Three Smooth Stones – An Autism Fable

Recently, two friends returned from a beautiful island vacation. They gave me a special and certainly unique gift. They hoped to cheer me up after battling a feverish kidney infection. Please let me tell you how three smooth stones completely changed me life…

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Pebbly Beach and Ocean Vacation

 

My friends knew two things about me that helped them find a perfect gift. First, I like rocks and waterfalls. They thought that ocean-washed stones seemed like a close substitute. Secondly, I like knowing planned routines and schedules. Even if I miss an opportunity, knowing the next sequence of events helps me recover and re-plan. My friends explained to me how special these stones are: they keep away tigers!

 

Although doubting the dramatic claims about tigers, I happily accepted these pretty stones. I researched information about these stones, the island, and tigers…but found no data to support fantastic claims. Interestingly, no islander has ever been attacked by a tiger, though. Absent-mindedly, I just slipped these stones into my pocket where they remained until laundry-day.

 

My day progressed as expected, until I went to collect the mail. Is the short walk to the mailbox a window by which a tiger may pounce? Surely, taking these magical stones with me couldn’t hurt, right?

 

Thankfully, no tigers attacked me while getting the mail. No tigers appeared at the grocery store, either. I would make sure no tigers would be around my wife and I when we went to dinner with our vacation-returned friends.

 

We enjoyed lovely meals and talk. At one point, our friends shared news about their youngest son. He was recently diagnosed with autism. Surprisingly, both blamed a recent vaccination for the autism diagnosis! We did not discuss educational or therapeutic supports because the conversation hovered over vaccinations’ alleged links to autism. Before his vaccinations, the boy’s doctors and parents believed him to be developing typically. Nothing we could say could detract from their notion that vaccines caused autism.

 

Stuck on an uncomfortable topic, our friends suggested we talk about vacations and how well I liked their gift! I placed the three smooth stones on the table. “You don’t see any tigers, do you,” I asked with a knowing smile.

 

“You don’t really believe these stones have special powers, do you,” they questioned. I shared undeniable data with them- no tigers attacked me while I carried the stones. My friend is an accomplished attorney, and decided to use logic against my beliefs.

On a napkin, he penned this chart and asked me to complete it:

 

DATA COLLECTED SUPPORTS MY CLAIM? CHALLENGES MY CLAIM?
Are there any peer-reviewed journal articles about stones and tiger-prevention? One article made suggestive links, but was retracted due to procedural errors, lack of replication by other scientists, and ethical motivation behind the written article. No articles found refuting the link between these stones and tigers, but it’s a small sample size. More research is needed to find the link, instead of spent on tiger training and similar “coping” skills.
Were the island sellers motivated to make these claims about stones and tiger-prevention? Islanders affirm their claims, and no stone-islanders were ever attacked by tigers. Stone-islanders income from selling souvenirs accounts for 75% of their collected income.
Did I experience tiger attacks before I had the stones? No, but tiger attacks account for 85 human deaths each year; I won’t be one of them! Humans account for 1% tiger-related deaths, but little data exists about tiger attacks from impoverished tiger-filled places.
Do I feel my life been better since having the stones? Yes, I have less anxiety about tiger attacks, and have a resource that shows how my own faults won’t cause a tiger attack. If I am wrong, then I will always live in fear about what more I could do to prevent tiger attacks. I have too many other factors to consider about tiger attacks, so it’s just easier to believe something without needing more work beyond personal experiences.
How often do I think about tiger-related attacks? I don’t have to spend my time on this worrisome topic, since I have THE answer to stopping the problem. If my claim is overturned, I am left with more anxieties about tigers. Next, what else might ambush me? Will it be my fault, too?

My friends said that I seemed “obsessed” about their simple gift. They said greedy islanders tell grand stories just to make a sale of cheap souvenirs. They pointed to a lack of scientific research on the tiger-prevention topic; I countered by saying it’s a small sample size, and that I never encountered a tiger nor peer-reviewed literature against my claims. I also proposed my belief that somehow, in some way, our governments must be engaged in suppression campaigns about the truth. Of course- it’s cheaper to buy tiger-prevention stones than pay for medical bills related to maulings, so big business and medicine must plays parts, too.

