MyCup o' Joe is usually
the weekly communiqué from Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada to the legion of Mighty Marvelites Assembled! As Joe is in recovery and reset mode after a recent Marvel creative retreat, we instead invade the brainpan of Marvel Executive Editor Axel Alonso! Axel sits down with journalist Jim McLauchlin this week to answer a bountiful bevy of questions about Marvel and other pressing issues of the day throughout comics.
And you get to chip in as well! Post your
questions at the bottom of this page, and answers may well be forthcoming in future MyCups!
JM: So, holy crap, you've been at Marvel about…seven years now? Is that right?
Axel and the Hulk
Hard to believe, but yes. I had jet-black hair. And Joe was a bit heftier than he is now so I could easily outrun him. Man, those were the days.
JM: I bet. Now it almost feels like, as I delve into ancient history here, you were an outsider when you joined on at Marvel. You were a Vertigo guy at DC Comics, a seemingly art-house guy moving into a decidedly non-art-house environment. Is that a correct assessment?
Hey, my favorite all-time movie is John Carpenter's "The Thing," my favorite book is James Dickey's "Deliverance," and I've got Clipse's "We Got it For Cheap" on heavy rotation on my iPod, so how art-house can I be? That said, I am
JM: Okay. But God love ya, you seemed to be almost the designated "controversy" guy in your early tenure at Marvel. You were the editor on TRUTH, the "Black Captain America" story, RAWHIDE KID, the "gay cowboy" story, and X-FORCE, which led to Marvel ditching the Comics Code Authority. Can't you just sit down and shut up?
New York Post
Thankfully, that's not what I'm paid to do. The controversy around RAWHIDE, X-FORCE Or TRUTH said more about the audience than the project. RAWHIDE KID got s---loads of press for its high concept, but at its core was a sweet little story. Enigmatic cowboy rides into dusty desert town and protects it from relentless banditos. Along the way, he earns the love and respect of the townspeople, reunites the sheriff and his estranged son, and rides off into the sunset, leaving the townfolk to mutter, "There's something about that kid..." He's Clint Eastwood—if Clint wore Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.
JM: Of these projects just mentioned…walk a reader through it. Did you seek out being the "controversy guy"? Or did these just wind up in your lap? How does an editor get an assignment versus creating an assignment?
In comics, you don't seek out controversy—it seeks you
out. The way it happens is, you have the idea, you might realize it's going to ruffle some feathers, and then you decide if you care.
With TRUTH, for instance, the concept for that series came about in a conversation with Joe and Bill Jemas, who was our publisher at the time. Bill threw out the idea of an African-America Captain America in ULTIMATES. I said that made sense to me—never much bought the notion that the U.S. military in the 1940s would have used blond-haired, blue-eyed Steve Rogers as its guinea pig for the Super Solider Serum. The Tuskegee Experiments proved that. Joe and Bill bought it. And that was that. Did we know controversy was inevitable? For sure. Did that discourage us from pursuing a story that had merit? No.
With RAWHIDE, it broke down like this. [Artist] John Severin and I had spoken about working together back when I was at Vertigo—preferably a war or western comic, either of which played to his strengths. When I moved to Marvel, I was perusing the catalog of Western comics when one character really stuck out to me: fire-engine red hair, white hat with matching gloves and kerchief, black leather jumpsuit—and it hit me. So I called John and said, "Hang up on me if you want, but you know the Rawhide Kid?" And John said, "I drew him before you were born." And I said, "Well, I'm thinking, you know, he's just too good-looking to be straight." And there was this long pause, and then John said, "You know, I'd always wondered about that." And that was that. Did we know it was going to be controversial? Sure. But it was a story worth telling.
JM: It's been several years. Would you like to revisit a TRUTH, a RAWHIDE KID or an X-FORCE? And itch you'd like to scratch for a sequel?
In a heartbeat. [Writer] Peter Milligan, [artist] Mike Allred and I have discussed the idea of revisiting X-FORCE/X-STATIX—who, you'll recall, were last seen getting blasted to bits by a Blackhawk helicopter. I mean, how could they survive that one?
