Axel Alonso: Reinventing
8/8/11 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview
In a move that caused
ripples well outside the boundaries of the comic book world,
Marvel recently announced that it's latest incarnation of
Spider-Man would be a Black and Hispanic teen repping
In the Ultimate Spider-Man
series, Peter Parker has been killed off, and Miles Morales
was chosen to carry the torch. The decision created an
immediate buzz, with Marvel Comics editor Axel Alonso
welcoming feedback from supporters and critics alike. In
this exclusive interview with Latin Rapper, the Hispanic Hip
Hop head at the mast of Marvel offers us the scoop on giving
Spidey some color.
LatinRapper.com: First off, what are your responsibilities
I'm the Editor in Chief. I oversee the publishing division.
The new Spider-Man is Black and Hispanic, does he come from
an urban background?
His name is Miles Morales. He's born and bred in Brooklyn.
African-American father, Hispanic mother. We'll be getting
exactly which Hispanic later - Puerto Rican, Mexican,
Dominican... Because he’s been referred to as “Latino” a few
times in the press (laughs).
Right. It's interesting because he's being billed in some
of the news stories as Black and Latino, but if you're Cuban
or Dominican, the two aren't mutually exclusive.
People confuse terms – “Latino” and “Hispanic” -- and next
thing you know, it gets out there that Miles is “Latino.” He’s
Being that this is a Brooklyn kid, does the new Spider-Man
have an urban edge?
Miles is a nerd who grew up in the city. Brooklyn, to be
exact. He's a smart kid, with an aptitude for science and a
fascinating family. Just like Peter Parker, he's looking to
fit in. He isn't a cool kid or a jock with girls crawling all
over him, or anything like that. He's a geeky kid you can root
So who was it that first pitched the idea of having a Black
and Hispanic Spider-Man over at Marvel?
The idea's been in the air for a while. We formally discussed
the concept of a Black Spider-Man a few months before Obama
became President as part of the discussion of an event called
Ultimatum, which was blowing up and reconstructing the
Ultimate Universe. For a variety of reasons, it didn’t work
out at that time - not the least of which is we didn’t have
the story yet. That changed when we realized we were actually
going to kill Peter Parker in the story that became "Death of
Spider-Man.” We realized we had the opportunity to create a
new Spider-Man. And Miles Morales was born.
You referenced Obama, was his election the catalyst in
getting the wheels turning on the new Spider-Man?
I wouldn't say it was the catalyst. When we were planning
“Ultimatum,” we realized that we were standing at the brink of
America electing its first African-American President and we
acknowledged that maybe it was time to take a good look at one
of our icons.
Since Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby], Marvel has always prided
itself on the diversity of its characters. We’ve been at
forefront of cultural diversity in superhero comics. That
said, it’s quite a tricky task for a character of “color,” so
to speak, to get traction with the mainstream audience. As a
guy who loves Black Panther, I know the challenges of keeping
a book like that alive.
You mentioned Black Panther. If I'm not mistaken, we're
talking '63 that Marvel introduced that character [edit: it
He's the first Black Superhero, introduced in Fantastic Four.
If you look up any of the Black Superheroes or their allies
that have appeared in any Marvel Comic book, you've got at
least a hundred of them going back to the early 60's. What
would you say to the handful of people who have claimed over
the last few days that Miles Morales is Marvel just trying to
It's an easy accusation to make. I know that this doesn't come
from a PC place for anyone involved. I don't think Brian
Bendis, who created Mile Morales, considers himself to be PC.
And I sure don’t consider myself to be. I’m liberal on some
issues, conservative on some others. Simple fact is Marvel
comics reflect the world in all its shapes, sizes and colors.
We believe there's an audience of people out there who is
thirsty for a character like Miles Morales.
