Category Archives: Comic Book

Internet Trolling & (Autism) Acceptance

Internet trolling requires a commenter to manipulate the emotions of someone they cannot/never see. This often-used bullying tactic implies significant strategic planning. More sophisticated baiting tricks ignite a poster’s fears. Understanding how trolls make online traps – and how to diffuse their bombs – deserves commentary and its own supervillain (hero?).

While some persons with autism have delayed or minimal speech, we communicate in other ways. Technology allows us to communicate with each other more than at any other point in history. To help prove my point: Instead of simply typing a comment (below), would you otherwise have taken the time to hand write and mail me a letter? You can also contact me via Twitter @FaceValueComics, or Dave Kot on LinkedIn. See?

Trolls don’t care about an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or autism. Ironically, trolls presume more competence towards an autistic commenter than some professional helpers. Trolls have two goals: 1) get your attention through emotional triggers, and 2) continue the discussion like a chess match. Surely, these master manipulators know their target is wounded, or emotionally compromised; they improve their odds of winning an argument or exposing flaws in another commenter’s logic. Trolls play dirty.

Soliciting anger is easy- just insert inflexible political or social observations in a comment section or during a family reunion. Never reply in anger. Our primitive (hippocampus) brain functions begin activating in a fight-or-flight response. When angry, our brain redirects language skills to action-based preparation, like tensing muscles. We aren’t our best selves when angry and literally can’t communicate no gud know mor. Instead, go for a walk. Identify what angers us before returning to the keyboard. Without first understanding our anger wounds, we willingly walk back into the fray.

Fear is a troll’s most dangerous weapon. The best trolls plant doubt in a commenter’s mind. Doubt undermines our presumed acceptance within the online community. Trolls don’t just tell commenters that they’re wrong, they insult them. Nobody should fear a polite disagreement, especially one supported with reasonable points of view. However, questioning one’s acceptance in the group is the troll’s best use of fear. This isn’t just autism acceptance- this is Lockean Social Contract Acceptance. We feel like we are part of an (online) community and abide by its rules, or accept living by ourselves as banned/deleted outcasts.

delete
We know what Broken Matt Hardy does to trolls’ comments, right? 

For example:

This blog post isn’t about internet security or identifying online child predators. Where I live, public schools teach that information in 3rd grade. If any of my illustrations made sense, I presume you’ve at least a third-grade education. Please, no comments about bad news about or in the internet. No, this article addresses how trolls try to get under our skin, and how to stop ‘em.

Let’s decode how I tried to troll you. My first statement was a fact. Reviewing what I wrote, one could defend my sentence. I planted a hook; something of fact or accepted fact. Already, you agree with me. Now, I start insulting you and pushing you out of the social group. “Where I live,” implies we don’t live together or near each other, ergo, we are out of the group since they had the last comment. They are still in the group since they are most actively commenting. To feel like a part of the group, we might defend ourselves, but out of fear. We often see comments borne of fear. These replies focus on a presumed insult or offense but ignore the meat of a discussion.

Next, I offer a veiled compliment: “I presume you’ve at least a 3rd-grade education” if you made sense of anything. Finally, I remind you of what you might not know about internet security or identifying online predators. Did you miss recent news about hacking? Is there a national search for an abducted child and kidnapper? What are you missing? Sheesh- if you don’t know, well…you’re not part of the group, whom you presume ALL knows the splashiest news you don’t know. Again, fear of unacceptance chokes us.

To defuse trollish fears, reaffirm your place within the group. ARE you unwelcomed if something I wrote didn’t quite make sense? ARE you out of our group if you’ve less than a 3rd-grade education? Does it matter where *I* live? Do trolls’ insults jeopardize your ability to be a part of an online community? When/if you answer these questions, our fear subsides and our position within the community grows stronger. We didn’t run away (the other biological response to threats was anger). We needn’t reply to trolls in fear; just because you see a trap doesn’t mean you should spring it. Walking away with self-confirmation diffuses this trap.

Lastly, we find contempt and disgust among the tools of a troll. These similar emotions typically inject sarcasm, but as a static comment. For example, “Good job!” In an of itself, this could be praise, too. Without inflection, tone, or context, words can be used sarcastically…or not. If sarcastic, what else was implied? Why didn’t someone like me? Am I still part of the group? It’s difficult to ascertain one’s intentions by just a short comment (even among other sentences). Therefore, we should simply accept the best possible impression of our commenters, absent of malice. Isn’t this same respect what we seek?

Wait- what about sadness? Can trolls make us feel sad? Unless trolls know us very well, they cannot sadden us. Sadness implies a feeling of regret and longing, which we impose on ourselves. Most trolls are mere passers-by along our journeys, so they know little about us that could sadden us. To make us feel sad, trolls would have to use some personally historic hook, which is unlikely. Trolls loathe sadness because it almost immediately disconnects the commenter from an argument. Sadness can replace other emotions if we finally believe we are out of the group which we wanted. We reflect on happier times, happier posts, and happier commenters, and feel sad to (mistakenly) believe we’ll never have those experiences again. We make ourselves feel sad, not trolls.

How do we explain emotional affirmation to children with autism? I think online acceptance is a challenge facing neurotypical children, too. In this instance, at least, we are united: we seek acceptance and reaffirmations of social rules and roles regularly. (Sally sells seashells by the seashore.) I have an answer about (online) social media acceptance: show ‘em, don’t tell ‘em. C’mon; I write comic books- whaddya expect?

