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Greg Pak is Afraid of Stuff

A DC Comics Writer Talks Superman, Teen Titans, and What Scares Him Silly

In case you’re wondering, yes, there’s a reason why acclaimed DC Comics writer Greg Pak wears glasses and not contact lenses:

Fear.

Yep, the guy who creates the most dangerous adventures of courageous heroes like Superman and the Teen Titans is afraid to do something millions of junior high kids do every day: Touch his eye. In fact, that kind of thing is his greatest phobia. “Things in my eye,” he admits with a shudder. “Ugh!”

Still, when a writer is as talented as Greg Pak is, he can be forgiven for a certain level of ocular squeamishness.

After all, he sees the stories that mere mortals like us can’t even imagine—and he brings them to life month in and month out in the pages of our favorite comics.

Here’s just a glimpse of his (impressive!) bio:

Greg Pak is an award-winning Korean American comic book writer and filmmaker currently writing Kingsway West, a for Dark Horse; Batman/Superman and Teen Titans for DC Comics; and The Totally Awesome Hulk for Marvel…Pak’s run on Marvel’s “Incredible Hulk” was named the Best Ongoing Series of 2007 by Wizard Magazine, and he created the character of Amadeus Cho (The Totally Awesome Hulk), who won a 2005 Marvel.com fan favorite poll and co-starred for four years in “Incredible Hercules.” Pak’s “Magneto Testament” was named the Best Miniseries of 2008 by IGN, and he wrote the “Battlestar Galactica” series for Dynamite and the latest “Eternal Warrior” series for Valiant…

Well, there’s more, but you get the idea. Greg Pak is (as his college improve group used to call him) the whole “Pakage.” He’s also kind of a cool guy who took time out of his busy schedule to chat with PopFam about comics, life, and yeah, superhero stuff. Here’s what he had to say:


Us

To start off, how did you first discover comic books?

Greg Pak

The first comics I read were probably the old Fawcett paperback collections of Peanuts strips. I read and re-read those a million times and absolutely loved them. The first actual comic books I remember reading are an old Richie Rich book and big oversized Superman and Spider-Man reprint books. The Spider-Man book was one of those huge Marvel Treasury edition books, and it probably had the biggest impact on me—it included the death of Captain Stacy, which was probably the first time I’d seen anything so tragic play out in something that was ostensibly for kids. I loved it.

Us

What was the first comic you ever wrote?

Greg Pak

I drew a comic book when I was six or seven that was three or four pages long about a dragon who went electric. What happened was that there was this dragon… and then he went electric. It was awesome.

Us

Lately you’ve been writing Action Comics and Teen Titans. What goes into creating comics like those?

Greg Pak

Whoa, that’s an enormous question! The cheeky answer is that the secrets to my entire process are revealed in MAKE COMICS LIKE THE PROS, a how-to book that Fred Van Lente and I wrote. (Seriously, though, it’s a good book and it’s actually got all the answers.)

But to boil it down in a few sentences… Whenever I take on a new work-for-hire project, I try to figure out what makes the characters work, and then I try to figure out a story that gets them into a ton of trouble that can provide big, fun action and genuine emotional movement/progress. That’s never quite as simple as it sounds, particularly with characters that have been around for decades. But then again, these characters have been around for decades because they each have something about them that’s fundamentally compelling and can provide great stories, if you just dig enough and come up with the right conflicts and challenges and questions.

Since these are superhero books, I also try to create a situation that requires the hero to step up and do the right thing—but that makes doing the right thing a very hard thing to do.

Us

All right, gives us the inside scoop. What are three behind-the-scenes secrets you can tell us about your upcoming story arc for Teen Titans?

Greg Pak

1. We’re delving deep into some great stuff from that amazing Azzarello/Chiang WONDER WOMAN run.

2. Wonder Woman is really fun to write.

3. Villains have to be as compelling as the heroes for the heroes’ stories to work. I’ll say no more. But we worked hard on going all-in emotionally with our big bad. The big payoff’s in issue #19. Hope it works for you!

