|Marvel/Phonak Iron Man poster by Christos Gage and Paco Medina|
By Elaine Gomez
Many consider Iron Man and Captain America brave heroes, but the same could be said for Anthony Smith, a child born with a genetic chromosome abnormality that has affected not only his ear development and hearing, but also his heart and speech. Last year, he refused to put on his hearing aid, which he calls “Blue Ear,” because he thought that super heroes didn’t wear them. In an effort to make amends, his mother Christina D’Allesandro contacted Marvel and asked if there were any hearing-impaired heroes in the Marvel Universe. Her e-mail reached Bill Rosemann, current editor of AVENGERS ARENA, who sent the family an image featuring Hawkeye during the time he wore hearing aids. But it didn’t end there. Marvel staffers Manny Mederos and Nelson Ribeiro created special pin-ups of Anthony transformed into the new hero known as Blue Ear, who uses his super-enhanced hearing aid to hear those in need of saving.
Anthony’s story and Marvel’s contribution in putting a smile on his face not only generated massive media coverage, but also reached families around the world facing similar challenges. On Tuesday, February 26, Anthony and his family were invited to attend a special event honoring Anthony and the partnership created through his story between Marvel and his hearing aid supplier, Phonak, at the Center for Hearing and Communication.
Phonak, the largest distributor of hearing aids in the world, collaborated with Marvel Custom Solutions to create and distribute a poster written by Christos Gage and drawn by Paco Medina featuring Iron Man encountering a bullying incident between a hearing-impaired boy named Ethan and his classmates. Due to his challenge, Ethan’s classmates refused to play soccer with him. Iron Man descends from the sky and convinces the children to understand that a hearing aid serves as a piece of technology used to better a person’s life, just like his suit of armor helps him save the day. This poster went out to hundreds of medical offices all across the country with much success.
|Marvel/Phonak event (photo by Diane Bondareff)|
Anthony, along with his family and other children and parents from the center, gathered to not only receive a copy of the poster, but to also pose for photos with the Armored Avenger himself, who made a special appearance to meet Anthony.
“When Christina told us about Anthony, she taught us about some of the unique challenges that children who wear hearing aids face,” Rosemann said. “When our friends at Phonak heard about how the Marvel heroes helped him, they realized how together we could help spread the message even further.”
The room filled with gasps and children screaming, “Iron Man! Iron Man!” as soon as the Armored Avenger stepped inside. With him, he brought a surprise for Anthony: his very own Iron Man costume, which he received with a huge smile and immediately wanted to wear. After a few bagel pizzas, chicken nuggets, and cupcakes, the children lined up to take pictures with Iron Man. Everyone could see how happy Anthony was. His face glowed in excitement and awe in meeting a super hero face to face.