When it comes to money smarts, Tony Stark knows what he's talking about.
Who's Tony Stark? Hint: He's a megazillionaire who fights for justice as a modern day superhero dressed from head to toe in high-tech armor. ... OK, parents: He's Iron Man.
Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hulk and the rest are together again in a new comic book adventure called the "Avengers: Saving the Day."
But this is no ordinary comic book. In fact, it's suitable school reading material.
In this Avengers story, not only do the good guys battle the Mole Man and his subterranean monster heavies during an attempted bank heist; they also learn about personal finance and money skills.
"This may surprise you," Iron Man says to his fellow superheroes while dispatching evil, "but everyone -- even the wealthy and big companies -- needs to create and follow budgets. Otherwise they can get into financial trouble."
So it goes in this special edition 16-page Avengers comic book released this month.
The comic is a collaboration between Marvel Comics and Visa to introduce youngsters to basic money concepts such as savings accounts, budgeting, earned interest and deposit insurance. The comic was crafted by some of Marvel's best-known storytellers and artists, including cover designer Tom Grummett.
It's free and it can be ordered online at http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/avengers. There's also a teacher's guide, and the comic is available in eight languages, including Spanish and Chinese.
The comic was timed for release in advance of a new Avengers movie in May followed by the July premiere of the new Spider-Man film.
More to the point, it was also created in time for April Financial Literacy Month. Developing sound money skills is essential in an increasingly consumer-oriented spending culture. But many young people struggle with money and lack the know-how to responsibly handle debit and credit cards, which could make them ill-prepared as adults to afford a home, buy a car and save for the future.
That's where the Avengers can help.
The comic book's creators are hoping that the popularity of these superheroes will influence youngsters' thinking about the money messages in the plot.
"A comic book with Spider-Man and the Avengers is the perfect device for making the sometimes dull subject of financial literacy entertaining and educational," said Jason Alderman, Visa's senior director of global financial education.
The comic includes a page of "Fantastic Finance Terms" and definitions, and there's a "Budget Blaster" worksheet on the back page to help young readers see how their "budgeting superpowers stand."
There are still plenty of "Yikes!" and "Graaaaas!" to move the dialogue along and satisfy a kid's imagination.
Still, the story is all about the money messages.
As Spider-Man learned, "I totally see the value of budgeting and saving -- even when there isn't a creepy little guy and his underground monsters involved."
(Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an e-mail to srosen(AT)kcstar.com or write to him at The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.)
Superheroes save the day financially
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.