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Friday, April 03, 2020 

Alonso's AWA is going to be a shared universe

In this Hollywood Reporter interview from 2 weeks ago, Axel Alonso reveals that not only did he and Bill Jemas open their own separate company, they're even gambling on a shared universe, starting with a certain overrated comics and screenwriter's entry:
Among the releases is the first issue of The Resistance, the series that launches AWA’s shared comic book universe, written by Sense8’s J. Michael Straczynski. The Hollywood Reporter talked to Alonso, AWA’s chief creative officer, about launching AWA’s shared universe, about the high concept behind that universe and The Resistance in particular and about the committee that helps set the guidelines for things moving forward.
Can you honestly trust somebody who brought down the previous shared universe he oversaw to deliver satisfying results on a new one? I think the simple answer is "no", and the concept behind it is bound to be low. Though at a time when Coronavirus has led to businesses stalling, their little venture sure was poorly timed. But anyway, the interview continues with:
Why build a shared universe? It’s a space where, as much as the success of a Marvel or a DC has demonstrated the value of such a thing, we’ve also seen a number of younger publishers struggle to establish their own shared universes with fans; at best, it’s a risky proposition.

As they say, no guts, no glory. Yes, creating a common universe is challenging, but the rewards can be wonderful. Every popular character, every best-selling book brings more fans to every other story. You can build on your successes. That said, the world has changed a lot since it gave birth to Batman, Superman, Captain America and Spider-Man — why wouldn’t its heroes? Shouldn’t today’s superheroes exhibit the hopes, dreams and fears of a new generation? Shouldn’t they reflect that generation in all its diversity?

The first seeds of our new universe are planted in The Resistance; you’ll see what grows out of it in coming months. We have a plan to carefully and patiently build a superhero universe for the 21st century, one that’s rooted in the present, and has its eyes trained on the future, and think the pedigree of our creative counsel and the writers and artists that join them gives us a competitive edge.
A better question is why they believe anybody cares about an allegedly shared universe developed by the same people who took the Marvel universe apart? Again, we see hints this'll be a concept built on left-liberalism, as "diversity" has long become a giveaway. The world's changed plenty, but only the leftist ideas are reflected in entertainment.
You mentioned The Resistance, which is written by J. Michael Straczynski, who you’ve obviously had some success with when you were both working on Amazing Spider-Man together. What made him the obvious choice to lead the charge, so to speak?

Is there anyone better at laying down the foundation for a new universe than Joe Straczynski? From Babylon 5 to [his Top Cow comic book series] Rising Stars to [Image Comics series] Midnight Nation to Sense8, with mind-bending re-imaginings of Squadron Supreme, Spider-Man and Thor along the way, Joe is without peer when it comes to world-building. He creates living, breathing worlds inhabited by diverse three-dimensional characters. All of that is on full display in The Resistance No. 1, where he — and artist Mike Deodato — lay down the bedrock of our universe.
Is there anyone worse for destroying the foundation of a universe than JMS? The man whose grip on Marvel continuity was dreadful, didn't do a good job with Fantastic Four or Thor when he wrote them for a year or so, and, lest we forget, penned the Sins Past embarrassment in Spider-Man where Gwen Stacy was alleged to have had sex with Norman Osborn, and later gave birth to 2 children who grew up pretty fast. And who made Mary Jane Watson out to look like a liar who'd withheld information from Peter Parker. Yeah, some living, breathing world alright, replete with 3D characters. I've never bought the defense Joe Quesada mandated the whole story - certainly not 100 percent - given Straczynski never bolted from the writer's helm when the getting was good. Some "success" they had there alright. Yet this does hint Straczynski's relations with Quesada and Alonso alike were far better than previously claimed - why else would he join the latter in this new venture? If Quesada joins them next, that'll confirm everything.
Straczynski is one of a number of creators on what you’re calling the creative council, which is setting the tone for the shared universe. As it stands, the council has an interesting balance of talents — even among the writers, there’s a notable variety of opinions and output; no one is likely to mistake a Garth Ennis story for a Reginald Hudlin story, for example. Beyond that, though, there’s also Frank Cho, who’s an artist, as well as a writer. How did you decide on this particular group of people to shepherd the shared universe?

Variety was exactly the point. AWA’s creative council is six creators, each of whom has a significant footprint in comics and has achieved significant success in other fields: film, TV, animation, video games, novels, YA lit. [The six creators are Straczynski, Hudlin, Ennis, Cho, Gregg Hurwitz and Margaret Stohl.] All six are distinct voices. All six love comics and are here to stay. None of them are tourists. In fact, Joe Straczynski un-retired from comics to be a part of this.
Very interesting! Considering he didn't bring much to the table when he was working with Marvel, nor did he do much significant when he'd worked briefly on Superman for DC, his return to comics as of now sure is asking a lot from an audience he never really respected. And none of them are taking a comics writing tourism trip? I thought Hudlin was a screenwriter, much like Straczynski. Though I know JMS might've written a handful of comics early in his showbiz career, if they didn't begin in comics proper (although JMS did work in animation early in his career), and don't make it their full-time career, I can't consider that non-tourism.

The interview does note The Resistance is supposed to focus on a pandemic, at a time when Coronavirus has become such a serious issue around the world:
Were there surprises in terms of immediately agreed-upon elements? Were there things that everyone just knew instinctively, without having to really discuss it?

