Inside Marvel NOW! – Interview with Axel Alonso & Tom Brevoort

With the news of Marvel Comics massive relaunch, Marvel NOW!,  breaking in Entertainment Weekly earlier this week, we immediately had a handful of questions for Marvel’s leaders about what this means for the world of Marvel Comics.

In addition to the news of 3 re-launching/launching titles: Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender & John Cassaday, Avengers by Jonathan Hickman & Jerome Opena, and All New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Marvel NOW! contains other changes and updates to Marvel’s Publishing Plans.  We spoke with representatives from Marvel Comics and got the skinny on what else Marvel NOW! Includes:

  • In a move following the Marvel ReEvolution announcement earlier this year at SXSW, Marvel will now be including enhanced covers with recaps thanks to the Marvel AR app.  So readers with smartphones will be able to brought up to speed quickly.
  • Building on the sampling of digital codes available within print comics, Marvel will now be including a digital download code that can be redeemed on the Marvel website or Marvel apps on ALL comics released by Marvel.
  • Finally, Marvel will be redesigning the covers of all books to be more “cinematic and intuitive. We haven’t seen what these new covers will look like but have been told to stay tuned as they will be unveiling it soon.

Armed with all this info, we were bursting with more questions. We got the opportunity to chat with Marvel Comics Editor In Chief Axel Alonso and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about what this announcement means for Marvel Comics and what we can expect in the future from Marvel NOW!

iFanboy:  Of the new titles announced thus far Uncanny Avengers is particularly intriguing to us. Fans typically associate that adjective with the X-Men. That can’t be an accident, so how did this one come about?

Axel Alonso: Uncanny Avengers is a byproduct of Avengers Vs. X-Men.  The new Marvel landscape needs this team.  I can’t say more for fearing of spoilers.

Tom Brevoort: As we’ve talked about at conventions and in interviews in the past, one of the objectives of MARVEL NOW! is to unify the Marvel Universe once again. At some point in the 90s the X-Men books sort of skewed off from the rest of the line, sitting technically in the same world, but feeling very much at a remove from the rest of the Marvel U. That’s something that we’re going to be looking to change going forward. The same is true for the “cosmic” titles and characters. At one point, everything was part of a singular Marvel Universe, but the focus changed and artificial lines were drawn, and things got separated. So we’re looking to mix it all up again into a big, fun whole.

In terms of the specifics of Uncanny Avengers, I’m going to need to be a little bit vague to avoid spoiling the climax of Avengers Vs X-Men. But I can tell you this much at least: back in Avengers Vs. X-Men #1, Captain America and Cyclops had a pointed conversation before fists started flying about how, whenever a threat to mutants has arisen, the Avengers have seemed pretty remote. Cap articulated his position–but in the fallout from AVX, Cap and the Avengers, having gone through a bunch of stuff and having walked a mile in the X-Men’s shoes, are feeling like there’s some truth in what Cyclops had to say. So the Uncanny Avengers squad is being put together as a direct response to that, as a proactive attempt to provide support of the civil rights of the world’s mutant citizens, and to provide physical and superhuman aid in those circumstances where either mutants are threatened by non-mutants, regular humans are threatened by mutants, and every other iteration in-between. In essence, as we attempt to bridge the divide between the Avengers and the X-Men as entities within our publishing world, Uncanny X-Men will be the primary bridging book, a place where the team is as likely to battle Apocalypse as the Red Skull, and where long-established X-characters will stand side-by-side with long-established Avengers characters, in a very public manner. Among the characters who’ll make up the team are Captain America, Wolverine, Thor, the Scarlet Witch, Rogue and Havok, with a few other surprises waiting in the wings.

iF: This new design for Captain America mirrors his look from the 2011 film and with the news of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the presence of Rocket Raccoon seems to pave the way for that. What other parallels can we expect to emerge between the Marvel Studios films and television shows and this revised Marvel Comics universe? Are you being more proactive in terms of developing comic stories that pave the way for projects currently in development?

