A new episode of Marvel’s Hero Project dropped, and to celebrate getting two episodes in one week we’re doing something different. Instead of our regular review, we’re going to hear from the Hero himself. Meet Incredible Elijah!
“Incredible Elijah” is a perfect name for this episode because Elijah is just that. He noticed a friend was moving with pain and when she revealed her father had hurt her while fighting with her mother, he urged her to tell someone and get help. She did, but that wasn’t where Elijah stopped. He felt so powerfully moved that he’s become an activist against child abuse, even organizing and leading a march in his home town of Roanoke Rapids, NC.
Elijah and his mother, Jessica, talked to us earlier this week about Elijah’s goals, creating a support system for them, and what it was like to be recognized by Marvel’s Hero Project.
The Geekiary: Can you tell us in your own words what your episode is about?
Elijah Lee: “Incredible Elijah” is really about the journey I had to go through trying to find a voice for our young people, and helping other young people by making sure that they do have a voice, and that they do have the opportunity to speak up.
Also, my episode talks a little about how it’s important that we all come together to help prevent child abuse. At least from my eyes, I see it as an issue that people don’t particularly want to bring to the table just because it is a very, very hard topic to talk about. No one really wants to imagine how our young innocent vulnerable creatures called children are being abused and going through a lot of pain. I hope that my efforts will really inspire people and teach them that it’s important to have these types of conversations about child abuse.
TG: Working with Marvel- what was the first sign you had that something was happening? When you got your box, was that the first sign that something special was up?
Elijah: I originally sensed something, like there was the crew there. But deep down in my heart, I thought it was gonna be a small little thing, like a local newscast. Then as the initial box comes out and my mom sees the envelope, I was like, “Oh wow, this is Marvel?” The superhero nerd in me comes out and I started to get really, really overwhelmed. I am a big superhero nerd, I love any type of superhero. So being that it was from Marvel I was just overwhelmed with a mixture of different things- excited, happy, just every positive emotion you could think of, I was feeling it all at once.
It’s cool when you can’t think of one word for how you were actually feeling. I couldn’t believe that Marvel wanted to hear my voice and recognize me like that.
TG: You probably get this a lot, but when you’re speaking you sound older than you are. Do you think that’s a mistake adults make when talking to kids, or do you think you yourself are more mature?
Elijah: I honestly think that every child is initially capable of doing stuff like that. I understand that children are raised in different atmospheres and that plays a part in it, but also- yeah, sometimes adults will underestimate how much we children can handle. At the same time, I believe it’s so important that our young people are active and knowledgeable about our surroundings, and what’s going on in our world. I notice a lot of things, like oftentimes adults are quick to make laws about children, but the problem with that situation is that you don’t listen to the child’s voice about that situation. So you’re making laws about people that you don’t know, and you don’t know their voice about.
I do get that a lot, but in my eye, every child is capable of that. Every child has that level of maturity that we can handle more than people think we should be allowed to handle. We just need that support system. I thank God that I was able to have the right support system, some children don’t have that.
TG: Jessica, as that support system, how have you learned to support Elijah as he goes through his work?
Jessica Lee: He’s kind of always been this kid that’s extremely inquisitive and wants to push the lever a little bit. I think the most important thing, honestly, is listening. I just think about missed opportunities that we take for granted. It’s important to hear kids, and support them.
“Incredible Elijah” really is 100% accurate, you know. When he said, “I’m going to lead a march” at that time, he didn’t even know you had to get a permit. I was like, “You need a permit, you’re going to have to pay for it.” He was like, “What? You have to get a permit to march?”
So I taught him about that, and just supported him through the process. He gets a little bit of money for his report card, and he used that money to pay for the park to reserve it for the march. I think supporting him, and letting him know, “I’m here to guide you. I’m here to coach you and be your mom… but I think that you can handle these things.” That’s important.
It’s been fun listening to him. He’s always full of the next idea, frankly. I was hoping he’d rest a little bit but he’s onto the next big project.
