AXEL ALONSO, as Marvel Comics’ editor in chief, was in a meeting with senior editors and his publisher when the question was posed to him: What would he do if the Marvel Universe had another Civil War.
It was served up as a hypothetical, but the discussion kept getting bigger — to the point that one of Marvel’s top writers, Brian Michael Bendis, was brought into the discussion. And as more people became a part of the conversation, the publisher, Dan Buckley, turned to Alonso and said: “You know what you’ve got here? You’ve got Civil War II.”
And with that, Marvel had its next big event after Secret Wars. One of the biggest hurdles, though, was time; this conversation occurred not years ago, but mere months. The length of preparation typically required for a major comic-book event was not an option.
“This was not like [the first] Civil War or Secret Wars, where we planned for a couple of years,” Alonso told The Post’s Comic Riffs. “We’ve been planning this for maybe three or four months.”
Alonso said that though such a quick turnaround is rare, the chance to have a jump-on point for potential new readers — following the debut of this May’s “Captain America: Civil War” film — was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
Civil War II, which will debut in June, will be written by Bendis, who Alonso said was a part of initial discussions because he is now writing Invincible Iron Man for Marvel. Alonso said that the Civil War sequel was Bendis’s job to turn down, and that he’s pleased that one of his most popular writers accepted another major Marvel event.
“Having been involved in the initial architecture of the story, and given Tony Stark’s involvement in the story, it made perfect sense for [Bendis] to write it,” Alonso said.
As with the original Marvel Civil War, Iron Man will again be front and center — but this time, his main opposition will come from Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel.
“There’s a reason that Carol is a part of the opposition forces. It not only speaks to her character, but her new role in the Marvel universe,” Alonso said of one of Marvel’s most popular female characters. “She’s the leader of Alpha Flight, which is Earth’s first line of defense from all incursions. As of today, she is a very powerful authoritative figure in the Marvel universe.”
While aligning the release of Civil War II with the forthcoming Captain America movie is intentional, Alonso said, he bears in mind that new readers will dive into a Marvel universe that doesn’t mirror the movies, given recent changes to the mantles of some of Marvel’s top heroes.
“The way we look at it, we’re telling a movie that may come out in 10, 15 or 20 years. We’re telling the best stories we can,” Alonso said. “We’ve got an unlimited special-effects budget. We have tons of latitude creatively to bend, break and have fun and get people talking at the comic-book stores and beyond. We don’t feel that pressure [to match the movies]. We’re just having fun telling great stories.”
Part of the new Marvel comic-book universe is a world that strives for diversity, including a black Captain America, a female Thor and a Hulk who is Asian. That, however, hasn’t come without controversy. Marvel has been criticized in media and social media for the lack of creative diversity behind its recent popular hip hop covers. [Note: Marvel is quick to say that it already had diverse hires planned when the controversy occurred.] Alonso has heard the criticism and said that even before such complaints went viral, Marvel was working to diversify both the content within its pages and its roster of creative talent.
“You’re always going to get complaints, but the key thing is, we’re looking for great writers,” Alonso said. “I’m extremely excited about our lineup.”
“We’re always mindful of finding diverse talent,” Alonso noted. “If you take a look at our recent announcements [Black Panther, Totally Awesome Hulk], which were underway more than a year ago, we were conscious of this and working towards this long before anybody had any complaints.”
As for the years-in-the-making event that preceded Civil War II — and which recently concluded after delays — Alonso said that he was proud of the highly anticipated finish of Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars.
“I think Jonathan not only stuck the landing for [Secret Wars], but also for our larger goals to transform the Marvel universe,” Alonso said. “Ultimately it comes down to Reed Richards and Doctor Doom, two of the original Marvel characters, and Reed Richards’s saving the day, and I think that’s beautiful. And it was intended.”
Alonso emphasized that Marvel’s core titles, such as Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man, have never been stronger, and that he is excited for the new influx of talent entering Marvel’s doors.
“It’s not every day you get a National Book Award-winning writer as energized as you do in Ta-Nehisi Coates,” Alonso said. Black Panther “is going to be a game-changing book, as T’Challa prepares to become a household [name]. We’re going to have an amazing comic book on the stands [simultaneous to Black Panther’s Marvel Cinematic Universe debut] by an incredibly talented and passionate writer.”
And Alonso underscored that whether Marvel is brainstorming about its big events or monthly titles, a key to success is the willingness to experiment.
“There is nothing meat-and-potatoes about what we do,” the editor said. “We don’t believe in one formula. We believe in creative voodoo to mold these characters, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”