AA: A Guardians of the Galaxy movie?  Sounds very cool, but right now, that’s just a rumor. [Editor’s Note:  Deadline is reporting it’s been confirmed]  Nova and Rocket Raccoon are included in the Marvel NOW! image because they factor big into the plans of Marvel Comics in 2013.  For the last year, we’ve been teasing that Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy would factor big into the future of the Marvel Universe, and we were very serious.  In 2013, they will be as relevant to the Marvel Universe as the Avengers, Spider-Man or the X-Men.

iF: One of the aspects of Marvel NOW! that hasn’t been covered very much yet ist he digital component of this move. We find it particularly interesting as it shows the evolution of things you’ve been experimenting with Marvel AR has been an innovative way to create a new layer to the digital comics experience and you’ve provided digital codes in select book to give a digital copy for print purchasers. Does the line wide addition of these elements mean that those experiments are a success? How would you describe Marvel overall digital strategy?

AA: Our strategy is to provide free added-value content that will enrich the comic book-reading experience.  We’ll try a lot of different things and see what readers like.  So far, the response to the AR apps and “Infinite Comics” has been tremendous.

TB: We’re still stretching and pulling on the digital applications for what can be done to enhance our storytelling approach within the limitless digital space, so we’ve still got a lot to learn and explore. But so far, all of the innovations we’ve rolled out under the ReEVOLUTION banner have been positively received by fans and readers, so we’re going to be experimenting even more with them! I know that, speaking for myself, any time we can have Axel walk off the pages of my comics, I’m a happy man.

iF: Every person “inside” Marvel we’ve spoken to since last summer said that “Marvel doesn’t follow” when asked about the DC Reboot and if Marvel would ever do something dramatic like a line wide reboot/relaunch. Understanding that the rollout of new #1s is being stretched out over months and old continuity is being honored, how is that not a reaction to what DC did with the The New 52? How did that linewide change for them affect your approach?

AA: With Marvel NOW!, we’re employing the same simple strategy we did 11 years ago when [Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada and I came to Marvel: Pair a great writer with a great artist on a title featuring a great character, and task them to tell the most exciting and accessible story they can.  It’s a simple as that.  And this is the best time to do that, since Avengers Vs. X-Men truly is an epilog to the interconnected stories we’ve been telling since House of M hit comic racks 8 years ago, and a prolog to the Marvel Universe NOW.  The only difference between then and now is that we have built an interconnected universe that is the backdrop for all these new adventures.

TB: In the broadest sense, everything is a reaction to everything else, you’re never creating in a vacuum. That said, our focus is on enhancing our universe and our publishing line in ways that make sense for our characters and our audience–we’ll do anything that serves to create forward movement towards that goal. But to me, apart from the similarity that there are a bunch of #1 issues (and really, since around 1985, when has that not been the case), what we’re doing in Marvel NOW! is very much creator-based. We’re not changing our universe just to change our universe, what we’re instead doing is overseeing a coordinated transition of key talent, the end result of which will be a series of titles that, while familiar and reflective of what has come before, will simultaneously all be suddenly new and fresh and different again. For example, in the case of Avengers, Brian’s been writing that series, in various iterations, as its primary architect for 8 or 9 years now. There’s a whole generation of fans who’ve never known an Avengers comic that didn’t stem from his approach. So the changing-of-the-guard that puts Jonathan Hickman at the helm of that franchise is exciting–Jonathan isn’t a better or worse writer than brian, but what he does and the way he constructs his stories is different. It’s exciting, a new voice, a fresh perspective. And simultaneously, Brian will be moving into the world of X-Men, which he’s never really been involved in before, as that family’s prime mover–and that has to feel as seismic for some people as it did when he took over Avengers. That sense of excitement and danger and even a little bit of fear is precisely what we’d like to propagate throughout all of the Marvel NOW! books–readers won’t be able to wait to crack them open to see just what these world-class talents are going to make of these new characters and worlds and assignments.

iF: What does a move like this say about the marketplace? We all say we need new readers, but an aggressive move like this is a bit extreme, what are your expectations for increasing your audience size?