Generations of readers fell
in love with Peter Parker, no matter their race; I have no
doubt the same will be true of Miles Morales. We’re taking one
of the world's most recognized superheroes, and peeling back
the mask to reveal a new face. It’s both revolutionary and
On the flip side of people who wanted this, the last few
days there has been a little bit of online joke-cracking and
negative feedback. Had you guys anticipated getting
Of course. Any time you do anything to shake the status quo,
you're going to hear from the fans. They're passionate, they
have strong opinions, and we love them for that. When you do
something that has an additional component like this, an
inherently political component where you can be accused of
being politically correct, you're going to hear it a little
So yeah, we anticipated there would be some naysayers. But the
response has been overwhelmingly positive. The most meaningful
letters to me have been letters from people who say that
they're going to pick up their first Spider-Man comic book for
their kid. All you need to do is go on Twitter and look up #MilesMorales
to see the people that are super-excited and that they sense
this is a historic moment.
For people who aren't avid followers of Spider-Man,
Ultimate Spider-Man is actually a parallel universe to one
that still has the original Peter Parker, right?
Yes. People who absolutely positively need to get their fix of
Peter Parker can find him every month in “Amazing Spider-Man.”
The Ultimate Universe is a highly successful imprint that
launched a little more than a decade ago, a parallel universe
that re-imagined Marvel’s most iconic characters - Spider-Man,
X-Men, Fantastic Four - as reflections of the late 20th
century. Ten years later, we’re imagining a Spider-Man for the
21st century (laughs).
What's the name of the issue that people should go out and
Ultimate Comics Fallout: Spider Man No More #4. I'm sure if
they go into a store, the retailer will direct them to the
rack - if there's still a copy to be found. I anticipate
second and third prints. Interest in the story is very high.
After that, they can read the story of how Miles Morales
became Spider-Man in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1, in stores
There have been rumors about a potential film featuring
Miles Morales, is that a possibility?
That's just people just talking. The Spider-Man that previewed
at San Diego Comicon was in development a long time before
Miles Morales was a reality. If Hollywood likes what they see,
who knows what Spider-Man looks like down the road?
How can people find you on Twitter?
I can be found at @axelalonsomarv. I've been Tweeting a lot
about the public response to Miles Morales. We’re at the stage
now where we're getting op-ed pieces commenting on the people
who are commenting on Spider-Man (laughs). Everyone from Jon
Stewart to Glen Beck has weighed in on Miles Morales.
I read quotes from you on CNN only a day or two after the
news broke. I was surprised that CNN, right off the bat,
reached their feelers out to you.
The day that the comic came out, I was on at least four TV
stations, local and national. It's just one of those things.
It's not a shock that people would have strong opinions about
this. America has come a long way on matters of racial
equality, but there are still some people out there who are
uncomfortable with this move and aren’t shy about saying so.
I read that you refer to yourself as having a mixed
Yeah. My mom is English, she's from England. And my dad is
Mexican, he's from Mexico. I'm mixed race, Hispanic and White.
Where are you originally from?
I'm from San Francisco.
Do you have any background in music?
No. I was a journalist before I came to Marvel. I have a
Masters Degree from Columbia Journalism School. Previous to
Marvel, I worked for four years for DC Comics' Vertigo
imprint, which was a mature readers imprint.
I'm a Hip-Hop head, I play basketball, I've got an 8-year-old
son named Tito with a wicked mid-range jumper and solid
So were you ever into graffiti or other aspects of Hip Hop
I grew up listening to R&B - EWF, Parliament - so I was down
with Hip Hop from day one. I remember being at the Doggie
Diner on 24th and Mission when I heard “Rapper's Delight” for
the first time - and that was that.
As a young one, I played basketball, skated, surfed.
California Punk rock changed my life because it gave me the
mental crawlspace to think for myself. I remember seeing Black
Flag at the Mabuhay Gardens in SF and seeing that the singer
was Mexican. I thought 'that's pretty cool.'
Who are some of the rap artists that you listen to?
Right now I’m big on the Clipse, Wiz Khalifa and CyHi, but I
go way back to the old school stuff like Rakim, Pete Rock and
Was there anything else you wanted to add about this comic
People who say this is a PC stunt miss the point. Miles
Morales is a reflection of the culture in which we live. I
love the fact that my son Tito will see a Spider-Man swinging
through the sky whose last name is “Morales” - and judging
from the response, I can see I’m not alone.
Axel Alonso on Twitter:
Marvel on Twitter: