A little boy in New Hampshire got to be what other kids can only dream about: A real-life Marvel Comics superhero.
Four-year-old Anthony Smith was born with a genetic disorder that left him hearing-impaired. He was getting on fine with his blue hearing aid until one day when he told his mother that he didn't want to wear it anymore.
"Basically, one day he woke up and I said, 'OK, time to put in your hearing aid,' and said, 'Let's put in blue ear.' We've always called it that. And he said, 'No, superheroes don't wear blue ears,'" his mother, Christina D'Allesandro, told WCVB-TV.
D'Allesandro assured Anthony that superheroes do indeed wear hearing aids -- and on a whim, emailed Marvel Comics for help.
"Could you make a little guy's day by drawing him a hearing-impaired super hero?" she wrote.
Bill Rosemann, an editor at Marvel, sent her back a note with a copy of a 1984 comic book cover showing Hawkeye of the Avengers wearing a hearing aid, the Concord Monitor reported. Hawkeye lost his hearing after he got hit with one of his own arrows.
"Print that out and show it to Anthony and tell him that superheroes definitely wear blue ears," Rosemann wrote. "And he can become an honorary Avenger by wearing this."
But Marvel didn't stop there. They dispatched one of their cartoonists to draw a brand-new superhero: Anthony himself, otherwise known as "The Blue Ear."
"Thanks to my listening device, I hear someone in trouble," Blue Ear says in the drawing. Comic book-letters declare: "When DANGER makes a sound, The Blue Ear answers the call."
D'Allesandro said Anthony was transfixed by the drawing. He brought it to show his classmates at his school for the hearing-impaired. The only problem? Now all the kids want their hearing aids to look like Blue Ear's.
Rosemann told the Monitor that Marvel gets a fair amount of fan mail and personal requests, but D'Allesandro's email was different.
"This one just touched a bunch of us," he said.
Now, whenever Anthony starts to waver on wearing his hearing aid, his mother points to his super alter-ego.
"I tell him he has to hear people calling for help," D'Allesandro said. "He gets the whole connection. He's loving it."