Axel-In-Charge: The "Inevitable" Rise of Comics on TV

Fri, May 16th, 2014 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Axel Alonso, Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief
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Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso developing storylines as envisioned by Skottie Young

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 Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

Following a one-week return of Marvel chief creative officer Joe Quesada's "Cup O' Joe" Q&A, Alonso is back -- and discussing the big week comic books have had in the television industry, with seven Marvel or DC Comics-based series landing on network schedules in the 2014-2015 season. Sticking with the TV theme, Alonso shares some thoughts on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which wrapped its first season this week, and -- given his pre-Marvel history as an editor on Vertigo's "Hellblazer" -- his early impressions on NBC's "Constantine." Moving into comics, Alonso talked TV veteran Marc Guggenheim taking on "X-Men" for a four-issue stint, and this week's debuts of Mike Benson and Tan Eng Huat's "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" and Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming's "United States of Murder Inc." Plus, your questions, straight from the CBR Community!

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Albert Ching: Axel, first things first: How are you doing after the Nets were eliminated this week by Miami?

Axel Alonso: I'll survive. At this point, I just hope and pray that the Thunder or Spurs don't beat each other up too much so one of them is healthy for the finals.

Are you a Spurs fan?

Alonso: I respect the Spurs, but I'm a Golden State fan. I just want anyone but Miami.

Moving into Marvel territory, the season finale of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." aired this week. I'm not sure how much TV you get to watch with your schedule, but did you get to catch the episode?

Alonso: The finale has some of the strongest moments of the season -- from Fitz's sacrifice, to the pulse-rising fight between May and Ward, Coulson finally getting his due as an Avenger, and -- oh $#!# -- Nick Fury to the rescue! I think the show has done a groundbreaking job of navigating the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel editors came out of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" buzzing about what the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. would mean for the show, and now we're buzzing about where it will go next season. We are also very excited to see more of Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter in January!

Deathlok is slated to show up in Nathan Edmondson and Mike Perkins' "Original Sins" story.

It's now known that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is coming back for season two, and at this point these characters have likely been seen by more people than quite a few mainstay Marvel characters. Has there been any discussion of seeing some overlap between that and Marvel publishing? Either bringing some of the main characters into the Marvel Universe -- other than Coulson, who's been there for a while -- or OGNs, like Marvel has done with "Castle" or "Once Upon a Time"?

Alonso: We got advance word that Deathlok was going to be a player in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," so we decided to take advantage of the halo effect created by his reveal on the show. We already had some ideas cooking, and they easily fit into the sweet spot between established continuity and the TV show. Nathan Edmondson and Mike Perkins have a plan, and it will start to unfold in the "Original Sins" series. As for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- Coulson and his crew have made scattered cameos in Marvel titles. Don't be surprised if that intensifies next year.

RELATED: The Long, Strange History of Marvel's "Agent Carter"

Marvel now has "S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Agent Carter" on the ABC schedule for next season, and there are five different DC-based shows that are slated for network TV. It really seems that much how comics have exploded in movies over the past 15 years, it's happening now on TV. Are you surprised to see how much the TV industry has taken an interest in comics lately?

Alonso: No, not really. Superhero stories are tailor-made for serialized adventures, and that's what TV is built for. I grew up watching the "Spider-Man" cartoon, the "Batman" live-action TV show, "The Incredible Hulk" with Bill Bixby, even the truly awful "Spider-Man" live-action TV show, so to me, seeing comic book characters take life again on the TV screen was inevitable. The challenge, of course, is that the TV budget isn't quiet the same as it is for movies, so we've got to find a way to keep that sense of scale and wonder on the small screen, and part of that is picking the right characters.

"Mighty Avengers" #11 continues the "Original Sin" saga.

As big as these movies have been, and they've obviously been very big, there's something about a TV show that feels like it has the potential to make comics even more mainstream -- there's just something about the fact that it's on every week, and it becomes more of a part of people's lives.

Alonso: I agree. TV shows are more intimate than movies -- they come right into your living room, there's a point where the characters almost become family. And few things make for better water cooler conversations than a good TV show. From "Breaking Bad" to "Game of Thrones," people can't wait to talk about what happened last night -- what the writers' room was willing to do the characters. Of course, that's not too different from comic fans, discussing this week's comics at the store on or on the Internet.

"The Walking Dead" has had a lot of success in TV viewers picking up the comics. It certainly seems possible, if these shows are hits, for that pattern to continue.

Alonso: Everything feeds off each other. Marvel is a multimedia company -- we're print, we're digital, we're a studio that produces movies, animation and now TV shows -- and all of these provide a doorway into the Marvel Universe. I absolutely think that TV is going to be yet another component in Marvel's continuing world domination.

It's not a Marvel thing, but I am curious to get your take on it -- you edited "Hellblazer" for quite a few years during your days at DC's Vertigo imprint. Have you been keeping an eye at all on what's happening with the "Constantine" TV series?

Alonso: Yeah, a little bit. I like to reserve judgment until I actually see something. Unless, the announcement is so "What the $#%@!?" that it boggles the mind -- like when they announced that Keanu Reeves would be John Constantine in the 2005 movie. The new guy is better, but he's a bit… pretty. Anyone who's worked on "Hellblazer," as I did, probably has cast their dream actor for the lead role -- so a pre-yoga Sting or Clive Owen immediately come to mind when I think of John Constantine. But my first pick would probably be David Thewlis, who played a pretty good non-mystical John Constantine-type misanthrope in the [1993 Mike Leigh] movie "Naked." To me, Constantine is a mystical "Yojimbo;" he plays all sides against the middle, because it's just in his nature. He's a tragic figure whose lived too hard to stay pretty. And he's going to Hell -- not because of some shenanigans he pulled with the Devil, but because he truly deserves to go to Hell, and he knows it.

