December 26, 2007 10:42 pm

UN joins forces with Marvel Comics

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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 second world war, the UN 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 1m US schoolchildren, will be set in a war-torn fictional country and feature superheroes such as Spider-Man working with UN agencies such as Unicef and the “blue hats”, the UN peacekeepers.

Camilla Schippa, chief of office at the UN 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 US, the UN hopes to translate the comics into French and other languages and distribute them elsewhere, Ms Schippa said.

The idea originally came from French film-maker, Romuald Sciora, who had been working on other UN projects and is making a DVD about the international organisation that will be distributed to schoolchildren along with the comic books.

Although the UN did not come up with the initiative, the measure could help revive the body’s troubled image in the US, where relations have been strained, in particular during US President George W. Bush’s administration.

John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, once said that “if the UN building in New York lost 10 storeys, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference”.

The latest UN initiative is not the first time US comics have been used for political purposes. During the second world war, 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 UN’s goals are somewhat different: according to its website, it hopes the comics will teach children the value of international co-
operation and sensitise 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.

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