Through more than 50 years of heroic storytelling, the Justice League has valiantly fought crime and thwarted villains. Created by DC Comics, the set of superheroes has frequently foiled evil plots and routinely saved the planet from ruin (did you know that they once stopped a weapon of mass destruction from hitting Earth, thus averting World War III?). The list of impressive feats extends on and on. One major question remains: Is the Justice League ready for their toughest challenge yet?
As part of a new initiative, the superheroes will make the transition from solving fantasy problems to addressing real world issues in an ambitious effort to fight famine. We Can Be Heroes is a partnership between DC Entertainment and three established aid groups working to address the severe hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. The three partners (Mercy Corps, The International Rescue Committee, and Save the Children) were chosen by DC Entertainment based on their prior track records of success in Africa. The initiative will feature the Justice League as part of an extensive advertising campaign, using the popular superheroes as a promotional tool to encourage fans to give to a worthy cause. As an added bonus, DC Entertainment has promised to match all funds donated, as well as give 50 percent of all proceeds made from merchandise
Unlike many humanitarian relief efforts that simply focus on short-term relief, We Can Be Heroes plans to concentrate on long-term solutions that will stop famines from happening in the future. The use of the Justice League isn’t just a ploy to attract comic book fans either—the superheroes can appeal to all people because of their greater symbolism. The campaign urges donors to be heroes themselves, translating the good that the superheroes represent to the real world good of helping to abolish famine. As Daniel Dean, a regional manager for a branch of DC Comics aptly states:
“See, to me this isn’t about ‘I like the Justice League, therefore I will help a 6-year-old girl not starve to death.’ It’s a case of believing in everything people like Superman and the Justice League are supposed to represent, and standing ready and waiting to help so that when an opportunity like this comes along we can jump at the chance.”
The use of the multiple-person Justice League is also intentional. The use of a team is meant to mirror the idea that people must work together to solve the issue of famine, using individual specialties to create a singular, powerful force.
Successfully addressing and solving this complex problem of famine in the Horn of Africa will not be easy. Dubbed the “Triangle of Death”, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are currently home to 13.3 million people that need assistance, whether it is access to food or clean water. The situation has gotten so bad that the UN recently declared famine in two parts of Somalia, the first such announcement in over 21 years. To add to the difficulties, government ineptitude in the region makes it harder to effectively and efficiently disperse aid: little central oversight exists at all in Somalia, and both Kenyan and Ethiopian governments, hesitant to admit national failures, often drag their feet in facilitating aid.
Regardless of the difficulties, the We Can Be Heroes campaign plans to tackle the problem head on, hoping to put a large dent in the 13.3 million people in need. DC Comics does have some experience in philanthropic campaigns, such as selling a commemorative 9/11 issue that raised money for those directly affected by the September 11th attacks. The company hopes to draw upon this and other prior efforts to make their aid management even more efficient this time around. The We Can Be Heroes initiative, with a little help from larger than life superheroes, is confident it can defeat a very real foe.