When 4-year-old comic book fan Anthony Smith stubbornly refused to wear his hearing aid, his mother decided to bring out the big guns.
Born with no right ear and partial hearing loss in his left, the Salem, MA boy refers to his hearing device as 'blue ear' -- and while it's helped him immeasurably, Anthony suddenly decided that since superheroes didn't use hearing aids, neither would he.
That prompted his mother, Christina D'Allesandro, to email Marvel comics in a desperate attempt to prove to her son that superheroes were, in fact, just like him.
To her surprise, they responded almost immediately. The comic giant sent Christina an image of a 1984 comic starring Hawkeye, who temporarily lost part of his hearing due to an errant arrow and for many years wore a device not unlike Anthony's.
"Anthony said, 'Oh my gosh, he's wearing a hearing aid!' And he wouldn't let it go," she said in an interview with Fox Boston.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Word quickly spread around Marvel's office, prompting artist Nelson Ribeiro to sketch a brand new character dedicated to Anthony and send it over.
Fittingly, his name is 'The Blue Ear', and he can hear when someone is in trouble thanks to his trusty listening device. He's also proof positive of Marvel's greatest super ability: the power to inspire people to do the right thing, as Anthony has since resumed wearing his hearing aid.
"It's just so captivated Anthony and his little buddies," Christina told The Concord Monitor.
Marvel has a history of turning characters with disabilities into potent forces for good. Iron Man's heart is perpetually endangered, the acrobatic Daredevil is blind, and X-Men mastermind Professor Xavier is famously wheelchair-bound.
"Our message is that no matter what your challenges are, you can overcome them and do something good," Marvel editor Bill Rosemann said. "This shows you the powers of superheroes. People think that's silly, but they have true power."