Category Archives: Comic Books

Autism, Heroes, and the TSS

Heroes take action. This truth draws readers to comic books. In Face Value Comics, our hero evolves his social awareness and sensory coping skills to overcome his clinical expressions of autism. His greatest friend remains a loyal bio-droid, T.E.S.S. She, too, changes and matures. Sky Owens created the image of T.E.S.S. as this blog post’s Featured Image.

T.E.S.S.’ name is a clear nod to therapeutic support staff, or TSS. As professional helpers, these front-line warriors frequently assist young persons with autism. Sadly, T.S.S. services offer just similarly-comparative wages to most entry-level positions (despite requiring college graduation). A well-educated person who spends a LOT of direct time in a child’s immediate proximity – to help the child – gets paid peanuts. When we, the autistic community, ask for “awareness” and “acceptance” each April, why do we think neurotypical people find the same any easier?

T.E.S.S. took action. Although she is a sentient plant/robot hybrid, T.E.S.S. understood her programmatic responsibilities. She upgraded her photosynthetic plating to appear more human…for the (now) young adult once in her care. T.E.S.S. learned the most valuable lessons she teaches is about being human: showing care, compassion, and concern. So too can a TSS role-model how to be one’s best self in many different circumstances – even in comic books.

T.E.S.S. reminds us why we take action. Even without comic book antics, these characteristics define memorable heroes. Heroes take action to help others be their best, because we believe in beautiful human potential and happiness.

Do you think our literally-personified T.S.S. is a hero? The Zephyr does. Do you think therapeutic support staff are heroes? We do.

Finally, notice her eyes. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell found autistic students gravitated towards steampunk art because of its easily recognized cause-and-effect patterns. Other diagnostic studies find eye-contact difficult for some persons with autism. We remembered these ideas while designing our T.E.S.S. image, above. The cog and eyes are the same color and shape. Our artist added blue-within-blue pupils. Together, this art helps draw the viewer to T.E.S.S.’ eyes…with or without autism.

BY the way- did you notice an oppressive use of “eye” sounding words in the above paragraph? Words like di-agnostic and i-deas helped reinforce the topic: “eye” contact and desensitization. Now you see two ways we can make it happen with comic books; art and printed script work together.

Oh, and T.E.S.S. can recharge her batteries by absorbing sunlight. She can also re-emit sunlight through her eyes to cause unfocused enemies to pause, causing “mindblindness.” In an emergency, she can project whip-like vines from her fingertips. To be honest, we don’t think your TSS can do those things under your health insurance. Here’s a sketch of T.E.S.S. taking action to protect our hero:

Punch Page 9

Much love to our friend, Travis Woo. Watch Travis, a gaming legend, talk about what makes a hero, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U_0EuW7VpI

 

Do. You. Want. To. Play. A. Game, Superheroes?

This sentence disappears in my blog. Why?

Happy National Superhero Day! This is the ONE time we can use “superhero” without copyright infringement. Did you know that DC and Marvel Comics jointly share the copyright on a word: “superhero?” Today, I’m teaching you how to use your own new superpower, one that functions like x-ray vision!

Augmented Reality Games (ARGs) are small puzzles built into existing, real-life situations. I find ARGs quite compelling and engaging. In fact, incorporating ARGs into comic book script and online social media now overtakes my Hollywood-like D-List celebrity status as a political hack or sociologist. My success lies in authentic comic book creation, not mobilizing more autistic voters. Personally, I’ve disliked hearing actors or fiction writers tell us how to vote or feel; why am I any different? #Done.

Many people extoll autistic virtues of mathematics and puzzle-solving, so I rightfully seek out our audience to play games with us. As with other entertainment, rewards are often available. Maybe it’s easier to show you how ARGs will work in Face Value Comics going forward. Sit back, grab a soda, and pay attention: I promise you’ll be happily surprised!

 

Punch Page 9
SAMPLE SKETCHES FOR STEAMPUNCH’D #1, pg. 9

 

Imagine robots fighting our comic book hero with autism, The Zephyr. One robot might exclaim, “01001000 01100101 01101100 01110000.” This is simply binary code for “Help!” In other words, I think this Easter Egg is (too) easy for our readers. Instead, I insert ARGs into the script without affecting the story. How? Let’s continue!!

Next, another robot might reply to its partner with a series of new numbers. These numbers may correspond to real-life GPS coordinates. Another robot utters another set of GPS coordinates later in the comic book. Collected together, these “hidden” clues relate to a public park near my home. So far, so good?

In this same comic book issue, readers might otherwise neglect background scenery in Michael’s home. This could include a calendar with a month and date circled. Elsewhere, another character might point to a clock (or, more creatively, “2 o’clock”) as the villain’s bomb timer counts down.

