“What is a hero?”
That question, posed by the teacher of the high-flying Nova, is asked early in AVENGERS: HEROES WELCOME, the 14-page comic book which is the result of a collaborative effort between the advertising agency BBDO New York’s Diversity Council and Marvel Custom Solutions. The story, by acclaimed creators Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Brooks, not only answers that question, but also takes the time to show readers what does not define a hero: anything you can find on a demographics survey.
“From the debut of the Black Panther in 1966 to the launch of Ms. Marvel in 2014, Marvel has shown readers of all ages that heroes are defined not by the color of their skin, but by the character of their hearts,” explains Marvel Custom Solutions Creative Director Bill Rosemann. “Our writers, artists, and editors tell stories that, while containing larger than life elements, are grounded in the world around us and include all of the ingredients—from ethnicity to gender to religious beliefs—that make humans unique, complex, and fascinating.”
This message represents a perspective on diversity that BBDO New York CEO John Osborn feels very strong about both for advertising and society.
“[Diversity] is about celebrating the differences that make us individuals, something that also serves to unite us,” he asserts. “It’s about acceptance and inclusion. It’s the right thing to do for our business.”
To demonstrate how important both companies feel about the importance of diversity, not only did Marvel recruit two top talents to create the comic, but it and BBDO New York also teamed with the Police Athletic League of New York (PAL) to go on tour and bring the comic—which stars Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Wasp, She-Hulk, and Luke Cage—directly to young readers.
Reaching out to all five boroughs of New York City, the three organizations, led by BBDO’s SVP Director of Creative Engineering JD Michaels and Associate Creative Engineer Casey Adams, delivered events designed to put the comic in eager hands and also thrill them with added surprises. For instance, at PAL’s center in Harlem, children and teens not only received the comic but also met the Golden Avengers himself, Iron Man, face to face.
“The reactions among the unsuspecting kids were priceless,” Osborn reports in regards to the shocked, smiling faces and peels of excited laughter.
Rosemann expects the comic will achieve the same success with the students.
“AVENGERS: HEROES WELCOME not only shows that everyone can be a hero, but also explores the fact that even our smallest actions can have large repercussions,” he promises. “Younger readers will relate to the challenges that the teenaged Nova grapples with, and also see that even though the Avengers’ line-up includes a WWII-era Super Soldier, an Asgardian, an armored billionaire, a hero for hire from Harlem, and a seven-foot tall green-skinned lawyer, they all pull together and have each other’s backs when they are called upon to save the day.”