When 3-year-old Max Levy needed to get a metal disk surgically inserted into his chest to allow easier treatments for his blood disorder, his father struggled with how to tell him the news.
Then dad got an idea.
"We had just seen the movie 'Iron Man' few days before," said Dan Levy. "I said to him, 'Do you remember the scene where Tony Stark takes the port, takes the arch reactor out of his chest and puts the new one in? ... you're going to get one of those."
"'I get to be Iron Man'" Max responded, according to his father.
And that's when "Iron Max" was born.
Levy and his wife even used the hashtag #IronMax to update friends and family on Twitter about Max's progress from the hospital.
It was that hospital, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), that inspired Max's sister Zoe to create calendars — featuring pictures taken by herself, her friends and Max — in order to support the hospital and other children with hemophilia, the disease that Max has.
When Marvel, the creators of Iron Man, caught wind of Max's story and Zoe's work, which raised $7,000 for CHOP, they reached out to Levy.
Brian Michael Bendis, one of the top writers at Marvel Comics, told Levy that Max was going to appear in one of their comic books.
"I'm not a crier, I'm not — it was literally the first time, I just came into the room, and I just wept," Levy said of his reaction. "It's been a year and half of ... honestly not great, this kid deserves a win."
"Since he's been a baby he's been told what he can't do and now its sort of kind of neat to see what he can do and he can be anything — he can be a superhero," Levy said. "That's just the coolest thing."
Max thought so too. "I think it's pretty cool being in a comic book. Like it's really really cool," Max, now 6, said, and he didn't just mean for himself. "I’m making (other children) not scared because there’s a kid whose a superhero and they would like to be that I guess ... maybe some people are that," Max said.
Marvel was hoping that other sick children would be encouraged by Max's story too. The comic book that Max appeared in didn't just have a cartoon drawing of him, but his photo was also featured in the back.
"Say hello to 5-year-old Max Levy, a young kid who's making a big difference," the caption read. "Since heroes belong in comic books, we couldn't resist giving Max a cameo in ours!"
"This can help other kids with hemophilia and people with other diseases or just to raise awareness and money," Levy said. "I really genuinely think that this is just the beginning of something amazing for him."
Levy said he got the distinct feeling that his son was going to make a difference when he saw the animation of Max on the page with Iron Man. "I thought, one of these is a superhero and I don't think it’s the guy who wears the suit," he said.