Spoiler alert: IBD superheroes prevail as Takeda wraps its Marvel Comics project

Takeda has closed the book on its first inflammatory bowel disease awareness graphic novel. In the end, the Unbeatables superhero team prevailed—not only over the evil trillionaire trying to take over the world, but also over IBD.

The wrap-up of the first “IBD Unmasked” comic book, which launched last July, incorporated the “power” of IBD sufferers in their final battle against the enemy. It turns out that the villain Technonaut couldn't control the Unbeatables because of their awesome willpower. The everyday superheroes who felt weak or embarrassed in real life because of their IBDs were the only ones with the personal strength to combine forces and defeat Technonaut.

The insights in the graphic novel's final chapters include a story line about sibling jealousy over the attention one superhero brother with Crohn’s disease receives, along with the positive effects of sharing IBD community experiences online. The project featured characters with a variety of IBDs, including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.  

Takeda worked with Marvel Comics on the custom series, which was written by Deadpool co-creator Fabian Nicieza. The company created a panel of IBD sufferers to help develop the content, and the final chapters include new patient insights. A spokesman said that while the graphic novel is now completed, the IBD Unmasked campaign will continue.

“We worked with a panel of patients from around the globe to provide input and suggestions for the script and design of the complete graphic novel," said Elissa Johnsen, senior director of global product and pipeline communications at Takeda, in an email interview. "It’s important to Takeda that any initiative is based on learnings and insights from the community to make sure any content developed will be beneficial."

One of the IBD panel members added, via news release, “Only a person with IBD can understand what it is truly like. … IBD Unmasked has shed light on the patient experience and given me the opportunity to have a positive impact on the IBD community.”

While the campaign itself is unbranded, Takeda markets the biologic therapy Entyvio, a newer IBD market entrant that began a branded campaign in early 2016. The drug faces heavy competition in the crowded IBD space; it's up against more established Crohn's and ulcerative colitis brands such as AbbVie's Humira, Amgen's Enbrel, and Johnson & Johnson's Remicade and follow-up Simponi.

In the company's 2015 year-end financial presentation, Takeda wrote that Entyvio is "on the way to over $2 billion in peak sales.” Total Entyvio sales for 2016 were about $775 million (86.2 billion yen), up from about $530 million (59.3 billion yen) in 2015.