Us

How about Action Comics?

Greg Pak

1. My last issue is the blockbuster #50, [March 9, 2016]. It’s the massive cap to our year-long TRUTH storyline, wherein Superman was stripped of his secret identity and most of his powers. In this issue, everything changes. I know we say that about every story. But seriously. In this issue… everything changes.

2. Vandal Savage, the immortal caveman turned supervillain, is the big bad.

3. If you want to dip back into my run for the most kid-friendly issue, I’d probably recommend ACTION COMICS #40, a Bizarro done-in-one, that artist Aaron Kuder just gloriously destroyed.

Us

After a parent and a teenager read Teen Titans, what do you want them to talk about?

Greg Pak

As the writer, I don’t generally try to influence that conversation through anything but the story itself—that’s the reader’s glory and fun. The same story can be enjoyed and interpreted in multiple ways by different readers; for the writer to indicate how it should be read ahead of time spoils that joy.

But I just love the idea that parents and kids might actually read the book together and talk about it. This is a story about a girl trying to figure out who she is, searching for answers about the restless power she feels inside of her, grappling with responsibilities towards friends and family. There’s a lot there—but it’s entirely up to each individual reader to find what speaks to him or her.

Us

What would you say is the most important thing in life—and how does that show up in your work?

Greg Pak

This will vary over the years. But at the moment, it probably boils down to the struggle to do the right thing. And how hard it might be to figure out what the right thing actually is. And taking responsibility for your choices no matter what.

That’s certainly played out in all my Superman books—Superman will always, always try to do the right thing. So the biggest challenges for him are when the world is so complicated that exactly what the right thing is becomes very murky. All that power… all that heart… all that heroism gets put to the real test when there are no easy answers.

—MN

Image credits and copyrights: Greg Pak; DC Comics. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.


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8 Questions About Movie Ratings

A Parent’s Peek Inside the MPA Movie Ratings System

Do you have questions about movie ratings? How much do you really know about the way the MPA (Motion Picture Association) assigns ratings to films? Test yourself with these questions to find out:

  1. Are movie ratings governed by law?
  2. Who decides a movie rating?
  3. Do raters accurately represent me?
  4. Why are 13 and 17 key ages for movie ratings?
  5. Is “G” a certificate of approval?
  6. How do films get rated PG or PG-13?
  7. How do films get rated R and NC-17?
  8. So, what’s a parent to do with movie ratings?

If you hesitated on any of the questions above, then read on! In here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about movie ratings. You may be surprised by what you discover…

1. Are Movie Ratings Governed by Law?

No law requires a movie to be rated, nor is it law that a movie rating must be enforced by a local theater. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) partnered to create and implement Movie ratings as a “voluntary system” in their industry.

In other words, the film industry is responsible for rating itself. Recognizing that conflict of interest, MPA and NATO created the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) which operates as an independent division of the MPA.

2. Who Decides a Movie’s Rating?

A “Rating Board” assigns a film its rating. This is a small group of up to 10 people appointed by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). Each group includes a Chairperson, Senior Raters (selected by the Chair), and Raters. The rank-and-file Raters retain their appointments for up to seven years, depending on the preference of the Chairperson.

Once appointed, Designated Raters, including at least one Senior Rater, view every film submitted. A preliminary vote follows, along with lively discussion, and then a final vote. After the committee’s final vote, the rating process is complete.

This small group, in various combinations, takes responsibility for assigning ratings to practically every movie made for commercial distribution. They assign ratings in every genre, in every style, from the newest animated Disney movie to the latest horror film and everything in between.

3. Do Raters Accurately Represent Me?

The stated purpose of the ratings system is “To provide parents information concerning the content of those motion pictures to help them determine each motion picture’s suitability for viewing by their children.” To that end, CARA requires that Raters who join the board are parents of 5- to 15-year-olds. Raters must resign when their kids turn 21—though the Chairperson and Senior Raters are exempt from that.

