Wearing a high-tech suit or swinging from spiderwebs is great for fictional superheroes fighting injustice, but when it comes to making a real difference, the kids of Marvel's Hero Project could teach Iron Man and Spider-Man a thing or two.
The inspiring new reality series from Marvel -- available on when the streaming service launches -- tells the stories of 20 young real-life heroes making a positive difference in the world through acts of bravery and kindness. Each week, Marvel surprises the young heroes by welcoming them into Marvel's Hero Project and turning their stories into actual comics other kids can read and be inspired by.
Each 30-minute episode includes interviews with the kids, as well as their friends, family, teachers, coaches and people they inspire.
One features a Missouri-based girl named Jordan honing her skills as a designer, inventor and advocate. You might remember Jordan from 2016, when she made headlines for building a prosthetic arm that shoots glitter -- when she was just 11 years old.
"People who are disabled, they're being ignored definitely in the design community," Jordan says in the series. "Like paper towel dispensers in bathrooms that say use two hands, I can't do that. We need more people who are different than the design community so we have people who are designing things that have the second thought of 'oh, I should make sure it works for everyone.'"
Jordan is a tireless champion for inclusivity in the industrial design community, and it's exciting to see how she's helping the next generation of kids like her build a more accessible world through DIY labs and workshops.
"I think the fact that I'm different, I feel like I have the ability to teach people," Jordan says.
Another episode stars North Carolina-based Elijah, who speaks in his church and city council to inspire other kids, adults and those in public service to join him in his fight to prevent child abuse.
It all started when a fellow classmate confided in him that her parents hit her. Instead of just letting it go, Elijah convinced her to tell another adult and get help to stop the abuse. From then on, Elijah was driven to get the word out about child abuse and how to put an end to the pain.
We see the 11-year-old Elijah as he plans a march against child abuse, filling out city permits, promoting the march with flyers and gathering people together -- all on his own.
"We must take care of our children," Elijah tells the crowd. "We must not forsake them, we must not give up on them. Because we are a community. Children are not alone. Today I make a call for peace. I'm not asking for it -- but I'm having it and I'm taking it."
The episode is riveting, especially when Elijah says he was inspired by the late, great. I couldn't help but wonder if Elijah might end up being president one day.
The episode does a great job of showing the excitement from the crowds whenever Elijah speaks at his church, city meetings and the march. His passion and ability to galvanize an audience might encourage kids who are watching the show to take action on their own causes without waiting until they are adults.
That's what makes this episode seem even more important, especially in a time where more andabout big issues like climate change that have an impact on their future.
Another episode features blind Arizona teenager Adonis, who is changing how people relate to those who are visually impaired. It's hard not to compare the accomplished teen to thewho also happens to be blind.
But this real-life story is more impressive than even Daredevil's fictional adventures. Adonis lost his eyesight at age 5 from a rare condition, but he didn't lose his ambition to play professional football. In fact, he's currently a celebrated running back for his high school team.
"I can't see anything," Adonis says in the episode. "And that includes limits for myself. I can't see something that's going to block me from where I'm destined to be."
Adonis comes from a family of athletes. His mom played basketball in college, his sister plays basketball, his dad and brother both played football in college... "So we all have that competitive drive," Adonis says. And you can see it.
Throughout the episode, Adonis' friends, classmates, family members and teammates share their stories about his drive to succeed. But what really stands out is his fearlessness, on and off the football field.
While Marvel's Hero Project doesn't include the kind of superheroes we're used to seeing battle bad guys on the big screen, the series could motivate both kids and adults struggling with problems in their lives and communities to start working toward solutions.
Acting locally to help improve the lives of others -- whether it be cleaning up a park, helping deliver meals to the homeless or showing kids they can do anything regardless of disabilities -- is the kind of heroism we could all use right about now.
Originally published Nov. 4.