Guess what we did? We just invited ALL of our readers to meet our creative team for hot dogs and ice cream at a local park near my home (for my convenience) at 2:00pm on Month, Date of the publishing year. Welcome to ARGs, or games-within-reality. We’ve already begun to drop clues within blog posts and in script scheduled for the future. Some examples include 12 pages of comic sketches and a t-shirt give-away! These are just examples which I would rate as “beginner” level experience. Search the internet for other ARG examples, including an amazing one played by the band, Tool.

Never judge a book by its cover. This advice applies for/to persons with autism, and now to Face Value Comics. Happy Hunting, Superheroes!!!

P.S. I gave you clues in decoding other hints. We began inserting surprise content no earlier than 2017.

New Autism Advocacy Strategies…and yeah, comic books.

As Autism Awareness Month slides away, let’s reflect on new developments towards advocacy. Lately, I’ve read many blogs and memes which suggests autism as a singular experience. Instead of anti/pro-vaccination links, we find more stories about autism in the workplace. Side-stepping the person-first versus identity debate, we share our talents as authors, musicians, and painters.

As a community, I’ve seen a rising wave of SELF-Acceptance; autistic persons may want others’ approval and validation but won’t hold our breaths. Instead, we go about the business of embracing our uniqueness. More importantly, we share our successes despite our challenges.

As age and experience mount, I realize I want to be a part of this group. I believe we have more power being genuinely positive about autism than blaming others, boycotting groups we never patronize, or faulting professional helpers who forgot why they became doctors and teachers. I also realize how draining fighting social institutions becomes. For a long time – perhaps too long – I found satisfaction in polarizing “gotcha” victories. My professional network includes respected members of the Pennsylvania Congress, United States Congress, U.S. Department of Justice, and the United Nations. Sadly, I used this collective’s best practices about autism to shame or steamroll others less-informed than myself.

…but I’m learning, from you, better ways to deal with people. For example, I started #WeAut2Vote last year to encourage more voting participation within our community. Studying other social activist groups, I copied successful engaging strategies. However, this year was different. Instead of shaming a politician, I reminded our PA Congress of three distinct autism outreach programs that do good work. I reminded politicians about a growing segment of autistic individuals who now vote. I thanked each member of Congress for their work, regardless of political affiliation, in promoting equal opportunities for persons with autism.

The adage is true: you get more flies with honey than vinegar. (Question: why do we WANT to attract flies, anyway? #NoFliesInMyHouse)

To this end, I re-engage our fans with new perspectives and directions.

What will this look like? Here’re two examples:

  • Show you, not tell you. At my core, I’m a comic book junkie. I’ve met and learned from some giants in the comic book industry. This single piece of advice was repeated again and again and again and again and some more. Rather than TELL you how cool something about autism might be, I’m going to SHOW you. Gone are length or preachy caption boxes, or fumbled commentary spewed by pre-teens in our comics. Instead, our heroes overcome challenges with fewer words and more action. Violence isn’t always the best answer, either, even in a comic book. What does this mean? To tell you more would violate Principle #1; we’ll show you in upcoming issues.
  • Give back and nurture new ideas and talent. I envision starting a crowd-funding campaign to pay new artists and writers with autism, anxiety, depression, etc. Our team volunteers our experiences to overcome writers’ block or page layouts. This comic anthology is independent of Face Value Comics, so I hope your ideas are even cooler than ours. These comics will include new voices in the conversation about acceptance and tolerance. Instead of expecting DC or Marvel Comics to tell honest stories about us, WE WILL. I simply ask new talent and prospective submissions to be of a PG rating; no blood, no bombs, and no breasts as the focus of your stories. Do good work; you represent an oft-silenced minority in comic books, so have self-respect and restraint. We expect no financial compensation for this shared work because we’re paying forward some of the advice and help we got. Money raised by crowdfunding goes directly to contributors and incidental costs (i.e. printing and shipping), not us. Crowdfunding also means YOU have more responsibility to share this news with family, friends, teachers, and more.

Kids need heroes like themselves. I said that on Day One. Days Two until recently, I mistakenly believed *I* was that hero with a swelled head. Hopefully, I’ve corrected those oversights as I lay out new direction. Follow me. I want to hear your stories, and publish them. On our end, I want you to have a genuine comic book hero with autism, devoid of attention-seeking commentary or accolades. We deserve better than I’ve been, and I’m taking action on being a better man.

Kids need heroes like themselves, and new “voices” need a chance to be heard.

If you’ve read this far, you ought to see an image of some new characters in our comics. They help the Zephyr, our featured hero. Introducing, the Vultures…

Vultures 01

Do you like the Vultures? They don’t care! They will exist just fine without your approval. What other choice does this group of motorcyclist outcasts have after Dr. Moebius won the war? Also notice our hero unmasked, with a new scar. His childhood robotic aid, TESS, appears more human as time passes. What else lies in store for Face Value Comics? We’ll show ya…

BTW- did you know I like to play games? Check my other most recent blog posts!