Some argue that proximity demographics hinder CARA’s goal of truly representing American parents, though. Out of the necessity, Raters are mostly affluent residents of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Does that make CARA out of touch with parental concerns in more conservative and/or rural areas of the United States? Some make that complaint.

Others cry foul because different membership standards apply to the system’s most influential people, namely the Chair and Senior Raters. Does that mean CARA’s representational ability is unfavorably skewed? Again, many would say yes.

4. Why are “13” & “17” Key Ages for Ratings?

No one offers deliberate reasoning for how ages 13 and 17 became the benchmark ages selected for movie ratings. The movie industry assumes that everyone already knows and accepts why those ages were chosen.

Cultural norms suggest that the age of 13 is the beginning of adolescence, so that seems to be the logic behind separating those kids from younger ones. Assigning adulthood status to a 17-year-old high-school student is a little harder to explain.

In virtually every other legal and social context, 18 is the age of adulthood, so CARA ratings veer from the norm in this respect. In practical terms, that means CARA expects parents to accept the idea that their high-school children are adults who need no parental supervision in regard to movie-going—something that’s patently untrue. The unstated motivation here appears simply to provide a larger audience pool for R-Rated and NC-17 films.

5. Is “G” a Certificate of Approval?

According to the Rating Board, a G rating is appropriate for “all ages.” They explain:

“A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture. The G rating is not a ‘certificate of approval,’ nor does it signify a ‘children’s’ motion picture. Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated motion pictures. Depictions of violence are minimal. No nudity, sex scenes or drug use are present in the motion picture.”

6. How Do Films Get Rated PG or PG-13?

According to the Rating Board, “A PG-rated motion picture should be investigated by parents…There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity… [but] There is no drug use content.”

Additionally, “A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category….Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity… generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie.”

Parents should also be aware that PG-rated films released before 1984 more closely reflect the standards present in today’s PG-13 rating.

7. How Do Films Get Rated R & NC-17?

“An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes,” says the Ratings Board, “adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements…Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”

Further, “An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under … NC-17 does not mean “obscene” or “pornographic” in the common or legal meaning of those words… An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.”

8. So, What’s a Parent to Do?

Experts offer three principles for parents in regard to using movie ratings for their families:

A) Recognize film ratings for what they are. MPA ratings deliver a general guideline created by people who may or may not share your entertainment values. They’re NOT the final authority on a movie’s content or appropriateness for your kids. YOU are.

B) Always, always refer to the “Reason for the Rating.” Visit the website, http://www.filmratings.com for reference when making parental decisions about whether a movie is acceptable viewing for your family. Here you can look up most movies (past and present) to discover why they earned their ratings.

C) When in doubt, talk it out. If you’re unsure of a movie’s content, discuss it with your kids. Examine themes, artistic appeal, your values, and reasons for the rating. Then you can make an informed decision together—and help your kid learn to discern for themselves what is, or isn’t, appropriate viewing for them.

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Showrunner Spotlight: Lesley Wake Webster

Lesley Wake Webster Spills Secrets about Perfect Harmony on NBC

Here’s a hard sell:

Go into a network TV pitch room and say, “I want to do a show about rural Christians in a church choir.” Chances are slim you’ll walk out with a development deal—yet that’s exactly what Lesley Wake Webster did at NBC Television. The result is Perfect Harmony, a fresh, family-friendly comedy that’s become a surprise success.

The premise for Perfect Harmony is this: “When former Princeton music professor Arthur Cochran unexpectedly stumbles into choir practice at a small-town church, he finds a group of singers that are out of tune in more ways than one. Despite the ultimate clash of sensibilities, Arthur and his newfound cohorts may just be the perfect mix of individuals to help each other reinvent and rediscover a little happiness, just when they all need it most.”

Recently we caught up with Webster during a break on set. We asked her to spill a few secrets with readers about her hit show. She was happy to oblige.

