Posts Tagged ‘ Iron Man ’

Villains: The New Hero?

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

This is a guest post by Vinnie Penn, whose show, The Vinnie Penn Project, airs on Connecticut radio station 960/WELI.  He’s wondering why his son’s friends prefer villains instead of heroes. Times have changed since Vinnie was a kid, and it looks like not everyone wants to be the good guy anymore. boy in superhero costume

My 6-year-old son came home from school in a bad mood one day. This is not commonplace. It seems he and his friends were playing “The Avengers” during recess and he didn’t get to be Hawkeye, his favorite superhero in the group. (“The Avengers” was the game du jour for the majority of the Fall of 2012, thanks to the blockbuster summer film based on the much-loved Marvel Comic series.) He was relegated to Thor, which you’d think would be considered a score, what with this particular character having a franchise all his own, and even a sequel due this coming Fall. But, no, my son prefers the archer Hawkeye, a hero with zero super-powers, just a sharp eye and an arrow for every occasion. He kept getting bounced between Thor and Hulk, both dead last picks on this elementary school playground, Iron Man, Captain America and Hawkeye being the most-coveted. With – get this – villain Loki right up there with that trio.

By Spring 2013 life got better at school. My little guy came home beaming one day that he “got to be” Luke Skywalker during recess. (The whole thing begs the question of who was doling out the roles; what is the process – could it be the time-honored rock, paper, scissor? I never inquired.) I suggested maybe he landed the plum gig of Luke because that’s his name. He shook his head no, still waving an imaginary light-saber, off, ostensibly, to destroy the Death Star. As of a few weeks ago he was Batman almost every day for a stretch, opting for Robin one day just to mix things up. Life was good.   

Then, one night at dinner, he brought up Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Recess again; he was curious as to why any of his classmates would want to be the bad guy at all, basically inferring that being the bad guy was the stuff of short straw-drawing. “Daddy,” he began, “how come they all fought over who got to be Darth Vader?” I suggested it could perhaps be the voice, the “I am your father,” and so on and so forth. But when he pressed, moving on to The Joker, Batman’s ultimate nemesis, and wondering why everyone wanted to be him – “Even Matthew!!” – I drew a real blank. The Joker of my youth bordered on buffoon and got very little screen time. Today’s Joker is, arguably, the star of the show. In the Tim Burton film version Jack Nicholson is billed before Michael Keaton, the former playing the villain and the latter the hero! When did the villain become the star?

“They all say The Joker’s cool,” my Luke added, incredulous. He went on: “I’m like, cool? He’s the bad guy!” Then, after a pause, a gulp of milk, a bit of thought, he said softly, “But whatever. I love being Batman.” He’s a rare breed nowadays, I thought to myself. Not necessarily my son – the hero.  

Image: boy in superhero costume, via Shutterstock

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How a 5-Year-Old Inspired Marvel to Create a New Superhero and Custom Iron Man Poster

Monday, March 4th, 2013

“Superheroes don’t wear hearing aids.”

When 5-year-old Anthony Smith uttered those words to his mother, Christina, one day last year, he had been wearing his hearing aid without issue for four months. But that morning he woke up and decided that since his favorite superheroes didn’t wear hearing aids, he didn’t want to either.

Born with mosaic trisonomy 22, Anthony’s parents knew he would suffer from hearing loss. Because of a complicated childbirth and other health concerns, Anthony didn’t receive his first hearing aid device until he was 2-and-a-half-years-old. “One of our big regrets is that we didn’t push harder, sooner, because it made a miraculous difference,” said Christina.

While the first device Anthony had to wear was painful, the second one — the blue Phonak hearing aid referred to by his family as “blue ear” — seemed to be a perfect fit until Anthony decided he didn’t want to wear it anymore. Not willing to give up on a device that was helping to improve his speech and language skills, Cristina came up with a solution: “I lied. I said superheroes do wear hearing aids.” Anthony, of course, wanted to know which superheroes his mom was referring to, so Christina wrote an email to Marvel, publisher of comic books and creator of many famous superheroes, asking for help.

Although her email was sent to a general catch-all “fan mail” account, the Marvel team saw it and responded. As it turns out, superheroes do wear hearing aids: Hawkeye, a member of the popular Avengers team, had lost his hearing during a fight and wore a hearing aid for a period of time in the 1980s. But the Marvel team went a step further and created a new character, Blue Ear, to be Hawkeye’s sidekick in a special one-off comic book created just for Anthony.

That private gesture didn’t remain private for long, though. Almost a year ago, the story of Marvel creating a superhero for one little boy went viral. CNN, Gawker, and the Huffington Post were among the news outlets that picked up Anthony’s story.

While media attention eventually died down, the Marvel team went to work figuring out how to make the specific character appeal to others. “We immediately thought of Iron Man,” said Bill Rosemann, Marvel Custom Solutions Editor. After suffering a chest injury, Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter ego), relies on a suit of armor to live, similar to how Anthony relies on his hearing aid to hear. Iron Man is also one of the most widely-known and popular superheroes, thanks to two blockbuster movies in the past five years (with a third movie due out this May).

Iron Man was also a perfect fit for Kimberly Rawn and the team at Phonak, manufacturers of hearing technology for children and adults. “[Iron Man's story] was a complete parallel to what hearing technology does for kids and adults,” said Rawn. Together, Phonak and Marvel created a poster (see below) to educate children and lessen the stigma of wearing hearing aids.

The poster was revealed last week at the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City. At the event, Anthony said his favorite superhero is now Iron Man. Christina added, “[The past year] has been amazing and I think the biggest impact on [Anthony] has been him being a great self-advocate.”

But what about Blue Ear? His turn in the spotlight may not be done just yet. When asked if there are any plans for him in the works, Rosemann said, “Well, you never know. The more we get asked about it, the more we think what could be done, so I always say, ‘Stay tuned.’”

Image: Anthony Smith and Iron Man by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Phonak/AP Images

Poster: Marvel/Phonak Iron Man poster by Christos Gage and Paco Medina

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