Robot 6

Marvel Bullpen assembles to help mom and her hearing-impaired son

West Coast Avengers #1

When a 4-year-old from New Hampshire didn’t want to wear his hearing aid, Hawkeye came to the rescue — with a lot of help from the Marvel Bullpen.

As we reported yesterday, Christina D’Allesandro’s son Anthony Smith didn’t want to wear his “blue ear” hearing aid because he said superheroes didn’t wear them. So she sent a blind email to Marvel, hoping that maybe that wasn’t true and they could point to one who did.

“Christina sent her touching letter in to the mheroes@marvel.com address, a general ‘fan mail’ account which is shared by a group of us in editorial,” Marvel Editor Bill Rosemann told Robot 6. “She didn’t know a specific person to write to here at Marvel, and even figured it might get caught in our spam filters, but she sent it in anyway, because that’s the kind of great parent Christina is. And it was her inspiring effort to help her son that touched so many of us here. As a fellow parent of a toddler, I can understand where she’s coming from, so I forwarded the email around the rest of Editorial, asking what we could do to help, and like when Cap yells, ‘Avengers Assemble,’ the gang leapt into action.”

Rosemann said the mail account gets a lot of traffic, the majority of which are messages from fans about specific issues or stories.

“I must admit that we get our fair share of negative letters, often insulting a creator’s efforts. On the other hand, occasionally we will receive a personal letter, telling us how Marvel’s characters and creators inspired someone to help others or overcome real world struggles,” Rosemann said. “Those are the types of letters that express the true heart of what Marvel is all about … and in this case, when Christina made the simple request to help her child … well, how could we not act? After all, didn’t Stan Lee teach us something about great power and great responsibility?”

And yes, Anthony, there is a superhero with a hearing impairment — or at least there was in the 1980s. Rosemann said Executive Editor Tom Brevoort pointed out that Hawkeye suffered from hearing loss when he was the leader of the Avengers’ West Coast branch (although continuity buffs will remember that Franklin Richards healed Hawkeye after the events in Heroes Reborn).

“Tom Brevoort brought up Hawkeye’s loss of hearing back in the ‘80s, which spurred me to send a shot of the West Coast Avengers #1 cover to Christina, suggesting that she tell Anthony that not only do superheroes definitely wear hearing aids, but that he could be an honorary Avenger if he wore his,” Rosemann said. “Lauren Sankovitch passed the email to Nelson Ribeiro in Collected Editions, who then delivered his full-color Mighty Marvel Masterpiece spotlighting the brave Blue Ear. Finally, Tom Brennan reached out to Manny Mederos in the Bullpen, who then drew his awesome team-up shot of Hawkeye and Blue Ear. So just as every one of our comics can only reach readers through the action of many hands, this too was truly a team effort.”

The coming of … Blue Ear!

Ribeiro, who works in Marvel’s Trades and Special Projects Department as an assistant editor, said the name of Anthony’s device inspired him to create the new hero, Blue Ear.

Blue Ear

“As I was reading Anthony’s story, the name for his device just kept sticking out to me,” Ribeiro said. “‘Blue Ear.’ It just sounded like a superhero name. All that was missing was the ‘The’ in front of it. So I went home and drew out a few sketches of what ‘The Blue Ear’ would look like. From the story, I knew Anthony didn’t want to wear his device, so I wanted to make sure that The Blue Ear’s listening device was very prominent and very important to his ability as a super hero. And since Anthony is a 4-year-old boy, I wanted the piece to be very bright and colorful like a Saturday-morning cartoon. I tried to write all the captions in a way which would focus on how important it is for the Blue Ear to wear his device. Hopefully, Anthony would also realize how important it is for him to wear it everyday as well.”

Mederos, who works as a production artist, wanted to team his version of Blue Ear with Hawkeye.

