It's every kid's dream come true. See your face on the cover of a comic book. Well, this week on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, one lucky kid gets just that. Newsarama got a chance to chat with carpenter Paul DiMeo about his work with the Wagstaff family who have devoted their lives to make sure kids have access to music and art in school. During their visit, DiMeo accidently broke an easel belonging to TJ, the oldest son. Feeling bad, he decided to make it up to him in a pretty spectacular way. He got Marvel to design a cover (which will be published on an actual Marvel comic, available April 14th) featuring TJ and a superhero-themed bedroom. The show airs this Sunday night.
Newasarama: Can you tell us a bit about the family in this week's episode?
Paul DiMeo: We're talking about the Wagstaff family...so, what are we going to see? Well, we're going to see for the first time an entire family...I don't know if I should give this away. It's one of the cutest things ever...they all have mohawks.
Nrama: [laughs] All of them?
DiMeo: Mom doesn't. Dad and all three boys, all with mohawks and it's just their way of saying it's OK to be a little bit different. It's the first time we door knocked and the kids come running out of the door and you're saying, OK, this is a little bit different. We're going to see a family who has devoted their life to, on a more serious note, keeping music in the community. Not just music, but music and art at a time when school districts, especially public schools are really...they just don't have the funding to keep up those extra-curricular activities. And that family stepped up to see that that is not lost in this community. And it's made a huge difference.
They noticed that these kids who spend time with the Wagstaffs and going to their...they have a non-profit organization...Studio Percussion Inc. What they do is, kids come after school and they learn to play drums, they learn to play piano, they learn to play whatever instrument they fancy. And they have noticed that, with these kids and with the work that the Wagstaffs have been doing, their other grades are also up. So in a world where we're cutting back on music...where we're cutting back on things that we may not think are important to a child, it's very detrimental...this family has made it a point to help...and of course, with doing that, their house in Florida has fallen apart.
Nrama: You guys had KISS come in...
DiMeo: KISS...actually made a huge donation to Mr. Holland's Opus, giving instruments away, and also to the Wagstaff's non-profit group. And I think they had a lot of fun. I wish I had the opportunity to meet them...it's a big side note to our build...I know having Paul (Stanley) and Gene (Simmons) a part of this was a huge thing for the family. I know Dad got to play drums with Paul and Gene. I know that was a dream come true for them because they're big, big KISS fans.
Nrama: I have to ask you about how the partnership with Marvel came about.
DiMeo: I was responsible for TJ's room. And TJ loves to draw, where the rest of the family kind of has their own thing...as a matter of fact, and I think it might have even made air, when I was playing with the two other boys, I ended up running over TJ's easel with a little car. I was pushing the two younger brothers...so I felt really bad about that and I really wanted to give him a special room. He loves drawing and he loves comics. And I thought, what better people to get involved that Marvel...they not only helped me with the room as far as allowing me to use all these different Marvel characters, but they actually actually made a Marvel comic cover with TJ on it. It's TJ and Iron Man and all these different guys, but leading the pack, leading this charge of superheroes is TJ. So that is very exciting, not just for TJ, but for me. And we have all this cool technology in there where he can draw and erase on the walls, and the first thing he did when he went into his room was draw on the walls...he's probably on his way to making his own superheroes.
Nrama: I saw Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man and Thor...did you have any influence over who they featured?
DiMeo: No, I mean, whenever you've got somebody like that, you really have to give them whatever freedoms they want. They are the true artists when it comes to comics. So go ahead and let them draw up what they draw, and then I have to find a way to use that in the room.