A father and daughter’s search for disabled super heroes has lead to the creation of a comic depicting a whole other world: Mik Scarlet reports.
When 9 year old Emily White asked her artist dad Dan why there were no disabled characters on kids TV, he spend an age trying to find one. However he soon found his daughter was correct, but rather than put up with this situation he put his artistic skills to work and created Department of Ability. DOA are a group of super heroes, with a selection of amazing powers, aimed at younger children… and they are all disabled!
“I decided the characters needed to be as individual as possible, each with a different visible disability that could be seen and identified with,” says Dan.
“But I didn’t want to lecture, as it seemed that this was all disability on the TV was about. I wanted each disability to be related the character’s SUPERPOWER! Each character has a fully fleshed out backstory and each was completely different to make the concept even more unique and accessible.”
The comic places the Department’s members right at the centre of the action, “The DOA are the last of Earth’s superheroes. After a massive final battle between the heroes and the mastervillians, only ONE hero was left standing. Realising he could not protect Earth alone, he scoured the world looking for the best, bravest, strongest and most fearless heroes he could find. Boy did he find them! He then helped equip them, train them and became their mentor. To add mystery to the concept, we never see this character as he is always in shadow. The DOA are not afraid of anything or anyone, they have sworn to protect us all.”
What drives Dan is his heartfelt desire that disabled children should be able to see themselves in the media they consume.
“There is a real need for this. We move in a lot of circles, communities and groups that focus on disability and every single parent or kid I have run this by agree with me, there is NOTHING really of their own out there. There is nothing that will show them their incredible strengths, abilities and attitudes. Nothing that doesn’t lecture or use sympathy as a tagline. I also want this to appeal to everyone, not just disabled kids but I think it’s important to create something for the masses. Why should having disabled super heroes put off kids that aren’t disabled? I think they’d love the action whatever
“This is a real family project. Emily helps me with story ideas and with shaping characters, and my wife Aimee has taught herself to design websites to get the word out. The comic will be printed by Strongbones charity, they will promote it and distribute it. The comic will also include kids from the Strongbones and will also be heroes. The DOA and these heroes will fight, will be dangerous and do stunts! Wheelchairs will fly, the characters will battle for good and action will punch out of the page. I want to ensure every little disabled hero in the UK feels that the Department Of Ability is theirs!”
Dan has tried to get professional backing for the comic but to no avail, so far. He approached animation companies, TV networks and even tried famous authors, but was told it wouldn’t work as his characters only represent a minority of society, and are not mainstream enough. ” A minority, excuse me?? 12million? That’s a BIG minority!”
Dan becomes really animated and the passion of a father trying to ensure his child has the same experience of growing up comes through so strongly.
“There is a definite lack of positive disabled characters on television, its appalling. The BBC seem to be the only broadcaster putting some effort in, but elsewhere it breaks my heart. Why is there no representation? Be it DOA or something else, things have to change, really they do, it breaks my heart when Emily says to me: Dad where are heroes like me?”
The family team behind DOA has been trying to get the word out, and are working hard to get the Department of Ability onto the shelves of your local comic shop, and then turn it into an animation for TV.
“This has become my mission, to change attitudes and improve the image that TV seems to be lagging behind. Its nearly broken me but I believe this project has the potential to be a MASSIVE HIT. We’ve got such support from some major disabled celebs, like Dame Tanni Grey Thompson and Warwick Davis, so all we have to do now is get the media industry onboard!”
With more and more people highlighting the lack of representation of disabled people within kids TV, and the dedication of Emily, Dan and Aimee, let’s hope that the world’s children will be enthralled at the adventures of the Department Of Ability very soon.
For more info, visit Department of Ability.