For a chance to win a t-shirt featuring an image of the Vultures, comment with “I like the Vultures because…” and insert your reason. We will random determine a winner, and ship your t-shirt free of charge to anywhere in the United States in May 2017. G’luck!

Prophetic Autism and 2017 Goals

Face Value Comics cannot be your ‘opus,’ because it suggests you’ve nothing more to give.

My wife, Angela, shared her hopes for me as 2016 closed. In this blog update, I want to share more goals with you. Will you help keep me accountable for positive autism advocacy?

What content would you like to see from an adult living with autism? Please feel free to review past blog posts, including one where I predicted a loss of civil rights for individuals with autism. Additionally, I outlined a tax-free way to add $1k for autism-based classroom instruction. As a former professional helper, I discussed an airtight strategy that’s been 100% funded by third-party insurances. I shared how facial feature recognition helps me navigate social situations, too.

I also enjoy comic books, including writing script. In 2017, we debut a smaller story and new characters: Quantum X, in Outfox Magazine. Have you subscribed to their autism-friendly publication yet? Here’s our story cover image:

quantun-x-cover
Cover Art for #1 Quantum-X. Fantastic Art by Sky Owens!

However, I also experience some significant health concerns for which I receive professionally-adequate treatments. Despite having nearly three years of script outlined, I cannot remember what or why I wrote what I originally did. Sometimes, I have no memory of many things, so recording my goals helps increase accountability. When I feel too ill to write in depth, I’ll share why, and how I’m trying to overcome a specific challenge.

As we discuss autism, I want to remain positive; edge-lords and trolls need not apply. As I try certain self-improvement goals, I realize how damaging blame and doubt becomes. Instead, let’s remember how everything outlives us on the Internet. Together, we will be a solid leadership resource for increasing autism acceptance. Follow me, and be sure to leave a suggestion for an autism topic in the comments section!

I will write more…next time.

–Dave

Marvel Comics Sued over Characters (again)

This week, many fans worldwide celebrated a newly-diverse character in the Marvel Universe. Undoubtedly, Marvel Comics underestimated fans’ mixed reactions to Bobby Drake (Iceman) being gay. Having read the comic book (New Avengers #40), I admit it’s a good story. While I personally want to see more diversity in comic books, I realize this advocacy is a process we have to start with someone somewhere. This week, it’s Bobby Drake.

Some fans questioned my claims how Marvel Comics doesn’t prioritize diversity as highly as it does money. Sure, they’re a big business. They’re in this business to sell us great stories. Pffft- what about Marvel Comics has ever ever ever indicated they understand diversity, or are subject-matter experts about diversity? This isn’t their specialty- making money from selling us stories IS their business. We should expect Marvel Comics (and DC, and Image and Dark Horse, etc.) to write compelling stories. When they don’t show their work behind a new character, we should question their commitments to new characters. Is it a gimmick to have a gay comic book hero? No, it’s not a gimmick- it’s a first step towards compassionate understanding.

However, if Marvel Comics does nothing with Iceman’s character’s identity, he becomes less real. He becomes a poster-child for non-existent advocacy if writers abandon his character’s identity. I do not know who among Iceman’s creative team knows enough about gay experiences to lend legitimacy to his character. Dogs can’t write cat stories, through no fault of their own. Even in our comic book, I need help to capture a teenage girl’s experiences, since I’m a 40 year old male. We sincerely hope Marvel Comics continues to write compelling, engaging stories about our heroes. Iceman’s been around 50 years and appeared in six different movies, so it’s time he’s known for something more than his ability to make free snow cones.

Yesterday, two independent comic book creators (with former ties to Marvel Comics) sued Marvel Comics and Disney (among other named defendants). Why? Their claims are better articulated in this news coverage by Robot 6, here:

http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2015/04/artists-sue-marvel-disney-over-iron-man-armor-design/

The last time Marvel Comics were sued by artists, we got new renditions of their characters. Specifically, we had exact opposite depictions of the characters Captain America and Thor. Why were these changes made? Does Marvel Comics want to embrace diversity, or do they just want to avoid (more) lawsuits? If we see a new Iron Man from Marvel Comics in the near future, we have reasonable cause to question WHY we have a new Iron Man. Answer: Money, while dodging lawsuits. Making a new Iron Man would be okay- he DOES have a lot of suits. However, if Iron Man is suddenly a member of any particular minority group, let’s not pretend that Marvel Comics suddenly grew a heart. If we agree they are big business, then any moves made are from a business standpoint. What business strategy would be gained by making Iron Man a member of any minority group? It’s insulting to think they could cover up their mistakes by simply hiding behind a minority-based character. We know and remember WHY the character was changed- they got sued. Adding to the diversity discussion is profitable secondary gain. More importantly, I want to ask Marvel Comics to continue what they do best- write stories. Sure, they have a target on their backs as billion-dollar business, and lawsuits could be predictably common. However, making a new character requires more than a new costume and demographic label. Show us heart. Show us bravery. Show us failures and successes with compassion for the attempt. Yes, we want demand intelligently-created superheroes, even if the heroes aren’t genius-caliber. We want to see internal struggles and victories with the associated personal experiences with which you, Marvel Comics, have given them. You didn’t HAVE to make so-and-so a member of this-or-that group, but since you did, please follow-through.