TWizTravis Woo competes professionally in Magic: the Gathering card game tournaments. He’s graciously agreed to partner with us about online bullying. We’ll use his likeness and online persona to literally illustrate trolling and emotional traps in our comics. See, I believe Travis plays a troll online…the worst kind: Provocateurs. Since Travis is well-read and deeply philosophical, he seeks intelligent answers to creative comments. I think Travis understands how some provocative news generates attention. I also believe he is genuinely seeking answers to socially-uncomfortable questions at times. Make no mistake- he doesn’t censor himself.

Be Warned– Provocateurs almost always announce their intentions of fierce debate. Look at titles of posts and videos. Listen for sheepishly awkward commitment to the provocative statement or question. Master Trolls want a good discussion. To engage this character, be well-armed with cited facts and well-articulated opinions. Spell correctly. Quickly missing these basic rules dismisses your contributions to the group. Expect a minefield of emotional traps inciting anger, fear, and contempt. I’ve shown you how to defuse them. If you do, the Provocateur welcomes you back into the discussion as an equal. Again, the Master Troll weeds out weak participants and expects deep answers to their provocative statements. Enter discussions at your own risk, but sometimes Provocateurs offer new insights. I recommend simply reading about their journey without comment. Remember- everything lives forever on the Internet.

I look forward to collaborating with Travis as our story and characters take shape. While very direct, I respect Travis’ use of time. I choose not to take offense to his comments or questions because I honestly believe he seeks deep answers. In turn, he readily excuses my mistakes and brashness. I feel like he understands me, or at least what I want to do.

For example, Travis’ character will ask of the Zephyr: “I thought you had autism? Should you really be carrying a sharp sword?” Is he sarcastic? Is he well-meaning but cumbersomely blunt? His comic book character will reflect both aspects of Travis’ online personality. Additionally, the “Troll Wizard” studies alchemy. He commands an army of small trolls. These short homunculi beset the Zephyr. They try to inflict verbal injuries, using the basic techniques of trolls. How well does the Zephyr handle these strange new encounters? Is the Troll Wizard trolling him by leaving behind notes signed, “Much love, T.W.”?  Look for more to come soon from Face Value Comics!

Did I do a “good job?” Do you like to play games? For a chance to see sketches of the new comics BEFORE they go to print, please play along. Leave a comment to the Facebook page where this post originally appears. Reply with “Good Job!”     …without quotation marks, but with the one more exclamation mark than the last poster. One comment per person of this kind, please (read: don’t try to out-do yourselves with multiple posts). I’ll randomly select a commenter and contact them within one week of this posting.

Wanna Make a Comic Book? My Invite, Please RSVP

Are you                Yup, I’ve whitewashed this blog post with a secret message! We’re going

Ready?                 to play a game, too. What kind of game? Well, I already gave you a clue…

Grab your pencils, and let’s do this thing!

Have you ever seen a white raven? If you saw a dozen ravens, how many would be white? 100 ravens? 1000 ravens? Hempel’s Paradox highlights problems of understanding based on faulty observations. In turn, these observations skew our perception of reality. Despite our best efforts, you and I are unlikely to see an albino white raven living in the wild, but they DO exist.

Like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects a white raven.

I want to change this social perception. Pffft- I know next to nothing about birds, though. I do, however, have personal and professional understandings about autism, mental health, and comic books. In hindsight, that’s an odd set of tools, huh?

If you have autism or mental health challenges, YOU are my audience. I contend few of us are published artists or writers. When I wrote a simple comic book, I received a disproportionate amount of media and scientific attention. In my mind, writing a comic book as an autistic adult shouldn’t have been international news. I was a white raven in the minds of too many people.

Since it’s Autism Awareness Month, I want to acknowledge how many of us need and still seek positive affirmations from family, friends, loved ones, and society in general. One way we may accomplish this is to do something spectacular and unexpected.

Let’s make a comic book(s) together.

(As much as my health permits me,) This week, I’ll be posting some submission guidelines. First, I want to make something crystal clear: I don’t care about an “official” diagnosis. I won’t be asking you for health or insurance information to “prove” yourself. I like you just as you as are, and encourage you to be your best self. Be kind. Be mindful. Be well-read. Be considerate of others’ points-of-view.

My goal is to help build up the confidence and self-worth (not ephemeral ‘self-esteem’) of the next generation of comic book artists and writers. To this end, I’m proposing a comic book anthology of short stories made by our audience at Face Value Comics. Our team will provide editing advice, tips to overcome writers’ block, and content suggestions for no financial charge. I envision a comic book of ?? pages, with art and stories by other “white ravens.” I want the unseen to be seen. I want those of us with autism and mental health to grow as budding professionals deserving of recognition for our talents and attempts. We acknowledge how comic books are a multi-million dollar industry so our collective efforts may become more than idle busy work.

So, is this something of which you’d like to be a part? Please openly share this message with other social media channels. We welcome input and content from like-minded friends. The world already knows me. Let’s use this recognition to open doors for other new talents.

