Mannequin Monday – A Frozen Moment in Time
Disability awareness and inclusion clothe our mannequin this week. We examine how comics in particular have expanded to include who we are collectively.
The focus is on The Silver Scorpion, written by Ron Marz.
And I offer a character sketch on a teen with limb difference.
What I’m Reading This Week
I read The Silver Scorpion this week. You can read Issue 1 of the comic for free here. You’ll need to sign in to Google to access it.
The story was written by veteran comic writer Ron Marz. A Syrian boy, Bashir Bari, who lost his legs in a landmine explosion, develops a superpower to manipulate metal. The power is to be used only for good, for protecting the innocent. Bashir becomes the Silver Scorpion.
I came upon the comic while taking an online writing course from the University of Iowa. The course, Creative Writing, Disability Awareness and Inclusion, is part of the offerings from their International Writing Program. In the last several years I’ve completed several of their online writing courses. I strongly recommend them. They are definitely a challenge, but the results are so worth the work.
The course presents six YouTube video presentations on disability awareness and inclusion. The one I’m talking about today features Ron Marz. He has been writing comics since 1990. Marz says when he started in comics, it was white men writing for white teen boys. He has helped that world evolve to be more inclusive.
A Muslim character with a disability
The Silver Scorpion was created by a group of Syrian and American disabled teens who gathered for a conference in Damascus. The Open Hands Initiative and Liquid Comics approached Marz, who eagerly joined the project. To this day, it is one of his proudest accomplishments. The Silver Scorpion is a Muslim character with a disability. The story aims to build trust and understanding between cultures.
In his presentation Marz talks of the changing audience for comics. An audience that now embraces graphic novels and digital comics across a wide, inclusive range of characters.
Comics, Marz says, are simply stories with pictures. This kind of storytelling has a long history: drawings on cave walls, medieval tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, for example.
In writing a comic, Marz describes each image, each panel, as a frozen moment in time. The writer selects the best visual for each panel that lets readers know what they need to know to advance the story. The illustrator is the co-author of the story, guided by the images the writer has described. Focusing on visuals is a valuable insight for any fiction writer.
Today’s comics embrace a diversity of audiences. Not all characters are superheroes. Genres now include horror, crime, romance, sports. Marz says being inclusive is an evolutionary process. Contemporary comics express who we are collectively. We all want to see ourselves reflected in stories.
Marz is confident a reader can find the one comic story that pulls you in.
(If you’d like to try your hand at creating comics, here’s a link to some blank comic book pages on artist Jarrett Lerner’s site.)
What I’m Writing This Week
I offer you another character sketch, this one from Surfrider, the second book now in draft for my Film Crew series. Maddie Dela Riva is a teen girl with a limb difference. Enjoy the sketch.
A Limb Difference
Max Belshaw threw himself down at the school lunch table. “You gotta see this,” he said to his friends. He pulled a laptop out of his backpack and opened it. “My latest edit.”
Three other teens, Tessa Warren, Lyndie Reed and Eric Pyne, shoved their food trays aside and huddled around the screen. “Are you happy with it?” Eric asked.
Max nodded, pointed at the video coming up.
A title flashed over a wide shot of the Mojave Desert: Off-Road Disaster.
Max turned up the audio, a soundtrack of keyboard and bass.
“Terrell should be here,” Lyndie said. “The fifth member of our Film Crew.”
“Administration makes a decision on his suspension tomorrow,” Eric said.
Tessa said nothing. She stared at the screen, knowing most of their film footage of the off-road desert race had been stolen after the event. What could Max make of what was left?
The video lasted five minutes. It ended with a shaky phone video clip of a Class 11 VW racer, smashed and burning.
“Shit.” Eric looked pale. “That brings it all back.”
“You were lucky to get out,” Lyndie said.
A girl stepped up to the table. Short blond hair, lean and lanky like a runner. Her left arm was missing below the elbow.
“Hey Lyndie,” she said.
“Maddie! Hi. These are my friends Tessa, Max and Eric. Guys, this is Maddie Dela Riva. We’re on cross country together.”
“Can I sit for a minute?”
“Sure.” Eric slid over to make room. Max closed the laptop.
“Maddie’s new in school,” Lyndie said.
“I moved here from Ohio. My dad got a transfer.”
“You liking the weather?” Max asked.
“Yeah! It’s already below freezing back in Ohio.”
Tessa noticed Eric staring at Maddie’s arm. So did Maddie.
“My arm. I have a limb difference.” She pointed her arm at Eric.
Eric nodded, looked away.
“I was born this way. Never knew anything different.”
Lyndie laughed. “Did I tell you guys? Me and Maddie were warming up after school last week for a cross-country run.”
“A boy from the track team came over. A sophomore. He pointed to Maddie’s arm. Said, what happened to you?”
I bared my teeth
Maddie laughed. She leaned in to the group. “I stared at him for a minute. Then I bared my teeth. I told him, ‘I bit it off.'”
Max covered his mouth to keep from spitting food all over the table. “No!”
“He ran off, looking at me like I was crazy.”
Lyndie added, “I saw him run behind a tree and throw up.”
Tessa stared wide-eyed at Maddie.
“And every time Maddie passes him in the hall,” Lyndie said, “she chomps her teeth at him.”
Maddie high-fived Lyndie with her short arm.
“I can’t wait to start training for the Pasadena Trail Race,” Maddie said.
“Two more weeks,” Lyndie said. “Then we get serious about cross country.”
The bell rang. A teacher stepped up and handed a note to Eric. “You three. Warren, Pyne, Reed. Principal’s office. Now.”
Here’s a link to my Amazon author page.