New Marvel world ready for fall de­but

The comics pub­lisher will re­vamp some char­ac­ters, such as the Hulk and Spi­der-Man.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Noelene Clark noelene.clark@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Noe­leneClark

Marvel Comics has been tak­ing bold risks with some of its hall­mark char­ac­ters.

A black Cap­tain Amer­ica. A fe­male Thor. An all­women Avengers team.

Now, the pub­lisher is shak­ing up the rest of its su­per­hero ros­ter in an ef­fort to freshen the Marvel uni­verse and at­tract new read­ers.

The cur­rent “Se­cret Wars” event — a ma­jor plot­line in­volv­ing mul­ti­ple Marvel uni­verses — is lay­ing the ground­work for a new, sin­gle Marvel uni­verse and a re­vamped ros­ter of su­per­heroes and vil­lains. The pub­lisher’s fall lineup will con­sist of 55 to 60 ti­tles, all start­ing with new is­sue No. 1s.

“‘Se­cret Wars’ sort of sprin­kled the world with ex­cit­ing new el­e­ments and is go­ing to breathe into it new life,” said Axel Alonso, Marvel’s edi­tor in chief, by phone. “We used ‘Se­cret Wars’ as our launch­ing pad, be­cause it gave us a nice, big, blank can­vas to paint on.”

And Marvel plans to paint vastly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of some of its most popular char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing the Hulk, Spi­der-Man and Wolver­ine — all while try­ing to stay true to the 76year-long story con­ti­nu­ity.

“We are not eras­ing Marvel’s his­tory,” Alonso said. “This is not a re­boot or a restart. This is just a nice jump­ing-on point.”

To main­tain the care­ful bal­ance be­tween ap­peal­ing to de­voted and new read­ers, Alonso added, se­rial comics are tak­ing a page from tele­vi­sion’s sea­sonal model.

“There’s a large story told over many episodes that of­fers some sense of com­ple­tion but not fi­nal­ity — the story con­tin­ues af­ter,” he said. “Our goal is to al­ways re­spect the his­tory and the con­ti­nu­ity we’ve in­her­ited but also build with an eye to­ward f in­d­ing new read­ers.”

Each of the new is­sue No. 1s “will be struc­tured so it’s com­pletely ac­ces­si­ble to new read­ers,” Alonso said.

“We don’t want to make you feel like you’re com­ing into the mid­dle of the story and that you need to have read a comic be­fore,” he added. “You’ll hit the ground run­ning, you’ll en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence, you might have ques­tions, but those ques­tions will be things we an­swer for you as the story un­folds.”

While Marvel has found suc­cess in at­tract­ing new fans with its di­verse new char­ac­ters, it has faced an ini­tial wave of skep­ti­cism. When the pub­lisher an­nounced a se­ries star­ring a new, fe­male Thor, “there was no ab­sence of peo­ple who thought the sky was fall­ing, who thought it was sac­ri­lege, ‘ This isn’t my Thor,’ yada, yada,” Alonso said.

But the story was a hit, sell­ing more than 200,000 copies of the first is­sue.

“It found not only new read­ers — most of whom are fe­male — but we’ve man­aged to main­tain the longterm Thor fans who just can’t get enough of the story,” Alonso said.

Thor is not alone in her pop­u­lar­ity. “Spi­der-Gwen” No. 1, fea­tur­ing Gwen Stacy as a new ver­sion of the arach­noid web­slinger, sold more than 250,000 copies. “A-Force” No. 1, about an allfe­male Avengers team, sold more than 125,000. And per­haps most no­tably, “Ms. Marvel” No. 1 was a New York Times best­seller, re­ceived seven print­ings and was the pub­lisher’s best­selling dig­i­tal comic last year.

“With­out a doubt, ‘ Ms. Marvel’ was a break­out sen­sa­tion for us,” Alonso said.

The Eis­ner-nom­i­nated ti­tle in­tro­duced Ka­mala Khan, a 16-year-old Pak­istani Amer­i­can Mus­lim girl living in Jer­sey City, N.J., as the new Ms. Marvel.

Alonso said he thinks of the char­ac­ter as “a di­rect de­scen­dant of Peter Parker,” the bul­lied Queens teenager who be­comes Spi­der-Man.

“You know, in 2015, Peter Parker can look like Ka­mala Khan, and re­ally that’s what we’re try­ing to do here — take stock of the world around us, the is­sues of the day, and the vast va­ri­ety of our pop­u­la­tion, and tell sto­ries through them and for them,” Alonso said.

Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Ms. Marvel and Thor, Marvel’s new ros­ter will of­fer vastly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of some of its most popular char­ac­ters: A new Spi­der-Man will swing through the streets of New York, a new Wolver­ine will re­turn to comics af­ter the char­ac­ter was killed off last year, and a char­ac­ter “very un­like Bruce Ban­ner” will be in­tro­duced as the new Hulk, Alonso said.

“When peo­ple see the sil­hou­ette of the char­ac­ter, and when peo­ple get their first look, it’ll be con­tro­ver­sial, and it’ll get talked about, and it’ll ul­ti­mately be em­braced, as the new Thor was,” he said.

The new is­sue No. 1s will be re­leased this fall over three or four months, with all the sto­ries set eight months af­ter the events of “Se­cret Wars.” Alonso said the comics cre­ators were chal­lenged to think of a sig­nif­i­cant change in each char­ac­ter’s world.

“A changed re­la­tion­ship, a death, a new re­la­tion­ship, a new role or phi­los­o­phy that they’ve adopted, maybe they’ve moved to a new place, maybe the char­ac­ter in tights isn’t who you think it is,” Alonso said. “Some­thing that would sort of en­er­gize all read­ers new and old.”

For all the planned changes, Marvel’s un­der­ly­ing mission is an old one.

“Marvel Comics’ driv­ing phi­los­o­phy dat­ing back to Stan Lee is to ref lect the world out­side your win­dow, and the world out­side your win­dow has changed since the early ’60s,” Alonso said. “We’re fol­low­ing that mantra. Our new sto­ries ref lect the world out­side your win­dow in all its di­ver­sity.”

Mar vel Comics

“WE ARE NOT eras­ing Marvel’s his­tory,” says Marvel top edi­tor Axel Alonso. “This is not a re­boot.”

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