Secret # 1: Perfect Harmony Writers are No Strangers to Church or to Choirs

Lesley Wake Webster is the creator, executive producer, and showrunner for Perfect Harmony. Her comedy pedigree is equally impressive: minted by the legendary Princeton Triangle Club (Ivy League degree included), she spent years working on hit shows like Speechless, Life in Pieces, and American Dad.

But…what does this “media elite” know about singing in a small-town church choir? Quite a bit actually. “I was hoping you would ask me whether I had sung in a choir!” she says happily. “And the answer is yes. I grew up singing in church choirs and I come from a family of singers, particularly, church singers.”

Additionally, a good percentage of the 12 writers on Perfect Harmony are also church choir veterans. Webster reports, “We have three current, active church members—that’s a big part of their lives. And then we have multiple former church choir singers in various states of faith.”

Secret #2: Perfect Harmony was Created by an Agnostic

Ask Lesley Wake Webster if she sings in a choir now, and she’ll tell you the truth.

“I don’t anymore. I would currently describe myself as a person of faith as ‘agnostic.’ But I would say that my experience in church choir—my connection to faith and spirituality—I feel like music is a huge part of that.

“It’s very meaningful to me and I sang from a little wee kid all the way up through being in the Princeton Glee Club. I sang in choirs, and my father has a beautiful voice. He is a lovely tenor. He and my mom are still very active church members.”

Secret # 3: An Agnostic Wanted to Create a Show about—and for—Christians

“Growing up I went to church and I had a very powerful experience in my teenage years.” Webster says. “I was a member of a Southern Baptist church. It was really the defining event of my teenage years—in a great way. It was a place where I found community and identity, and the strength to speak my convictions.”

“I feel like sometimes, right now, church and Christianity is being portrayed as this very narrow, conservative thing. I suppose there are some branches of Christianity that certainly are, but I feel like it’s important that we portray the richness and the vastness of the Christian experience. For me, that was one that was really celebratory, where I felt like I came together with different people.”

Webster adds, “I just feel like there are a lot of people who have an experience with faith, whether they’re current churchgoers or not, and it would be nice for them to see themselves reflected on TV in a way that isn’t just making fun of them.”

Secret # 4: Perfect Harmony Jokes about Christians, but Not about Christ

Though not a churchgoer at present, Lesley Wake Webster still expresses deep respect for Jesus. “The first word that comes into my mind when you say ‘Jesus’ is forgiveness,” she says.

“The idea of Christ’s love as self-sacrificing, forgiving, absolving. To me that was one of the most powerful lessons of growing up in the church—the idea that there is forgiveness no matter what a person does or says. If they’re seeking to be forgiven for it, there is grace and forgiveness.”

She adds, “I would say now, as I said, I’m agnostic, so my relationship with the Judeo-Christian tradition has changed a little bit. But I still think of Jesus as the epitome of forgiveness and grace, and honestly how we should all treat each other.

Secret #5: Writing Jokes for Perfect Harmony is Hard Work. Sort Of.

Moving to lighter topics, Webster happily gives a glimpse of what it’s like to work as a writer on her show. “We roll into the writers room about 10:30 a.m., which I know sounds scandalously late! The traffic is so terrible, you either have to start at about 6:00 a.m. or around 10:00 a.m., one way or another, or else you’re just going to sit in rush hour traffic.”

“After that,” she laughs, “we do the very important job of deciding what we’re going to order for lunch, which is no small part of our morning. We actually, just for fun, we have a wheel that we spin to decide who gets to pick the lunch place. That brings a little fun and whimsy into the room.”

Continues Webster, “Then our days are divided between pitching story ideas for upcoming episodes, and rewriting and punching up scripts that are currently in the pipeline … This morning a small group of us were sitting around talking about what’s going to be the story in the finale. How do we see that unfolding? Later this afternoon we will switch over to polishing a script that is the next script to be read. We keep a good amount of variety.”

