August 10, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff


When it comes to fighting super villains the world of comic books is filled with unexpected collaborations. A new team up of Takeda Pharmaceutical (TKPYY) and Marvel Custom Solutions has risen to empower those who face the daily challenges of inflammatory bowel disease.

The Unbeatables is a graphic novel featuring five superheroes, Samarium, Switchback, Luminaria, Datawave and Rubblerouser who team up to take on a super villain known as Technonaut. Some of The Unbeatables have Crohn’s disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC), the two most common types of IBD, while others take care of family members or patients with the condition. The story follows the characters who overcome their own IBD challenges to protect the global community from the threat of Technonaut.

The concept, which is part of a Takeda program called IBD Unmasked, was designed by Takeda and Marvel Custom Solutions using an IBD advisory panel to provide insight into what patients living with IBD go through on a daily basis. There are an estimated five million people worldwide living with various forms of IBD. Takeda is the first pharmaceutical company to partner with MCS on a disease campaign raising awareness of health conditions, Takeda said.

When the project was being developed, Marvel brought in Fabian Nicieza to craft the story. An established comic book writer, Nicieza is best known as the co-creator of the anti-hero Deadpool.

Other than some digestion issues associated with spicy foods, Nicieza told BioSpace in an exclusive interview that he has no personal experience or history with IBD. However, through the project he met with a number of IBD patients who served as an advisory board for him and shared some of the challenges and difficulties they deal with on a daily basis.

“I wanted to get a feel for the little things that become problems or challenges and tell an entertaining story of interesting characters,” Nicieza said.

As he crafted the story, Nicieza said the goal was to help inform readers about IBD issues the characters have while still allowing a compelling super hero story to flow. He said the goal of the story was an empowering message that IBD patients can face their everyday challenges and still rise to the occasion when villainy threatens the world.

“I didn’t want the IBD challenges to be so subtle that readers wouldn’t understand it, but I also didn’t want it to be a hammer on the head,” Nicieza said. “At the end of the day, it’s still a bunch of superheroes who have to come together to stop a bad guy.”

The project was an ideal fit for Marvel, which has a long history of developing heroes that not only battle super villains, but also their own issues, or foibles. Overcoming those challenges makes the characters more heroic than simply fighting super villains, Nicieza said.

“It’s no different in its own capacity than Tony Stark (Iron Man) having a heart problem or Peter Parker (Spider Man) worrying about his Aunt May’s health. The Unbeatables is keeping with that spirit,” Nicieza said. “There’s nothing that could prevent these characters from functioning in the traditional Marvel universe.”

Elissa Johnsen, senior director of Global Product & Pipeline Communications for Takeda, said the company went with the format of a graphic novel with a hope of translating the real stories of people living with inflammatory bowel disease into an “ultra-sharable tale of heroism and empowerment.” The comic format allows them to create an empowering message that shows how IBD patients can overcome the “unpredictability, anxiety and stigma around the disease” all while raising awareness of the disease.

IBD Unmasked highlights the physical and emotional challenges of IBD, while providing support and information to the patient community… Through this global initiative, Takeda hopes to raise awareness of the unrecognized Super Heroes of the global IBD community and provide educational resources and support for people living with IBD, as well as the sidekicks who support them,” Johnsen said in an email to BioSpace.

Johnsen said Takeda approached MCS to develop the project in order to tap into the “power of visual storytelling to raise awareness and help people living with IBD feel more confident expressing themselves to their family, friends and IBD community.”

Fabian said there are more tales The Unbeatables can tell, but as of now he has not been asked to develop additional stories. Johnsen said there is additional Unbeatables content that will be unveiled throughout the year, but as of now Takeda does not have any plans for additional comic book-style stories for other medical indications. The IBD Unmasked initiative will continue to include comic-style stories as new content is released in the coming months.

At this time, the full Unbeatables graphic novel is only available outside of the United States, Johnsen said.

The first two chapters of The Unbeatables were presented last year at a comic convention in London and now the book has been completed. All four chapters of the full graphic novel are available online at, where visitors can also create and share their own Super Hero avatar, take part in quizzes and download tips to help them talk to their doctor, family or friends about their condition.



BioSpace source:

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