“When I first heard about Anthony, I was really excited to be a part of this project and his story was very touching. For me super heroes are meant to inspire and bring the best out of people and that’s what Anthony did for me,” Mederos told Robot 6. “We knew that at one point in Marvel’s history Hawkeye wore a hearing device, so we wanted to include him in the piece. So as I was sketching out the characters, I thought to myself, ‘What better way for a child to connect with a hero than the hero be a child himself?’ So The Blue Ear would be a young superhero with extra hearing abilities, thanks to his mighty hearing aid device and helps all of those in need.”

The work done by the team at Marvel inspired news stories in the Concord Monitor and the local television station WMUR. Both artists were touched by Anthony’s reaction to the artwork.

“I was able to see a local New Hampshire news channel that covered Anthony’s story and saw his reaction when his mom Christina showed him the Hawkeye and The Blue Ear piece I drew,” Mederos said. “Seeing him filled with joy made my day and helped reinforce that this medium really reaches out to all ages. Super heroes are great in every way.”

“I was so happy to find out that Anthony liked the piece of artwork I created for him. He was the person I was most worried about pleasing. If everyone at work liked it but he hated it, then I would’ve felt like I let him down,” Ribeiro said. “And I don’t think my artwork has had as much an impact on his life as he had on mine. He is a 4-year-old little boy who has to deal with such a hardship every day, and his first thought was he didn’t want to wear his device because he wanted to be a superhero. He wasn’t even worried about his hearing condition, he just thought superheroes didn’t wear hearing devices. That to me is what makes Anthony amazing because now that he knows that, yes, there are heroes who wear hearing devices, he doesn’t see any other obstacles in his way of achieving his goal to be a hero. But being able to face his situation with such courage, already makes him a hero to me.”

Anthony’s story seems to hit right at the heart of what’s made Marvel’s heroes stand out over the years, whether you’re talking about medical conditions like Daredevil’s blindness or Iron Man’s heart condition, or even just the daily trials of Peter Parker. These are heroes who have had to overcome some sort of obstacle or physical limitation to become who they are, which can be inspiring.

“From the very first issues that kicked off the Marvel Age of comics to the books that are heading off to stores this month, our creators understand the power that our characters have to change readers’ lives,” Rosemann said. “The brilliant truth that our founding creators understood was that giving our characters physical and psychological challenges not only made them unique from the ‘square-jawed’ heroes that came before, and not only instantly made them sympathetic and more three-dimensional, but it also gave them the ability to inspire our readers to overcome their own obstacles. The metaphor of the Marvel heroes is the very real idea that all of us–no matter our particular type of challenge–can push back against adversity and use our abilities to help the world around us.”

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Comments

32 Comments

What a kind thing to do. Good on Marvel.

I actually remember when Hawkeye was hearing-impaired. This was used as the basis for a gag in the “Assistant Editors’ Month” issue of Avengers with David Letterman, in fact. Man, was that a long time ago.

I would have to say that this nifty little epilogue, 30 years later, is probably the most interesting story to come out of that change to the character, however. Good to see something human and positive going on at Marvel.

Damn you, Quesada!

Oh wait…

I am usually a Marvel hater—but nice one Marvel.

I feel stupid saying this, but I was a Marvel fan in the 80′s then switched over to DC and pretty much remained there for a long while. I only stepped back occasionally to checkup on Spider-man or Hulk. With my limited knowledge of only one era of Hawkeye I just assumed he was the hearing impaired hero (Much like Daredevil being blind, or Professor X being in a wheelchair). I just assumed that was a major part of his character. Needless to say I was really confused when in the Thor movie He did all his communicating over that regular earpiece and had to go on Wikipedia to check. I was surprised to find out that he had only been hearing impaired for a short amount of his career. I imagine it would be like someone who only read comics durring the Age of Apocalypse era and then seeing the X-men films, or only reading the Punisher is an avenging angel series and thinking that was the norm and then seeing any of the films.

Meanwhile in Moonknight, the only deaf super heroin gets her neck broken by Count Nefaria.

It’s great that they are willing to help Quesada this way.

j/k

Great move by the bullpen.

Poor Hawkeye. Hearing loss, dying, almost blindness. when will the guy catch a break.

What an awesome story!

