Thursday, 28 July 2016

Amazing True Stories of African Animal Heroes

Gorilla silhouette, chimpanzee silhouette and elephant silhouette over a vector of Africaand a green background with leaves

Many an epic tale has been inspired by the animals of Africa: from the literal hundreds of folktales that span the continent to the Disney classic The Lion King. Africa is home to incredibly powerful animals - and sometimes these animals prove that they are capable of being truly inspiring, performing feats of kindness and bravery. Here are three true stories of animal heroics:

  1. How the Gorillas Outsmarted the Poachers

Two gorillas. A gorilla with a rope and a gorilla on a branch. Leafy background
In the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda live the Kuyama Gorilla Clan, whose home had been plagued by poachers who had set traps for antelope from their tree branches. The traps were set up rather sinisterly: a noose would be tied from a branch, held in place on the ground with a rock or a stick and then hidden by dry leaves and branches.
One day, tragedy struck, and one of the younger members of the clan had been lost to one of these traps.
Two four year old gorillas, Rwema and Dukore, decided to take matters into their own hands. The duo ran toward a trap they’d spotted. Rwema hopped on the branch and broke it while Dukore dismantled the noose. It is said that they’ve since spread their knowledge to the other members of the clan, in hopes of not letting another one of their family fall victim to poachers.

  1. The Chimpanzee Alpha Adopts a Baby Boy

Two chimpanzees. Male chimpanzee sits, baby chimpanzee clings onto him.
In the Ivory Coast, in Ta├» Forest National Park, lived a lively little chimpanzee named Oscar. Up until the age of three, he had lived with his loving mother Isha, and he’d thought she’d be around to guide him until he was about ten years old. However, one day, Oscar’s mother was hurt during a territorial fight with a rival band of chimps. It’s said that after the fight, a leopard killed Isha during her weakened state - and Oscar never saw his mother again.
The alpha male, Freddy, was known for being as gruff and as intimidating as any other alpha male chimpanzee - after all, he’s not the alpha for nothing! After Oscar has grown thin from having nobody to care for him (all the other chimp moms had their hands full with their own  young) he decided that he was going to take Oscar in and raise him as if he was his own. And so he did, and Freddy and Oscar live in their forest as father and son.

  1. The Elephant Calf’s Distress: How It Was Saved By Its Family

Two panels. One elephant with trunk up. Baby elephant is in river. Other elephants gather.

One day, in Kenya, a herd of elephants were crossing the Ewaso Nyiro river. Elephants have always had a very strong sense of family and this particular herd was no different. On this particular day, the river was particularly rough. The older, stronger elephants were able to withstand the strong pull of the river current and could safely make it to the other side. There was a little elephant calf in the herd - so small that he could not fight the river and was swept up! Luckily, an older elephant hurried to his aid and used her girth to block the calf from being swept further. The baby’s mom heard his cry from the river bank, and rushed over to help her child. Together, the elephants got the little calf out safely and carried on with their day - solidifying the elephant’s renown for being protective and loving of their families. 

Images are re-imaginings composed by Jessica at Epic.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

7 Empowering Webcomics About People with Disabilities

Webcomics are one part of the internet that we think needs a lot more love. They’re created by hardworking, passionate artists and writers who, more often than not, are drawing and plotting for the love of it. It’s helped many people express their visions freely, and they often do it for little to no pay.

There is an absolutely vast sea of webcomics out there, covering every genre and topic one can think of. Because we think that disability needs more positive representation, we’ve scoured the corners of the net for webcomics that not only portray people with disability well, but centres on those people respectfully: acknowledging their agency, their ambition and that they have personalities beyond being someone else’s inspiration.

If you’re into short, funny comic strips, The Disabled Life is fantastic. It’s created by two sisters, Jessica Oddi and Lianna Oddi who are both wheelchair users. They chronicle their experiences as 20-something women navigating life in a wheelchair in a light-hearted and hilarious way: touching on fashion struggles, online dating and body image.  The comics are posted with a text description for those with slow connections, small screens and vision impairments, which is a great step towards making their content accessible for everyone (and the more people who read it, the better, because it’s really great).

[Image Description: drawing of a girl swinging across in a ceiling lift and sling, kicking out her arm and legs, singing “I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL!”]
How we feel almost every time using the lift.
Read it here
That Deaf Guy is another great comic strip. It’s written by husband-and-wife team Matt and Kay Daigle: he’s the stay-at-home-dad of Cedric and she works as an American Sign Language interpreter, and the web comic follows their everyday lives. It’s a very sweet, funny and light read, and occasionally,  a strip will focus on the “Dos and Don’ts” of communicating with a deaf person, which, in an ableist world, is always worth sharing.

Read it here

For humour with a little more bite, there’s Cripz, which is about two high-school weirdos, Rhett and Griff, who happen to be wheelchair-users (they’re careful to mention that their weirdness has nothing to do with their disabilities,and vice-versa). The creators, Jeff Preston and Clara Madrenas, have crafted a fun, smart and unique comic with a really cool art style. Unfortunately, the comic has been discontinued (for now) but there are plenty of past strips to enjoy.

Read it here

Online disability magazine Disability Intersections has a couple of webcomic series created by Anna Hamilton. She writes and draws about her experiences as a woman with multiple disabilities through a critical lens that acknowledges other marginalized identities, and how they intersect with disability. Allergies, chronic pain and anxiety are a few of the areas explored through this lens and it’s done with humour, quirky drawings and (content note) a little swearing.  It’s good for those who are looking to learn more about the social complexities of identity, and it educates without being intimidating. Like The Disabled Life, the comics are amended with a text description.

