One of the first comic books I owned as a Spider-Man adventure that doubled as a powerful lesson about drug abuse and just saying no. Even in the regular comic books, there were public service messages amongst the action and the ads, like a particular Colgate ad I remember that featured Captain America teaming up with an anthropomorphized toothbrush and toothpaste to fight tooth decay. Lesson learned. Comics have the power to do more than be movie franchise fodder, and every now and then we remember that. To wit, Marvel is teaming up with the Children’s Hearing Institute of New York to create two brand new superheroes who can save the world while being hearing impaired: Sapheara and The Blue Ear.
According to ABC News, incorporating education and superheroes on the issue of those with hearing disability was the idea of Dr. Ronald Hoffman, the director at the Ear Institute at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Hoffman wanted to help kids with a hearing impairment, some of whom use a hearing aid or other devices to assist them, cope with being bullied and feeling singled out for their disability. He wanted to empower those kids, and then that got him thinking about super-powers.
“We wanted the pediatric patients to really revel in the experience of having a super hero all their own,” said Melissa Willis, executive director of the Children’s Hearing Institute, which hosted an event for the launch of an all new Iron Man comic featuring the introduction of Sapheara, a superheroine with a cochlear hearing implant, and her sidekick The Blue Ear, who has a hearing aid.
The hope is that the comic book will reach 150,000 kids in the New York area, and help reduce the stigma surrounding kids with hearing aids and other forms of technical assistance to hear properly, some of whom are bullied as well. “We’re very excited,” said Hoffman, who adds that it’s his hope that the comic book helps “enlighten children” and “promote tolerance and decrease bullying.”
“It is crucial parents and children understand the facts about hearing impairment and the many viable treatment options available for patients,” Hoffman said in a statement. “Having Sapheara as a resource for entertainment and education could help many more patients receive the evaluations and care they need to lead active and engaged lives.”
Sound silly? Keep in mind that comic books have frequently featured characters that prove they’re handi-capable. Marvel’s own Daredevil for example is blind, although all his senses are supernaturally heightened. DC Comics has Oracle, former Batgirl Barbara Gordon who after losing the use of her legs re-establishes herself as the superhero community’s preeminent intelligence source. (True, she got the use of her legs back with the New 52, but Oracle was still awesome.)
It’s nice to know that all these years later comics can still educate as well as amaze. Now if we can get those toothbrush and toothpaste people on the Avengers…
Source: Comic Book.com