Being a superhero isn’t all about cosmic cubes and saving earth from intergalactic war; sometimes it’s about the little guy. And occasionally, when they aren’t smashing the faces of egomaniacs with delusions of world conquest or fighting alternate-reality versions of themselves, superheroes actually take time out to make a difference in the lives of the little people. Real people, like you and I.
Most recently, Captain America took part in a campaign to stamp out suicide, but the trend of making a difference in a the real world, one where exposure to gamma radiation gives tumors the size of grapefruits rather than superpowers, is nothing new to superheroes. Today, Mania checks out some of the valiant efforts these paragons of virtue have made toward an actual difference as opposed to… you know, just beating up a dude in tights and a cape.
The Teen Titans starred in a series of drug awareness comics in the 1980’s, but due to a liscensing snafu, their most prominent member didn’t appear in a single one of them!
Long story short, the New Teen Titans was a monster hit for DC back in the ‘80s and creators Marv Wolfman and George Pérez contributed to a project spearheaded by Nancy Reagan herself. Since the Titans were so popular, it only made sense to feature the teenage heroes in a book aimed at kids. But a problem arose due to the fact that Keebler was sponsoring the book but Robin, along with other prominent DC heroes, was liscenced to Nabisco. So every picture of the Boy Wonder was redrawn to feature a new hero known as The Protector. While the books carried a worthwhile message, losing the biggest gun on the team and replacing him with a wanna-be that never really was kinda felt like that Simpsons episode where Itchy and Scratchy met Poochie.
In 1996, half a million Superman comics detailing the dangers of land mines were shipped to Bosnia and Kosovo. Written in Serbo-Croatian and printed in both the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets, the book was intended to help minimize the estimated 26,000 deaths per year that are attributed to land mines. Two years later, another land mine awareness comic was produced, this one aimed at Latin American children and featuring both Superman and Wonder Woman. They were lauded as great comics that hopefully saved some lives despite avoiding the fact that U.S. military and corporate sectors were probably the ones responsible for all those land mines in the first place.
Would Mania stoop so low as to crack wise about a comic intended to educate about and prevent against child abuse? Of course we will! But we’ll try to keep it as tasteful as possible, like the very special episode of Diff’rent Strokes that took place at the bicycle shop. In 1984, the wallcrawler teamed up with Power Pack and Spidey, in order to help a young boy named Tony who has been molested, reveals a dark secret from his past. He too had been sexually abused! Needless to say, the story has never been mentioned in any other Spider-Man comics. We’re just hoping that when Peter made the deal with Mephisto that erased his marriage, this particular incident was erased from history as well.
These two books are similar enough that we’re not going to bother giving them separate entries. The first was an X-Men comic while the second featured Superman, Batman and Lex Luthor. Both were created during the era when famine in Ethiopia was a hot button topic and feature tons of big time artists and writers, in effect making them the “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and “We Are the World” of the comic industry. Something else they had in common? Well, they both sucked.
To be fair, a topic such as famine (like the vast majority of topics covered in PSA comic books) is a bit too broad and complicated to tackle in a genre known for featuring fairly black and white confrontations. Which didn’t act as a deterrent for Marvel or DC, of course. Heroes for Hope depicts famine as a spectral monstrocity which feeds upon fear while Heroes Against Hunger features a bland villain named Master who mocks Bats, Supes and Lexy as they team up in an attempt to make crops grow in Ethiopia. Holy depressing, Batman!
Spider-Man has had his share of loves over the years, from the demure Betty Brant to perennial party girl Mary Jane Watson and he’s even had a few late night rendevous with the kinky Black Cat, but the common denominator is that none of these ladies ended up on the Marvel U’s version of Teen Moms. And do you know why?
Back in the ‘70s, Marvel Comics teamed up with Planned Parenthood to release a comic in which your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man warned kids about the dangers of unprotected sex and battle The Prodigy, a villain from the planet Intellectia, who was using his mind control powers to convince kids that you couldn’t get pregnant the first time you had sex, or if you did it standing up. His plan was to snatch up the babies that these teen pregnancies would undoubtedly yield to use as slave labor on his homeworld. Luckily, Spider-Man caught wind of his plan and put a stop to it as he dispensed sex education wisdom to readers. Unfortunately, Marvel did not see the liscensing possibilities in this venture and Spider-Man condoms remain unavailable to true believers looking to practice great responsibility.