 

My wife diplomatically interrupted. While she agreed that no scientific claims support my beliefs, she cannot deny my experiences. She added that if my friends ruined the “magic” of the smooth stones, I would be left with less hope. Was that the insidious purpose behind their gift?

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Three smooth stones prevent tiger attacks – Why isn’t this getting more news coverage?!?

 

My world needs predictability. These stones do more than prevent tiger attacks- they give me peace of mind. If a tiger inexplicably attacked me, at least it wouldn’t be my fault, because I carry these three smooth stones. Consequently, I don’t accept any personal responsibility for preventing tiger attacks. In some way, I have THE answer to preventing tiger attacks. Imagine if we mass-produced these stones- how many tiger-related deaths could we prevent each year?!? Nobody believes my ideas unless I provide research  showing a statistically-significant link that I already know exists. Don’t ask me how or why these three smooth stones work- they just do!

 

…and you have no right to challenge my claims!

 

You have no right to challenge my personal experiences or those of the tiger-free islanders. What does it matter if I lack empirical evidence- I’ve already suggested  government + big business + medical community conspiracies. My wife lends her observed experiences that match mine. Can you name any other links between the stones and a lack of tiger attacks? If you don’t have professionally-researched articles to  counterbalance my arguments, please just accept my own claims. Right now, you can offer me no greater solace than I have from believing three smooth stones prevent tiger attacks. How cruel must you be, to demand more scientific facts or challenge personal experiences? Isn’t living with the threat of tiger-attacks enough stress for me to carry?

 

Back at the dinner table, we found ourselves at another uncomfortable impasse. I asked my attorney-friend if they planned to sue the hospital or vaccine manufacturer for causing their son’s autism. America remains an actively litigious society – we aren’t too far removed from million-dollar lawsuits over spilled hot coffee. Anti-vaccination stances might support a class-action lawsuit against the purveyors of autism-inducing vaccines. Frequently, televised commercials offer to take legal action against other medical procedures gone awry, so why not autism?

 

My friends suggested how I mistakenly applied spurious relationships between the three smooth stones and a lack of tiger attacks. Spurious relationships are mathematical constructs to determine causality. Too many other variables could factor into my stones’ alleged power to rebuke tigers. Why fix something that’s not broken?

Next, I asked my friends to consider the same table when assigning blame to vaccines for causing autism. Quickly, I sketched my own chart by following similar example:

 

DATA COLLECTED SUPPORTS VACCINE LINK? CHALLENGES VACCINE LINK?
Are there any peer-reviewed journal articles about vaccines linked to causing autism?
Were any claimants motivated to make any links about autism and vaccine links? What does the rest of the professional community think about any claims AND claimants?
Did your son experience any autism traits before having the vaccine?
Is your life better by having a child…with autism?

(Person-first language encourages me to use emphasize the CHILD/person above the diagnosis.)

How often do I think autism and vaccines, or personal  responsibilities as a loving caregiver for a loved one …with autism?

They politely folded the napkin and placed it in a pocket. Next, we enjoyed a light dessert with our friends, and concluded the evening happily.

 

…without tigers and without blame.

 

If you must reply to this conversation, let’s agree to keep tiger-preventions or tiger-cures as the main topics. Autism diagnoses account for 1.4% of the population. Tiger attacks KILL 1% of its respected population. Autism doesn’t kill people, but tiger attacks do. Let’s focus more attention on finding a cure to tiger related attacks and deaths.

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Find some stones! You’ll need ’em to present any beliefs you have about autism and/or tiger-related attacks.

First, you’ll need to find yourself some big stones…

YOU Decide – I Won’t Say a Word

In our politically-correct world, certain adjectives cannot clearly identify some groups. For example, ‘African-American’ replaces ‘person of color.’ Likewise, ‘mental retardation’ stirs ire, so we use ‘intellectual or developmental delays.’ Gone too are words like ‘actress’ and ‘stewardess;’ use ‘actor’ and ‘flight attendant,’ respectively. By example, let’s discuss something we can change: public perceptions about autism. Professional clinicians once labeled ‘homosexality’ as a mental illness! If social change can re-correct misinformation at a medical opinion level, I have hopes that my simple suggestion may also bear weight.