TB: I don’t know that it specifically says anything about the marketplace–it’s not being implemented because of any particular complaint with our present market aside from the ever-present desire on our part to reach as many readers as possible. Especially in the wake of the overwhelming success of the Avengers film, we’ve got a golden opportunity to turn on a whole generation of new readers to the wonderfulness of comics–and to simultaneously engage lapsed readers and motivate them to check out what we’re doing now. And especially with the continued growth of digital as a component of what we’re doing, it’s easier than ever for a prospective new reader to sample a Marvel book. All they need is the Marvel App, on any of the myriad of platforms that it’s available on.

AA: The wild success of Marvel Studios’ The Avengers proves there are a lot of people out there who are thirsty for the types of stories only Marvel can tell.  With Marvel NOW!, our goal is to give these people at least one reason – every week, for 4 months – to go into a comic store, download a comic, or preferably both and experience an entertaining and accessible gateway into the Marvel Universe.  We don’t want to overwhelm fans – old, new or lapsed – with content so we’re doing it slowly.  We are confident in that all of the titles whose covers are stamped with a #1 will be around for the long haul, and we anticipate a huge spike for each of the core titles.

iF: Can you share with us the plans for the titles across the line? Will every title be relaunching with a new #1 and new creative team? Will some titles get canceled in favor of new ones? Will successful titles titles like Daredevil and Wolverine and the X-Men be affected as well?

AA: Most ongoing series will relaunch with a new #1, under the direction of a bold new creative team.  And yes, there will be some new titles, but we’re not ready to announce them yet.  I can’t speak about where Daredevil or Wolverine and the X-Men fit into the launch – especially the latter – for fear or spoiling the end of Avengers Vs. X-Men.

TB: We can’t tell you everything at this point, but I think we can certainly tell you that not everything is being relaunched with a new #1 or a new creative team. Our creative bench was a partner in every step of the Marvel NOW! planning process, and in those instances where things were working great and there wasn’t a need or a desire to switch things up, we let them be. That said, partly out of the natural cycle of things and partly out of sheer dumb luck, we found a point at which it made sense to co-ordinatedly cycle the talent who are in key positions throughout much of our line within a very centralized period. Once we realized the opportunity we had there, we invested in making the most of it.

iF: What factors predicated the decision to keep or alter character’s identities? We’ve seen the mantle of super hero identities passed down before, what went into choosing which characters would change identities and how much did recent sales figures and performance play into that decision?

TB: It’s understandable give the scant amount of information you’ve got on the overall breadth of what we’re doing with Marvel NOW!, but while I cannot guarantee you that absolutely every character will be the same individual behind his or her mask, the vast majority of them will be, at least 90% if not more. So Captain America will still be Captain America, the Hulk will still be the Hulk, Thor will still be Thor. And in any instance where a change of individual has occurred, that’s being done for a story reason rather than a marketing or commercial reason, and will need to be revealed in the proper context and in the fullness of time.

AA: This is not a reboot but a story that picks up after AvX in the Marvel Universe that readers know and love.  That said, there is one very prominent costumed hero whose costume will be worn by someone new.  I can’t say who that character is, who’s wearing his or her costume or why, or how long they’ll be wearing it, but when fans find out the details, they are going to flip.

iF: At the end of The New Avengers #26, Hawkeye got a peek into Scaret Witch’s closet and was horrified at what he saw. That was five years ago. What was in the closet? We can all correctly presume this all has something to do with that, right?

TB: That’s a hell of a flier you took there. But no roll of the dice, Mister Bond–there’s no connection with Wanda’s closet and Marvel NOW! at all. But I am glad that you’re still thinking about that story so many years later–it tells me that what Brian and Alex did in it was effective.

Comments

  1. So why does Spider-Man’s mask have weird pupils now?

    • That’s just shadow.