However, as someone who works with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community on a daily basis, I think it’s worth pointing out that the term “hearing impaired” is considered derogatory. I don’t blame the usage of the term on any type of bias, but more on ignorance regarding Deaf/Hard of Hearing Culture. All that aside, what Marvel did for this kid was wonderful.

Jeremy, what is the pc term for people with hearing disabilities?

i’m actually disappointed in how superheroes are only “inconvenienced” by disabilities….Hawkeye was deaf from 1983 to 1992…a respectable amount of time….until he is ‘magicaly’ cured

heck Tony Stark lost the sue of his legs in 1989 (Iron man #243)….only to get a ‘miracle cure’ 5 months later in issue #248….(and considering ‘comic time’ is 1 1 to 5 scale, that was only a single month from Tony’s perspective)

and then of course professor x gains then loses, then gain the use of his legs again once a decade it seems

….should i even mention Batgirl? (still a sore spot.)

it’s wonderful that marvel took this kind of effort, but wondering how anthony will react to Hawkeye not being deaf anymore…..or any other disabled superhero who can find a miracle cure a few months later

@Matt: I assume it’s “hard of hearing”, since that’s the term he used, but he’s welcome to elaborate.

@Jeremy: Thanks for the heads-up; I wasn’t aware that “hearing impaired” was considered derogatory — it happens, sometimes, where a term that’s intended to be less offensive is actually MORE offensive to the community it refers to.

(Anecdotally, every Hopi or Navajo I’ve ever discussed the subject with would rather be called “Indian” than “Native American”.)

@Matt – Hard of Hearing or deaf will usually suffice. Some don’t care about the term “hearing impaired” but there are a lot in the Deaf Community who view it as an implication of them being less human than others. I just look at it as good practice to avoid using it altogether, just in case. If you want to get REALLY politically correct you could call them “people with hearing differences”. :)

@ Thad – I look at it along the same lines as the term “retarded” which from the medical point-of-view was once considered an acceptable term, but now carries with it a huge negative connotation. Nobody knew that it was really derogatory unless they were educated of that fact.

Regardless, this is the kind of story I love to forward to colleagues. :)

The Marvel Bullpen are good people. When I was teaching at a inner city middle school in Kansas City, I started a comic book club where kids could come in and read comics. I emailed Tom Breevort about it and he forwarded the email to Joe Quesada and others. They sent me close to two dozen trades for the club that I used as a library for the kids. For me to buy all of those would have easily cost a couple hundred bucks.
(Also, Matt Fraction and Jason Arron were both kind enough to come in a speak with the kids on more than one occasion.)

THIS IS BEYOND KIND AND SUCH A WONDERFUL THING FOR MARVEL TO HAVE DONE FOR THIS BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BOY! I AM SO HUMBLED TO HAVE THE HONOR TO CALL NELSON RIBEIRO MY BEST FRIEND. BRAVO MARVEL COMICS!!!!!

Seriously? People use the term hearing impaired because their hearing IS impaired. How is that derogatory? The funny thing is now it’s supposedly alright to say someone is deaf, when hearing impaired was the p.c. replacement for deaf. Give me a break. None of these terms are derogatory.

Also, what a great thing Marvel did for this kid. Good job guys!

Hearing Impaired

May 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm

As someone who has worn hearing aids since age 5, I use the term “hearing impaired” and this is the first I’ve ever heard of it being considered derogatory. If Jeremy could please elaborate on why he and others feel that way, that would be great.

From what I understand, there are many among the Deaf Community who don’t like the medical model approach to classifying their deafness. To them, it implies that they are somehow less than human. Their ears don’t work, but they are otherwise normal, healthy individuals. To say they are impaired implies that they are broken. Missing something. But, like I said before, there are some in the Deaf Community like the above, who don’t mind it at all. Like all culture groups, there is a large spectrum of people within it, with varying opinions on what is right and what is wrong.

I just usually try to take the better safe than sorry approach – since it doesn’t affect me personally. I work within a large Deaf Community, and would hate to marginalize any of the students that I work with by using a term that some of them may consider offensive. Even if they don’t find it derogatory, it’s just not worth the risk.

