Disney+’s documentary show Marvel’s Hero Project puts a spotlight on young people who are changing their communities in positive ways, “heroizing” them and immortalizing them in their own comic books. But the latest real-life subject – known as the Unstoppable Adonis – is going beyond his community and changing the face of football, and even of Marvel Comics itself.
Adonis, a high school running back, has completely lost his vision – something rare for a football player. But despite losing his sight at age 5, Adonis has stuck to his dream of becoming a professional football player, defying all expectations and creating new inroads for athletes with disabilities on his high school team along the way.
As part of the show’s profile of Adonis, Marvel Comics put together a special comic book telling his story. And to ensure Adonis himself could get the full comic book experience, it’s been produced with text in braille – a first for Marvel Comics, and a feat worthy of a kid who has brought together a whole community to rally around him as a football star.
“What caught our attention about Adonis’ story is that a whole community came together around him to support his dream - and that he’s doing things off the field to show that visual disability doesn’t people back from making their dreams reality,” Liza Wyles, Executive Producer of Marvel’s Hero Project and Director, Development for Marvel New Media, told Newsarama.
“Adonis’ family followed him, he’s a leader – he has goals. At only 14 years old he decided he was going to achieve his dream no matter what and that in turn inspired his whole family to get behind him,” she continued. “I think it’s a great message to share, that even if a dream seems really big, even if it seems ‘impossible’, it’s not. You can do anything.”
To bring Adonis’ story to life in comic book form – which you can read for free through Marvel.com – Project Manager and Editor for Marvel’s Hero Project Katherine Brown assembled a team of comic book veterans including writer Mike Raicht, penciler Kevin Sharpe, inker Lorenzo Ruggiero, colorist Lee Duhig, letterer Joe Sabino, and cover artist Todd Nauck.
“What we wanted to reflect in the comic book is Adonis’ determination and his grit – that if you have those two things, anyone can be the hero of their own story,” said Brown.
But the challenge of creating a braille translation of a fully realized comic book didn’t stop at making sure it was created by top talent.
“Right from the start we knew we were going to do something special for Adonis,” Brown explained. “At first we thought it’d be simple to add the braille to the art, but it turns out braille would take twice as much space to print as text so it wasn’t feasible to just add it in. We decided to adapt it into a braille translation with additional descriptive text written into the comic format itself, so you can read along with the illustrations as they appear in the comic.”
Though printed braille translation versions of the comic book aren’t being mass-produced, the comic’s digital version was given its own special treatment – an audiovisual version of the story that makes adapts an authentic comic book experience to a format that is accessible to people with visual impairment..
“Because Adonis inspired us to think differently about how people interact with these comic books, we present an optional audiovisual version for all 20 Marvel’s Hero Project comics we’re producing this season,” explained Wyles. “The action is still presented page-by-page, panel by panel with the text included. And the audiovisual version presents all the action, the full story, all the characters, every part of the comic book experience in a way that’s even more accessible.”
“It’s definitely enlightened us to how people are experiencing these comics outside of the traditional way we present them,” she continued. “There are a lot of conversations happening around that. We’re excited to continue producing content that more people are able to fully experience.”
“On the publishing side, everyone from Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski to Marvel Entertainment President Dan Buckley has seen the issue and the episode and experienced it firsthand, so it’s piqued a lot of interest throughout the building,” added Brown.
For Marvel’s Hero Project, beyond just Adonis’ story, Wyles hopes that fans who tune into the show and read the comics are inspired to find the super powers within themselves - and find reflections of their own lives in Marvel stories, no matter who they are or what their experience.
”It’s important that everyone be able to open a comic book or turn on a TV show or a movie and be able to find themselves in it,” she said.
“We want to put out stories that reflect the concept that Marvel has always represented the world outside your window,” Wyles elaborated. “We want to tell stories that reflect that, that are informed by the idea of showing very relatable stories that are recognizable even in a very superhero-ized way.”
“While we’re all amazed by people who are accomplishing things in spite of or because of certain abilities they may or may not have, the reason we celebrate the specific people we’re highlighting, the reason we’re heroizing them is because of the impact they have on their community and the world around them,” Wyles concluded. “We want the takeaway to be that anyone can be a hero. All the kids who are part of Marvel’s Hero Project have their own powersets - they’re uniquely they’re own kind of hero.”
“There’s no mold, no benchmark – just the unique power you have to reach out into the world and the community around you.”