Then, says Webster, “our day in the writer’s room ends somewhere between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. depending on how industrious we’ve been or how far behind we are.”

Secret #6: Lesley Wake Webster is an INFP on the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator

According to Webster, “I am pretty good at guessing someone’s Myers-Briggs [personality] type!” One might even call it her hidden talent. Webster herself is an “INFP,” which is an inherently creative personality driven by high values and typified as an Idealist and a Mediator.

“INFPs are like, 80% writers,” she laughs, and it’s easy to see how this personality influences her work on Perfect Harmony. She says, “Comedy [is] not only what I want to do for my living, but also…something that is uplifting. It can be a life-changer for people. So even though sometimes it’s very silly to work on a sitcom, I like to think that we’re making the world a little bit easier to bear for people.”

She adds, “When someone tells me, later, that something I said or did helped them through a hard time, that is the most meaningful thing to me.”

Secret #7: Lesley Wake Webster Worries about Disappointing You

Perhaps because she’s an idealist, and a mediator-type, Webster’s final thoughts during our interview are about you, the PopFam.com reader.

“I hope it’s not a disappointment to your readers that I am not an active churchgoer,” she says, almost apologetically. “I’m sure that would’ve made a better story. But I felt like I should be honest.”

“I guess I’m currently in the place of feeling like I want to connect with what is great in the world. I believe there is something divine out there, but I think that divinity might show itself to us in more ways than simply the traditional religions, the traditional monotheistic traditions even. So I guess I’m in a place of embracing not knowing, if that makes sense.”

Secret #8: You Can Contact Lesley Wake Webster on Instagram

If you’d like to send a note to Lesley Wake Webster and the writers of Perfect Harmony, Webster gives this advice:

“A great way for people to contact me is through the PerfectHarmonyWriters Instagram. Several of our writers actually read it every day, and they will tell me, ‘Hey, you should respond to this.’”

–MN

All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.


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Bob Griese: In His Own Words

Few people can legitimately claim to be legends in their own lifetimes—but for Bob Griese the term “legend” is used with great regularity anyway.

Fans of the gridiron know that Bob Griese is the ONLY quarterback in NFL history to lead his team—the 1972 Miami Dolphins—to an undefeated, championship season. What’s more, this hall-of-fame QB has also achieved near-legendary status as a network television broadcaster for college football games—and he’s the father of Brian Griese, (former) quarterback for the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

What many people don’t know, however, is that this living legend has also had his share of heartache and defeat. When his wife, Judi, succumbed to cancer in February of 1998, Bob found himself both a widower and a single father. How did he cope?

Let’s find out as Bob Griese tells us in his own words…

▲▲▲

NerdFans (Us):

Thanks for joining us today, Bob. Let’s start off with your book, Undefeated, which you co-authored with your son, Denver Broncos quarterback, Brian Griese, and with biographer, Jim Denney. What first prompted you and Brian to write this book?

Bob Griese (BG):

Well, Brian and I weren’t interested in jumping and writing a book. We’re both pretty private people. I think the first blush, the first opportunity came a couple of years ago after the football season that Brian had at the University of Michigan, where they went undefeated and won the national championship.

US:

Brian was Rose Bowl MVP, right?

BG:

And I’m in the press box doing the broadcast with Keith Jackson, and Brian’s on the field, and I’d played in this same game—the Rose Bowl when I was at Purdue thirty-one years earlier. We had done five of Brian’s games earlier in the season—in broadcasting. The year before we hadn’t done any because the folks at ABC Sports didn’t want thought of conflict being in Brian the quarterback at Michigan and I’m broadcasting some of his games. So we didn’t do any Michigan games the year before, but then they relented and said, “This might be a good thing.”

US:

So now you two have taken that “good thing” and put it in book form. What was it like to work with your son on this book?

BG:

Well, it was interesting. It was fun. If you could see the way Jim Denney wrote the book, the layout, the format—

US:

It’s very conversational.

