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"Captain America" to reboot interest in comics?

"Captain America" opens in theaters Friday across the U.S., but will the film keep comics alive?

"Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor recently visited the man behind Marvel Comics -- Editor in Chief Axel Alonso -- to find out.

Glor reports that, long before Captain America showed up in the 2011 summer film, he was seen on the cover of a Marvel comic book in the spring of 1941.

Showing Glor the original comic, Alonso said, "These are little pieces of history you are holding in your hands here."

Pictures: "Captain America" debuts

For more than 70 years, Marvel has been making comics, with writers and illustrators penning fantastic tales of good versus evil. Spider-Man, The Hulk and X-Men are just some of the company's heroes.

Alonso, pointing to characters in the comics, said, "That's' Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Magneto. ... I couldn't tell you who any of them were when I got the job."

That's because the latest caretaker of Marvel's famous characters is a guy who got into it by accident.

"Working in comics was never a goal," he said. "I went to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, I wrote for a bunch of papers, but I actually answered an ad in The New York Times for editors at DC Comics. And I thought 'Oh, I'd kinda like to check that out."'

After finding success at rival DC Comics, Alonso joined Marvel in 2001. This year, he was named editor in chief.

Alonso says of the job, "It's really satisfying for me. I have an 8-year-old son, and I'm actually cool, because what I do is I go to work and I deal with Spider-Man and The Hulk."

Though he can still walk anonymously through Times Square, Alonso is among the biggest names at this week's Comic-Con, the famed gathering in San Diego featuring the latest in science fiction and fantasy -- and all its highly-devoted fans.

Alonso said comics fans are "hardcore."

He said, "They're very opinionated. They let you know when they don't like something. At the end of the day, you have to hit them with the right story, you have to back up your event and just stand on your own two feet."

Alonso added, "In comic books, it's all about the story. People don't come to a Spider-Man comic book to see Spider-Man punch the Green Goblin -- they go to see the journey that brought him there."

Alonso's job is to keep those stories fresh week after week, no matter what's happened before and no matter what comes next.

So how have comics changed in the last 10 years?

Alonso said, "It's evident the moment you pick one up, when you look at the art, the level of technical skill that goes into the art."

But challenges remain. Overall, sales of comics have declined in the past decade, as their readers aging.

The modern day comic reader, Alonso said, is generally male, in his late 20s to early 40s.

Marvel, in part, hopes its films -- which so far have grossed $9 billion -- will help broaden the base of potential readers.

For example, as Captain America hits theaters this weekend, a new series about the character will be launching on newsstands.

But handheld media, such as the iPad, could be a game-changer in comics' future, Alonso says.

"The emergence of handheld media like the iPad is going to change things in a major way," he predicted. "That said, I don't believe print will ever go away."

Glor remarked to Alonso, "So, when you come in (to a comic store), you have this experience in mind. People coming in here, buying these comic and reading these stories."

"Very much so," Alonso replied. "In the back of your mind, you are always thinking about that guy coming by after work on a Wednesday and picking up his comic -- or better yet -- bringing his kid."

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