Following months of speculation of what the Marvel Universe might look like after the much-hyped changes brought by Avengers vs. X-Men, answers came earlier this week via an Entertainment Weekly article revealing "Marvel NOW!," a revamp — but not a reboot — bringing relaunched books, redesigned characters and multiple new series starting in October and stretching through February 2013.
Marvel is poised to launch one or more new series each week in the wake of AvX, starting in October with Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender and John Cassaday, a new team featuring a mix of Avengers and X-Men characters. That will be followed by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen's All-New X-Men in November — proving that long-held rumors that Bendis would be taking on the X-Men were indeed accurate — and a relaunched, biweekly Avengers starting in December from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Jerome Opeña.
Newsarama talked with Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso about the initial three series announced as a part of "Marvel NOW!," why the post-Avengers vs. X-Men landscape was the right climate to introduce a major publishing initiative, the reasons for avoiding a full-scale reboot, and the perceived similarities between this shift and DC's "New 52" revamp, which launched last September.
Newsarama: Axel, the first question is something of an obvious one — why is it the right time to bring big change to Marvel, both in the fictional universe and the creative team lineups, in the form of "Marvel NOW!"?
Axel Alonso: Because this is the perfect point in the ongoing story of the Marvel Universe to do it. Avengers vs. X-Men is the perfect epilogue to the interconnected stories we've been telling since House of M, through Messiah Complex, Civil War, and X-Sanction. The Marvel Universe is different when this event is over, and that creates an incredible launching pad for something that we've wanted to do for a while — that I, personally, have wanted to do for a while. Marvel NOW! hearkens back to 11 years ago, when I first came to Marvel and we put a lot of stock in a simple formula: great artist plus great writer plus great character plus great story equals success. There's nothing I like doing more than that; coming up with that creative alchemy — finding a creative team that really has something to say about a character, that can create an incredible jumping-on point for understanding that character, or characters — and just going for it.
Nrama: So was "Marvel NOW!" always the intended endpoint for AvX?
Alonso: When we first discussed AvX, we had a general idea as to where the story would land us. There were, of course, many details that remained blurry, but some — the arcs of certain characters — absolutely came into focus. Most important, we understood what the general landscape of the Marvel Universe would be — for the Avengers, the X-Men, and everyone in between. Those were the seeds for Marvel NOW! That was fertile ground for creative shifts.
Nrama: So the Marvel Universe is "different," though you've been clear that it's not a reboot…
Alonso: Absolutely not, no. This is the next chapter of the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: … so to whatever extent you can discuss it right now, what is the nature of the post-AvX "change"? Is it more in the way characters end up at the close of the story, or is it a bigger, House of M, "no more mutants" type shift?
Alonso: Like I said, this ain’t a reboot. We don’t go back in time, into the future, or to an alternate universe. Earth isn't transformed into a square or an oblong — none of that type of stuff happens. What happen is, events compel the Avenges and the X-Men to re-think themselves as organizations — who they are, what they stand for, how they operate. For one team, that starts with new leadership, and a new challenge to that leadership. For the other team, it means rethinking the philosophy of how it operates and how it is composed and dealing with the loss of a major character, who must embark on a new mission that requires he goes elsewhere.
Nrama: Marvel has categorically denied the possibility of a reboot at every step. Does that mean that it's something that, at this point, you're dogmatically opposed to?
Alonso: I hate making statements like "dogmatically opposed." Nothing good comes from cutting off discussion at the root. What I will say is that it would take an incredible hook for us to consider a line-wide reboot. I can say that with 99.99 percent certainty. But I’ll never say "absolutely no." There's always that point-zero-one-percent chance that someone will come along with the idea that you never saw coming.
But again, Marvel NOW! is not a reboot. It’s a new chapter set in the Marvel Universe that everybody's invested in. The Avengers and the X-Men, and everybody in between, will be inherit a changed world after AvX.
Nrama: Fair or not, at least from the exterior, it's inevitable that people are going to compare Marvel Now to what DC did last year with The New 52. Did that inspire or prompt what Marvel is doing now, or do you see it as unrelated?
Alonso: Nope. When I first came to Marvel, that's what we did. Our goal was to put the most inspired creative teams on the best characters to create the most entertaining and accessible stories we could. There are only two differences between then and now: One, we are embracing issue #1 as a way to underscore that this is a jumping-on point. Two, we are embracing the shared universe concept more than we did back then.
Marvel NOW! is going to be fun for readers and our talent. All of these creators are inspired and motivated to do their best stuff. Their endorphins are running high. They’re excited. I recall one conversation I had with a writer, where I said, "Listen, I want to suggest to you why I think you should write this title” — something that I’ve done with Garth Ennis and Peter Milligan in the past. At first, he said, “I'm not sure," but by the end of the conversation, he said, "Holy #@$%, I don't want to write anything else."
Nrama: The talking points of Marvel NOW! provided to press mention new readers a good deal — how much is reaching out to a new audience part of the goal of what you're doing here?
Alonso: Our bread and butter are the people who go to comic stores every Wednesday, and Marvel NOW! respects them and the investment they’ve made — emotionally and financially — in the Marvel Universe. That said, we want lapsed readers — the guy who likes, say, Captain America, but doesn’t know where to start — to know this is a great place to jump on. And, of course, we want the stories to be accessible to anyone who saw a Marvel movie or heard the buzz about Marvel NOW! How many of those people are out there? Well, with digital media, we have a better chance than ever to find out. It’s just a couple clicks away.
Nrama: We're in a world where an Avengers movie made $600 million, so is there a consideration given to catering to that audience?