 

As it stands, I fear the word “non-verbal” encapsulates too many negative stereotypes. Simply stating that a person with autism is non-verbal damages public opinions (read: neurotypical persons’ reactions). I see two things immediately incorrect by continuing to refer to persons with autism as NON-VERBAL.

 

Problem One:

Did you take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)? No, we’re not engaging in discussions about cultural dis/advantages about the SATs at this moment. Think back – maybe even waaay back – to your scores or scores of someone close to you. Usually, SAT results fell into two categories. Do you remember the Math section of the SATs? What was the other categorization? For me, I also got a VERBAL score. Nobody asked me to talk during the test. In fact, testers were forbidden to speak during the SATs. Nobody spoke with me while I took the test, aside from a procter’s instructions.

 

The problem with labeling someone as “non-verbal” is we completely dismisses any written proficiencies with communicable language. Famous self-advocate Helen Keller was not non-verbal, even though she was mute. She knew words and communicated their value to (sometimes limited) audiences. I cannot think of Helen Keller’s experiences and still consider her “non-verbal.”

I offer to use the word “vocal,” to replace “verbal,” and more correctly capture the social interactions with someone who does not often speak aloud.

 

Problem Two:

At what percentage do we equate anything with an adjective, “non?” If I’m a non-smoker, I won’t smoke tobacco. If a book is listed as “non-fiction,” we expect it to include some historical realism and facts. If a person is non-verbal vocal, we may (incorrectly) assume that this person does not talk at all – ever. I believe this assumption undermines abilities of some people with autism who have limited, but some, vocal skills.

 

At what percentage does “non” capture? If my glass contains 99% fat-free milk, is this non-fat milk? Would things change differently at 98% of non-something or other? How about 95%, or 90%? Does NON really mean zero-percent 100% of the time?!? If so, what hopes do we dash by referring to persons as “non-verbal” or “non-vocal?”

 

From ancient Greece, we have an interesting word: PARA. This prefix means beside; next to, near, from; and against or contrary to something. I like the words, “near,” “from” and “against or contrary to” to better explain vocalization skills for some persons with autism. Does “near-vocal” more accurately, more clinically, explain some behaviors of people with autism that you know, or does using “non-verbal” paint a better picture or empowerment? If you wanted to become an evil dictator, which word would you select to undermine a group’s potential?

 

To this end, I suggest we use words like “para-vocal” to better explain future social communication expectations.

 

Use “para-vocal” instead of “non-verbal.” Otherwise, we may be unintentionally limiting our collective expectations about persons with autism. Otherwise, we may grow to expect absolutely nothing from someone we list as “NON.” Let’s presume competence. Some people with autism may never willingly choose to talk. However, we owe it to everyone, including ourselves, to think of many wonderful abilities and skills autistics have, and focus less about what a select group does not have.

 

If you like this idea, please share it and use it yourself. I’m not copyrighting this word. I will use it to explain our comics character, Myra. I will use “para-vocal” to explain this aspect of autism which I describe today. Do you like it? Will you use “para-vocal,” please?

 

Change and acceptance begins with us. To my friends at ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), this idea falls in line with “nothing about us without us.” Can ASAN stand behind this idea of compassionate and clinically-accurate autism descriptions? Will ASAN use para-vocal instead of non-verbal in the future?

 

…or, we can go back to using “non-verbal” in literature. I would be wholly within clinical accuracy to refer to my African-American best friend (Sky Owens, our comics artist) as “non-white.” How far would that very factual adjective get us as a society? How would my friend respond? Look, I’m quite certain that some autistic people who don’t easily or willingly talk won’t say anything, right? Society questions the “verbal” skills of some autistics, I find more glaring verb and adjective omissions from neurotypical so-called experts.

