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Disney XD & Disney Channel stars champion children's literacy at "Reading With: Marvel Comics Close-Up" kick-off event

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Disney XD & Disney Channel stars champion children's literacy at "Reading With: Marvel Comics Close-Up" kick-off event

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Let's face facts, folks. Though Dr. Seuss gets most of the credit, it's Stan Lee who actually taught a lot of us how to read.

That's how Cort Lane, the vice president in charge of animation development & production at Marvel Television, remembers it anyway. It wasn't "The Cat in the Hat" or "Hop on Pop" that got him excited about reading. But -- rather  -- Avengers No. 161.

TM & Copyright 2012 Marvel & Subs

"I remember how this Marvel comic used all sorts of words that weren't in my vocabulary yet," Cort recalled in a phone interview this past week. "Which is why I had to make numerous trips to the Lane family dictionary to find out what words like subliminal and intangible meant."

And given that this one particular Marvel comic book had such a huge impact on his life, Cort made a point of bringing it along this past Saturday when he went to the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Library. Which is where Lane then showed this book off to the 70+ members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Burbank who were on hand for the kick-off  of "Reading with: Marvel Comics Close-up."

Radio Disney gets the audience moving during Saturday's festivities at the
Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library. Photo by Rick Rowell.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And what exactly is 'Reading With: Marvel Comics Close-Up' ?," you ask. Well, you know how the Avengers periodically assemble to battle super villains like Loki & Thanos? Disney XD, Marvel Entertainment, First Book and ABC-owned television stations are now teaming up to champion children's literacy.

As David Levine -- the vice president and general manager of Disney XD Worldwide -- explained:

(L to R) Drake Bell, Cort Lane -- vice president of animation development & production
for Marvel Television, David Levine -- vice president and general manager of Disney
XD Worldwide, and Spider-Man. Photo by Rick Rowell, Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Our goal in coming together like this is inspire the next generation to become lifelong, enthusiastic readers. So we're doing everything that we can to get reading material into the hands of these kids. Everything from donating more than 210,000 books to several communities around the country to making digital versions of ten action-packed, family-friendly Marvel comic books available for free."

It's that free-digital-version-of-comics which most excites Levine about the "Marvel Comic Close-Up" campaign. Given that -- just like Cort Lane -- David remembers that it was picking up a Marvel comic at a very young age which then turned him into a passionate reader.

TM & Copyright 2012 Marvel & Subs

"I must have been 7 years-old at the time," Levine said. "My mother bought me this copy of 'The Invaders' which had Captain America on the cover battling Frankenstein's Monster. And that was it. I was hooked."

And as a lifelong Marvel Comics fan, David wanted to make sure that he had some input when it came to which titles that would be made available as part of the "Marvel Comics Close-Up" campaign.

TM & Copyright Marvel & Subs

"I insisted that they had to include Thor #364 as part of this offering. It's the one with that great Walter Simonson cover where Thor gets turned into a frog," Levine enthused.

Mind you, a number of the classic comic books that were selected to be offered as part of "Marvel Comics Close-Up" were chosen for a very specific reason. You see, some of these titles will tease and/or foreshadow characters & storylines that will be prominently featured in Season Two of that Disney XD animated series, "Ultimate Spider-Man."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Take -- for example -- Marvel Adventure Spider-Man #16. That comic book is being made available through the "Reading With: Marvel Comics Close-Up" because it features this great Lizard / Spider-Man encounter. And the Lizard is going to be one of two classic Spider-Man villains who'll be appearing on 'Ultimate Spider-Man'  during its one-hour-long, primetime Season Two premiere on January 21st.

It'll be during this 7 - 8 p.m. ET / PT broadcast that Disney XD will be rolling out its "Marvel Comics Close-Up" interstitials. Which will be hosted by Joe Quesada (Marvel's Chief Creative Officer) and Dylan Riley Snyder (who played the character of Milton on Disney XD's martial arts comedy, "Kickin' It"). These interstitials will take TV viewers deeper into the Marvel Universe by exploring 10 classic comic books. Which -- not-so-co-incidentally -- are the exact same titles that are now being offered through the "Reading With: Marvel Comics Close-Up" program.

(L to R) Olivia Holt, Drake Bell, Spider-Man, Cole Jensen and Dylan Riley Snyder.
Photo by Rick Rowell. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Yeah, Disney XD and the Disney Channel aren't above using a little star power to help get kids excited about reading. Which perhaps explains why -- for this past Saturday's event -- Snyder and his "Kickin' It" co-star Olivia Holt put in an appearance at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library. Not to mention Karan Brar from the Disney Channel's "Jessie," Cole Jensen from Disney XD's "Crash & Bernstein," and Radio Disney on-air personality Morgan Tompkins.

"But the performer who got the biggest reaction of the day was Drake Bell, the voice of Spider-Man on Disney XD's 'Ultimate Spider-Man,' " Cort Lane. "You have to understand that -- in the world of children's television -- Drake is a big, big star. So you should have heard the kids from the Boys & Girls Club whispering as he entered the library. 'That's Drake Bell!.' "

Drake Bell -- with the help of a certain web slinger -- shares a classic Marvel Comic
with members of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank. Photo by Rick Rowell.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So to then have the voice of Spider-Man sit down and then read a Marvel Comic aloud to the crowd that was at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library this past Saturday ... Well, as far as David Levine is concerned, that was a really great way to kick off 2013.

"We've got so much great stuff in the works for the coming year. Two new animated series -- 'Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.' and 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble' -- debuting this summer. Not to mention our big 'Phineas & Ferb: Mission Marvel' cross-over," Levine concluded. "But to start off 2013 like this -- at an event which promotes children's literacy by making some of Marvel's very best stories available for free to the next generation of readers -- you couldn't ask for a better way to start off the year."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

For further information on the "Reading With: Marvel Comic Close-Up" initiative and/or the free digital comics that will be available for downloading, please check out DisneyXD.com/comics.

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  • This is a great idea!  I'm another one of those people who learned to read, in a great part, from comic books.  Unfortunately the cost and maturity levels of current comics really precludes my kids from being able to do the same.  Maybe this will be robust enough to accomplish it's goal, and not just a few issues to pay lip service to the concept.

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