Oh- here’re my initial thoughts of the project:

  1. Pick a real-life historical “culture.” Examples may include, but are not limited to- British Knights, Celts and Vikings, Aztecs, Maori, Maasai, and more. How “historic” is historic? How about this idea: a high school student should be able to write an informative research paper about this group with citational references. In other words, don’t give knights laser guns (yet).
  2. Pick a fictional challenger(s) found in classic literature. Again, some examples include dinosaurs, robots, ninjas, aliens, pirates, vampires, etc. NOTE: “Zombies” are not found in the classic literature; they’re out of scope for this project. Sorry, not sorry- ask Kirkman if he’s doing anything like we propose, if zombies are your groove.
  3. All content must fall under suggestions found for PG-rated movies.
  4. Our team will assemble a good sampling of the content, based on artists’ attention to the initial directions (above). Submissions will fall under ONE PAGE, TWO PAGES, and FOUR PAGES of sequential comic book art.
  5. Next, we invite writers. They will interpret the visual art and craft a story based around it so our heroes win and tell a good story. Again, we will provide editing, suggestions, etc. free of charge.
  6. We’ll collect these stories into an anthology comic book graphic novel and release it as professionally-published content.
  7. “Compensation” and financial discussions must wait- that topic deserves its own post. Actually, so do most of these initial guidelines. Well, at least you know what’s coming later this week, eh?

I’ve been told to mention that Face Value Comics is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization; we can accept donations. I’m leery of this point, though; I won’t be bullied into publishing someone’s content based on a financial donation.

Today, my doctor gave me some not-good news. Rather than whine or beg for sympathy, I ask for your help to distract me from it. Let’s fight social stigmas. Together, let’s make something magical and build stronger skills…to show ourselves to the world how we are MORE than our diagnostic labels.

I hope the world stops defining me/us by what I am NOT, but rather who I AM.

TL;DR: I’m inviting persons with autism and mental health challenges to help make an anthology of short comic book stories.

Autism, Steampunk, and Comic Books – An Invitation into My World

March 28th, 2017 is an especially happy day for me.

Someone very special to me celebrates their birthday!

Today is the 25th anniversary of Christian Laettner’s Shot. #sorrynotsorry

ZekeZapAs March closes, our team invite our fans to consider Captain Zeke Zap of Face Value Comics.

Captain Zeke Zap loves his steampunk aerial drones. As leader of the para-military group, “E-Z Squad”, Cap’n Zap employs different drones for combat, communication, and spying. The Blind Blaster of Blue Fox Bay uses kinetic energy created by drone movement to see through his cybernetic-like eyes.

For example, I asked our artist, Sky Owens, to create a special drone for our comic book story. I described this drone as having a pint-sized canister of pressurized helium. Add legs/wheels for eventual landing balance. Place a boxy Victorian camera atop the canister. Position small propellers at each corner, and an inflatable balloon in the center. As remote control levers flip, propellers move and direct this drone. Pressurized gas inflates the balloon and gives it height, and cause propeller blades to spin as the gas circulates through different hoses and valves. Captain Zap can “see” what the camera lens sees as it moves (but not while this drone is stationary), using “bio-kinetic” energy. Add a small megaphone to the drone body, or create another drone for a separate source of information.

Can you imagine this drone, and how it could be used in the Victorian steampunk era? Can you do better? Sky’s artistic interpretation will appear in an upcoming issue…

Would you, or someone you love with autism, want to be part of our creative comic book experiences?

Using the information suggestion table below, decide your level of skill. Also note: we won’t need documentation nor verification of an autism diagnosis; we use an honor system for possible submissions.

SKILL LEVEL ART WRITING
Beginner Can draw/ink/color a steampunk drone. Can verbally and logically describe an aerial drone that seems plausible during the Victorian steampunk era.
Intermediate …in a scene with implied action(s) where this drone and Zeke Zap are featured. …with interesting sci-fi twists regarding its functionality, purpose, use, consequences, relationship with Zeke Zap, etc.
Advanced …and build upon cause-and-effect relationships of the steampowered drone functions in a series of sequential art. …and artful direct scenes of sequential art that incorporates and features Captain Zap and this new drone.

This invitation may spark many questions from our fans. Based on the number of inquiries, we are prepared to continue the conversation about including autistic-created fan art in future publications. Furthermore, we may explore mentoring potential autistic talent in the comic book creation business.

For now, consider your skill levels. Practice. Read (free) guides on drawing and storytelling. Let your imagination soar. This sample direction (see table, above) serves as suggestions. Again, based on fan inquiries about this opportunity, we will discuss submission guidelines throughout April 2017.

At worst, you’ve something to do on a rainy day. At best, we will help mentor new talent with the community’s help. Please save submissions until we set a definitive date; all submissions received before a designated date will not be considered for legal reasons. (I was told I had to write that last line. –Dave)

What questions do you have?

Autism (Self) Advocacy = Best Advocacy

I want our social media to be a safe place for persons living with autism. Here, I want to discuss comic books, education sciences, safety, and self-worth. My goal is to offer hope by invoking these topics, and providing positive examples.

Autism advocacy must evolve, because society always changes. However, our path forward seems foggy. In our household, we have two individuals with two different expressions of autism. Aside from kindness, love, and patience, “autism advocacy” will mean many different things under our roof.

Therefore, I am shifting my focus about autism advocacy. I will begin more self-advocacy and self-disclosure. You are invited along for my journey. These experiences will unfold in future blog posts, videos, and comic books.

An important and lengthy telephone call helped cement this direction. Talking with our artist, Sky Owens, he posed an important question: do we want Face Value Comics to be a socio-political soapbox, or a kid-friendly story about a hero like themselves? Why would an autistic person choose our comic book over any other title? Readers expect comic book stylized action sequences, so what abilities, motivations, or personality makes the Zephyr a hero to kids with autism?