Marvel Comics Sued over Characters (again)

This week, many fans worldwide celebrated a newly-diverse character in the Marvel Universe. Undoubtedly, Marvel Comics underestimated fans’ mixed reactions to Bobby Drake (Iceman) being gay. Having read the comic book (New Avengers #40), I admit it’s a good story. While I personally want to see more diversity in comic books, I realize this advocacy is a process we have to start with someone somewhere. This week, it’s Bobby Drake.

Some fans questioned my claims how Marvel Comics doesn’t prioritize diversity as highly as it does money. Sure, they’re a big business. They’re in this business to sell us great stories. Pffft- what about Marvel Comics has ever ever ever indicated they understand diversity, or are subject-matter experts about diversity? This isn’t their specialty- making money from selling us stories IS their business. We should expect Marvel Comics (and DC, and Image and Dark Horse, etc.) to write compelling stories. When they don’t show their work behind a new character, we should question their commitments to new characters. Is it a gimmick to have a gay comic book hero? No, it’s not a gimmick- it’s a first step towards compassionate understanding.

However, if Marvel Comics does nothing with Iceman’s character’s identity, he becomes less real. He becomes a poster-child for non-existent advocacy if writers abandon his character’s identity. I do not know who among Iceman’s creative team knows enough about gay experiences to lend legitimacy to his character. Dogs can’t write cat stories, through no fault of their own. Even in our comic book, I need help to capture a teenage girl’s experiences, since I’m a 40 year old male. We sincerely hope Marvel Comics continues to write compelling, engaging stories about our heroes. Iceman’s been around 50 years and appeared in six different movies, so it’s time he’s known for something more than his ability to make free snow cones.

Yesterday, two independent comic book creators (with former ties to Marvel Comics) sued Marvel Comics and Disney (among other named defendants). Why? Their claims are better articulated in this news coverage by Robot 6, here:

http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2015/04/artists-sue-marvel-disney-over-iron-man-armor-design/

The last time Marvel Comics were sued by artists, we got new renditions of their characters. Specifically, we had exact opposite depictions of the characters Captain America and Thor. Why were these changes made? Does Marvel Comics want to embrace diversity, or do they just want to avoid (more) lawsuits? If we see a new Iron Man from Marvel Comics in the near future, we have reasonable cause to question WHY we have a new Iron Man. Answer: Money, while dodging lawsuits. Making a new Iron Man would be okay- he DOES have a lot of suits. However, if Iron Man is suddenly a member of any particular minority group, let’s not pretend that Marvel Comics suddenly grew a heart. If we agree they are big business, then any moves made are from a business standpoint. What business strategy would be gained by making Iron Man a member of any minority group? It’s insulting to think they could cover up their mistakes by simply hiding behind a minority-based character. We know and remember WHY the character was changed- they got sued. Adding to the diversity discussion is profitable secondary gain. More importantly, I want to ask Marvel Comics to continue what they do best- write stories. Sure, they have a target on their backs as billion-dollar business, and lawsuits could be predictably common. However, making a new character requires more than a new costume and demographic label. Show us heart. Show us bravery. Show us failures and successes with compassion for the attempt. Yes, we want demand intelligently-created superheroes, even if the heroes aren’t genius-caliber. We want to see internal struggles and victories with the associated personal experiences with which you, Marvel Comics, have given them. You didn’t HAVE to make so-and-so a member of this-or-that group, but since you did, please follow-through.

Throw darts. Spin a wheel. Pick labels out of hat. Whatever changes we see in a new Iron Man won’t be prompted by understanding diversity- it’ll be because of a lawsuit. We’ve seen this happen with Jack Kirby’s lawsuit, so why should we expect anything different? I want to like Iceman as a legitimate character. I can’t help but feel like he may be a strategically-placed pawn in a much larger chess board. Will Marvel Comics sacrifice Iceman’s character to grab more dollars? Let’s hope they keep him safe and strong, and continue along this journey of respecting diversity in comic books.

We’ll be watching…

INVULNERABILITY – a new social superpower

On social media, and by some good friends, I’ve been asked to simplify my angered comments about Marvel Comics’ newest diverse character, a gay Iceman.

 

Marvel Comics is in a large business to sell stories.

 

Name one thing that Iceman has done in fifty years. He’s also been a part of SIX movies. Go ahead- name one thing that distinguishes Iceman as a hero.