And Ron [Zimmerman]'s got an idea for a story that would feature Rawhide Kid in an adventure that would include all the Western characters—Kid Colt, Ghost Rider, Two-Gun Kid, etc. It's like the "Magnificent Seven" only there's, like, six of 'em. Or eight. I forget. Anyway, Kid Colt's the ringleader, Rawhide plays the Steve McQueen role and Two-Gun Kid proves to be the Most Overrated Gun in the West. Guy can't hit the side of a barn, but, man, can he negotiate his way out of any scrape.
JM: Well, Matt Hawk is a lawyer!
BACK FROM THE
Your geek is showing.
JM: It happens. What made those books interesting or compelling to you then?
They're all stories that come at the subject matter from an off-kilter angle.
JM: Could you do stuff like that today?
Sure. We're reprinting TRUTH as a premiere hardcover this February, and I really doubt we've seen the last of Isaiah Bradley.
JM: What makes a story interesting or compelling to you now?
No specific criteria. It's just got to be interesting and accessible, with characters you care about.
JM: Again, as I wedge you into your unfair art-house pigeonhole…how the heck do you wind up as the Group Editor on X-Men? Back, say, in your DC days, could you have ever seen yourself doing that job, as you are today?
Never would I have predicted it. And if you'd told me I would one day function as Group Editor of the X-Men line, I'd have run for the hills—in large part because of how complicated the X-Universe is. But honestly, it's been a blast since day one. The first thing I wanted to do was simplify the backdrop for all the titles, create a clear sense of the stakes, the battle lines, and, most important, the chain of command within the X-Men—which I think we accomplished with "Messiah CompleX."
I've got an amazing crew, and we have great chemistry as a group. With the exception of [Editor] Nick Lowe, who is 175 pounds of dead weight, everyone is rock solid. Please don't print that last part, okay? Nick's got photos of me and a Pyslocke model that, well, aren't ready for public consumption.
JM: Now you say, as a Group Editor on the X-books, you're not so much on the frontlines, but more pulling some strings from backstage. Again, let's walk a reader through that. What's the difference in what you do here?
I function a lot like a TV show-runner, as opposed to a one-on-one editor with the writers of each book. Nick [Lowe] directly handles UNCANNY X-MEN and X-MEN: LEGACY, for instance. John Barber handles X-FORCE and X-FACTOR. We meet regularly to discuss storylines, once a week as a group for a general planning session, and meet up with the writers twice a year for X-Men "summits" to do major story-mapping.
JM: If I ask you your favorite X-Men character today…?
Cyclops. He's such a complicated character. There are big waves under the cool surface. I love where we're taking him.
JM: And of all things, you now adore Deadpool, right? You think the character has amazing potential. Why is that?
Because he's nuts. Makes Moon Knight seem like a rock of logic. But just 'cause Deadpool can't see straight doesn't mean he can't shoot the wings off a fly from a hundred paces.
JM: Everyone has their own "pet" character they'd really like to put a stamp on. Who's yours?
There are so many, but the one I've had my eye on for some time is Deathlok. I've wanted to do him right for some time, and we're going to do exactly that next year.
JM: You just got through one of your creative summits and planning meetings at Marvel. What are those like? Do you shoot for disparate personalities in those? Or are you looking for consensus?
The summits are like Thanksgiving dinner at a Mob family house. Only more fun and less whacking, I think. Basically, the editors and a few of our key writers—Bendis, Loeb, Brubaker, Fraction, Slott, Pak and sometimes this little Scottish guy (I forget his name, but none of us can understand a word he says which is why he gets away with so much)—lock ourselves in a conference room for three days and talk about the stories we're planning. And we argue story logic, character motivation and so on until things fall into place and we're sure it's good. Surprisingly, few feelings get hurt in the process, and then we go drinking.
JM: In the event you're discussing…anything. Say, Spider-Man, and one faction says "left" and one says "right," how is a decision made?
We debate, plain and simple. A writer or editor lays out what they've got planned, and the group gives feedback. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's negative, but we fight our way through it, and come out the other side with a story—or several stories—that we're satisfied with.
