by Rachel Coleman, co-creator of Signing Time
A new issue of Marvel Comics is being released today. And it’s dedicated to Leah! I am off to buy issues of it right now. Here’s the story of how this happened:
I met Matt Fraction, a writer for Marvel, at a Signing Time concert in Portland in 2012. Over brunch, Matt shared that he was fascinated as his son Henry began signing with Signing Time. He was struck by the similarities in the way I tell stories visually in American Sign Language and the way he tells stories visually through comics.
We talked about the character Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, who had once damaged his hearing to win a battle, leaving him dependent on hearing aids. Matt said it was a shame that Hawkeye’s deafness had been “written out” and mostly forgotten.
However, earlier in 2012, Marvel came to the rescue when a mother wrote in saying her 4-year-old son refused to wear his blue hearing aids because “superheroes don’t wear blue ears.” Marvel sent the boy art with Hawkeye wearing his hearing aids and created a new superhero in his honor called “Blue Ear.”
Encouraged by this new development, Matt told me that he’d look for the opportunity to write deafness back into the Hawkeye character. We kept in touch. And then it happened. He got his chance!
That’s exactly what it’s like when you’re deaf. ~Leah
When I saw the very first draft of Hawkeye 19, I sat down with Leah and we went over it together. When she saw that the speech bubbles were empty when Hawkeye’s back was turned or if he didn’t have a face-to-face conversation… she was so excited. “That is exactly what it’s like when you’re deaf!”
Later in the issue Hawkeye only catches part of what his brother is saying to him. He’s reading his lips and the speech bubble is filled with not quite the correct words, but close. It’s left to the reader to sort it out, just as it’s often left to a deaf person to figure it out.
I hope readers have the experience of struggling, at least a little, to understand. Like Matt said in a recent New York Times article, “it’s an opportunity for hearing people to get a taste of what it might be like to be deaf.”
When we proofed the final draft we noticed it said “to Leah.” Leah looked at me and asked, “Is that Leah ME?” I said I had no idea… and if it wasn’t her, we would always pretend it meant “our Leah.”
Later, I asked Matt if he meant “OUR Leah” and he answered with this text:
Discovering another World
Hawkeye 19 is hitting the shelves today, July 30th. Leah and I are thrilled to have been a part of sharing a little bit of our world with so many others. It’s one more bridge to understanding each other.
People who may have never thought about being deaf or what that’s like are going to walk into a store, purchase this much-anticipated issue and open it to discover another world. Isn’t that what comics are about?