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New York Firefighters Become Comic Book Superheroes


The newest comic book superheroes are not from the planet Krypton, but from the firehouses of New York City. Publisher Marvel Comics has introduced a series of stories based on New York City firefighters, 343 of whom died in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Marvel Comics, the publisher of popular illustrated magazines that created such characters as Spiderman and X-Men, has published its first issue of The Call of Duty: The Brotherhood. The story is built around a firefighter named James MacDonald. Marvel's chief editor, Joe Quesada, tells NBC Television that there's not a stick of Kryptonite or a radioactive spider to be found in James' life, just the harsh realities of post-September 11 New York.

"James is a firefighter who actually was very much affected by 9-11," he explains. "So much so that he finds his life, that was perfect at one point, actually falling apart around him. He has troubles at home with his wife, he has troubles with his confidence."

Mr. Quesada says the sober realism that saturates The Call of Duty is the result of exhaustive research.

"The last thing you want to do is do something like this is not research it properly, because we know that firefighters and cops and EMS workers are going to pick this up, and we don't want them to read this and go, 'You know, they got it wrong."

Mr. Quesada enlisted writer Chuck Austen to research and write "The Brotherhood". Mr. Austen says working on the book helped him address personally the shocking experience of September 11.

"I woke up the next morning with my wife crying and shaking me awake, telling me that we were probably going to war," he said. "That shook me to the foundation of my being, and if I don't deal with that myself in some way, if I don't have something to write about on that level, then I'm not really being true to what good writing is."

Mr. Austen spent countless hours with firefighters of Engine 228 in Brooklyn, New York, before writing the story. It appears to be time well spent. He says the first printing of Call of Duty: The Brotherhood sold out in New York in three hours.

But Mr. Austen says the objective of the project was never financial gain. His chief editor, Joe Quesada, agrees.

"We strive to tell stories of the heroic ideal, and I think what we saw after 9-11 is that the heroic ideal is living amongst us, and it walks amongst us every day. And we take it for granted until we actually need these people. And we really wanted to honor them.'"

The Brotherhood is the first in the three-part, eighteen-issue Call of Duty, series. The other two parts will focus on police officers and paramedics.

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