Alonso: Catering is making the characters in your comics look exactly like the characters in the movie, and we definitely aren’t doing that. Indeed, I wouldn’t say we’re “catering,” at all. We’re just aware that the Avengers have more fans that ever, and doing our best to make the new stories accessible to anyone who decides to test-drive the comics.
Nrama: Right, in fact, based on the teaser image, it appears that a lot of the Avengers characters — most notably Thor and Hulk — in fact look a lot different than people are used to seeing them.
Alonso: Indeed, they do. And you’ll see why they do as the stories unfold. When fans hear the new creative teams and story hooks, and see the first images from these titles, they’re going to flip.
Nrama: Let's talk about the individual titles that have been announced so far. Uncanny Avengers is out first, and that's essentially exactly what it sounds like, a hybrid X-Men/Avengers team?
Alonso: Uncanny Avengers is the first book that delivers a snapshot of the Marvel Universe in the aftermath of AvX. This is a team composed of Avengers and X-Men that’s put together to deal with a specific threat that’s introduced in the first issue, but that becomes something much more than that.
Nrama: Rick Remender has been a rising star at Marvel for a while now, but this seems like a significant step up for him, working with John Cassaday on the first book out of the new initiative.
Alonso: Rick was really front-and-center when we work-shopped the concept of this team. That’s why he got the gig. And I’m super-excited to see what he does. Anyone that reads Uncanny X-Force, knows he can handle a team book, and that he’s wonderful at mining gold out of the personal connections between characters. I expect that be an important aspect of Uncanny Avengers.
This book is big. Many years ago, we wondered why a team that called itself “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” didn’t include Spider-Man and Wolverine, and the effect was seismic. The Avengers became our flagship franchise, well in advance of their debut on the silver screen. A team composed of X-Men and Avengers is an equally seismic event in the shaping of the Marvel Universe, narrowing the gap between mutant and super-human. It’s a must-read for Avengers fans and X-Men fans — and don’t assume they’re the same audience. Just check out the message boards!
Nrama: Then there's Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen on All-New X-Men, meaning that the rumors are true and that Bendis is indeed taking on the X-Men. And it's something of a time travel story involving the original X-Men?
Alonso: Let me be clear — this story takes place in the present. It brings the Lee and Kirby X-Men into the present to see what the world has become. They see the hard road they’ve traveled and, indeed, who of them made it this far. These are characters that grew up in a particular era, believing a mantra taught by Charles Xavier, and they're going to come into a world that's very different from that dream. And they're here to stay. This is not a story arc or a limited series — they're here for the long haul, and that’s going to make for years of fascinating stories. Imagine Logan and Scott Summers of the present when they see young Jean Grey show up. Imagine her reaction: "What? Why are you guys looking at me so weird?"
Nrama: So is the motivation for Bendis as simple as one would guess— he's never really written the X-Men outside of 12 issues of Ultimate X-Men, and after writing Avengers for eight years, he was looking for a new challenge?
Alonso: Yeah, pretty much. When we toyed with the story idea, it was Brian who really stepped up to the plate with big ideas. Hardly a shock, because this story plays to his strengths. He excels at stories featuring young people who come to terms with new powers, new realities. Where he wants to take these characters, it's amazing stuff.
Nrama: Then there's Avengers, written by Jonathan Hickman. We talked about Spider-Man and Wolverine joining New Avengers years back, and it looks like now the team will encompass an even broader base.
Alonso: Yeah. I wanted to unleash Jonathan's big brain — the same brain that made Fantastic Four a must-read that flew up the sales charts — on the #1 franchise. He has an incredible vision for them, and it starts with them thinking "big.” I don’t want to say much more for fear of spoiling it.
You can imagine my thrill to see Jonathan on Avengers, Brian on X-Men, and Rick Remender on Uncanny Avengers, which is a book that straddles both of those worlds. These are three fantastic writers, each with a very different mojo, attacking our biggest franchises.
Nrama: Based on the prominent placement of Rocket Raccoon on the Marvel NOW! teaser image, is it safe to say that cosmic Marvel will continue to be a focus, as seen currently with the Guardians of the Galaxy appearing in Avengers Assemble?
Alonso: We picked the characters in the Marvel NOW! promo because they all factor prominently into our plans for the future.
Nrama: With a big initiative like this, one wonders what books might actually not be affected — I think of something like X-Factor, which tends to sit out most major events.
Alonso: X-Factor is one of a handful of titles that won’t be profoundly affected. I can’t say more yet.
Nrama: So the new launches will be something of a combination of relaunches with a new #1, like Avengers, plus, new series like Uncanny Avengers, and maybe the return of some series that readers haven't seen in a while?
Alonso: Without a doubt. Marvel NOW! promo image is a glimpse of the big things you’ll be seeing in the coming year. In October through February, readers — old, lapsed or new — will have at least one reason to go into a comic store: a new issue #1 that is an entry-point into the Marvel Universe. We have faith in each and every one of these launches, which is why we’re taking a patient approach and not crowding them together. And we are building them to last; don’t expect any creator shifts or cancellations around issue 4 or 5. At last week’s editorial summit, each writer shared their plans for their titles, and let me tell you, there isn’t a weak link in the chain.
Nrama: Also, it looks like an aspect of Marvel NOW! is a new way of presenting covers — what can you share about that?
Alonso: We’re rethinking our approach to covers, challenging the old newsstand requirements of "logo goes on the top, indicia goes on the bottom." We're taking a more flexible approach that allows cover artists to design their covers like a book cover or movie poster. We want our covers to blast off the racks.
Keep reading Newsarama for much more on Marvel NOW!More from Newsarama:
- What NOW!? 10 Questions About Marvel's Non-Reboot Revamp
- Brevoort Reveals More MARVEL NOW! Details, AVENGERS Plans
- NEW, Updated MARVEL NOW! Info, More Series Details