 

We wouldn’t accept a politician whose only platform was their sexual identity. Without a proven track record, we would see through this politician for what they really were- table scraps given to pacify voters and secure a demographic.

 

Marvel Comics lists Iceman as being an “Omega” level mutant. This label makes him one of the most powerful members of the X-Men team, if not one of the most powerful heroes  on the planet! Of course, all of us can recall times where Iceman used his phenomenal powers to fix climate change/global warming, stop nuclear wars, and make a snow cone, right?

 

Iceman wasn’t first Marvel Comics character to showcase diversity. We’ve seen changes to other popular characters in the past few months. In fact, these changes were so radical that the new incarnations were exact opposites from their counterparts. Without needing to cite which demographics match these characters, focus more about the lawsuit brought against Marvel Comics by the original creator.

 

Do you remember a television show called KNIGHT RIDER, with David Hasselhoff? Do you remember his talking car, KITT? Let’s pretend that their production studios were sued by a writer. To avoid the lawsuit, they re-painted KITT the opposite color for which he was popularly known. Is that racist? No, but we’re talking about cars and not people. If we change the color or gender of a character for no reason other than to avoid a lawsuit, what kind of story telling do we have? Sure, the background for the new Captain America might be compelling. I cannot overcome my knowledge that a lawsuit prompted the change, not benevolence or good-intentions. If I am wrong, than Marvel Comics will keep their new Thor and Captain America characters for longer than one year. If they abandon these characters, then we affirm the changes was not prompted by good storytelling or benevolence, but to avoiding a lawsuit, under the guise of diversity.

 

When DC revisited their Batgirl title last year, they set a high benchmark. A lot of publicity aired about their new female-friendly writing team. We got to see their entire Batgirl creative team enjoy the new mission ahead through social media. This preparation lent legitimacy about their claims of wanting a new, socially-responsible character. Since DC (and Marvel) are in the business to sell us stories, they wrapped-up Batgirl with a nice bow. Batgirl wasn’t in the middle of a lawsuit by her original creator. Her change seemed legitimate. We saw their efforts, and bought-in.

 

Go ahead- name one thing that individually distinguishes Iceman as a hero in the last fifty years, aside from his bravery to admit sexual identity confusions. This is lazy storytelling. Their creators put more effort into obfuscation and politically-correct strawmen than making a believable hero. However, if I question their efforts and want more, I unwillingly place a target on my chest as being discriminatory. See- I told you Marvel Comics would want other people to defend their token gay character for them!

 

Iceman could be a role model to a lot of readers. Now he only really has a label. I am saddened by this reality. Tell a better story, Marvel Comics – please! You are in the business of selling us stories. Why did you only make Iceman relevant for his sexual identity? I find this gesture like one of pity- why can’t Iceman be a real superhero with awesome abilities and good deeds to make him worthy to roster among the X-Men (if you don’t kill off more characters to spite 20th Century Fox)? You slap a label on him, but this trick won’t be enough for fans to accept him as a title-worthy hero. We’re searching for diversity. You write stories. Write us a story about real diversity, one in which we can believe. You’ve got a good start, so please don’t let it fall away like you’ve done in the past, Marvel Comics.
I submit a new superpower for Bobby Drake: invulnerability to public criticism about how well his character is written and portrayed.

INAP Award Nominee, 2015

With equal parts humility and giddiness, I accept a nomination for the International Naturally Autistic Person Awards.

From the text of the letter, by Charlie Collura (Co-Founder, ANCA World Autism Festival):

INAPAwardNominationLetterDavidKot2015  <— Link to the .pdf file letter (Text from Letter, below…)


INAP Awards Nominee David Kot

Dear David

This letter confirms your nomination for the 2015 International Naturally Autistic People Awards.

The INAP Awards celebrate the talents and abilities of autistic people and the great work done by individuals and organizations supporting our autistic community.

Thank you for sharing your passions and interests and we encourage you to continue to pursue your goals and dreams. As a representative for your country, you demonstrate the great diversity and abilities of autistic people across the world.