Great story-but why do I feel like I’m cutting onions in a dust storm?
Oh yeah-because if you cut away all the garbage-it’s about how comics and fictional characters can really inspire people.
Just awesome.

Johnny Sarcastic

May 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Jeremy: My mom and dad are both deaf and in my 30 years, I have never heard from them (nor from their giant, multi-generational circle of friends) that the term “hearing impaired” is a negative term at all.

It definitely has to be a local thing for you or something. We live in Eastern Ontario (think Toronto-area).

Johnny – That’s interesting. I wonder if it IS a local thing – I live in the greater Rochester NY area, and there is a large deaf population here. It could be the influence of NTID or transplanted Gallaudet professors that has led to this particular issue. I know that when I started working at NTID that we were told NEVER to use the term hearing impaired because it was considered derogatory. But, as I’ve said before, there are some who don’t really care about it either way, like your parents and their friends. There are a number of “Deaf Power” Capital “D” Deaf people in the area, and that could be the source of this as well.

Thank you Marvel for accepting the challenge and making a difference in a young boys life. You are helping him overcome the hurdles of becoming one of our next great superheroes. To his Supermom, awesome job for reaching out to his Marvel Team of superheroes to help overcome life’s little villains.

it would be cool if the blue ear made a actual comic appearance in hawkeye’s new book.

all in all, it made me proud to be a comics conneisuer.

This is what super heroes were meant for.

Thank you for such a touching story – and an inspiration for our kids with hearing loss. I am a teacher for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students and I will definitely share this story with them. The more crossover there is between hearing loss and the “cool stuff” like comics, the less our students feel a stigma about wearing hearing aids. Thanks for giving me a lesson that can fill the final days of school and end the year on a positive, heartwarming note.

FYI – In MN we also steer away from hearing impaired. Hard of hearing is our preferred term, but individuals make their own choices. Much like referring to a Native American by individual tribe, it is a personal preference, in my opinion.

You Marvel guys are supeheroes.

I read this article on an Italian website and I fell really proud for you guys!!Anthony is my superhero!

David

Naples, Italy

Marvel Team,

I saw article about new character called Blue Ear based on deaf character. This is very nice!

Now, will you please tell another department to start provide closed captioning for deaf audience on all videos! (whether it is DVD or streaming — note: not all of them have captioned)

I’ve been reading Marvel comics for many years — Iron Man is my favorite one since I was 5 years old.

Pretty please!

I would love to get a copy of this. I am a hearing aid dispenser and fit reluctant children. This would be a wonderful motivational tool! Is this possible?

Mom of a "Blue Ear" kid

January 19, 2013 at 8:09 am

Our family loves Marvel! My boys, and my husband, can name every super hero Marvel had every made! They love watching your movies with the sound all the way up, and thats partly because of my son Dylan. My son is also a 4 year old boy who just recently got new hearing aids. He was by no means excited to have them. It made him different from his big brother and sister, and different from everyone else he had ever meet. Since we don’t know anyone with heating aids, he knew he was now very different. As a mother struggling with this new adjustment for my son, I am very impressed with the lengths that Marvel went to to help a child deal with this adjustment! Marvel is a true hero in this story!

I was wondering if there was any way to get a copy of the cover with Hawkeye and Blue Ear for my son Dylan? He is a Marvel super fan!

To Jeremy.

I was born deaf. I grew up deaf. They did some surgery, now I am hearing impaired. I was mocked for talking funny most of my life. Being mocked is offensive. I am not offended by accurate and concise terms. But I am offended when Marvel does something so *freaking* cool for a 4 year old kid and some tool goes online to toss around the word derogatory. Shame on you.

To marvel and the guy that stepped up for the kid, thank you so much. You guys are awesome and many of your marvel mutant characters who suffered serious problems (like Rogue and Cyclops) were very inspirational to me as a kid. I’ve not bought a comic in years (but will always remember fondly those stories I read as a kid.

Cheers. :)

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