TG: Elijah, what is your next big project?
Elijah: My main project right now is at our local hospital. I learned that after a child has been picked up [after abuse], they have to go to the hospital for checks. That’s just law, they have to make sure there’s nothing physically wrong. Then I learned that after the hospital contacts social services or maybe another family member, that child has to wait. Often they have to wait in a dull, normal hospital room. That’s not one of the best places to be- it actually adds to the traumatic experience.
I want to create a room where children can have a safe place where they can play and be happy. They’ve already been through a traumatic experience, it’s important that we try to make that experience better. We want it to be a calming room, we don’t want a lot of hustle and bustle. We’re partnering with the hospital on this, and we have a GoFundMe goal of $3000. We’re putting all that money towards a safe place for young people who have any type of traumatic event. Not just child abuse, but also say they’ve lost a loved one. I lost my father at the age of three, and if I had a space to go, and it was just filled with happiness and it was bright colors and there were games to play, it would have made things a little bit easier for me to handle. That’s already a very hard experience. I think it could have been easier, and this room would help a lot of kids.
Also, March 7th we’re doing our 3rd Annual Child Abuse Awareness March. I again will be marching to help prevent child abuse and also spread awareness. Because it is a real issue in our society. Even if it’s the smallest town you’ve ever heard of, it’s still an issue. I believe when one falls we all fall, but when one rises we all rise. That includes a small town.
I also think that march will be an opportunity for a lot of kids, because in a rural community we don’t have a lot happening. The kids here, they don’t know what it’s like to fight for social justice. They’ll be able to say, when they were in the first grade they were able to make their signs and go out and march. That is so powerful. I learned that from a mentor of mine. She taught me that there’s power in marching and there’s power in attending marches.
[Editor’s note: if you want to help build the Kids Safe Room, you can find that GFM here!]
TG: Is it weird hearing adults call you inspirational?
Elijah: Myself, I think it is a tad weird. But at the same time, I think that each child is capable of being inspirational. Each child has a purpose in their life. So, while it is a tad weird because we come from a society where few people really want to hear children’s voices, to be called inspirational means a lot.
TG: Last question. You said you were a superhero nerd, and we love nerds here! Who are your favorites?
Elijah: I love superheroes who’ve had to overcome obstacles. Marvel is able to take real-life superheroes and create them into a comic book hero. Two of my favorites are going to be Spider-Man just because he is a child. He’s a high school student. He has to juggle his schoolwork and home life on top of being your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. As I’ve seen all the movies, I think it’s really cool how he makes up these funny excuses. It’s overall fun to see how a child can become part of the adventures.
Another one is the Black Panther. Being that he’s an African American superhero who comes from a high tech society with a lot of resources- I think that embodies what our African Americans are today. Even what places like Africa are. Africa and African Americas today are highly intelligent with a lot of amazing ideas that they don’t necessarily have to share with the outside world.
Those people who were stolen from Africa- they’re beautiful magnificent people, and they were just taken. I think they’re represented by vibranium, how it was seen as this beautiful magnificent metal and [slave traders] wanted to take it. Instead of asking to share resources, they just took it.
Those characters both have amazing stories behind their comics, and I’m so honored to be part of Marvel as a hero.
Thanks to Elijah and Jessica for their time! Just in case hearing an eleven-year-old casually talk about the use of historical metaphors in Black Panther hasn’t won you over already, watch this clip from “Incredible Elijah”.
Then just go watch the show. Seriously, if The Mandalorian hadn’t come out with THAT THING this episode would have swept the new-content views. Even with Star Wars in the mix, it’s got 4.5 out of 5 stars on Rotten Tomatoes right now- which means “Incredible Elijah” is tied with The Mandalorian.
Not as cool as having a comic book, but pretty close. (ICYMI, you can read Incredible Elijah and all the Hero Project comics free online!)
Note: We at The Geekiary got free advance screeners of Marvel’s Hero Project for review. Opinions are all mine.
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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