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Marvel Comics on designing a new breed of super heroes for inflammatory bowel disease campaign

Marvel Comics on designing a new breed of super heroes for inflammatory bowel disease campaign

Super heroes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) might seem like an unlikely duo but Marvel Custom Solutions and Takeda Pharmaceuticals Company have brought the two together in a new campaign to highlight both the daily battles and strength those suffering the disease experience.

The team of Super Heroes – dubbed The Unbeatables – were created by Marvel Custom Solutions with input from a panel of IBD patients from around the globe.

Named Switchback, Rubblerouser, Datawave, Luminaria and Samarium, The Unbeatables appear in a new graphic novel series available online where visitors can also create and share their own Super Hero avatar, take part in quizzes and download tips to help them talk to their doctor, family or friends about their condition.

The graphic novel launches today at Comic Con in London and visitors to the event can view a live painting demo by a Marvel illustrator and meet Samarium, the first of the IBD Super Heroes.

The idea is that IBD Unmasked will “celebrate the strength that real life IBD Super Heroes exhibit every day and go on to spark powerful conversations, transform perceptions, and ultimately improve understanding of the impact of these diseases.”

To find out more about the design process for the new novel, The Drum caught up with Marvel illustrator Kirbi Fagan, who herself suffers from Crohn’s disease.

What was the brief that you were given for the cover?

Marvel has always been supportive when it comes to my creative process, from the start they were very open to seeing my ideas for the cover. Their only requirement was that they wanted a powerful group shot! The team provided me with descriptions and sketches of each character for me to look at for reference and inspiration.

How did this particular project differ from previous work that you've done with Marvel?

Hardly different at all actually! Usually, I'm working closely with just the editor or the art director. However on this title there were many other voices contributing to the project. Often times, I'm working on characters that I'm already familiar with but this group of heroes was completely new to me.

What process do you go through when designing the cover?

On the first day of any project I scribble out all my possible ideas, good and bad. These rough concepts are so loose I think I may be the only person that could understand them! After I sleep on it, I chose a couple of my favorites to draw out in more detail and propose to Marvel. Together we tweak the sketch and concept until we know exactly what we want. From there, I create the final painting. I use a combination of traditional and digital materials. I use models to act out poses under stage lights to better inform my painting.

What kind of challenges did you encounter?

A painting is like a fighting match for me sometimes and there are always stubborn areas that take extra attention. Being affected by IBD, I did feel a unique pressure while creating this image. Otherwise, smooth sailing.

How did you balance designing for the campaign while maintaining the Marvel brand alongside?

The only person I know how to paint like is me. I didn't want to treat this painting any differently than any other job. The whole idea of this comic is that it is inclusive to these unique set of a characters, they belong with Marvel. Every artists brings something special to Marvel, it's the quality of the artists, the strength of characters and stories that makes it fit in the Marvel brand.

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