He has fought against foes ranging from the Green Goblin to Doctor Octopus, but Spider-Man now faces an even more formidable challenge: improving the battered image of the United Nations.
In a move reminiscent of storylines developed during the World War II, the U.N. is joining forces with Marvel Comics, creators of Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, to create a comic book showing the international body working with superheroes to solve bloody conflicts and rid the world of disease.
The comic, initially to be distributed free to 1 million U.S. schoolchildren, will be set in a war-torn fictional country and feature superheroes such as Spider-Man working with U.N. agencies such as Unicef and the “blue hats,” the U.N. peacekeepers.
Camilla Schippa, chief of office at the U.N. Office for Partnerships, told the Financial Times the script was being written now and the final storyline was due to be approved in February. The cartoonists are working for free.
After publication in the U.S., the U.N. hopes to translate the comics into French and other languages and distribute them elsewhere, Schippa said.
The idea originally came from French film-maker, Romuald Sciora, who had been working on other U.N. projects and is making a DVD about the international organization that will be distributed to schoolchildren along with the comic books.
Although the U.N. did not come up with the initiative, the measure could help revive the body’s troubled image in the U.S., where relations have been strained, in particular during president Bush’s administration.
John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., once said that “if the U.N. building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
The latest U.N. initiative is not the first time U.S. comics have been used for political purposes. During World War II, superheroes were shown taking on Germany’s Nazi regime. Marvel’s Captain America, together with other characters such as Superman, were shown beating up Adolf Hitler.
The U.N.’s goals are somewhat different: According to its Web site, it hopes the comics will teach children the value of international cooperation and sensitize them to the problems faced in other parts of the world.
Marvel Entertainment, which has a library of 5,000 characters, began as a comic-book company 60 years ago. Its superheroes include the Fantastic Four, Avengers and Uncanny X-Men.