Sound money management and comic books don’t often find their way into the same sentence. Now, this has all changed with a joint venture between Visa and Marvel Comics in producing Avengers: Saving the Day financial literacy comic book. Preceding the incredible success of The Avengers movie, which has grossed hundreds of millions of dollars to date, Marvel Comics’ introduction of a familiar cast of characters globally in a glossy 16-page comic book has once again raised the bar (see Jason Alderman’s article in Business Today, May 2012).
Distributed in eight languages, including English and Arabic, Visa’s vehicle in Practical Money Skills for Life has produced an initial batch of 100,000 free print copies featuring Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk and others on the cover of the custom edition. Written by 10-year veteran James Asmus and illustrated by Andrea Di Vito and Laura Villari, as has been the case with Marvel since its inception more than 70 years ago, the heroes leave nothing back.
“It’s got all the fun and excitement that you think of when you imagine a Marvel comic. And thanks to some sly and playful introduction of financial advice, Visa will be using their incredible reach to get it to as many kids as possible,” Asmus says.
Full disclosure: Having never read a comic book, skepticism abounded in ratcheting up interest and questions percolated whether turning one’s brain off in nestling up with a ‘good book’ could at the same time turn one’s brain on by instilling sound financial literacy pointers.
Perhaps Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and one of the most prolific and authoritative opinion-editorial columnists for introductory money management put it best, “you have to educate in an age-appropriate way, you cannot do it in a complicated way, they just won’t get it […] intervene at an early age and [don’t] give chapter and verse of how the US Federal Reserve works.” William Walstad, professor of economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln agrees. “How do you teach confidence? You can teach the mechanics, but knowledge and confidence [has to be] demonstrated in incremental steps.” With Avengers, this is what Visa and Marvel are hoping to achieve — make reading fun, but at the same time, have it serve a greater purpose, something that will benefit readers in the future in regards to financial literacy.
The premise of the comic is simple enough; Spider-Man and the Avengers infiltrate a bank using their super powers in order to thwart Mole Man, the villain, from robbing customers of hard earned savings. At one point, Spider-Man interrupts on behalf of the thick headed Hulk in laying out what a bank actually does. Iron Man calmly replies in saying that ‘[B]anks can manage your money.
They can help you determine the best way to earn more money through interest and investment ...,” and then coyly adds, “or your own helicopter.” An ensuing confrontation occurs between the powers of good and bad, and in its midst, Giant-Man is able to remind Spider-Man about a gift idea for his aunt’s upcoming birthday, “If you want to get your aunt something really big, you could always open a savings account — or a certificate of deposit.” And no worry if readers are unfamiliar with the terms at first, as the comic book’s penultimate page has a glossary of ‘fantastic finance terms’, including ‘debit card’, ‘interest’ and ‘savings account.’ The back cover of the comic book even provides a blank ledger of income and expenses for kids with the disclaimer, “the goal of a budget is to have money left for saving.” Simple, yet effective.
Without spoiling the ending of how good always overcomes evil, in reviewing the comic, Visa and Marvel have done a standup job of inserting a litany of double entendre — highly effective for kids who want storytelling with an element of light humor, but in the end a convincing message that they can gain from their reading experience. The dialogue between the heroes allows the reader to learn alongside Spider-Man and Iron Man. In sum, the modern convention of saving and budgeting monies is effectively expressed in Avengers: Saving the Day. The comic is available online at icba.practicalmoneyskills.com/avengers in English and Arabic with a user-friendly and easily readable flip-page format. bt