BG:

Yeah. He sat down and talked to us. He saw a competitive spirit, a back-and-forth, some kind of a special bonding, kidding that went back and forth in these interviews that he wanted to capture in the book. And that’s why he wrote the book the way he did—to capture that camaraderie, that back-and-forth that he saw when he was talking to us. And he wanted that to carry over in the book and I think he did a nice job of it.

US:

What does the title, Undefeated, mean for you and your family?

BG:

Well the term “undefeated” came from the fact that the Dolphins of 1972 won the Super Bowl undefeated; and Brian, twenty-five years later at Michigan, went undefeated and won a national championship. And [Brian’s mother] Judi, even though she lost her battle to cancer, her spirit still remains undefeated in our lives and in all the people that knew her and that she overcame cancer, and she’s still living and we’ll see her again. So I think the title, Undefeated, has a three-prong message there.

US:

Now, you and your family lost Judi to cancer when Brian was only twelve years old. What can you share with other parents about that experience?

BG:

All three of our boys—and we had three sons—they all turned out to be good, solid, Christian young men…Brian lost his mother when he was twelve, but his mother had twelve years of influence on him and I think the parents out there have to realize that they get these kids—their children—and the time to shape them is from the time they’re born until they’re about ten or twelve years old. Because once they get to be teenagers and the peer pressure and going to school and all this other stuff, you know you might lose them.

But if you have a strong foundation and be with your kids and do the right thing and teach them right thing, in the home as well in school and church or playground, that’s when you have the chance to influence your kids. And if you miss that—if you’re gone every weekend, if you’re traveling places—even though you love your kids, if you’re not around them, if you’re not with them, you’re missing an opportunity that you may regret when they’re fifteen or sixteen years old.

US:

Or even when they’re twenty-five or twenty-six, huh?

BG:

Yeah.

US:

After you lost Judi, what were your goals as a single father?

BG:

Well, I just wanted everything to be normal for Brian. And Brian was the only one that was home [then]. If it had been two or three of them at home or one of the other boys, I’d have done the same thing.

My father died when I ten, so I had been there where Brian was and I remember what my mother did for me and the things she did for me was make sure that my life didn’t change. I had lost my father but she made sure that this wasn’t a big scar on my life any more than it was losing a father—we’re not going to move, you’re not going to change doing from what you were doing. Just keep on doing what you were doing and that’s what I wanted Brian.

So we had a routine where I would get up early in the morning with him before he went to school, or his mother would always get up with him and make him breakfast and get him off to school. Now I did that, and it was a way of bonding.

US:

What kind of advice would you give to a reader who may also be struggling with the loss of a loved one in his or her family?

BG:

Well, if you have kids—if it’s a father parent and you have young kids, I’d say, “Be there with the kids and try to do as much for him to keep his routine the same.” My mother did that for me, and I did that for Brian. And now talking with him about it, I mean, that made a big difference.

US:

Of course Judi can never be replaced, but I understand you have remarried. What can you tell us about your wife, Shay and the blessings that she’s brought to your family?

BG:

Well, Shay’s a great lady. She came into our lives about four years after Judi passed away and I was hanging around with Brian a lot in the evenings, not doing much cause I wasn’t thinking about getting remarried. I’d never dated or anything like that; met Shay on an airplane and had lunch with her a couple of times, and then we started dating. But I didn’t want to do anything serious until I don’t know how much later on. [Brian] must have been sixteen, seventeen. He might have been a junior or senior in high school. He finally, he said, “Dad, you need to get yourself a friend and stop hanging around with me.” He says, “You need to get on with your life here.” So then I knew that it was time to maybe do something seriously in that regard.

US:

Well, Bob, that ends our time together. Thank you very much for sharing time and your story with the readers at www.NerdFans.com.

BG: Thank you.


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Marvel Comics Speaks to Parents

One on One with Axel Alonso, Editor in Chief at Marvel Comics

Logo: San Diego Comic-Con

If you’ve ever been to Comic-Con in San Diego, you know who the star of the show really is: Marvel Comics.