Moving back to the Marvel world -- it was announced late last week that Marc Guggenheim is doing a stint on "X-Men" starting in August. You edited some of his earliest comics work, the "Wolverine" issues during "Civil War" back in 2006. What do you like about Marc as a writer, and what he's bringing to the table on this series?

Alonso: Frenetic pacing, big ideas. Marc is a veteran TV writer, so he knows how to pace a story, give it a sense of urgency, keep people reading. But unlike TV, comics aren't limited by the size of the studio lot or a special effects budget so he's taking full advantage of in this space/horror story he's undertaking in "X-Men." And I know Marc loves "X," because his first Marvel work was the Wolverine/"Civil War" arc he wrote for me. I was very happy when I heard he'd been tapped to do this, and I look forward to seeing what he does.

RELATED: Guggenheim Crosses "X-Men" Off His Bucket List in Space-Faring Arc

Covers for "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" and "Iron Fist: The Living Weapon"

Let's talk a couple of the new series that launched this week, starting with "Deadly Hands of Kung Fu." The character of Shang-Chi certainly seems to be one that's up your alley -- what's significant to you about the new series? What has you excited?

Alonso: The writer, Mike Benson, is really a huge fan -- of both the character and the martial arts genre -- and he's visited the genre is as a screenwriter. This is Shang-Chi in a solo adventure that puts him in "Get Carter" mode: Seeking answers in the aftermath of the murder of a close friend. In this case, the murder victim is -- spoiler alert -- Shang-Chi's teammate and lover Leiko Wu. She's been brutally murdered, and all signs point to the fact that she might have been into some shady stuff before it happened. Shang-Chi needs to uncover the truth, wherever it might lead, and along the way, he'll encounter some of his deadliest foes from the past, and get some welcome aid from his friends, the Sons of the Tiger and the Daughters of the Dragon.

Mike is playing Shang-Chi as Zen Clint Eastwood. He isn't looking for vengeance -- indeed, he isn't looking for a fight -- but he sure as hell isn't afraid of one. Shang-Chi is looking for truth, and he's willing to go into the most dangerous places on earth to find it. Shang-Chi doesn't taunt, doesn't quip, doesn't gloat, doesn't take pleasure in dispensing pain. He'll wander into a bar, filled with the roughest, toughest customers you've ever seen, order a glass of water, and hold up a photograph of a man he needs identified. And after he's defended himself against the hell that rains down on him, he'll offer the bad guys Kleenex for their bloody noses.

And it's another example of a lower visibility character getting the spotlight.

Alonso: Yeah, it's really nice to see both Shang-Chi and Iron Fist in their solo series. I grew up loving them.

One more book that debuted today is the latest Icon line book by Bendis and Oeming, "The United States of Murder Inc." It's the first new Icon series in a while -- there's not a ton of material in the line right now, and it's always seemed rather selective. How do you see the current state of the Icon line, and how much a priority it is for Marvel currently?

Alonso: We're very selective of what we publish so when we do launch a new series, we do everything we can to shine a spotlight on it. Currently, we are publishing "The United States of Murder Inc." -- the first issue already sold out and is going to second print -- Jimmy Palmiotti's "Painkiller Jane" and Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s "Kick-Ass 3" has just about wrapped up as well, but we have more Icon series, by top-flight creators, on the way.

Covers for "The United States of Murder, Inc." #1 and "X-Men" #18.

Let's wrap with a few questions from the CBR Community. "THANOSRULES," perhaps not shockingly, has a cosmic-based question: "Mark Waid really did a good job with Sam Nova in 'Original Sin' #0 and his work on 'AvX'... Any plans for him to work on more Nova in the future or perhaps a (historically) cosmic themed character?"

Alonso: There are no current plans, but Mark is always welcome in the cosmic neck of the Marvel Universe.

The steadfast Spidey616 looks towards the future with this question: "Jonathan Hickman recently said his Avengers run will be ending sometime next year around May. Has a new writer/creative team been chosen yet to follow Hickman? Can we expect a relaunch of the Avengers line of books or is it still too early to discuss?"

Alonso: Who's to say there will be an Avengers come May? Jonathan has some big plans ahead.

Jaquar asks: "Will there be another Legion of Monsters or a Blade series in the near future? 'Cause 'All-New Ghost Rider' and the 'Uncanny Avengers Annual' with the Supernatural Avengers has got me back on the supernatural bandwagon again.

Alonso: No plans for Supernatural Avengers in the near future, though they have been the subject of some discussion because Rick [Remender] is very fond of them, but Blade can be found in the pages of "Mighty Avengers."

Sasquatch by Night goes for a Rick Remender deep cut and ponders, "Is there a chance we will see Doctor Voodoo again? Remender's miniseries is one of my favorite Marvel runs, and I would love to see Remender get a hold of him again."

Alonso: Rick has got a serious man-crush on Doctor Voodoo so who knows where he might show up.

Finally, klinton has a question about the comic book version of one of the additions to the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" cast of characters: "Now that 'Avengers A.I.' has come to an end, I'm curious as to where our boy Vision is going to hang his cape in the near future. Are there plans to add him to the cast of another book?"

Alonso: Look for Vision in the upcoming event, "AXIS."


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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TAGS:  axel-in-charge, axel alonso, marvel comics, mighty avengers, x-men, deadly hands of kung fu, original sins

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