Trends & Truth Online is a monthly column by Mike Nappa.
Axel Alonso began his career as a journalist and magazine writer before joining the comics industry in 1994. Since 2000, he’s shaped the stories of classic heroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men, and many more. Today, Axel is Editor in Chief at Marvel Comics.
T&TO: In your own words, what is Marvel Comics?
AA: Marvel tells stories about human perseverance―about super-powered individuals who rise to impossible challenges. Our readers aren’t rooting for the powers or the costume – they’re rooting for the person inside the tights. With Spider-Man, they’re rooting for the kid from Queens who, when he’s not saving the world, has to scrape to make rent; with Captain America, they’re rooting for the 98-pound weakling who, through the miracle of science, was granted muscles that finally match the size of his heart.
T&TO: Marvel superheroes and stories wield a significant influence on American culture. How does Marvel Comics handle that?
AA: With over 70 years of stories in the bank and counting, Marvel Comics is modern mythology―and we’re well aware of the responsibility that comes with it. We take such great pains to portray our characters as the heroes they should be. Our protagonists are models for life: people who rise above their personal baggage and insecurities to face great challenges and do great things.
T&TO: Marvel Comics are loved by all ages, but we still associate superhero stories with children. Why do kids need superheroes?
AA: Kids need heroes. While parents should be role models for life, superheroes remind a child of the moral compass necessary to navigate a universe fraught with thrills and danger.
T&TO: Why is Marvel interested in reaching kids today, when more adult-oriented products seem to make more money?
AA: I discovered comic books as a young boy. They taught me to read and helped shape my moral code―they are a part of my DNA. As Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics, I understand the importance of cultivating young readers that will have a similar experience; as the father of an 8-year-old boy who’s a big fan of Spider-Man and Deadpool, I’m thrilled to see my son have a similar experience.
T&TO: Some parents worry that Marvel Comics are too violent, political, sexualized, and so on. What would you like to say to those parents?
AA: Not all comics are intended for kids, which is why we label our comics for their intended audience. That said, most of our content is PG-rated material aimed at a multiplex audience.
T&TO: What would you say is most important in life, and how is that reflected in your work?
AA: Love―finding it, earning it, giving it, sacrificing for it. It’s why superheroes throw themselves headlong at impossible threats. Because their hearts overflow with it.
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Mike Nappa is a bestselling author, a noted commentator on pop culture, and founder of the website for parents, FamilyFans.com.