, Newburyport, MA

February 23, 2013

Comic book character brings confidence, fame to NH boy

By Alex Lippa
Staff Writer

---- — SALEM, N.H. — Superheroes aren’t supposed to be recognized when they are their alter ego. But Anthony Smith, 5, doesn’t mind.

Anthony, who is hearing impaired, is the inspiration for The Blue Ear, a superhero created by Marvel Comics. The Blue Ear has helped the Salem, N.H., youngster become a celebrity in his own right.

“Adults who are comic book fans will recognize him a lot,” Anthony’s mother, Christina D’Allesandro, said. “Once in a while, kids will even recognize him and that gets him excited.”

Anthony’s fame has brought him some big opportunities.

Next weekend, Anthony and his family will head to New York City for the unveiling of a new Iron Man poster, which is geared toward children who are hearing impaired.

The poster will be presented to Anthony by Iron Man at the Center for Hearing and Communication.

“When he heard he’d be going to New York, he was like, ‘That’s great,’” D’Allesandro said. “But when he heard he would get to meet Iron Man, that is when he really got excited.”

The trip to New York is just part of what has been a whirlwind year for Anthony and his family.

In May, Anthony told his mother one day he didn’t want to wear his blue hearing aid because none of his comic book heroes wore them.

D’Allesandro then wrote to Marvel Comics, asking if there were any hearing-impaired superheroes.

Marvel sent back a series of drawings, showing several characters who wore hearing aids. It even sent a custom-designed comic book cover featuring Anthony — dressed in a superhero costume as Blue Ear.

It changed Anthony’s entire perspective of his hearing impairment, no longer making him feel self-conscious, D’Allesandro said.

“It makes us feel good that someone is enjoying these stories and can be an inspiration to kids,” said Bill Rosemann, an editor at Marvel Comics. “We just really feel honored that the things we create have an impact on someone.”

From there, the story of The Blue Ear went viral.

Anthony ended up on a national media tour, appearing on several TV stations. He also was a guest of the New Hampshire Legislature at the Statehouse in Concord, where he was introduced by his grandfather, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.

“He’s just a terrific kid,” the senator said yesterday. “He’s a kid who’s gone through a lot of tough things, he grins and bears it and gets back at it.”

Christina D’Allesandro said they constantly hear from people who are fascinated by Anthony’s story.

“We are still continuously contacted to hear the story on a weekly basis,” she said. “Hearing-impaired adults, parents of hearing-impaired kids, teachers of the deaf and comic book fans all call us wanting to talk to Anthony.”

In addition to all the appearances, Smith also underwent open heart surgery last year. Anthony was born with a rare genetic disorder — mosaic trisomy 22, which left a hole in his heart.

“He’s doing great now,” D’Allesandro said. “He’s happy and healthy,”

The wild ride continues next week with his trip to New York. Anthony will not only get presented with the poster, but he will get his poster signed by some new friends.

“He’s going to meet some other kids with colored ears just like him,” D’Allesandro said.

Even with the fame, D’Allesandro said she is glad Anthony has kept it all in perspective.

“It’s not like he has a big head,” she said. “It has helped him feel confident, but not egocentric.”

The Blue Ear was just a personal gift from Marvel to Anthony, but D’Allesandro and others have been pushing Marvel to make it into a regular comic book. There are no plans for that right now, but Rosemann said he won’t dismiss the possibility.

“Never say never,” Rosemann said. “Perhaps Blue Ear will appear once again.”