As we expand our comic book line, these questions help remind me of my original goal: kids need heroes like themselves. This means curbing my own misguided self-righteousness against any number of specific social ills. Instead, larger and more relatable arcs can be represented.

In future blog posts, I will likely ask very candid questions. Make no mistake: I seek thoughtful answers, not conspiracy theories, political rhetoric, circular answers, nor “alternative facts.” With some questions, I will certainly appear unintelligent. I am. The longer I fight for autism (self) advocacy, the more I realize how much I do not understand. Aren’t some problems with autism tied to misunderstanding unwritten social expectations?

Our world changes daily. Information doubles exponentially. How do we juggle real life demands while being autism advocates? I submit self-care and self-advocacy are our best achievements. At the end of each day, being our best selves is the best form of advocacy anyone can do. I cannot address nor imagine what your “best self” is; only you and your loved ones can help. As for me, I ask you to follow me as I (re)explore autism self-advocacy. Together, we can learn. Together, we can be equals, knowing we try our best to be our best.

myra-z2

We’ve finished twelve pages of our next comic book. We have clear examples of emotive facial expressions, villains coded by color gradients (“Cool” colors = good; “Warm” colors = bad), PG-graded action/combat situations, steampunk imagery, and heroic endings (or cliffhangers). We anticipate a release this spring, and will continue to keep our fans apprised of news.

Dear Rosie…An Open Letter about Autism (Probably Part 1 of Many)

AN OPEN LETTER TO ROSIE O’DONNELL, PART ONE

Over the Thanksgiving break, I read about Rosie O’Donnell. Via Twitter, O’Donnell acknowledges how her young daughter has an autism diagnosis. We applaud her bravery to seek a definitive diagnosis to explain whatever challenges Dakota may have. Furthermore, we welcome O’Donnell as a staunch advocate for positive change.

Millions love Rosie O’Donnell as a comedic entertainer. We watched her spar with (now, President-Elect) Donald Trump through social media. Obviously both O’Donnell and Trump have each others’ attention and respond in kind.

Now hypervigilant about autism symptoms, O’Donnell took to Twitter on November 21st and asked a question related to autism. Her tweet is embedded here, but I chose not to activate the video link; the video itself is not today’s topic. Rosie O’Donnell’s influential advocacy role as a loving caregiver to someone with autism is our topic.

rosiebarron

Question: Name someone – anyone – who can elicit a passionate reply from our soon-to-be Commander-in-Chief? Is O’Donnell at the top of your list, after crossing-out (untrustworthy) media sources?

I appeal to O’Donnell’s love for her daughter on behalf of 3.5 million United States citizens living with autism. Use your advocacy skills, love, and Trump’s attention to start a non-confrontational discussion about autism. People will (and already have) listen to you. You’ve more ways to continue said campaign than most readers’ resources pooled together.

Everything lives forever on the internet, so I caution O’Donnell from referring to any child’s possible health concerns without parental or their own consent. This admonition includes referencing Barron Trump, too. I believe O’Donnell is: 1) NOT a certified medical professional trained to diagnose autism, 2) NOT Barron Trump’s physician, and 3) WANTING to start a positive autism discussion at the highest political level in our land. Therefore, I lament her willingness to make an armchair diagnosis about any person’s kid, especially without their consent or desire for such benevolent inquiries. Within the autism community, we fight against neurotypical stereotypes, and these include “symptoms” others may see for less than thirty seconds. Like fast food, social media gives us a flash of reality and expects us to digest it just as easily as a legitimate source of nourishment.

Instead, I offer to walk with O’Donnell along her autism journey. I invite her to chat with me, and I’m sure she will if motivated. I also call upon her to do some positive things about advocacy. Follow me.

Step One:

Acknowledge social problems experienced by persons living with autism. These include abysmal statistics in unemployment, underemployment, long-term housing, medical insurance coverages, and educational material. Until meaningful accommodations are met, persons with autism will be seen as social bottom-feeders beyond the playground. Will you please address this problem, Ms. O’Donnell?

Step Two:

May I call you “Rosie,” please? All of this “Ms. O’Donnell” language seems far too terse when we speak of compassionate service.

Step Three (This is a BIG One!):

Join me in lifting the autism-community boycott of Autism Speaks. Since the passing of co-founder Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks seems poised to lead by mindful education. Else, they may feel compelled to return to fear-mongering and perpetuating myths about autism. New leaders deserve a chance – isn’t this what President Obama said? Let’s align ourselves with Autism Speaks as the largest U.S. Autism-centered non-profit organization. Obviously, our boycotts did not work, but we do have their attention. Are we willing to be as accepting of others (including new people who lead Autism Speaks) as we claim we want other people to be of us?

Step Four:

Buy a copy of Face Value Comics. Actually, get it for free, here: http://www.drivethrucomics.com/product/124765/Face-Value-Comics

Two years ago, I opted to remove financial constraints from people interested in our comic book. As the world’s first comic book to explicitly feature a hero with autism, we got a lot of attention. We won international awards and enjoy a world-wide audience. Our inclusion of facial feature recognition earned us a positive review in an accredited medical journal as an educational and therapeutic enterprise; we’re the only comic book to be reviewed in a medical journal, too. Pay what you want.

