Widgets Magazine

Not Just Guys in Spandex Anymore

As an English major, I’ve always been interested in different types of storytelling. I’m a fan of comics myself, as I’m sure a lot of you are. And of course, I love me some Batman as much as the next guy, but here’s a cool example of how comics can bring about social awareness and help a cause.

Just last week at the d.school I attended a talk called “Comics for Social Change.” The focus of the presentation was a graphic novel produced by comics-journalist and former Knight Fellow Dan Archer (founder of Archcomix) and Fulbright fellow Olga Trusova.

The graphic novel is called “Borderland” and it recounts the true stories of human trafficking survivors in and around Ukraine. Trusova traveled to Ukraine and collected stories from survivors of human trafficking—aseven of those stories would ultimately appear in the novel. Archer provided the illustrations, and together they created a comic targeted towards young people in order to educate them about human trafficking, and to prevent them from becoming victims themselves. (In order to reach the widest audience, the comic is translated into three languages: English, Russian, and Ukranian).

The comic not only can be used as a tool of education, but also as a means to raise awareness about social issues. As I flipped through the pictures of “Borderland,” I realized the power that the comic could have. With merely text, at least there was a wall of words between the subject and me. But when confronted with images—no longer did the text obscure what was happening, I saw it play out with my own eyes. Viewing these images awakened something more visceral, more emotional in me that I don’t think I would have felt if I were simply reading a book of plain words on the subject. By simultaneously looking at both images and words, the reader can take in so much more information—something important in a world that demands as much information as quickly as possible.

Because of the visual rawness that the comic provides, comics journalism is a genre of comics established by Joe Sacco—is only gaining prominence, taking advantage of a visual and textual medium in order to awaken an awareness about the world’s problems and bring about social change. Watch out for Dan Archer, folks.

To check out the official “Borderland” webpage and order your own copy click here. For every copy you order, one other will be printed and donated to a school in Ukraine.