    • tripleneck tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

      I don’t know about that. Slott tweeted about how noboday had mentioned Spider-Man’s eyes yet when discussing the costume changes in the Quesada teaser image above. I took it to mean that there were some differences in Spidey’s costume coming up and the only difference I could see were the eyes. I guess we’ll know for sure whenever they release a better look at the MarvelNow webhead.

    • At the very least, there’s no more stripe from shoulder to glove anymore on his costume.

  2. My guess is that havok is taking the cyclops mantle after scouts dies in avx which explains why havok is getting a bigger role

  3. And Closet-gate continues. So much for Ron’s “gotcha” journalism.

    If AvX is the bookend to House of M, it’s too bad Peter David, X-Factor and Layla Miller couldn’t have been more productively involved to shine some light on that title.

  4. This is probably the exact opposite reaction Marvel was looking for, but this is the kind of thing that makes me see which books I can drop from my pull list. I am pretty happy with e few Marvel books I am still reading after Dark Reign soured me on most of the line. if they are going to be taking the creators I am actually happy with and moving them, I don’t know how likely I will be to try out this revamped line of comics. I might be taking my marvel money and spending it on my Indy books.

    • As much as I love ’em, if they take Spidey out of the Avengers, that’s 2 books I don’t have to buy anymore, since he’s the reason I buy them anyway. Might go digital for it, though.

      I can now imagine new people in comic shops across the nation all standing in a row at Marvel books every few months pointing their iPhones or whatever other smartphones carrying the Marvel AR app, just so they can get their “catch-ups” and not bother buying the books.

  5. Marvel Comics: It’s hip, it’s now, it’s wow, and how.

  6. Somebody from Marvel needs to take Ron aside and tell him – under confidence if necessary – what’s in that damn closet. I personally don’t care, but I fear Ron might drive himself nuts trying to find out… and I just don’t want us to lose him.

  7. “Marvel will now be including enhanced covers with recaps thanks to the Marvel AR app. So readers with smartphones will be able to brought up to speed quickly.”

    Marvel already includes recaps in most of its books (at least most of the ones I read), so now I’m going to have to get a new phone and buy an app to get what I was getting before for free?

    • The app, at least, is free.

    • As one of the few folks (especially in my age group) without a smartphone, I get your point. But I’d imagine the market share for smart phones is pretty big and only getting bigger, so as cellphone-luddites like ourselves inevitably migrate to smart phones, this won’t be a big deal.

      And…if you’re already buying the books regularly, I don’t think the recap page adds a lot of value. Some books get clever with (like Journey Into Mystery), but I’d rather have that page back as a story page.

      AND…there’s no reason those recaps (of which 75% of the text is recycled from issue-to-issue) can’t be offered for free at marvel.com or something.

  8. That poster looks like a buncha dudes in bad GI JOE costumes.

  9. I don’t see how this is different than what Marvel was already doing.

  10. HULK WANTS HUG!!!! NOW!!!

  11. MY NICK FURY IS BLACK!

    • So is your Spiderman. My 616 Nick Fury (and everyone else’s) has been a white dude for almost 50 years.

      Now, before everyone loses their poop, lemme just say that I’m (mostly) kidding. Race has nothing to do with my feelings towards the change. I have a long history with Fury Prime. My dad’s old Howling Commandos issues were the first comics I ever read. I’ve followed the character casually since then, but I’ve always had a soft spot for him. Black or white, I think completely changing a character just to avoid confusing the elusive (*cough* imaginary *cough*) new reader that’s been miraculously hooked by the movies borders on pathetic, not to mention stupid.

      Now, I know that recently there’s recently been a new Fury introduced who’s supposed to be Nick Prime’s illegitimate son (or something), who also lacks an eye (or something), and who also conveniently resembles Ultimate Sam Jackson (or something). Ridiculous. If they just changed Fury’s skin color at the time of the non-relaunch, and kept his continuity more or less intact, I wouldn’t mind nearly as much. But to replace him haphazardly with another person (or something) for the reasons I mentioned above is lazy and unnecessary. If they give Fury Prime a grand death, I guess I won’t be as annoyed, but if they retire him and he sits in the shadows drinking himself to death, that’s a damn insult.

