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June 6, 2013

MAY: A vulnerable heart

Like many sons, author T. A. Barron wanted to do something to honor his mother. In 2000, he founded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, an award that celebrates outstanding young leaders. Each year, 25 young people are recognized for their significant positive difference they have made for people and the planet.

The administrators of this prize recently polled American teenagers and asked them about their personal heroes. Their study found that only half of those teens surveyed could name a personal hero. 

Who were the real people named? Not Washington, Lincoln, Ghandi or Mother Teresa. Most often they were the recent winners of “American Idol.” Not surprisingly, Spiderman and Iron Man were named twice as often as all of the real-life heroes combined.

Incredible special effects and the strong, quirky personality of actor Robert Downey Jr. have propelled Iron Man to incredible box office and merchandising heights. As of today, “Iron Man 3” stands as the fifth highest grossing movie of all time, with a super-heroic $1.18 billion worldwide. But the movie tickets — and popcorn we eat — is only the beginning of the money brought in by the franchise. Hundreds of products with the Iron Man brand have already flooded the market, including a Tony Stark T-shirt that has a light-up LED heart. Batteries sold separately. 

Stan Lee, who got his start in the comic book industry by making sure that the artist’s inkwells never ran dry, could not have imagined the success that “Iron Man” would enjoy when he first penned the character in March. Lee wanted to create a hero who wasn’t born with special powers, but built them himself. He wanted to make a businessman be a hero — something that anyone could aspire to be.

Howard Hughes was the most colorful figure of the time and served as something of the prototype. Lee’s character, Tony Stark, would be an inventor, an adventurer, a billionaire, a ladies’ man and just something of a nutcase. In an interview after the release of the first “Iron Man” movie, Lee quipped, “I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like and shove him down their throats and make them like him.” 

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