Mark & Charlie: Unlikely Heroes with a Common Legacy
Catherine was married to the legendary Marvel Comics comic book editor, Mark Gruenwald, and Maryellen is sister of Charles Kernaghan whose decades-long dedication to social justice with workers’ and human rights solidarity is equally legendary.
Maryellen Kernaghan has spent over 35 years working in the not-for-profit sector as a theatre director, producer, manager, and arts advocate.
After studying for her Master of Fine Arts in Stage Directing and Producing at Columbia University in NYC, Maryellen went on to work for some of this country’s most illustrious performing arts companies such as The Acting Company (founded by John Houseman), The Shaliko Company at LaMaMa E. T. C., The Big Apple Circus, The Limon Dance Company as well as producing works for Off Broadway and regional theatre. She later founded and became the Artistic Director of ArtsCare, an organization using the arts as a tool for training best practices in health care. In addition, Maryellen has long been an advocate of using the arts as an instrument for social justice and healing. She has developed, written, and delivered arts programming on partner/domestic/elder abuse, caregiving for the caregiver, the signs and “signs of” Alzheimer’s, and home and traffic safety for seniors, to name but a few, for such organizations as HIP, Fire Department Of New York (FDNY) First Responders, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), Henry Street Settlement House, Safe Horizons, Altria, domestic violence safe houses and various other companies and organizations internationally.
Maryellen has been an invited speaker at the Knight Foundation and is a member of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Family Caregivers Association and is a professional spokesperson and model for women over 50. I, Maryellen advocate on behalf of fair trade and dignity for all workers, the life-long work of her brother, the well-known human and worker rights activist Charles Kernaghan who is known to have singlehandedly begun the anti-sweatshop movement in the United States in the late 1980s. Known as ” The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry” by the New York Times and other national publications as he uncovered the use of 13-year-old girls in sweatshop conditions manufacturing her clothing line and bringing the story to national attention, his unending efforts to uncover abusive labor practices and human rights violations of workers in the developing world earned him the moniker of “The Pitbull of 7th Ave”. Maryellen’s work in fashion always went hand in hand with her brother’s work as she only worked on campaigns that were not in violation of the “codes of conduct” he strove to put in place in clothing factories worldwide.
CEO at CurveStyle: Reshaping FAshion, Catherine Schuller began as a former Ford Model and became a spokesperson for the industry and retail editor for Mode magazine. She wrote The Ultimate Plus Size Modeling Guide, which has served thousands of young women wishing to enter the field. A frequently quoted media expert on the full-figured market, she has appeared on The View, The Today Show, The Early Show, and Neal Cavuto’s Your World, among other television and radio shows. She served as Image and Style Director of Divabetic, a charity for women living with, affected by, or at risk of diabetes. She taught the premiere image course on special sizes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and has presented nationally at career fairs, through popular fashion blogs, and column news. She has pivoted her work towards sustainability, with belief in fair trade and fair-trade fashion. A native of Pittsburgh, she graduated from Chatham University. Catherine is also an accomplished violinist and performs regularly in a band.
Lifelong Human and Labor Rights Activist began his career as a photojournalist in the 1980’s. Known as “The Pitbull of Seventh Ave.” by Woman’s Wear Daily and The NYTimes, Kernaghan has been credited with single-handedly creating the Anti-Sweatshop movement in the United States.
One of the things we are doing is creating platforms to raise awareness of the work these two passionate men had for their missions. Mark Gruenwald was to leave the comics industry better than he found it, making significant contributions in the form of interesting stories, with fan-based favorites that elevated the comics to academic status, honoring the fans who loved his work and not accepting anything less than truly innovative additions to the Marvel Universe was his calling. Charlie worked diligently to highlight atrocities and to find solutions to the global worker abuse that was and is still happening in factories making apparel and fashion items with little consideration of workers’ lives and the highlighting the impact of the factory owners’ systematic oppression of workers.
Both Maryellen and Catherine are dedicated to raising awareness of their legacies and have created platforms and programs that describe the work they have done in their illustrious careers.
Charlie won many awards for his strides and aligned with many like-minded organizations who are creating awareness and actionable improvements around the improved workers’ rights and social justice in the workplace. Mark has had many accolades as well, his most recent being inducted (finally, and long overdue) into the Comic Book Hall of Fame by being given the Will Eisner Award last year for his accomplishments in the industry.
It is not enough to give lip service to these men’s lives and achievements. After posthumously winning the Runway the Real Way Fashion Humanitarian Award, given to him by Catherine’s fashion diversity and inclusivity entity, Maryellen is in the process of creating the Charles Kernaghan Social Justice and Solidarity Award to be given to a deserving individual or corporation who “gets it right” and continues along the direction that Charlie so passionately made his lifelong path.
Mark Gruenwald is a comic book legend whose origin story begins in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Mark was born on June 18, 1953 and grew up on North Sawyer Street. The Gruenwald home soon became headquarters for many of mark and his friend’s creative endeavors like “the Monster Club”, “the Secret Agent Club”, and “the Fantastic Four Fan Club”. Although Mark wrote comic books for Marvel as an adult, his first published work for them was a fan letter that appeared in Fantastic Four #20. He told Stan Lee about their fan club and suggested more pin-ups to decorate their clubhouse (that issue also included a letter from George R.R. Martin who went on to write Game of Thrones, proving that great minds think alike).
Mark continued creating comics and published his own fanzine, Omniverse, before being hired by Marvel in 1978. Over the next eighteen years, Mark wrote, drew and/or edited many books featuring characters like Quasar, Spider-Woman, the Avengers, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Captain America, which he wrote for ten years! He was also instrumental in the creation of “the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe” which is the ultimate guide to Marvel’s characters, including their story history, their first appearances, and lists of their powers. Without Mark, these handbooks wouldn’t exist because there was no one on the planet that knew more about Marvel’s characters and their history than Mark.
Mark eventually became Marvel’s Executive Editor in 1987 and held that position until his untimely death from a heart attack in 1996. Mark’s legacy continues to live on through his work, the characters he created, and now through this comic book creation challenge. Mark proved that even if you’re from a small place, big dreams can come true.
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