Step Five:

Please, call me Dave. When I hear “David,” I look for my mother, who is likely going to yell at me for something I (probably) did.

Step Six:

Join us in our grass-roots advocacy. We’re just everyday people, but we self-published a unique comic book. We’ve been on the NBC Nightly News, medical journals, and have spoken to the PA and US Congress about autism as subject-matter experts. We would welcome you to share this advocacy spotlight, because I fatigue easily due to my own health challenges (including autism).

In April 2017, in Philadelphia, we debut our latest comic book for fans. As we finish editing and storyboards, we welcome your input into how autism might be portrayed. We seek clear understandings, and to maintain our family-friendly content. You started a serious conversation- will you continue? Do you need or want our help? Have you ever been to a Comic Book Convention as a fan?

Step Seven:

Continue the conversation. I have other strategies we can discuss about positive autism advocacy and acceptance. I also have several Trump-focused Tweets suitable for sharing, that further push this agenda. Otherwise, fans and myself risk seeing you as a fair-weathered advocate for equality and human rights, choosing how and when to stand up or give up based on convenience. Autism is a life-long diagnosis and challenge; will your advocacy, compassion, and interest extend as far?

My requests may take some time to ponder. Contacting me may take time. Let’s decide to chat again in a week, okay? Rosie – please visit and follow us on Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/FaceValueComics/?ref=bookmarks) or on Twitter (https://twitter.com/FaceValueComics), and send us a message.

Be well,

Dave Kot, an adult with autism and co-parent to a lovely young lady with autism

Get off Your A$k, Government: Autism Education Reform

Dear Pennsylvanian Congressmen Mike Doyle, Scott Perry, and Seth Grove:

My name is Dave Kot, an autistic constituent living in York, PA. Perhaps you remember me? We met to discuss small business practices, and educational/therapeutic implications behind our internationally-award winning comic book. Now, I offer to help our government during a time of budgetary needs, when special education funding stands at risk.

Maybe I lost your interest with words like “autistic” or “comic book.” Typically, these two things wouldn’t seem complimentary. Certainly, most people would not opt for either adjective as a default prerequisite. Maybe you don’t want my help, and prefer to banter between Governor Tom Wolfe while our state budget – and intended beneficiaries of ear-marked funds – hang in the balance. I ask you to presume greater competence from an adult with autism, and continue reading for a probable solution.

Digital Camera
My apologies for the format of the photograph- I will upload a new picture of the award in the near future, showing its spiffy wood carvings!

This picture shows me holding an international award from Canada, which I received on last week. It recognizes my application of science to assist young readers with autism identify others’ emotions, to improve some social situations. Don’t you find it easier to negotiate with people who smile instead of scorn? Think back- who taught you what anger, or fear, or disgust looked like? Our comic helps readers identify these emotional states by themselves or with help. NBC Nightly News featured this work last year.

However, our non-profit mission goes far beyond comic books. Last year, my scientific application of facial feature recognition was recognized by the academic community. Unsolicited by me, an accredited medical journal (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities) warmly reviewed the comic for my claims and validated my doctorial studies. To my knowledge, ours is the world’s first comic book to be critically reviewed by unbiased third parties for inclusion in a medical journal.

Do I have your attention, yet? Does it matter that I am also clinically diagnosed with autism (technically, “Asperger’s Syndrome”)? Do years of graduate and post-graduate work matter? Do several international awards and prominent global grass-roots leaders within my circles matter? Does inclusion in a medical journal matter? If none of these things matter to you, I lay my ‘trump’ card (no relation):

Join us. I’ve developed fantastic relationships. This spring, the Dover Area School District Supervisor (Kenneth Cherry) and Supervisor of Special Education (Dave Depew) and our team will meet. We will begin formulating special needs curriculum using the exact same scientific theory about which I wrote. Does this invitation interest you? How about now, Congressmen:

Last spring, the Dover Areas School District School Board unanimously voted to adopt facial feature recognition (read: the science behind our comics) as part of its special needs classroom initiative. Some people may think, “…what does that vote have to do with me?”

Expert analysis by people I consider smarter than myself predict how implementation of facial feature recognition could be used to GAIN about $1,000 to $1,500 PER classroom PER district PER year. Would you like to know how? This answer will require an in-depth presentation of materials, like my wife and I offered the Dover Area School District. Suffice to say, this net increase to special education can occur without adding ONE cent to the typical taxpayer, and insulates itself against future federal or state budget changes or cuts. Over time, analysis suggests how Dover Area School District will be the first school district able to offer graduating students with special needs a tax-free grant for further education or other personal costs. Imagine- just by implementing my well-vetted research, we could offer a high school senior money for college textbooks, or a new suit for job interviews, etc. We also push school choice by offering competitive education.

Would you prefer to affect positive change for students and families with special education needs, or do you prefer the political stalemate and barbs between yourselves and Governor Tom Wolfe? Please make no mistake- I am largely non-political and don’t care who gets credit for this work. We can and should share in good news, regardless of political affiliation. However, things could be done faster with Pennsylvania’s Congress (and the U.S. Congressional Autism Congress?) in tune with this proposed goal, to replicate it wherever it may be useful.