JM: How do you guys decide which direction to take when there are two opposing views?
Well, Joe Q and Dan Buckley are the ultimate arbiters. They've got to be comfortable with what we're doing.
JM: An interesting question we asked Brian Bendis last week: Just from a straight reader-enjoyment perspective, what are you loving in comics right now? What shoots to the top of your pile?
I love "Walking Dead." I love KICK ASS. I love "Scalped." And every single book Marvel publishes. Every. Single. One.
JM: I'll make sure your Corporate Masters see that. And how about outside comics? What have you been reading?
I'm almost done with Charlie Huston's new book, "The Shotgun Rule," and it rocks.
Apart from that, whatever Oprah tells me to. I need guidance. The last time I chose a book for myself, I picked up Frederick Nietzshe's "Philosophy & Truth" at Target, and I was bummed out for months.
JM: Read "Downtown Owl" by Chuck Klosterman. It truly kicks ass. Amazing stuff.
I'll give it a shot.
JM: Cool. You are dismissed as soon as you hammer through reader questions. Then, take a nap, as the world will when Joe Quesada makes his somnambulant return next week.
Thanks. I will.
Jason Aaron has a certain skill for writing Wolverine. "Man in the Pit" and "Get Mystique" were both fantastic. Is there any chance Aaron could find his way back to Wolverine after writer Mark Millar finishes his "Old Man Logan" arc? Please.
Uuhhhhhhhhhhmmmm. Next question!
Timo McShade says:
Last week, writer Brian Bendis said that the writers at the last Marvel
creative summit were himself, Jeph Loeb, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Dan Slott and Greg Pak. How does Marvel decide what writers get to go?
Good question, Timo. There are a grueling series of physical challenges that freelancers must face if they want a seat at the Big Table. And each competition has its surprises. I mean, who'd have guessed Dan Slott was double-jointed? Or that Matt Fraction could eat that many hot dogs? After the competition is over, we carefully tally the scores, then scrap them and see who's writing the titles that are most central to what we're doing in the Marvel Universe. Which is usually Bendis, Loeb, Bru, Fraction, Pak and Slott.
Understand, not everybody has to be there. We have smaller summits for the Spider-Man and X-Men Groups, attended by those specific writers as well.
Dear Mr. Alonso,
I love MAGNETO: TESTAMENT. When I first heard Marvel would be tackling such serious subject matter as the Holocaust, I was kind of hesitant, but WOW was I wrong. The book is amazing, and Greg Pak really does the story justice. I just want to know, what was the inspiration behind MAGNETO: TESTAMENT?
Nightsquawk, thank for your question, which I'm going to turn over to series editor, Warren Simons.
Hey Nightsquawk, glad that you think that the guys are doing the title justice. I know Greg's tried to tackle this harrowing subject matter with a real sense of gravity, and I'm really proud of Carmine and Matt's work on the series. Honestly? I don't know if there's an inspiration for the story in the classic sense. When I was a kid, probably 25 years ago, my grandmother took my brother and me to a playground in Queens. She was talking with an elderly friend who had a tattoo on her forearm. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time, and in an age when tattoos were scarce and almost non-existent among the elderly, I didn't understand why she had one. That was my first introduction, really, to what the Holocaust was.
When I came to Marvel several years ago, I knew that Magneto's origin was a project I wanted to tell. From research into the comics and the historical record, it's taken many turns, and Greg's done a tremendous amount of work trying to ensure the accuracy of the story. The series, at its core, is about a young man coming of age against the Nazi rise to power. That is compelling, horrific, and awe-inspiring subject matter, and when I initially began researching the project, there was certainly some trepidation—at least personally—about whether or not we could tackle this. I think the guys have done their best to put something together that, as Greg noted at the end of issue #1, deals with this story in an accurate and honest way. Thank you for the kind words about the first few issues.
Yo Axel! Is that PUNISHER WAR ZONE book coming out next month have anything to do with the "Punisher: War Zone" movie?