      This is one of Marvel’s first characters ever. This isn’t a passing of the torch. This isn’t a sidekick taking up a mantle. This isn’t a legacy character. It’s Hollywood. Plain and simple.

  12. They should really give an honest answer about the closet question. Or maybe say “it was a plotline that was dropped but here’s what it was going to be…”

  13. Am I the only one lost with this? Is anything changing or not? It’s not a reboot, just some things will be different for a while? Is that a change? Is that a reason for the “ANNOUNCEMENT”? A change in creative teams warrants new #1s? Marvel got the movies right, but they seem lost in what to do with the Comics.

    • It’s just a massive troll on Marvel’s part.

      Marvel: “Hey, everything’s changing at the end of AvX! New #1’s and everything!”

      Fans: “Buh-wha?!? Mock outrage! Rabble rabble rabble!”

      (2 months after Marvel NOW’s start)

      Fans: “Hey, there’s not much different! It’s just the usual fallout from an event!”

      Marvel: “Gotcha!”

    • Just another way to throw more books at the reader who has to “read everything” or they feel like they’re missing something. Me, I’m going to read it if it’s writtent by Aaron, Remender, or Hickman and drop it if it isn’t.

  14. The more i think about this the more i like it….I kinda feel like they should just do this every year. Let a new creator tell a fun bunch of stories that play into the shared mythology and not worry about building long and complex continuities…kinda feel like it would be very accessible and fun.

  15. I’m looking forward to Hickman’s Avengers and whatever Remender does. That said, let me paraphrase: “This deck chair is going to look great over here. And this pair of chairs should look out over the forecastle. No, I have no comment on any icebergs. Icebergs are not in our trans-Atlantic travel plan.”

    MarvelNOW: The same Marvel artists and writers, NOW writing different books.

  16. I always enjoy these early interviews. I applaud Ron (and iFanboy) for trying to get us all some answers, and I applaud Alonso and Breevort for trying to answer without answering. These just always entertain me for their sheer lack of information. They should’ve played along with the closet question. If it’s not relevant, why not just tell us that? Personally, I don’t care, but Ron would certainly sleep better.

    Still, it was an interesting read. I appreciate what Breevort said about the X-Men and the cosmic characters being segregated for the past ten years. That’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time. The Marvel U felt like the Avengers, and then everyone else. And it shouldn’t be like that. Uncanny Avengers is probably the concept I’m most intrigued by, but for the first time ever I’m looking forward to reading Avengers on a regular basis. I’ve never been a huge Bendis fan, so I’m a little nervous about All New X-Men. But at the very least he’ll undoubtedly bring something new to the concept, and that’s always exciting.

  17. Love how you threw the last question in there.

  18. Does anyone know if Uncanny X-Men will be cancelled? I’ve read on other sites that All New X-Men will replace it, but here they call it the “bridging” book.

  19. Great interview, Ron.

    I don’t think I’ve heard anything about this yet, so I figured I would ask. With the move toward digital being more prevalent, and the possibility of digital codes being placed in each issue, is this the time when Marvel goes line-wide $3.99? I’m sure Marvel wouldn’t want to announce this because it wouldn’t bring great press, but do you think this is where we are headed?

    • I sure hope not. I like when my $3.99 books come with codes, but I’m happy paying $2.99 for my favorite books. I don’t need the code.

  20. How about asking the tough questions like: “What does Jeph Loeb have on you that you let him write Wolverine again?”

  21. A bit of a shake up? Sure. But it doesn’t sound like a whole lot more. Obviously marketing is going to try to milk it for every ounce it’s worth and make it seem like a huge deal. But this happens every few years it seems with Marvel. The only difference this go around is the creative team shake up. Guys like Bendis and Hickman who’ve been on the same book forever switching things up. That’s a good thing, IMO. The rest of the flash and marketing stuff is just what it is. No reason to freak out, IMO. We’re at the point where new #1’s isn’t a big deal at all for Marvel. They do it all the time. DC was different with their history. Plus, they ditched most of their continuity. This appears entirely different.

