a take on it. So I wanted to make sure Marvel was coming to me for reasons that made sense. My second question was just to ask what they were trying to do with the series. I'd read "Infinity" and "Inhumanity!" as well as some of the early pull quotes about "Inhuman," but I didn't know a lot about the actual series. I mostly had to figure out what they were trying to do, and all their answers fit really well with my own take. So I started to get very excited about the opportunities presented by a project like this, and here we are.
So how does this come together practically? Is Charles picking up some of what Matt and Joe had already laid down, or is it a completely fresh start on "Inhuman"?
Alonso: We started from scratch. Joe Mad’s pages are from Charles' script. These are characters he – and Joe Mad – are introducing into the Marvel Universe.
Soule: Matt and Jonathan Hickman set me up with a really good springboard for the series. The things that happened in "Infinity" and "Inhumanity!" give me a ton to play with, but we’re really starting mainly with the premise that Black Bolt’s Terrigen bomb exploded over New York City and has subsequently begun to spread a cloud of Terrigen mist all around the world, activating latent Inhumans wherever it encounters them. That lends itself to a million different angles. Because the ground work is so strong, I'd be an idiot to ignore it, but it’s a foundation upon which many amazing stories and characters will be built.
Fraction: I think just by virtue of "Inhumanity!" #1 being out and "Inhumanity!" #2 being drawn there’ll have to be at least some clean-up for Charles to bat; I did a massive rewrite on #2 so as to remove as MUCH of my plans as I could to clear the deck for Charles to do whatever and to GO wherever he and Marvel want. There’s an "Inhuman" #1 script, too, but I don’t know what, if any of that, will see the light of day. It’s important that Charles embarks on this journey as empowered and unencumbered as can be as a storyteller.
And as these are some of my favorite characters I can’t wait to get to read it and be surprised month in and month out. God I hope nothing happens to Karnak...!
How do all the pieces of the line fit around this? Fans have already seen "Inhumanity!" #1 and tie-ins like the "Awakening" mini series and the "Indestructible Hulk" story. It seems like some of those comics are dealing more directly with the Inhuman royal family and Karnak's prophecy while "Inhuman" may have a more laser-like focus on the new Inhuman characters that have been created. Is that part of why this change hasn't necessitated a full shuffling of the publishing deck?
Alonso: We want fans to understood that this "Inhuman outbreak" is a significant event in the Marvel Universe, a status quo change that everyone will have to deal with at some point or another. Remember, the Inhumans predate the birth of the super_hero and the birth of the mutant. They were here first, and now they're back in numbers that are bound to swell. Think of the Inhumans as a square peg that's being rammed into the round hole of the Marvel Universe. Stuff is going to crack and break around it.
Because this is a long-term initiative, pushing back "Inhuman" on the schedule a few months is inconvenient, but not problematic. The story that Charles and Joe Mad are telling – brand-new Inhumans finding their place in the Marvel Universe and their place in the "Game of Thronesian" legacy of their forebears – is not time-sensitive. All that matters is that the story is compelling and new reader-friendly. You don’t need to know anything about the Inhumans to enjoy this series. If you don’t know who Black Bolt, Triton, Gorgon or Karnak are, don’t worry. If and when they show up in this series, we’ll introduce them from scratch, as seen through the eyes of the compelling new Inhumans you’ll be meeting in the first few months of the new series.
Charles, for your part, is there something in the collaboration with Joe Mad that's stood out? It seems like a huge part of the task here is that you'll be defining some individual characters while he plays in that Inhumans design mold.
Soule: Yeah, one of my favorite new characters in the book is in the script that Joe is working on now, and I got my first set of character designs on that last night. I sent back some additional thoughts to help him think about the character and where he's going in a larger sense, and that's been great. We'll be going back and forth on all these guys, and Joe Mad is obviously a virtuoso. Whatever concepts I come up with, he takes to the next level, every time.
Alonso: And we'll be introducing a number of brand-new characters in the first arc or two. We're building the cast, the team. To understand their “inhumanity,” you’ll first have to understand their humanity. One day they’re walking down the street worrying about their bills or their taxes; the next, they’re bursting from a cocoon to learn they have strange powers and are linked to an age-old society that’s very powerful, very divided, and very weird. It’s almost like meeting five new Peter Parkers, freshly bitten by a radioactive spider, and seeing how their individual experiences dovetail into one story and, potentially, one team.
And Matt, on the whole you've still got "Hawkeye" continuing at Marvel – with a singing dog issue apparently on the way? – but at this point, do you know what your next book for them will be?
Fracton: Well it’s not a singing dog issue, per se, but an issue in which a dog, who is not Lucky, maybe sings a little, then punches the Sun in the face. But yes, there’s "Hawkeye," with David and Annie and a special Chris Eliopoulos issue and... someone else we’re not saying yet. So there’s a lot of Hawkeye right now. And I’m not sure what's going to come after that for me at Marvel – but we’ve talked about lots of cool stuff.
I also have it on good authority that I'm gonna be the new closer for the Baltimore Orioles! Everything’s comin’ up Matty!
Axel, to wrap with some other Marvel news from the week, it seems like you're putting a particular kind of promotional muscle behind the new "Wolverine" series by making claims as to what it's twelfth issue will hold late in 2014. What has it been about the creative process with Paul Cornell and Ryan Stegman that's led to this kind of long term guarantees?
Alonso: The story that Paul and Ryan are telling is truly is Logan as you’ve never seen him before. The gun he’s holding on the cover [to issue #1] is just the first clue. What they’re building to is truly epic. We’re so confident of what’s in store in issue #12, that we’ve even set up an exchangeability program: Retailers that send back two unsold copies of "Wolverine" #1 will qualify for a special "Mortal Variant" of issue #12, which is going to be a double-sized monster of an issue.
We've got a whole year of stories to get through to see what happens in this book, but the promotion behind #12 reminds me an awful lot of similar promotions around the death of Johnny Storm and the Ultimate Peter Parker amongst others. Do you see some shared DNA between this promotion and those?
Alonso: A strand or two. Look, when we announce a "Mortal Variant," we're well aware the bells and whistles that might set off. All I’ll say is, 2014 is going to be a huge year for Wolverine. Everyone will be talking about him.
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!