We wanted to create an easy on-ramp into our universe, a simple origin story that would allow for the creation of a new superhuman species that spanned the globe. We wanted these characters to be linked to one another the same way that mutants are in the Marvel Universe. In our universe, if you were transformed by the event that is chronicled in The Resistance No. 1, the pandemic known as the Great Death, it doesn’t matter where you’re from — Iowa, Africa or Japan — you are what’s called a “reborn.” You have brothers and sisters around the world with whom you share a profound bond. You grapple with the same existential questions and maybe daily dangers.

You mentioned it there and there’s no way not to ask about it: The Resistance is a story about a pandemic and the effect it has on the world. That’s, shall we say, an accidentally far more timely book than it was a couple months ago — is there any nervousness surrounding releasing this right now, especially as the launch book for the shared universe?

When we were planning the birth of our universe, the event that would result in the creation of a new superhuman species, Joe Straczynski suggested the inciting event be a global pandemic, and it just felt right.

Long before the coronavirus outbreak, there was widespread anxiety about the emergence of a super-virus — it was in the zeitgeist — so we thought it made sense to lean into that very real fear
. That said, there are at least two major differences between our virus, XV1N1, and the cornavirus: XV1N1 is catastrophically contagious and lethal and, of course, one of its side effects is the birth of a new superhuman species.
I'll grant them this: it's certainly impressive on the surface that they'd tackle an issue that's now got a variation in real life. But what if it's laced with a liberal viewpoint that considers right-wingers like Donald Trump guilty of leading to the pandemic? I've been aware of Straczynski's politics for years, and wouldn't put it past him if he made the villains in the story conservative cliches.

That said, whether or not the Resistance reflects real life as it's unfolded now, chances are very few others in comicdom will actually take up the challenge of writing stories inspired by the Coronavirus crisis, and if they do, they'll probably write it from a left-wing perspective. They're certainly too occupied with social justice ideology right now to do much informative.
I was wondering how — if at all — your Marvel experience played into AWA. Obviously, you’re chief creative officer at this company, so the positions aren’t exactly comparable, but what lessons did you learn from your experience at Marvel that you can apply to AWA, and specifically, the shared universe? Are there obvious no-nos that you’ve learned through bitter experience, or for that matter, any go-to, never-fail replicable success strategies?

I’d say the biggest strategy for success is to tell stories that reflect what people care about today and to resist the temptation to put genies back in the bottle just because you can. The stakes need to be real. Readers need to experience triumph and tragedy, love and loss, the way they do in real life. Some things – like death – need to be permanent.
Ugh, I have got so tired of hearing the belief that death in science fantasy must be permanent. No matter how you look at it, that's exactly what's brought down Marvel and DC alike, when we're told dead characters must remain dead, no matter how artistically offensive and bankrupt the story built around the dead characters is. If that's what Alonso's gotten into this new venture for, it sounds more like he'll be going by editorial mandates not all that different from the Big Two, as seen at the time Quesada and Dan DiDio were the main editors. If readers want to experience what he cites, that's their decision to make with their wallets. But if the readers want to experience escapist entertainment that isn't lecturing like what Alonso's doing, they have every right to it. In fairness, I wonder if that's what Frank Cho's joined them for. But if not, I don't see the point of a shared universe where escapist fantasy can't be part of the mix.

Besides, there are Marvel fans out there who haven't forgotten Alonso and JMS slighted the Marvel universe, and who're bound to avoid AWA's offerings no matter the content or quality of the finished product.

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"No matter how you look at it, that's exactly what's brought down Marvel and DC alike, when we're told dead characters must remain dead, no matter how artistically offensive and bankrupt the story built around the dead characters is."

Well, Junior Juniper and Pamela Hawley are still dead. But otherwise?

The cliché is that nobody stays dead. Steve Trveor and Jean Grey have probably been dead more often than anybody else (and to be fair that is what you expect of a Phoenix), but nearly every other comic book character of any longevity has been dead at least once or twice, and the ones who have not come back to life have been replaced by parallel world versions.

Superman made a fortune off being dead a while back. Hal Jordan was dead, Barry Allen was dead, the Earth-1 Wonder Woman was turned back into sand, Alfred has been killed twice, Alanna was dead, Elektra was dead, Jade was dead,. Reed and Sue were presumed dead for a while, Johnny was presumed dead for a while, Peter was deemed dead and replaced in his head by Otto, Tony Stark was dead, Colossus and Wolverine were dead, Professor X has been dead more than once, Steve Rogers and Bucky and Sharon and Peggy Carter were all dead, some for many years; Toro was dead, Dr Strange died briefly. The first Spider-Woman died and came back. Dead Legionnaires come back every time the series is rebooted. The entire population of the earth died in one Dr Strange story. And of course Boston Brand started off dead.

Gwen Stacy is now appearing as the lead character in two monthly comic books.

Nobody stays dead forever.


"if they didn't begin in comics proper (although JMS did work in animation early in his career), and don't make it their full-time career, I can't consider that non-tourism."

That makes people like Gardner Fox, Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Joss Whedon, Peter O'Donnell and Alan Brennert tourists. You cut a wide swath.

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