Congressmen, I invite you to witness scientific, economical, and educational change poised to happen under your watch in your respective areas of governance. I thank you for your assistance in my business matters, your praise for my work as an adult with autism, and now offer to pay it forward to help our community and state. Will you accept my invitation and lay down rhetoric for real change? Will you trust a person with autism who offers valid options for change? In closing, I’ll simply invoke the name of Temple Grandin- a fellow academic professional with autism whose autism allowed her to see things differently and whose courage changed an entire way of business. I am not Temple Grandin, but I am Dave Kot. I can help you help Pennsylvanian and United States’ special education programs.

Please continue the discussion via this social media source, or email us at: Angie@FaceValue.US

Thank you for your time and interest, and Happy New Year!

Be well,

Dave Kot

Re-introductions

“Who am I? Why Am I here?” – Admiral James Stockdale, 1992 Vice-Presidential Running Mate

This quote seems appropriate for me. For several months, I’ve been noticeably absent from social media. Friends and family have given me space and support. Still, I needed to address some things, and share some of those things with you now, in no particular order:

  • My father had a stroke and subsequent heart surgery, and he continues to recover.
  • Due to some health concerns, I’ve been battling lingering effects of at least one concussion sustained in a fall(s).
  • At a holiday celebration, I had to advocate about autism acceptance because,
    • A young man rejects his autism diagnosis because he believes himself “too smart” to have autism, and
    • (Too) many (family) members treated a young lady with autism like Lenny, from the book “Of Mice and Men,” when she wanted to play with new kittens; no kittens were harmed.
  • I’ve reviewed a LOT of internet chatter and direct inquiries about the comics’ utility, including inquiries about its academic merit and curriculum suggestions.
  • We’re in a state of growth, including adding new writers, artists, and equipment like a phenomenal printer.

What does all of this mean for you, as fans of the world’s first-featured comic book hero with autism? Stay tuned, because I will begin to break-down how these events have galvanized my resolve. I promise to be honest with you even if I don’t know what direction to take.

Follow me. Walking arm-in-arm for advocacy suggests a patient pace, right?

Comic Books with a Sensory Experience? Opening Comic Books to the Autism and Blind Communities

We recently entered a contest sponsored by Wells Fargo. With great thanks to a team of dedicated writing volunteers, we entered this submission for professional business mentorship and a $25,000 award. How will we use these resources?


Image a fantastic story – a radioactive spider bites a likeable student. This student discovers new superhuman powers, like a spider. He fights criminals after dating and studying. Marvel Comics’ “Spider-man” already matches this basic description. Now, what if the same radioactive spider bite also gives the hero cancer? Why couldn’t writers use clinical and compassionate experiences to describe a young person’s journey with cancer treatment? How valuable could this resource be for a young generation – with or without cancer – to understand cancer?

Our small business believes kids need heroes like themselves. Our founder (and comic book script writer) saw a gap in the marketplace. He took his experiences as a doctoral student researching autism and empathy connections, his work as a clinical therapist, and his own personal experiences as an adult diagnosed with autism to create a comic book. Face Value Comics is the world’s first comic book to feature a hero with autism!

Well Fargo Contest LinkOur comic books use a lot of scientific theories vetted by peer-reviewed literature. Using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), we freeze multicultural and non-verbal emotional expressions on a static page. Readers build predictive empathy, and begin to see how or why a character may feel some emotions. This strategy helps erase a damaging myth about persons with autism: we DO have empathy, but may need more clarifications on how to respond. In the comic book, we have a lot of aliens and robots, but we also offer family-friendly role models. Each character has a fictional, yet robust,  psychological profile, including descriptions of autism, anxiety, depression, etc. When confronted by a challenge, characters respond predictably because we compassionately use their clinical diagnoses for added legitimacy. Kids need heroes like themselves. These successes, as well as great international press coverage of our comic books, helps meet a part of our mission statement: helping persons with autism feel safe, feel valued and wanted, and feel and successful.

Autism advocacy requires awareness and acceptance. Our comic books earned several international awards and nominations within the past year. We’ve been on the nation’s largest television news network, with over 10 million viewers. Without paid search-engine optimization, we still rank highly in social media because we held over fifty interviews last year. This fall, we present to the United States Congressional Autism Caucus about replicating our educational reform initiatives with the Dover Area School District. People are becoming aware of autism…without fear or prejudice.

Autism advocacy include social acceptance.
Autism advocacy include social acceptance.

Acceptance is a larger hurdle for advocacy. However, our comic book sit on the same shelves as Batman and Spider-man. Last year, we became a best-selling, independently-published comic book through Diamond Comic Distributors. Making our comics available to more people remains our largest business challenge, and this is because of purchase power. Our small business cannot easily afford to buy in bulk, thereby reducing paper and printing costs.

Wells Fargo’s award would reduce print costs. Additionally, we welcome professional mentorship about business practices; our team consists on less than ten individuals. Regardless of the financial award, we ask Wells Fargo to consider helping us with a new marketing strategy: imagine how having a three-dimensional printer could help us. By raising the same facial expressions our artists typically create, and adding Braille, we could open comic books to the low-or-no vision community and for persons with autism with an added sensory experience.

Will you help us do more with what we have, and add your investments of time and talent and even a portion of the announced $25,000 award? Kids need heroes like themselves. Thank you for your consideration!

