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Marvel Comics To Nix Puffing Trading-Card Characters

May 5, 1994

HOUSTON (AP) _ Spider-Man, Blaze and the rest of Marvel comics’ superheroes have finally met their match: the son of a fervent anti-smoking activist.

The comic book giant is eliminating cigarette and cigar smoking from its superheroes trading cards because of a complaint from 7-year-old Sammy Blum.

Sammy wrote to The New England Journal of Medicine, which printed his letter in Thursday’s edition.

″I collect Marvel Masterpieces,″ Sammy wrote. ″So do some of my friends and my brothers. I found five out of 100 cards that were smoking 3/8 3/8″

Sammy listed the offending characters, both heroes and villains: Blaze, Gambit, Kingpin, Nick Fury and Red Skull.

″Why do they make cards for kids that show people smoking?″ Sammy asked.

The boy’s father, family physician Alan Blum, is chairman of a Houston anti-smoking group called Doctors Ought to Care. He travels the country protesting smoking ads and cigarette company-sponsored sporting events.

In a reply printed below a photocopy of Sammy’s letter, Marvel Entertainment Group President Terry Stewart, whose company owns such characters as X-Men, Captain America and the Amazing Spider-Man, announced it would eliminate smoking from future trading cards.

Marvel spokeswoman Pamela Rutt said the company tries to depict its characters with human failings.

″Sometimes their behavior is not what you’d hope it would be. We certainly do not promote smoking or present it as a behavior to emulate,″ she said.

But, she said, Sammy’s letter ″really did open our eyes.″

Sammy approached his father after noticing the characters’ use of tobacco, said Sammy’s mother, Doris.

″It was brought to his father’s attention and he said, ‘Well why don’t you write a letter and we’ll mail it to a medical journal. We’ll see what happens.’ Doggone it, they accepted it,″ Mrs. Blum said.

Her husband was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Rutt said the company had no plans to reconsider its occasional use of cigarette-smoking characters in comic books, ″but it’s not really impossible that it might come up.″

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