Read it here

If an overarching plot is more your thing, take a look at Absent-Minded Theatre, a dark comedy/affectionate parody set in a fantasy world of magic, starring a little girl born without legs and a right arm. This little girl, Daisy, is determined, headstrong and opinionated - traits anybody needs if they have to save their single father from a witch’s clutches. The series wrapped up in January 2016, but there are pages upon pages of story for new readers to get through. (Just a little content note: it’s suitable for a more mature audience; we’d say 16+, for the youngest.)

Read it here
A newer web comic, which was first released in January 2016, is The World In The Morning, which is a slice-of-life story about living with mental illness. The artwork is really rich and beautiful, the cast is diverse, and the story is sincere and sweet. The story is still very very new, but it's rightfully made quite a few fans already and we’re definitely looking forward to more instalments!

Read it here
Finally, if you’re looking for a more classic superhero story, check out Handicape, a story about wheelchair-user Ethan who discovers he has rare powers and that he has to fight a dark conspiracy involving his hometown (as well as people telling him that he’ll never amount to anything much because of his disability: the series starts off with his school guidance counsellor telling him that he won’t be able to follow his dreams of going into law enforcement and should settle for a desk job). It’s a classic underdog story that has resonance, and it will definitely appeal to any comic book fan.
Read it here
Do you know of any more webcomics about people with disabilities? Let us know!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

6 Superheroes With Disabilities (That You've Never Heard Of)

We’ve been inspired by the upcoming Comic Con! July 2016 is dedicated to superheroes and superheroics and we’re super-inspired by the epic barrier-breaking stories of these fantastic beings - with and without disabilities!

In the media and within popular culture, disability has had very little positive representation. Many disability rights advocates have slammed the various portrayals: although there have been quite a few, most of the stories are centred around an able-bodied person, and the person with a disability has little to no control over their own role within the story.

However, there has always been a bond between superheroism and disability - and we don’t mean in the pandering, inspirational sense.

Mainstream comic book publishers like Marvel and DC have actually been quite progressive when it comes to disability visibility, especially for the 1940’s, when Marvel introduced their first blind superhero, Doctor Mid-Nite. There has been an extremely diverse array of multi-dimensional superheroes, spanning virtually every identity - but mainstream culture hasn’t been too aware of most of them, save for Daredevil (blindness), Deadpool (facial disfigurement, cancer, chronic pain, dissociative personality disorder) and the X-Men franchise (a metaphor for disability rights struggles).

Because we believe that more positive representation can only be a good thing, here’s our list of six awesome superheroes with disabilities:

  1. Silhouette

Born in New York City to parents that have maintained a legacy of careful, selective breeding (so she would be able to tap into the power of the Well of All Things in Cambodia), Silhouette was shot by police gunfire, which caused the loss of functionality in her legs. She’s since added “superhumanly fighting with her custom combat-crutches” to her already extensive list of abilities (which includes being able to melt into shadows and teleport) - paraplegia hasn’t stopped her from being a hero.

  1. Misty Knight
Also hailing from New York, Mercedes “Misty” Knight was one of the best cops at the NYPD, until a terrorist bombing left her without an arm. She was offered a desk job, but was unhappy with being confined to a desk, so, equipped with a bionic arm that grants her exceptional punching and crushing force, she founded Heroes for Hire with her best friend, to whom she maintains fierce loyalty. She also boasts ambidextrous marksmanship and detective skills that would put Sherlock to shame.

  1. Karma
A native of Vietnam, Xi’an Coy Manh has learned to stay calm during times of crisis, having grown up around war-zones with her army general uncle. She is incredibly kind, calm and unselfish - except briefly when her powers of psychic possession were used against her by the evil Shadow King, whose influence caused her to abandon her true personality for one of evil - and which also forced her to put on a lot of weight rapidly to the point of morbid obesity. She has since lost the weight and regained her sense of self, but her leg has been amputated: she now wears a prosthetic, but still possesses superb psychic abilities.

  1. Hornet
Eddie McDonough succeeded Peter Parker as the Hornet, and received the Hornet suit which he modified to allow him the use of his palsied right arm (as well as flight and enhanced strength). The suit helped his confidence as he felt that people saw the superhero and not the disability. He was sadly killed by a possessed Wolverine, but Eddie is still remembered for his superheroism as Hornet and his civilian status as a science prodigy.

  1. Black Bolt
Black Bolt has an unusual disability which could also be seen as a super-ability, depending on your point of view: he has a hypersonic voice, capable of destroying entire cities with just one utterance! He has to work extremely hard to remain silent at all times, and communicates via sign language or a spokesperson. He’s reluctantly taken on the position of King of the Inhumans, a race of humanoid beings who came to be after an experiment, who now live in isolation and distrust of humans. Black Bolt is widely considered to also suffer from depression.

  1. Vengeance Moth
A 19 year-old recovering substance abuser who has muscular dystrophy, Drew Fisher has fantastic powers and, from her wheelchair, is a fully-involved member of The Movement, a crime-fighting superhero team. She is able to project a glowing green moth, which allows her to fly or to transport allies, project offensive rays from her moth’s wings, and create a force-field that shields her from her attackers.

Who’s your favourite superhero with a disability? Or do you better identify with the supervillians? Let us know!