A MARVELous Dirty Secret

EDIT 23 April 2015: Fans have asked me to explain my thoughts about Marvel Comics’ diversity. My reply is found here: https://facevaluecomics.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/invulnerability-a-new-social-superpower/

We congratulate Marvel Comics for embracing diversity! Today (22 April 2015), Issue #40 of “All New X-Men” hits comic store shelves. In it, long-time hero Bobby Drake comes out as gay, or at least bi-sexual. We may see Iceman wrestle with his sexual identity after talking with fellow mutant, Jean Grey. If shown with compassion, Iceman’s real-life sexual identity questions could establish him as a contemporary role-model for readers.

 

This example gives us at least the third suddenly-diverse character from Marvel Comics. Last year, a female picked up Mjolnir as Thor! An African-American donned the classic shield and mantle of Captain America. Iceman was created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, so it’s been a long time for him to finally discuss his sexual identity.

 

Ardent comic book fans may want small changes their new characters’ super-powers or heroic battle-cry. Change begets change. Despite any perceived flaws in a costume design, for example, fans will grow to accept their heroes. Maybe, fans will even grow to love the newest incarnations of their beloved heroes.

 

Certainly, we can’t DISLIKE ‘em. This edict applies to comics reviews, too. Why?

 

If we don’t like a new African-American as Captain America, we’re racist.

 

If we don’t like a new female incarnation of Thor, we’re sexist.

 

If we don’t like a new gay Iceman, we’re homophobic or heterosexist.

 

We congratulate Marvel Comics for a brilliant, polarizing marketing strategy!

 

Some of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters – Wolverine and Deadpool – have recently died in their respective titles. Keeping a running count, now we have at least FIVE distinct changes within the Marvel Comics Universe in less than a year. May we ask WHY we suddenly have such an outpouring of new characters?

 

I contend this change has nothing to do with diversity and everything to do about money.

 

Knowing how much money popular comic books have hauled at theaters, Marvel Comics’ so-called benevolence is actually tied to a HISTORY of money choices.

 

Artist Jack Kirby created Captain America and Thor. When an average fan recollects an image of either two heroes, they likely think of the characters as drawn by Kirby. Since so many fans already connect these two characters with Jack Kirby’s art, his family sued Marvel Comics. They wanted rightful compensation for the characters that Kirby helped make famous.

 

Marvel Comics countered by showing the world their news images of these two heroes. Alongside a blonde hair, blue eye, Caucasian Captain America, we saw the NEW  African-American Captain America. There’s no comparison! Similarly, we saw a female Thor who looks nothing like her bulging biceps male name-sake. Again, there is no comparison!

 

Thankfully, people saw through the charade. These new characters created by Marvel Comics pre-dated the lawsuit by months. They played a shell game with very high stakes. If Marvel Comics wins, they retain all rights to box-office giants’ sales. Lose, and they have to pay an artist handsomely. Eventually, Marvel Comics paid Jack Kirby’s estate a settlement.

 

Did you remember how Iceman was co-created by Jack Kirby, too? Sony Pictures Entertainment once owned exclusive cinematic rights the the Spider-man franchise. This explains why movie-goers saw a completely different-looking Electro character from the one created by…guess who- Jack Kirby!

 

Gregor Mendel is rolling over in his grave- Marvel Comics owns the copyright to the word “mutant!” This suggests how Kirby’s creations – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch – are NOT going to be mutants in the new Avenger’s movie this summer. They will have NO ties to the X-Men as we grew to know from the comic books. What?!?

 

20th Century Fox bought movie rights to some characters from Marvel Comics. Primarily, these characters include the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. All SIX of the popular X-Men movies were created by 20th Century Fox, not Disney or Marvel Comics. Therefore, the profits from these movies go into pockets at 20th Century Fox.

 

Like a spoiled child at the playground, Marvel Comics decided to take their ball and go home. They made a dramatic strategic plan: destroy their comics characters tied to 20th Century Fox. Make certain characters unusable. Marvel Comics indicated how they want to end the print run on the Fantastic Four. In the new Fantastic Four movie re-launch, the Human Torch inexplicably transforms from Caucasian to African-American. Next, Marvel Comics killed Wolverine. Deadpool is, ironically, dead, too. More importantly, fans should recognize how these two characters’ deaths happened within the world of the X-Men franchise.

 

…which is the same sinking ship where Bobby Drake just professed his sexual identity.

 

Take a mature step away from the world of comic books. Look at these transactions like a business. Marvel Comics just drew a line in the sand- they killed two main characters in the X-Men line-up. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) won’t draw audiences to any new X-Men movies. Would YOU want to see an X-Men movie without Wolverine? Professor X died in the last movie, too. Who leads the team? How about Iceman? If 20th Century Fox does NOT use Iceman as a gay character in future movies, guess what happens:

 

20th Century Fox – NOT MARVEL COMICS – gets any heat for how well they use a character’s undefined homosexual/bi-sexual identity.

 

I really want to like the diversity we now see in comic books. Regardless of the genesis, I really want to like the new Captain America, Thor, and Iceman identities. I think they can be good examples of how people value heroism in different ways.

 

Hopefully, we’ve learned a lot about new comic books. More importantly, we may have learned a crucial business lesson taught by Marvel Comics. To this end, I challenge:

 

If Marvel Comics easily dismisses an African American Captain America – THEY ARE RACIST.

 

If Marvel Comics easily dismisses a female incarnation of Thor – THEY ARE SEXIST.

 

If Marvel Comics easily dismisses a gay Iceman, THEY ARE HOMOPHOBIC and/or HETEROSEXIST.