Throw darts. Spin a wheel. Pick labels out of hat. Whatever changes we see in a new Iron Man won’t be prompted by understanding diversity- it’ll be because of a lawsuit. We’ve seen this happen with Jack Kirby’s lawsuit, so why should we expect anything different? I want to like Iceman as a legitimate character. I can’t help but feel like he may be a strategically-placed pawn in a much larger chess board. Will Marvel Comics sacrifice Iceman’s character to grab more dollars? Let’s hope they keep him safe and strong, and continue along this journey of respecting diversity in comic books.

We’ll be watching…

INVULNERABILITY – a new social superpower

On social media, and by some good friends, I’ve been asked to simplify my angered comments about Marvel Comics’ newest diverse character, a gay Iceman.

 

Marvel Comics is in a large business to sell stories.

 

Name one thing that Iceman has done in fifty years. He’s also been a part of SIX movies. Go ahead- name one thing that distinguishes Iceman as a hero.

 

We wouldn’t accept a politician whose only platform was their sexual identity. Without a proven track record, we would see through this politician for what they really were- table scraps given to pacify voters and secure a demographic.

 

Marvel Comics lists Iceman as being an “Omega” level mutant. This label makes him one of the most powerful members of the X-Men team, if not one of the most powerful heroes  on the planet! Of course, all of us can recall times where Iceman used his phenomenal powers to fix climate change/global warming, stop nuclear wars, and make a snow cone, right?

 

Iceman wasn’t first Marvel Comics character to showcase diversity. We’ve seen changes to other popular characters in the past few months. In fact, these changes were so radical that the new incarnations were exact opposites from their counterparts. Without needing to cite which demographics match these characters, focus more about the lawsuit brought against Marvel Comics by the original creator.

 

Do you remember a television show called KNIGHT RIDER, with David Hasselhoff? Do you remember his talking car, KITT? Let’s pretend that their production studios were sued by a writer. To avoid the lawsuit, they re-painted KITT the opposite color for which he was popularly known. Is that racist? No, but we’re talking about cars and not people. If we change the color or gender of a character for no reason other than to avoid a lawsuit, what kind of story telling do we have? Sure, the background for the new Captain America might be compelling. I cannot overcome my knowledge that a lawsuit prompted the change, not benevolence or good-intentions. If I am wrong, than Marvel Comics will keep their new Thor and Captain America characters for longer than one year. If they abandon these characters, then we affirm the changes was not prompted by good storytelling or benevolence, but to avoiding a lawsuit, under the guise of diversity.

 

When DC revisited their Batgirl title last year, they set a high benchmark. A lot of publicity aired about their new female-friendly writing team. We got to see their entire Batgirl creative team enjoy the new mission ahead through social media. This preparation lent legitimacy about their claims of wanting a new, socially-responsible character. Since DC (and Marvel) are in the business to sell us stories, they wrapped-up Batgirl with a nice bow. Batgirl wasn’t in the middle of a lawsuit by her original creator. Her change seemed legitimate. We saw their efforts, and bought-in.

 

Go ahead- name one thing that individually distinguishes Iceman as a hero in the last fifty years, aside from his bravery to admit sexual identity confusions. This is lazy storytelling. Their creators put more effort into obfuscation and politically-correct strawmen than making a believable hero. However, if I question their efforts and want more, I unwillingly place a target on my chest as being discriminatory. See- I told you Marvel Comics would want other people to defend their token gay character for them!

 

Iceman could be a role model to a lot of readers. Now he only really has a label. I am saddened by this reality. Tell a better story, Marvel Comics – please! You are in the business of selling us stories. Why did you only make Iceman relevant for his sexual identity? I find this gesture like one of pity- why can’t Iceman be a real superhero with awesome abilities and good deeds to make him worthy to roster among the X-Men (if you don’t kill off more characters to spite 20th Century Fox)? You slap a label on him, but this trick won’t be enough for fans to accept him as a title-worthy hero. We’re searching for diversity. You write stories. Write us a story about real diversity, one in which we can believe. You’ve got a good start, so please don’t let it fall away like you’ve done in the past, Marvel Comics.
I submit a new superpower for Bobby Drake: invulnerability to public criticism about how well his character is written and portrayed.