Axel Alonso: Diversity’s superhero

Cowell ’87, sociology

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Axel Alonso was editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics from 2011–2017, where he built a legacy by making comic book characters and their creators reflect the diversity of our world.

During his tenure at Marvel, Alonso, 50, oversaw the creation of a Muslim superhero, a female Thor, and a biracial Spider-Man, among others. He also signed National Book Award winner and MacArthur genius Ta-Nehisi Coates to pen the latest Black Panther series and hired two black female writers, a rarity in the industry. Before working for Marvel, Alonso was an editor for DC Comics from 1994 through 2000.

Alonso grew up in San Francisco, the son of Mexican and English immigrants. His comic books of choice, he says, were cinematic heroes like The Hulk and Luke Cage—until basketball and girls cooled his ardor at age 12.

But while working on an Alaskan fishing boat to earn money for college, Alonso stumbled across Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which, he says, “hit my sweet spot. It was smart and literate and made me go back to see how comics had changed and why.”

After a financially unrewarding stint as a journalist, he got a job as a comic book editor.

At Marvel, Alonso cemented his desire to make sure readers of all races, nationalities, and religions could see themselves in the pages of comic books.

“I have mixed-race kids,” says Alonso, whose wife is of Korean descent, “and I want them to see their reflections.”