Tag Archives: Heroes

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.

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!

REAL Comic Book Heroes

How do superheroes spend their free time? Most comic book heroes lead dual lives. Their secret identity protects their public persona. Heroes’ typical lives range from billionaire playboys to pauper journalists. Regardless, heroes routinely find themselves a front row seat to disaster or mayhem. Meanwhile, average citizens gawk at their valiant crusaders while never knowing who really fights.

Edge relaxes with his  guitar.
Edge relaxes with his guitar.

I hate Superman. *phew* Yes, I said it. His fantastic stories in cartoons, comics, and movies interest me. However, I can’t relate to the Man of Steel, no matter how hard I want to like him. I don’t fly, but this ability would help avoid rush-hour traffic.  Heat vision would be a fun way to warm apple cider and hot chocolate. I’d be too self-conscious about using freezing breath, so I’d have to carry a toothbrush. Green-glowing rocks give Superman pause; I stutter in front of crowds. The Son of Krypton crushes boulders in his bare hands while bullets bounce off his chest. I use a cane to collect my mail. Nope, I can’t pretend to understand a hero like Superman.

In Face Value Comics, our middle-school heroes have a vast array of opposition. They struggle with homework assignments, making new friends, and romantic interest. Add some bizarre aliens with sharp teeth, and now they fight a dehumanized bully. Extrapolate the long hours spent with professional educators and therapists into time with Dr. Moebius. He personifies a darker, extremist interest into understanding how children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) behave. Our characters don’t need really weird super villains, because life presents enough confusing and scary challenges. Michael’s friends aren’t imbued with magical gifts or phenomenal wealth- just a strong desire to be understood. This quality makes them heroes against a great, old prejudice against anyone who seems different.

At the end of the day, our heroes wipe off the sweat of adventuring and have homework due tomorrow. Their families may be as alien to them as the evolved talking sea-horses they met. It’s a fantasy world, but challenges and opposition are as real in 2072 AD as today. Will mankind better communicate our individual and shared suffering?  In my mind, perseverance to real threats makes someone a hero and role-model. Our main protagonist, Michael, has an ASD. He wants friends to help him solve problems, not laser-beam eyeballs or telekinesis. Michael and many other kids need and want acceptance. Children seem to know more about Superman’s personal struggles against a monthly comic villain better than their best friend’s grief or loss. Let’s teach children compassion, emotional regulation, and empathy for people and pets. Next, we can prioritize a wish list of comic book talents after the real battle against misunderstanding has been won.

© Face Value Comics 2013