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Editor's note: A more detailed story of Marvel executive Bill Rosemann's address to OLPH, St. Jude and Notre Dame students will appear in the Feb. 10 Life section.

Superheroes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities and backgrounds, and some aren't even human, or of this planet or universe, Bill Rosemann, vice president and head of creative at Marvel Games, told the student bodies of St. Jude School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Notre Dame High schools on Friday at Notre Dame.

Rosemann graduated from OLPH in 1985 and Notre Dame High School in 1989 before going to the University of Notre Dame. He has worked the last 20 years for Marvel doing everything from writing and editing comics to developing new products, such as games based on comic book characters like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, which he brought out of the company's archives five years ago.

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Photo by Barry Courter / Vice President and Head of Creative at Marvel Games Bill Rosemann speaks with Notre Dame head football Coach Charles Fant while surrounded by students from Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Rosemann graduated from both schools and returned as a guest speaker as part of Catholic Schools Week.

Honored as Notre Dame's distinguished alumnus in 2019, Rosemann returned to the school as part of Catholic Schools Week and made special note of the many students and teachers wearing Black Panther, Avengers, Spider-Man and Iron Man T-shirts in the audience before sharing how his Marvel "friends" helped him deal with his parents' divorce, being the younger brother of a Notre Dame football star, and a fire that took most of the possessions he and his mother had in their apartment.

He told the students he and his mother had time to gather their photo albums and one last thing as the fire spread, and he went back for his comic book collection.

"That's when I realized how important they were to me," he said.

For Rosemann, the Marvel characters and the books they populate are more than ways to pass the time or escape into fantasy, they offer everyday life lessons, as they are characters with human characteristics that have to deal with life every day.

"They may be superhuman, but never forget they are human," he said.

"Tony Stark has a bad heart and a drinking problem. Thor has daddy issues, and Bruce Banner has anger issues."

He later pointed out that many heroic characters are orphans — "Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker and every Disney princess" — because as characters in stories they have to learn to deal with challenges.

Those Marvel comic book characters became his friends and his support system throughout high school and beyond, Rosemann said. Using slides of past Marvel comic covers, he pointed out key elements of each hero's persona, and told the students that the writers all had choices to make and that each detail was there for a reason.

Captain America is wrapped in red, white and blue and holding a shield, and not a bazooka or a rocket launcher, for example, and is punching Adolf Hitler on the very first cover released in March 1941. This was months before the United States entered the war, and many objected, he pointed out.

He said creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, who were both Jewish, knew what they wanted to say.

Peter Parker and his heroic alter-ego Spider-Man hold a special place in Rosemann's heart because of his flawed personality and the guilt he felt not doing anything might have prevented his uncle's murder. It was that moment that led him to do good and help others whenever possible.

Rosemann said, "I can face my challenges if they [superheroes] can."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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