    It’s just too bad the news had to come with that terrible Joe Quesada picture. Blech. I get he’s one of the big men in charge. But get a more talented artist to draw the image you try to sell your new direction with.

  22. filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

    “Marvel will now be including a digital download code that can be redeemed on the Marvel website or Marvel apps on ALL comics released by Marvel.”

    Mmmm… this sound like “no more 2.99 books”. Let’s hope not.

  23. Honestly, if this is good and it works, I like it. It if blows and is just another mess, I don’t like it. I’m not overly concerned with marketing strategy or how any of that crap works anymore. Just give me good stories and give me reasons to care about the characters. One thing I like about the New 52 is (mostly) equal numbering across the board. This seems like it will have a similar affect across Marvel’s books. I’m looking forward to them streamlining their universe and perhaps sizing down just a little bit. We’ll see if that is indeed the case.

  24. Here’s some wild speculation with no actual fact to back it up. Could that be Hank Pym in the Iron Man armor? The color scheme (yellow and black) certainly is reminiscent of his Yellowjacket days. Maybe Tony dies in AvX and Hank takes up the mantel?

  25. I’m not sure how I feel about this and I’m considering resuming my weekly Wednesday fix starting with this “Marvel Now” situation. I haven’t purchased a “Comic Book” since 2005 so I’m reaching out to ‘ yall for suggestions.

    • You got Hickman doing Avengers & New Avengers go for it!

      If you don’t know who he is check out EVERYTHING he has done, all are a must have.

  26. Over 9000! bonus points for the closet question.

    Great interview! Thanks!

  27. Is it too much to want fewer titles? I mean, if I wasn’t a comic reader and loved The Avengers movie and was thinking about trying out the comic book, I would go into a shop and have this interaction:

    “Hi, can you tell me where to find an Avengers comic?”
    “Well, there’s Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Avengers Assemble,Avengers Academy and Dark Avengers. Oh and there’s more in the alternate reality Ultimate Universe”
    “What, seriously? Well how about the X-Men?”
    “Sure, there’s Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, X-Men Legacy, X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny X-Force, X-Factor. And you know, the Ultimate universe stuff too.”
    “I…see. Well, uh, if I try one and like it, will you be able to make sure I can get it again?”
    “Yeah, just tell me which ones you want three months in advance”
    “uh-huh. Tell me, how is this whole comic book industry doing?”
    “Not great.”
    “Gee, I wonder why.”

  28. I generally approve of what Marvel’s doing here and I am interested in a handful of the new titles.

    On the other hand, as others have said, this looks like it could be a massive jumping-OFF point for pre-existing readers. If they fool around with the formula of Wolverine & The X-Men or Uncanny X-Force too much — especially if they replace the writers — then I’m off those series.

    Also, I have to express annoyance at Marvel’s usual practice of milking every tiny bit of hype out of everything for as long as possible. Just tell us the damn new series within a couple weeks, like DC did last year, rather than string us along for months and months. Because, honestly, the more “foreplay” Marvel goes for, the less I’m interested in their entire line of comics.

    Ron did a great interview, though.

    About that old issue of New Avengers, though: The first time I read it, after giving Bendis’s Avengers ANOTHER shot, I immediately knew “Bendis has no idea about what that is. He’s JUST throwing it out there to trick readers into caring. What a bad ending to an otherwise okay issue.”

  29. Mark Waid just responded to a tweet of mine and confirmed that he would be staying on Daredevil. PRAISE THE LORD!!!!

  30. Anyone mention yet that Iron Man is wearing an armor very similar to Mainframe from the MC2 line.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainframe_%28comics%29