WAR ZONE #1
WAR ZONE #1
WAR ZONE #1
WAR ZONE #1
Actually no, O.M. PUNISHER WAR ZONE bears no relation to the movie. It's just a well-timed sequel to Garth Ennis' first PUNISHER story – "Welcome Back, Frank." It's titled "The Resurrection of Ma Gnucci," and it does just that -- unearthing the world's meanest mob moll. Ma Gnucci: 89 pounds of pure, hairless, armless, legless evil, last seen burning to cinders in "Welcome Back, Frank." It all starts when two Gambinos take a trip to the zoo and insult the wrong monkey. From there, limbs are lost, kill-orders are given, and then Frank Castle steps onto the scene and things get really interesting.
What's next in store for the Marvel Knights line? Maybe a new Fantastic Four story? Please tell me a Fantastic Four story is in the works!
Plenty's in store for Marvel Knights in 2009, L.T.S.G.Y., and as much as I'd love to spill the beans, I can't yet. I will say that there are no immediate plans for a FF Marvel Knights series, but there are a couple of promising FF pitches in development.
The artwork for SUB-MARINER: THE DEPTHS is absolutely stunning. Every artist has their own style, which helps set the tone and theme for a book. How do you guys decide the right artists to illustrate any of your books?
AA: Thanks, Numba1Swagga. Esad's art is
truly amazing, isn't it? What a lot of people don't know is that Esad is a Deep Method Artist who spent countless hours at the Zagreb Y swimming pool getting "into character."
THE DEPTHS #3
How did he get assigned to THE DEPTHS? Well, he didn't. Esad likes a particular kind of story and a particular kind of writer, which is why I sent him Peter Milligan's pitch when it was in the early stages of development. I had a feeling this story would appeal to him, and it did. As a result, he was able to get involved in the early planning, helping to define the look and vibe of the series.
That said, there are plenty of times an editor knows an artist is absolutely, positively perfect for a book, but it just can't happen. Even if the artist desperately wants to do it. Sometimes, schedules just don't line up.
If you could be any Punisher villain, who would it be and why?
Barracuda, for damn sure. He is a straight-up gangster. Whether he's bathing in Cristal, or getting waterboarded, that guy never, ever lets' life get him down.
Maximillian R. asks,
Iceman is getting his fair share of face time in Manifest Destiny, but when will we start to see him freezing stuff up in the core X-books?
Not to worry, Maximillian, you'll see Iceman popsicle-ing up from time to time in UNCANNY X-MEN.
Hey, man, any chance you can dish out the main roster of the X-Men for X-Infernus? We gonna see any X-Factor members or the Young X-Men playing a role?
Sure thing, Bklnas86, the X-Men who go to Limbo are Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Pixie, Rockslide and Mercury. The ones who come back from Limbo? You'll have to read and see.
Have you guys in the X-Office decided what kind of power Jamie Madrox's and Syrin's baby is going to have? And when will Layla Miller be returning to X-Factor? Her one-shot was awesome! If she's not coming back anytime soon, at least give us a mini or one-shot or something about the Summers Rebellion.
Madrox and Siren's baby is really an important birth. This is the first (known) baby born of mutants we've seen since M-Day. I'll let John Barber take it from here:
This will really put to the test the extent of Wanda Maximoff's "No more mutants" spell. That said, mutant babies
almost never have powers. Even if the baby did wind up being a mutant, it's not like his or her powers would manifest right away; mutant powers tend to remain dormant until adolescence. Madrox and Siren would be able to have a genetic test done on the baby, but that wouldn't necessarily reveal the nature of any powers. But would they even have that test? Remember, the last mutant baby born resulted in the destruction of an Alaskan town. Would Jaime and Syrin want to subject their child to the scrutiny of being the only mutant baby on Earth? Also, there's the question of Cyclops -- he and Madrox's team have never been on the best of terms. What will Cyclops do if another baby pops up on Cerebra? Would he trust Jaime to protect this baby?
But like I said, all that's hypothetical, if the baby turns out to be a mutant. The baby's due date is X-FACTOR #39, and that should at least start to answer some of your questions. As for Layla and the "Summers Rebellion"…we haven't seen the last of either, but you'll have to wait and see if Layla returns to X-FACTOR.
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