JOPLIN, Mo. —
We live in a world in need of superheroes.
Whether they're characters who have incredible strength, the ability to fly, read minds or simply fight in the name of justice, they amount to more than just pictures in a comic book, says Bill Rosemann, a longtime writer and editor for Marvel Comics.
"We've always needed characters to look at, to entertain us, to distract us and inspire us," he says. "Now move than ever, people want that."
Rosemann will discuss the role of "Superheroes On Ñ and Off Ñ the Page" during a free presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Taylor Performing Arts Center at Missouri Southern State University. The event is sponsored by Southern's Campus Activities Board.
While some people may dismiss characters such as Iron Man, Wolverine, the Hulk and others as just silly entertainment, comics are as legitimate an artform as any other, says Rosemann.
"Artists use their medium to grapple with, poke at and try to understand the world around them," he says. "In addition to entertaining people, it's also meant to provoke them a little bit or give them hope for how we deal with the world.
"People may dismiss superheroes, but underneath there is truth there. We use fiction to get at a truth."
During his presentation, Rosemann says he will talk about the history of superheroes, their creators and what was happening in the world at the time.
"What year was it? What was going on in the country at that time? How were their creators using these characters to respond to, comment on or deal with what was happening around them?"
Within the last decade, superheroes have become big business not only on the page but on the big screen as well.
Marvel's film division launched with 2008's "Iron Man" and built toward 2012's hugely successful release of "The Avengers" with a steady stream of releases such as "The Incredible Hulk," "Captain America" and "Thor." Currently, the studio is in "Phase 2" of its release schedule, which will culminate with 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
Rosemann is overseeing the release of a two-issue prelude to next month's "Thor: The Dark World."
"We're in touch daily with the filmmakers," says Rosemann. "It's exciting to read scripts and see concept art. We work very closely together because they know the story they want to tell and what they want to reveal about a certain character. I do everything I can to translate their vision into a comic book."
Rosemann is understandably tight-lipped about what is in store for Thor or next year's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
But the tone of the cinematic universe, he says, is becoming markedly different than the early films which introduced the characters.
"Things are getting a bit darker," he says. "You don't have to tell their origin stories anymore. You can take these characters on a journey because you want to challenge them."
He likens the tone of the upcoming films in Marvel's slate as the transition between "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back."
"We're going into darker territory," he says.
Rosemann also oversees an internal agency known as Marvel Custom Solutions, which works with a variety of partners to create specialty products, ranging from posters to comic books and even original characters.
"Outside companies come to us and say, 'We would like to work with you to introduce ourselves and our brand to customers,'" he says.
One of the partnerships is with the American Armed Exchange Service, creating a series that is available for free to those in the military. Some of those comics feature the military in an important role, while others share a message that will ring true to those serving their country.
Teamwork, duty, honor and sacrifice are themes that are emphasized in that line.
"(For example) Thor is called home to Asgard by Odin but has to say, 'Sorry, I can't come during our holiday season because I have sworn to protect the people of Midgard (Earth),'" says Rosemann.
"That's a theme that (military personnel) will recognize in a story that will entertain them but not slam them over the head with it. If you scratch the surface, there are some smart messages that lie underneath."
Tuesday's presentation will conclude with an open question and answer session.
Rosemann says he encourages comics fans to attend his presentation in order to "get some insight into the magic behind the Marvel characters and hopefully learn some behind-the-scenes information."
The Campus Activities Board will also offer a screening of "Iron Man 3" at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Phelps Theatre.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
We live in a world in need of superheroes.
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