#tableflipped

School is still in session. Let me show Marvel Comics how they can embrace diversity and influence real social change.

 

Give Peter Parker, the Amazing and Spectacular Spider-man, CANCER.

 

C’mon- a RADIOACTIVE spider bit the guy! It gave Spider-man his unique super-powers. Why not add ‘cancer’ to the list? Partner with writers who understand the cancer experience. Solicit advice from well-respected cancer treatment experts. Welcome new fans who need a hero like themselves.

 

Imagine a world where Spider-man had too many decisions. Rescue the damsel in distress? Stop the villain bent on city-wide destruction? Study for tomorrow’s big chemistry test? When does he fit-in needed chemotherapy treatment? How well does he feel following a visit with his physician? This strategy taps into creative writing minds and see an opponent more deadly than any foe Spider-man ever fought. Will villains know about Spider-man’s diagnosis, and will they use his physical weakness against him? How will his allies help Spider-man combat crime? Will Mr. Fantastic or Dr. Strange suddenly “cure” cancer within five days of this story line, though?

 

Hopefully, our fans know how serious we take autism advocacy in comic books. We took our own advice! We’ve partnered with great professionals who help advise us about certain aspects of autism. Diagnosed as an adult with autism, I write the script for the world’s first featured autistic comic book hero. We weave real-life personal and professional experiences, and clinically-accurate diagnostic criteria, into our stories. Facial feature recognition helps many of our readers understand character’s emotions, and their own. This science has been well-researched for 25 years, and formed the basis for educational reform in our home school district. Yes- Face Value Comics helped influence tax-free educational reform for students with special needs.

 

Why would we expect a multi-billion dollar business to give the common man legitimate diversity in its heroes? I cannot respect Marvel Comics’ attempts, knowing the source of change was only money. Don’t feed me table scraps , call it ‘diversity,’ and expect me to feel satisfied.

 

Yes, I WILL buy the new comic book today. I wonder when Iceman may tenderly hold another man’s hand. I wonder when he may kiss another man in love. I wonder when Iceman will get married to another man. All of these things have heterosexual counterparts in the Marvel Comics Universe, so why not see these common life events happen to a gay hero? It’s a fictional world, so Marvel Comics’ writers aren’t bound by repressive same-sex marriage laws. If I can believe in green-skinned monsters and flying robot-men, I can imagine a (fictional) place where equality can finally reign. Can’t you?

 

Today, Marvel Comics’ biggest secret isn’t that Iceman is gay. Their push for diversity is driven by competing rights to their popular characters in a battle of attrition. Knowing our politically-correct society, Marvel Comics embraces new, gullible fans. Meanwhile, they use their free hands to gesture obscenely towards 20th Century Fox and Jack Kirby’s influences.

The Hiding Girl, Unmasked

This summer, we met “Celeste*” and her mum at a local comic book signing event. This brave eleven-year old girl identified herself as autistic, and professed her love of the Shimmer characters in our books. Her mother shared something amazing with us: Celeste’s support team were happily surprised to see Celeste at work. She has filled countless journals with her own character designs and copies of how she’d draw our characters. Celeste talked at length with us about her ideas. She felt proud that she could correctly identify other character who also show autistic traits. Celetese shared her comic book observations with her support team, who were equally impressed how a normally shy and reserved girl suddenly spoke eloquently about autism.

Celeste used our comics to identify autism in her fictional friends and in herself. Celeste became a SELF-ADVOCATE. This story gets better…

Next, she showed us her artwork. Celeste made a new character, The Hiding Girl, whom we’ve revealed this week. This is not some super-powered champion, although she has some unique abilities. The Hiding Girl battles ANXIETY more than any comic book villain. Celeste wanted to see how a comic book character would manage her anxiety during some very interesting times.

The Hiding Girl, Celeste, standing beside a Shimmer Warrior.
The Hiding Girl, Celeste, standing beside a Shimmer Warrior.

After having lunch with Celeste and her mother, we worked out agreements to use her character. We have creative control over use, but want to respect the ideas by Celeste. The Hiding Girl will be part of an already-planned group of teenage girls with special powers. Together, they offer assistance to The Zephyr and the forces of good against the mad Dr. Moebius!

 

 

 

 

One of her special abilities is her portable “black hole.” She can pull surprisingly useful things from it in a bind. However, her anxiety over the current situation in our stories swells. Honestly, how would anyone feel about pulling a dinosaur from a cross-dimensional hole-in-the-wall? As The Hiding Girl learns to manage her anxiety, she also gains more control over what she finds in the black hole.

Kids want and need heroes like themselves, and this includes kids with anxiety. We want everyone to feel welcomed when they read our comics. If Celeste used our comic book, on her own and with help from her mother, to correctly understand certain things about autism, can she learn to control her OWN anxiety, too?

Celeste - Edited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the near future, we will release a special four-page adventure featuring The Hiding Girl. This FREE, full color mini-adventure will be available for digital download. We will use our founder’s certification as a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) therapist to weave correct clinical portrayals of anxiety, like we have done with autism. We will offer suggestions about helpful coping skills in a fun way in this social story.

To this end, we seek qualified professionals willing to share their coping strategies for young persons with anxiety. Please message us directly in this social media for more details.

* Name changed to protect a young person’s privacy. “Celeste” chose her own pen-name! Images approved by Celeste and her mother. Do you see the resemblance between these two brave girls?!