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Bringing out the superhero in all of us

Jesse Holland, author of the novel, Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther? visited St. Jude patients and talked with them about comic books, superheroes and the Black Panther

If there is one thing St. Jude patient Charlie loves, it’s superheroes.

The 11-year-old, who received proton beam radiation therapy at St. Jude earlier this year for a brain tumor, enjoys going to see superhero movies and reading comic book stories.

Her favorite superhero? Ms. Marvel®.

“She’s just really cool and funny,” she said. “She spends half her time at home, and she’s grounded. Then she sneaks out and goes and finds super villains.”

This past spring, Charlie got the opportunity to share her love for superheroes with writer Jesse Holland when he toured St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Holland is a journalist and author of the novel, Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther? based on the Marvel® character Black Panther.

Like Charlie, Holland is an avid superhero fan. He started reading comic books when he was 5 years old. At that age, he would read a book and then wait for a month to read what happened next to his favorite superheroes.

“I frankly couldn’t wait the whole month so I started writing things for myself, creating these stories and figuring out what would happen next,” he said. “Comic books were life.”

During Holland’s visit to St. Jude, he toured the hospital and met with patients, talked with them about comic books, drew superheroes and even helped them decorate their own capes and masks.

Despite their health challenges, Holland said each patient had a sense of confidence, individuality and creativity that reminded him of the superheroes they had come to love.

“It was just so cool,” Holland said. “St. Jude patients are who they want to be and that’s how they wish the world could be. And the knowledge they have about comic books and comic book movies always astounds me. They follow it like it’s real news.”


St. Jude patient Charlie with journalist and author, Jesse Holland

As a journalist for The Washington Post and an author of multiple books, Holland views the work of St. Jude as a public service in today’s world.

One of the goals of journalism is to help people, to bring information to people that they wouldn’t get otherwise. St. Jude takes that even further. They help children and they do it without fear of failure, which I think is one of the most selfless things you can do.

- Jesse Holland

One of the things he said he hopes people walk away with after reading or seeing the Black Panther is that diversity has a place in this world.

“You need a story that speaks to people and I think that’s something that the Black Panther did – in comic book form, in the movie and with my novel,” he said. “It was a story that spoke to people’s experiences, to people’s cultural lives as well as their need for action and adventure.”

“We don’t need to see the same people or the same characters over and over,” he continued. “We can tell the same hero story with people of all shapes, colors, biases and genders.”

It was that same story that spoke to patient Charlie, who was thrilled to meet Holland.

“She has his autograph framed on her wall,” Charlie’s mother said.

After making a cape with him, Charlie talked to Holland about the Black Panther, what kind of superhero she would want to be and the super power she would have.

 “I’ve thought about this a lot already,” she said. “I would want to be able to move things with my mind.”


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