When Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente launched an eight-issue Alpha Flight maxiseries in June, the hope was that sales would be strong enough that it could be elevated to ongoing status and keep going to #9 and beyond.
On Saturday at Fan Expo in Toronto — as geographically fitting a location as any — Marvel announced that the book would indeed be continuing indefinitely, and Newsarama spoke via telephone with co-writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente about the support that's carried the title early in its existence, the seen and unseen contributions of series artist Dale Eaglesham, and what readers can expect in the near future of the book.
And in this case, "the near future" involves appearances from fellow Canadian Wolverine (and the rest of the Avengers), an escalation of the rift between Guardian and Vindicator, and a "Commonwealth of Heroes' involving superheroes from other nations — including MI: 13, a group rarely seen since the end of the acclaimed but short-lived Captain Britian and the MI: 13 series. Read on for more details, straight from Pak and Van Lente.
Alpha Flight #6 cover.Newsarama: Fred, Greg, though I'm sure it's probably ultimately more of a scheduling coincidence, it must feel pretty good to be announcing the news that Alpha Flight is now an ongoing at Fan Expo in Toronto.
Fred Van Lente: Well, it's not really a coincidence. [Laughs.] Marvel definitely started talking about this as soon as the sales figures from issue #1 came in, so we've had this in the back of our minds for some time.
Greg Pak: We honestly only got the final confirmation fairly recently, but we knew about the possibility long enough that we were able to start thinking about it, and planning it.
Nrama: Given that the book has achieved enough success to extend it past issue #8, have you been getting feedback not just from people who were familiar with the original Alpha Flight concept, but also readers new to the team that discovered them through this series?
Van Lente: Yes, and we've also gotten the other end of the spectrum, which is also great to hear, people who used to be into comics and have now come back to pick up our new book. That's always gratifying. You always want to have as big a tent as possible, and let as many people in. It's cool to see that when it does happen.
Pak: Absolutely. With a property like Alpha Flight, the last thing we wanted to do was run from Alpha Flight. We love these characters because we love these characters. We didn't want to take the name and do something totally different. The fun was to take those characters and make them relevant again, but be true to the characters and create a book that a new reader could totally jump on board, but would also be a fun thing for folks who are old-time Alpha Flight fans, like Fred said, who maybe have dropped out of reading comics. If you can pull folks like that back in, sometimes you can have a maxiseries turn into an ongoing. [Laughs.]
We're very happy with the way the book has been received. I don't exaggerate when I say that when Alpha Flight got announced, I'd never seen that kind of reaction on Twitter. I think Dale, Fred and I were all just swamped by tons of people who were just really excited to hear that Alpha Flight was coming back. There are a lot of fans out there who really care about these characters, and we've been lucky enough to be able to come on board and play with them — and folks have been awesome to actually buy the book, and preorder it with their retailers.
I can't emphasize this enough: It's totally true, ladies and gentlemen. If you buy it, more books will get made. And preordering makes a huge difference.
Nrama: It sounds almost too simple, but it really is true.
Van Lente: It's the feel-good story of the year.
Nrama: And what you said about not running from Alpha Flight makes sense, because this is definitely the most traditional take on the team of the several relaunches that have been attempted since the original book ended.
Van Lente: Characters we haven't seen for a long time, or have been rethought, or have just not really had a chance to be major players in the Marvel Universe, are back. It's great to see that embraced.
It's also really cool in the context that Greg and I sort of did something new with Incredible Hercules, and that was very successful, and it's cool to go to a different property and have somewhat similar surprising success, but in a totally different venue.
Nrama: So now that the book is being extended into an ongoing, how much does that change your plans? Are some story beats that were going to be wrapped up by issue #8 now getting a little more time to breathe?
Van Lente: It's the same plan, but we're sweating less. [Laughs.] It's very different to go from a book that has two main characters, to a book that has, I think at last count, about 17,000 major characters. All with their own distinct storyline. So it's very cool that everybody's now going to get the room they need to have their stories property laid out. We have this storyline of Jeanne-Marie taking over Aurora's body, and Walt Langowski seemingly can't turn into Sasquatch anymore. And how did Puck get out of Hell? And what really is going on with Heather Hudson? Because there's clearly something very wrong with her, but we don't quite know what it is yet. That is to say, you don't. Greg and I know.
Nrama: That's comforting.
Van Lente: It's very cool, because it lets us tell even more of the story we were going to tell anyway. And there was inklings of this happening even really before the first issue came out, so fortunately Greg and I were able to have this in the back of our minds.
Pak: We're good at working towards different eventualities. If the book had ended as scheduled with issue #8, we were perfectly fine with that. It would have been a great eight-issue maxiseries. But we always have that "B" plan in the back pocket, and it's very fun to be able to shift that into the "A" plan category. There's a way in which what's happening in Canada, as the story progresses, the rest of the Marvel Universe is going to become aware of exactly what's going on and will take an interest. We're going to be able to explore much more deeply how what's happening in Canada affects the Marvel Universe, and how the rest of the Marvel Universe is going to affect our characters. That is an opportunity to really open up the canvas a lot, and having the book turn into an ongoing absolutely with help with that.
Nrama: Right, it sounds like there will be appearances from a few familiar faces from the broader Marvel Universe — including Wolverine?
Pak: Oh yeah. The nice thing about Wolverine is, the joke, "Let's have Wolverine guest," no matter what book you're working on. But it's entirely appropriate with Alpha Flight! It's part of his origin. It's a slow burn that will have a great payoff, and a perfectly appropriate story/character-related payoff.
Nrama: And the Avengers, too?
Van Lente: It's quite possible that the Avengers are going to be interested —once Fear Itself has concluded — in what's going on north of the border, since that is a security situation for the United States, even though I suppose the Avengers are not technically the United States' official superhero team, they do have some kind of pseudo-governmental role.
We may even be pulling in other nationalities of superhero teams, for example, MI:13. It's all part of a large story we like to call "The Commonwealth of Heroes."
Nrama: That team hasn't really been seen much since their book ended, so it must be pretty exciting to get to work with those characters.
Van Lente: Very much so. Greg and I both love the more obscure corners of the Marvel Universe, and MI: 13 was a justly beloved book, and it's really exciting to bring those characters back… into our clutches. [Laughs.]
Nrama: And it seems like that the rift between Guardian and Vindicator isn't going to be resolved anytime soon.
Van Lente: Seems unlikely.
Pak: There are some big confrontations coming. There's a crazy cover coming up that will blow minds.
After the events of issue #4, it's going to be very clear that we're in for a massive conflict. So keep on reading, friends.
Nrama: Artist Dale Eaglesham is on board for the long haul too, right?
Pak: Oh yeah. We're really thrilled. He's integral to the book's success, on multiple levels. Dale and his partner Louise have saved us from our incurable Americanness. We're a couple of Americans writing a book about Canada and Canadian superheroes; Dale and Louise are Canadian, and have provided great checks for us, and tons of great information, and saved us from stupendous embarrassment many times.
Dale has just sunk his heart and soul into this book. You can see it on every page. You can also see it on his Twitter feed and his website. He's always talking about the book, and helping get the word out. That kind of going the extra mile on his part I'm sure is a big reason why the book has done well enough to warrant becoming an ongoing.
Nrama: Fred, Greg, any final words you'd like to share on Alpha Flight becoming an ongoing series?
Van Lente: We just want to say a big "thank you" to all the fans out there who have been picking up the book, and writing in, and supporting it, because this is why good things happen, thanks to you.
Pak: And a big tip of the hat to retailers. Retailers ordered the book in enough quantities for this to happen, so thank you, thank you, thank you.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!