LITTLE Anthony Smith has always been a hero in the eyes of his dad.

Kevin Smith is full of admiration for the way his four-year-old has coped with a rare genetic disorder that has severely affected his hearing.

But the schoolboy is now officially a superhero – thanks to Marvel Comics.

The publishing giant has named a new crime -fighter after the youngster.

Known as The Blue Ear, Anthony’s nickname for his hearing aid, the character uses a special listening device to give him supersonic hearing.

Marvel came to the rescue after Anthony suddenly refused to wear his hearing aid to school, saying superheroes never use them.

Mum Christina tried to convince him he was wrong and turned to the publisher for help. Within 24 hours she received a 1984 comic book cover featuring Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid after suffering temporary deafness. From that Marvel then created The Blue Ear.

Anthony received an image of the new superhero answering a distress call, plus a poster showing a junior version of the character with Hawkeye.

Marvel editor and writer Bill Rosemann said: “The e-mail from Anthony’s mother got me thinking. Maybe we could create a superhero that would make him feel good about wearing his hearing aid.”

Fellow editor Thomas Brennan added: “Our job is to make sure that kids like Anthony believe in heroes – and we’ll do that job.”

Marvel has no plans to feature The Blue Ear in any of its comics but the character has already accomplished his first mission – Anthony is now only too happy to wear his hearing aid.

His father Kevin grew up in Blackfield and went to Hardley School but now lives in New Hampshire in the United States. The 41-year-old software architect said: “Anthony is a massive fan of superheroes, especially Spiderman, Captain America and The Avengers.

“One day he sadly told my wife that superheroes don’t wear blue ears.

“We decided to find out if any of them do and contacted Marvel Comics. They sent us a picture of Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid, plus a newly designed cover featuring The Blue Ear – a superhero created just for Anthony.

“We were amazed – and thrilled that they’d do all that for us.”

Kevin’s mother, Pauline Smith, of Blackfield, added: “Anthony’s a delightful little boy who has coped with his problems very well.”