Inhumans: Marvel’s Axel Alonso leads superheroes to ‘Infinity’

April 24, 2013 | 8:00 a.m.
Marvel Knights Animation and Shout! Factory presents "Inhumanns."

Marvel Knights Animation and Shout! Factory presents “Inhumanns.”

Perhaps one of the oddest and underutilized groups of characters in the Marvel Universe, the Inhumans are having a moment.

The mutant family of  superheroes originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby is starring in a new DVD offering from Marvel Knights Animation and Shout! Factory released this week, titled simply, “Inhumans” with an internal tale written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Jae Lee.

The group, led by king, Black Bolt, also promises to be one of the central players in the upcoming “Infinity” crossover saga, which Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso calls “a Marvel event in every sense of the word because it narrows the gap between Earthbound and cosmic heroes.”

Hero Complex recently caught up with the busy executive to talk Inhumans, Marvels’ “Age of Ultron” event and the general outlook for the company.

HC: Do you see the Inhumans as one of Marvel’s most misunderstood groups?

AA: I look at them as being the ultimate outsiders of the Marvel Universe. They’re a nation of outcasts. If you know anything about their origin, you know that they’re a mistake. They’re an experiment gone wrong.  You had these two alien races — the Kree and the Skrull — and they were looking to create super soldiers for their war and they experimented on homo sapiens and they created the Inhumans. Then they stopped experimenting because they thought there might be some penalty for them if they kept going down that road.

One of the things that makes the Inhumans so interesting is that they get their powers through a method called Terragenesis, where at a certain age, they are exposed to an element known as the Terrigen Mists. When they pass through the vapor, they transform and they see their genetic destiny. They find out what they’re gonna look like, and what their powers are. It’s sort of like existential roulette. Will you be beautiful? Will you be ugly? Will you be powerful? Will you be not so impressive? What is your destiny? In this moment, you’re reborn. I think that’s fascinating, and anyone that’s gone through adolescence knows what that feels like.

HC: The DVD is released at a time when the characters are experiencing a newfound popularity.

AA: There’s a reason that the Inhumans have lasted as long as they have. They resonate over time. The Inhumans are going to play a huge role in the upcoming Marvel Universe event “Infinity.” You’ve seen what we’ve done with cosmic heroes like Nova and the Guardians… This is a huge, universe-spanning event, and they’re gonna be major players in this.

HC: The “Age of Ultron” is the big Marvel event right now — what do fans have to look forward to in that series, and does it lend itself to a possible DVD movie format?

AA: I could easily see the “Age of Ultron” being adapted into that format. It has the scope and the special effects kind of storyline. What readers should expect is, not to sound cliché, but to expect the unexpected. There will be some Earth-shattering ramifications for the Marvel Universe as a whole. Not everything will be restored to exactly how it used to be. It is an event that takes place in the present and will definitely affect the future.

HC: “Age of Ultron” has an all-star cast of writers. Who are some of the rising stars, writers and artists, at Marvel?

AA: When I look at writers in the Marvel stable that have really impressed, I think that Sam Humphries has a lot to say, and I look for very big things from him with “Avengers A.I.” Dennis Hopeless, the writer of “Avengers Arena” is a very promising writer with a unique point of view. I think Kelly Sue DeConnick. She does “Captain Marvel,” which is a great read, and a hero that is very needed right now. As far as artists go, Nick Bradshaw, who’s working on “Wolverine and the X-Men,” Sara Pichelli, of “Ultimate Spider-Man.” There are so many, but then again, they’ve all got plum assignments. Maybe it’s arguable that they already are stars.

HC: At South-by-Southwest, Marvel touted a slew of digital initiatives. What kind of feedback have you gotten so far?

AA: People seem to be loving it, which is why we continue to do it. We aren’t monetizing this — it’s not like we’re selling augmented reality. We look at it as an added-values feature in the experience of reading a comic book. We’re getting better and better at doing them and seeing more and more possibilities for the types of things that we can do with them. The response to our digital comics and our Infinite comics — meaning comics created specifically for our [mobile] palate — has been tremendous. Our weekly comic book that starts in July called “Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted” is gonna show how we’re getting better and better at this. It’s all complementary, not competitive, and it all amounts to getting new readers and new entry points into the Marvel Universe.

HC: What do you think of what your competition is doing right now with the New 52 and all?

AA: It’s not prudent for me to talk about other comic companies, mainly because they all run their businesses according to what they consider to be their needs. What I can say is that we run our business very different than DC Comics does. I think that we travel very different roads and we have different priorities in terms of the way that we tell our stories. Our strategy is to find the best people to tell the best stories with the best characters. Our role as editors and our role as a publisher is to find a way to bring these stories to life and be there to shepherd them and give critical feedback when necessary, and to make it a vital universe over and over and over again. Ultimately, what’s very important to us is that we demonstrate a level of professionalism when it comes to our talent.

HC: What’s ahead for Marvel’s immediate storytelling future?

AA: I’m very excited about the future of Marvel Publishing and Marvel as a whole. With “Infinity,” and the reveals at the end of the “Age of Ultron” … well it’s called the Marvel Universe for a reason. The stakes have never been just Earth. If you saw “The Avengers,” it ended with a cutaway to a character named Thanos, who is from another planet. We’ve been slowly building up a plan to show that characters like Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy — who are, of course, slated for a movie — are vital players in the Marvel Universe. Also look for the Inhumans to have a higher profile in 2014 and beyond.

– Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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