Happy Random Acts of Kindness Week! (11th – 17th February 2019), which builds to National Random Acts of Kindness Day on 17th February in the United States – but why not spread it globally?
With that in mind, here’s some attention for “Kindness Works“, a project from Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit, working with comics writer Ray Felix and artist Fernando Ruiz, a comic story focusing on Scarlet, an autistic student at Riverdale High, originally released to mark World Autism Awareness Day.
Despite internal differences between Nancy and others at Archie, Nancy aimed to prove that with the story “Kindness Works“, released last year as a special project. She worked on it with writer Ray Felix and artist Fernando Ruiz, who was fired in 2016 after 20 years with the company. The inker and colourist was Dheeraj Mishra from India, and letterer Andrew Thomas, from Canada.
It’s not sold in stores: she distributes it herself, one issue at a time. To obtain a copy, email her at Nancy.Archiecomics@gmail.com.
In “Kindness Works” there’s a new student at Riverdale High, Scarlet, who’s autistic. Some of the gang are mean to her, and must learn the errors of their ways. Big Moose, who himself has a learning disability, is seen here defending her.
Nancy hopes the comic can help teach kindness to and inclusion of those on the autism spectrum.
“[Scarlet is] a gentle child who wants to be included in the social circle, and she is often misunderstood,” said Nancy of the character. “Scarlet helps all of us to understand that people just want to be treated with respect and kindness.
“We are each unique individuals — but we all want to be included and treated kindly. Much of the problems of bullying and seeing other people as different stems from ignorance; and the antidote is awareness.
“Wouldn’t we live in a better world if we embraced our differences rather than being scared of them?”
“For me, comics books are not only a bridge to enable reading but a very important literary experience that instills a love for reading,” Silberkleit also said last year.
“Back in 2014 I wanted to approach the issue on how one engages with those who are on the spectrum, autistic and neuro diverse, a term now trending for those minds on the spectrum,” and wondered, “How I can highlight all of this?
“My answer is to utilise the powerful platform of graphic literacy.”
The story is unlikely to be published at Archie proper but is still able to be distributed by Silberkleit due to the unusual nature of an arrangement behind the scenes. Rather than draw attention from the positive nature of this story, suffice to say there have been numerous differences, some settled legally, but which still enable Nancy to utilise the Riverdale characters for projects like “Kindness Works”, and a four page story entitled “Straw Thinking” which featured Scarlet’s return, released last year to promote a ban on plastic drinking straws, also drawn by Fernando Ruiz.
“I welcomed the Archie project because there is a vast need in the comics for more diverse characters especially in the Autism community,” Ray Felix told NewsOK on its release. “As a parent of an autistic adult, I think other parents and children could benefit from having a character like Scarlet in mainstream comics.”
“The response I’ve received from fans has been unbelievable,” says Nancy on her own site. “I’ve had emails from all over the world and this really shows how relevant autism is for so many people.”
She’s recently turned her attention to speaking out against bullying, and created the Rise Above Social Issues Foundation Inc. Following on from a rise in high-profile bullying cases resulting in suicide, the foundation produced its first comic, Rise Above! and she’s interviewed about the project and her work here on BookRiot
There are a number of other Health and Wellness comics on the Social Issues Foundation site, too.
“From the first launch of Scarlet, her international presence has grown due to the global folks I meet,” says Nancy of her character. “While I was speaking in the Philippines, the audience touched me with their desire to see more of them and their culture in our books.
“It was at that moment on stage I thought we only have two stories out on Scarlet. She has no last name, so why not broaden Scarlet’s Intellectual Property!
“With that, I brought that thought back to Archie’s home base and worked on it.”
Here is what Scarlet Saltee is saying today…
“I am Scarlet Saltee, and I am skilled in building as well as ideas! My dad’s roots are in Ireland and my mom is from the Philippines. There is something else I would like you to know. I desire friends and to be included, but my social cues can make it difficult for me to form friendships. I feel some people make fun of me because they don’t understand that my behaviours are sometimes about being Autistic.
“Sometimes, when people can be mean, I do not know how to tell them how bad I feel. It can be really hard. Nobody wants to be bullied. I am Scarlet Saltee and I am one of millions of Autistic people in the world . We are all unique but have some things in common. I am part of a big community! It would be really cool if people who aren’t Autistic could learn about Autistic people and also from trusted resources instead of believing rumors and stereotypes. You can be a voice for inclusion for all!”
“I truly feel rich graphics found in the panels of a comic book will engage people’s hearts, minds and thoughts to deepen their understanding and care of our world,” Nancy enthuses. “This project is a grass roots effort to have children, people feel the power of inclusion, to get folks talking and doing works of kindness. The power our graphic writers and artist, with their pencil to the paper, make our work a better place!
“Archie Comics has always been the art of conversation that propelled the brand around the world, now lets all invigorate inclusion, to be top on our list!”
• For those interested in purchasing a PDF of “Straw Thinking” at $0.99 go to http://paypal.com firstname.lastname@example.org
• National Random Acts of Kindness Day has grown in popularity each year. It’s celebrated by individuals, groups and organisations across the US to encourage acts of kindness
With thanks to David Welsh via Comic Book Historians on Facebook