Tag Archives: Northwest Press

Helping Bullied Kids Find the Power Within Is Everyone’s Responsibility

22 Sep

Bullying's Latest Victim

This week yet another young member of the LGBTQ community took his own life after dealing with years of bullying. Last Sunday, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide after returning from a family camping trip. Jamey was an outgoing, apparently confident young man. After coming out last year, he recorded an It Gets Better video encouraging other LGBTQ youth to look for their support systems and to learn to love themselves. His family were supportive and he drew inspiration from the positive messages of pop superstar and social justice champion Lady Gaga.

It is heartbreaking to see any young person surrender to despair. When someone with as much strength and joy as Jamey succumbs, it sends a very powerful message. Words are weapons, and weapons can kill. Despite the increased awareness about bullying and teen suicide, the problem persists. Violence against the LGBT community is on the rise, so it is unrealistic to believe that verbal and emotional abuse are not a continuing problem.

Fortunately, we have champions who are doing their best to give our youth the tools they need to cope and to thrive. Regular TSM readers may remember the efforts of Zan Christensen and Mark Brill to print an anti-bullying comic book. Fortunately, their project exceeded its funding goal and The Power Within is now available. It’s an amazing work, managing to tell a compelling story about an interesting character while still achieving its advocacy and outreach goals. All of this without coming across as strident or preachy.

The Power Within tells the story of Shannon, a boy starting the eighth grade. It is clear that he had problems during his last year of school, and this year doesn’t start off any better. He is different from his peers in many ways – smaller, artistic, gay (although not out) – and is bullied daily. The authority figures take a sadly typical “you should try harder to fit in” approach to the problem. Shannon copes by imagining himself as a superhero with the power to defeat the bullies, but this survival daydream also increases his isolation.

I won’t spoil the powerful impact of the story by going into more detail, but as a 45-year-old man with bits of a damaged gay 14-year-old still lurking inside him, every panel rang very true. The art is beautiful and perfectly suited to moving the story forward. The plot and dialogue are appropriately simple without being simplistic. In a few short pages, Shannon is a more compelling character than many who have volumes dedicated to them. (Fair warning, this was a keep-the-tissue-box-handy read for me…)

Christensen and Brill have created the perfect message of hope for anyone struggling with not fitting in and suffering for it. Anyone who cares about LGBTQ kids should get their hands on a copy, read it, and share it. As an added bonus, a variety of comic writers and artists (including Gail Simone and Dan Parent, creator of Kevin Keller) have provided some supplemental pages. The book ends with a valuable list of discussion questions and additional resources. Congratulations, Zan and Mike, this comic is an absolute winner.

For more information about The Power Within, including how to order copies for teachers and youth services organizations, please visit Northwest Press.

The Power Within: Anti-Bullying Comic Project Beats Its Goal

28 May

The Power to Stop Bullying

Regular TSM readers will remember the wonderful Power Within project, an effort to produce copies of a powerful anti-bullying comic to distribute nationally to LGBT youth centers. Creators Zan Christensen and Mark Brill set up a Kickstarter page to raise $3,000 of the approximately $4,200 needed to fund the project. Thanks to the generosity of caring people like you, the project not only met its goal, it raised more than the $4,200, fully funding the printing. Christensen notes on the Kickstarter page:

Thank you to everyone who pitched in and brought us not only to our $3000 minimum, but to our $4200 total printing bill! I’ve been in touch with the printers and am scheduling the print run now; we will be able to produce more than 3000 full-color copies of the book to distribute to at-risk kids. I’ve launched http://thepowerwithin.org with a link to submit your info for your local youth organizations that would like to get copies of the book. There will be more news as we determine the date that the book will be available. Backers will be the first to see it!

If you know of an organization that could benefit from copies of The Power Within, please identify it using the link above. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this project a reality.

Hero of the Week Award: April 29

29 Apr

Hero of the Week

This week’s heroes are Zan Christensen and Mark Brill, creators of the anti-bullying comic The Power Within. Christensen is the Publisher of Northwest Press, a publishing imprint devoted to providing the highest-quality lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender graphic novels and comics collections. He has dedicated his career to creating and compiling comics and graphic art for and about the LGBTQ community.

In October 2010, Christensen and Brill came up with a project for 24-Hour Comics Day, a comic industry activity where creators design a whole comic in a single day. Because of the rash of teen suicides due to anti-gay bullying last fall, they decided to focus on the issue of bullying. The Power Within is the story of Shannon,

who gets picked on a lot at school because he is smaller, quieter and more “artistic” than the other kids. His dad and his teachers think the other kids wouldn’t tease him if he just “fit in” more. Their advice is for him to hide, or he’s bringing it on himself. Faced with all this, Shannon has created a super-powered alter ego that he can escape into whenever he’s in a bad situation. Pretending he’s a powerful hero helps him stand up for himself. But will the power within be enough to save him?

This week, Northwest Press announced its plans to do a full print run of the comic (originally distributed only at conferences from a small printing) for wider distribution. Says Christensen,

In addition to sharing a great story, our goal is to get copies of the book into the hands of young people through youth centers, gay-straight alliances, and teachers’ groups. Printing the book in a large print run will help us distribute free copies of the book to people who need to hear its message.

You can help Northwest Press meet its funding goal by contributing to their Kickstarter campaign for The Power Within. The total goal is a modest $3000 and even a small contribution will help.

Bravo to Zan Christensen, Mark Brill, and Northwest Press for creating a powerful and important story and for working to get it into the hands of the kids who need it most.

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