It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a ... financial planner?
The next time your kid brings home a comic book, it might not be just about battles, explosions and good versus evil. Instead, it might be about evaluating wants versus needs, living within your means and creating emergency funds.
That is because financial services company Visa has partnered with Marvel Comics to create "Rocket's Powerful Plan," a new comic book starring the superhero team Guardians of the Galaxy. The comic is slated to be sent to every public library in the United States, and there are more than 150,000 copies printed in eight languages.
The theme: why it makes sense to cultivate money smarts.
"The challenge was to create a fun, action-packed story while also including a lesson on personal finance," said Darren Sanchez, an editor at Marvel. "Trying to squeeze educational information into a story can be tough, especially with a topic like money management. To make it work you have to be careful not to overwhelm the story."
After all, as any parent knows, children listen to very little of what you have to say, especially when it comes to money. When it is the Guardians of the Galaxy who are talking (Rocket, Groot, Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer), they are more likely to actually pay attention.
So who is the Suze Orman of the superhero world, dispensing personal finance advice while defeating powerful foes at the same time? Turns out it is Rocket, an intelligent raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the recent big-screen film.
When the squad receives a fee for exterminating robopests, Rocket suggests putting some of that money aside for an emergency fund. That cash later comes in handy when the group has to repair their spaceship, and purchase high-tech weapons to vanquish their enemies. (Sorry about the spoilers.)
The comic is the second such venture by Visa. The original, produced in 2012, featured the Avengers and Spider-Man tossing off money advice. It proved to be so popular with educators that more than half a million copies were eventually printed.
This time, in addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy, look for cameos by Ant-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hulk. It was produced in languages including English, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and Malay.
"We wanted simple messages that kids could latch on to and take out of it, like saving for a rainy day," said Hugh Norton, Visa's head of financial education. "Issues like emergency savings are extremely important, and something we can drill into kids from an early age."
On the back of the comic book, kids will find interactive games like word searches, where they can try to locate terms like "budget," "currency" and "goal," for example.
There is also a wants-versus-needs challenge. Should you spend money on necessities like "water" and "a place to live," or luxuries like "video games" and "candy"? (On second thought, kids, do not answer that.)
Judging from a recent survey, it seems like parents could indeed use all the help they can get in explaining money topics to kids.
Almost As 'bad' As Death And Sex
In the annual "Parents, Kids & Money" survey by Baltimore-based money managers T. Rowe Price Group Inc, more than half of parents admitted they were "somewhat," "very" or "extremely" reluctant to talk about financial issues with their children. The only subjects they were more reluctant to talk about? Death and sex.
And 44% have not talked to their kids at all about financial subjects including long-term investing, market volatility, or financial statements.
That is where a money-oriented comic book like "Rocket's Powerful Plan" could come in handy. In the past Visa has tried out other innovative avenues to reach out to kids, as well, such as sponsoring financial literacy-themed National Football League games.
Marvel has put its deep bench of superheroes to work on other custom projects, as well, including for Netflix, Walt Disney's Disney Interactive, ESPN and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Even superheroes are not immune from the financial challenges of parenthood, by the way. In Visa and Marvel's new comic, when Ant-Man gets a cut of the fee from the Guardians of the Galaxy for helping eliminate their enemies, what does that cash go toward?
Purchasing a drum set for his daughter.