By Tim Stevens
Like so many of us, Anthony Smith just wants to be like his favorite super heroes.
He wants to be as strong as The Hulk, as fast as Quicksilver, as smart as Mister Fantastic, and as funny as Spider-Man. However, when he looked up to his favorites, he saw that none of them seemed to be like him in one key way: none of them wore a hearing aid. So, despite the device—which he and his family call the “blue ear”—giving him the ability to hear the world around him, he rejected it.
His mother, Christina D'Allesandro, frustrated by the development and at a loss of how to convince her son that heroes could wear hearing aids, reached out to Marvel in the hopes that some character or image could show her son he need not sacrifice his hearing to be one of the good guys.
“Christina sent her heartfelt letter in to the general catch-all ‘fan mail’ account which is shared by the Heroes group in editorial,” Editor Bill Rosemann recalls. “She didn’t address it to a specific person and she even mentioned that it would probably end up in our spam filters, but she sent it in anyway, because Christina is one of the real heroes in this story.
“It was her inspiring effort to help her son that touched so many of us here and spurred us into action,” he continued. “I forwarded the e-mail around to the rest of Editorial, asking what we could do to help, wondering if anyone knew any artists who would be willing to draw something for Anthony. And just like when Captain America yells, ‘Avengers Assemble,’ the team leapt into action.”
Marvel Senior VP - Executive Editor and resident history expert Tom Brevoort provided the first important piece.
“Tom was the one that was nice enough to remind me that Hawkeye lost his hearing back in the 80’s, during his solo [limited series],” Rosemann explains, “I was able to very quickly find and send a jpg of WEST COAST AVENGERS #1 cover to Christina. I told her that not only do super heroes in fact where hearing aids, but that Hawkeye, an actual Avenger, wears them and that if Anthony wore his, he’d become an honorary Avenger.”
Not satisfied enough to simply promise Anthony honorary status Rosemann and company wanted to deliver in drawn reality.
“[Editor] Lauren Sankovitch shared the e-mail with Nelson Ribeiro
in Collected Editions, who then created his Mighty Marvel Masterpiece spotlighting the bold Blue Ear,” the editor says. “Then [editor] Tom Brennan reached out to the Bullpen’s own Manny Mederos, who drew his awesome team-up shot of Hawkeye and Blue Ear.”
The efforts did not go unappreciated by Anthony or D’ Allesandro. In fact, they echoed all the way through the halls of the boy’s school, HEAR in New Hampshire, an institute dedicated specifically to educating the hearing impaired.
“One of the best things about this entire experience has been Christina relating to us in a series of e-mails how much the art has excited Anthony,” Rosemann points out. He’s been running around with the pin-ups, showing them to his friends at school, which inspired the teachers to organize a ‘Dress Like a Super Hero’ event.”
As for convincing Anthony to don his hearing aid going forward, well that too proved successful—and then some:
“Christina tells me that Anthony is wearing his hearing aid so he can be like Blue Ear and listen for other people’s cries for help—and she’s also ordered him a special Blue Ear costume!”