Bill Rosemann, the Creative Director of Marvel Comics, came to Oglesby Union Friday night to talk about what it means to be a superhero, the inspiration behind the comics, and what’s in store for our favorite fictional saviors. In doing so, he supplied the audience with a few invaluable grains of wisdom and left them with a new perspective on the world of comic books.
Rosemann began by explaining the most defining characteristic of a superhero: their mask. It is a metaphor for the inner self and a symbol of insecurity, which everyone possesses. The thought “no one can really know how I feel” is one that we all grapple with, he said, even superheroes. In order to truly understand superheroes, he put the focus on their origins, which are “the most potent part” of a hero’s story. He then shared his own origin story: as the apartment that he and his mother lived in was being consumed by fire, he felt the unyielding urge to run in and rescue his beloved comic books. It was in that moment that he realized what he was truly passionate about, and what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
When it comes to pop culture, Rosemann encouraged his audience to think critically; every choice is deliberate, every detail makes a statement. X-Men “added political and social issues,” to the comic book message, as it was a metaphor for the Civil Rights Movement. The struggle of humans versus mutants, in which the mutants attempt to be accepted by the humans, mirrors the struggle of blacks versus whites, with Dr. X (a super-M.L.K. Jr.) leading the movement toward equality. He explained that Marvel was so revolutionary because its heroes were the first to have physical problems – Daredevil with his eyes, Dr. X with his wheelchair, Iron Man with his heart – and these flaws make them more relatable to everyone struggling with their own obstacles. To that end, Rosemann spoke about inspiration, telling the story of a boy named Anthony. Anthony’s mother wrote to Marvel asking them to create a deaf superhero, because her son refused to wear his hearing aid and, when she told him that even superheroes wear hearing aids, he replied, “Like who?” And so, Blue Ear was created, in a cover illustration depicting a man in a tight blue suit with a huge hearing aid resembling a satellite attached to his ear, which allowed him to hear when anyone was in trouble. This inspiration is what Marvel strives for with every comic they put out, culminating in Rosemann’s parting words: “you must be the hero of your story.”
Among the heroes to look out for in the coming years are Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Ant Man, a black Captain America, and a female Thor.
By ASHLEY TRESSEL / Contributing Writer