Super-heroes are strong, fearless and don't wear hearing aids right? Wrong! That's what 4-year old Anthony Smith from Salem, New Hampshire has discovered, thanks to Marvel Comics sketch artist Manny Mederos.
Born with Mosaic Trisomy 22, a rare genetic disorder, Anthony suffers from many physical ailments including a weak heart. While that is scheduled to be fixed with surgery this summer, the one impairment that he will have to live with forever, is hearing loss - He has no hearing whatsoever on his right side and a mild loss on his left. He therefore, has to wear hearing aids on both ears.
But one recent morning, the young boy who lives and breathes super-heroes set aside his left hearing aid, nicknamed 'Blue Ear', and informed his mother Christina, that super-heroes do not wear hearing aids.
She tried to convince him that Captain America wears one under his helmet, but when she could not get him to budge, Christina decided to write an e-mail to the editor of Marvel and ask if any of the company's cartoonists would take up the challenge to draw Anthony a hearing impaired superhero.
She was not really expecting a response so you can imagine her surprise when she received a reply with the image from a 1984 comic book cover that featured Hawkeye with a small hearing device. In that week's issue, Hawkeye's hearing had been temporarily destroyed by a sonic arrow, causing him to need a little aid. Bill Roseman, the editor who had responded to Christina's e-mail asked her to print it and give it to the little boy and also let him know, that wearing his Blue Ear, would make him an honorary member of the Avengers team.
Grateful to be able to show something concrete to her little guy, Christina thought the matter was closed, until she received another image. Entitled Hawk Eye and the Blue Ear, it featured the superhero and his young friend, who happened to be . . . . . . You guessed it - Anthony Smith!
Turns out that after sending her the old comic cover, Bill had also forwarded Christina's e-mail to all the artists. When Manny Medros saw it, he knew he had to do something for this little fan. Initially, he began with just creating a super-hero named The Blue Ear. But as he was sketching, he had a brain wave - Why couldn't Anthony be Hawk Eye's super-hero partner? In the comic strip he sent, The Blue Ear is responding to a help plea by mouthing the words:
"Thanks to my listening device, I hear someone in trouble," Underneath, in comic book letters it says "When DANGER makes a sound, The Blue Ear answers the call."
Anthony, who has become the envy of his classmates now of course has no qualms wearing his super-hero Blue Ear.
What's interesting is that the hearing impaired Blue Ear fits in quite well with Marvel's other super-heroes - Daredevil is blind, Thor's human alter ego has a lame leg and uses a cane, while Iron Man as we all well know, has a weak heart.
These impairments are not accidental.Martin Goodman who founded Marvel in 1939 had always aimed to create characters that are not perfect, in order to send kids a message that the true superhero is one that can overcome any challenge and do something worthwhile in life. Young Anthony, A.K.A. Blue Ear seems to be heading in that direction, quite rapidly.