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ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Florida has a muscular new superhero, courtesy of Marvel Comics - Captain Citrus - a made-to-order crime fighter who promotes orange juice while battling evil through the power of the sun.
“Maybe it’s my solar pods – maybe it’s my connection to these groves – or maybe you just really ticked me off. Either way, you’re going down!” warns Captain Citrus in the first digital edition of his adventures.
The Florida Department of Citrus paid Marvel $1 million for the character and storyline as well as a marketing campaign that includes distributing a million free print copies of the comic book to elementary school students across the country, according to Citrus Department spokesman David Steele.
The comic books come with lesson plans to teach children how to make smart nutritional choices, and feature orange juice as part of a healthy diet.
The Marvel version of Captain Citrus is a square-jawed man with green hair and a skin-tight, orange-peel-colored suit, a full redesign of the Florida citrus industry’s original 2011 version, which was a round orange character with legs, arms and a green cape.
The updated character will also interact with the popular Avengers Assemble team of superheroes, and have its print edition debut in October at New York Comic Con, an industry trade show.
The debut comic book introduces readers to John Polk, a.k.a Captain Citrus, who is empowered by mysterious solar pods in the grove where he grew up. Captain Citrus joins the Avengers to battle bad guys in Orlando.
Marvel, owned by the Walt Disney Co, was an obvious choice for a marketing campaign given the target audience of fourth- and fifth-grade students, Steele said.
"They are the best in the world at what they do: developing dynamic characters, compelling storylines, cultivating lifelong relationships with fans and leveraging that good will to build brand loyalty,” Steele said of Marvel.
Orange juice sales have been hurt by citrus greening, a bacterial infection ravaging Florida groves that has reduced orange production to its lowest level in 50 years. Sales also have been hurt by campaigns to cut consumption of sugary drinks, including 100 percent juice that is naturally sweet, Steele said.
Editing by David Adams