Marvel is the reason why your kids can’t get enough of heroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, and all those others. So, if you’re at Comic-Con this year and want to thank, or curse, somebody for that, here’s the guy you want to talk to. (Yeah, that handsome bald guy next to Spidey in the picture.) This man is responsible for your kid’s superhero obsession. His name is Axel Alonso, and he’s the Editor in Chief at Marvel Comics. That means:

  • When your child demands a Spider-Man costume for Halloween, it’s Axel Alonso’s fault.
  • When your young’un refuses to take off his beat-up, increasingly stained “superhero cape” well, Axel made ‘im do it.
  • When all your hard earned money goes toward Captain America comics, Black Widow dolls, and Agent Coulson collectible cards, Mr. Alonso considers that a job well done.

So what’s Marvel’s big deal with your family? We decided to find out…

ABOUT AXEL ALONSO

Axel Alonso began his career as hardworking magazine writer and editor after earning a Masters Degree in journalism from Columbia University. In 1994, mostly out of curiosity, he applied for a job at DC Comics and—bang!—he got it. Six years later, Marvel Comics came calling and a new era of pop culture history began.

Axel arrived at Marvel with a mandate to reinvigorate the ailing Spider-Man franchise. Numerous bestsellers and motion picture blockbusters followed.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Alonso.

For most of the next decade, Axel has lent his considerable talent toward shaping the stories of Marvel’s most classic heroes like Iron Man, Spider-Man, The Avengers, and the X-Men. His choices during this tenure in Midtown Manhattan have literally defined pop culture in America today.

In 2011, Axel he took on the role of Editor in Chief—or as USA Today described him, “The Main Man at Marvel Comics.”

As EIC, Axel’s in charge of every superhero comic published by Marvel—The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Four, and more. The stories he publishes in comic book form influence immeasurably the films your kids eventually see in theatres—and what our pop-obsessed society views as cool.

So, yeah, if your kid loves superheroes, it’s definitely Axel Alonso’s fault.

With that kind of influence in American families, we just had to find out more about the man (and the company) behind the many masks. What’s Marvel Comics all about, really? Why are they so interested in your kids? And why do kids need superheroes anyway?

Fortunately, Axel Alonso is a pretty cool guy, and he generously took time out of his busy schedule to chat with parents in answering those questions—and more. Care to listen in?

Marvel’s EIC Talks to Parents (and Us)

Us:

Axel, thanks so much for taking time to chat with us. Let’s start off with the basics: In your own words, what is Marvel Comics?

AXEL ALONSO:

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.

Us:

Marvel Comics has become more than simply a “House of Ideas.” Your company’s superheroes and stories wield a significant influence on American culture. That’s great power and, as Marvel taught us, it brings with it great responsibility. How does Marvel Comics handle that culture-shaping responsibility?

AXEL ALONSO:

With over 70-plus 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.

Us:

Marvel Comics are loved by all ages, but we still associate superhero stories with children. In fact, some people think that comics and superheroes should only be for children. Others take the opposite view, saying that superhero stories don’t provide good role models for emotionally healthy childhood development.

Both those perspectives raise one important question: Why do kids need superheroes?

AXEL ALONSO:

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.

Us:

Kids are obviously an important part of Marvel’s audience, as evidenced by everything from Spider-Man picture books to Iron Man kids’ magazines to Super Hero Squad cartoons and a number of kid-friendly comic book titles.

Why is Marvel so interested in reaching kids today, when more adult-oriented products seem to make more money?

AXEL ALONSO:

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.

Us:

Some parents worry that Marvel Comics are too violent, political, sexualized, and so on. What would you like to say to those parents?

AXEL ALONSO:

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.

Us:

If you and I were just hanging out at a barbecue, casually solving the problems of the universe over burgers and brats, what would you say is most important in life—and how is that reflected in your work?

AXEL ALONSO:

What’s the most important thing in life? Sounds corny, I know, but 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.

–MN

All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.


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