We look forward to meeting you in Vancouver BC Canada for our 6th annual ANCA World Autism Festival October 1­-6.”


What are the socially-appropriate reactions to a letter like this one?

My primary emotion is gratitude. Without our fans’ support, we wouldn’t be as influential or popular. Kids want and need heroes like themselves.

Thank you. This is OUR recognition and victory in the marketplace of ideas. We share this nomination.

A MARVELous Dirty Secret

EDIT 23 April 2015: Fans have asked me to explain my thoughts about Marvel Comics’ diversity. My reply is found here: https://facevaluecomics.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/invulnerability-a-new-social-superpower/

We congratulate Marvel Comics for embracing diversity! Today (22 April 2015), Issue #40 of “All New X-Men” hits comic store shelves. In it, long-time hero Bobby Drake comes out as gay, or at least bi-sexual. We may see Iceman wrestle with his sexual identity after talking with fellow mutant, Jean Grey. If shown with compassion, Iceman’s real-life sexual identity questions could establish him as a contemporary role-model for readers.

 

This example gives us at least the third suddenly-diverse character from Marvel Comics. Last year, a female picked up Mjolnir as Thor! An African-American donned the classic shield and mantle of Captain America. Iceman was created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, so it’s been a long time for him to finally discuss his sexual identity.

 

Ardent comic book fans may want small changes their new characters’ super-powers or heroic battle-cry. Change begets change. Despite any perceived flaws in a costume design, for example, fans will grow to accept their heroes. Maybe, fans will even grow to love the newest incarnations of their beloved heroes.

 

Certainly, we can’t DISLIKE ‘em. This edict applies to comics reviews, too. Why?

 

If we don’t like a new African-American as Captain America, we’re racist.

 

If we don’t like a new female incarnation of Thor, we’re sexist.

 

If we don’t like a new gay Iceman, we’re homophobic or heterosexist.

 

We congratulate Marvel Comics for a brilliant, polarizing marketing strategy!

 

Some of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters – Wolverine and Deadpool – have recently died in their respective titles. Keeping a running count, now we have at least FIVE distinct changes within the Marvel Comics Universe in less than a year. May we ask WHY we suddenly have such an outpouring of new characters?

 

I contend this change has nothing to do with diversity and everything to do about money.

 

Knowing how much money popular comic books have hauled at theaters, Marvel Comics’ so-called benevolence is actually tied to a HISTORY of money choices.

 

Artist Jack Kirby created Captain America and Thor. When an average fan recollects an image of either two heroes, they likely think of the characters as drawn by Kirby. Since so many fans already connect these two characters with Jack Kirby’s art, his family sued Marvel Comics. They wanted rightful compensation for the characters that Kirby helped make famous.

 

Marvel Comics countered by showing the world their news images of these two heroes. Alongside a blonde hair, blue eye, Caucasian Captain America, we saw the NEW  African-American Captain America. There’s no comparison! Similarly, we saw a female Thor who looks nothing like her bulging biceps male name-sake. Again, there is no comparison!

 

Thankfully, people saw through the charade. These new characters created by Marvel Comics pre-dated the lawsuit by months. They played a shell game with very high stakes. If Marvel Comics wins, they retain all rights to box-office giants’ sales. Lose, and they have to pay an artist handsomely. Eventually, Marvel Comics paid Jack Kirby’s estate a settlement.

 

Did you remember how Iceman was co-created by Jack Kirby, too? Sony Pictures Entertainment once owned exclusive cinematic rights the the Spider-man franchise. This explains why movie-goers saw a completely different-looking Electro character from the one created by…guess who- Jack Kirby!

 

Gregor Mendel is rolling over in his grave- Marvel Comics owns the copyright to the word “mutant!” This suggests how Kirby’s creations – Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch – are NOT going to be mutants in the new Avenger’s movie this summer. They will have NO ties to the X-Men as we grew to know from the comic books. What?!?

 

20th Century Fox bought movie rights to some characters from Marvel Comics. Primarily, these characters include the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. All SIX of the popular X-Men movies were created by 20th Century Fox, not Disney or Marvel Comics. Therefore, the profits from these movies go into pockets at 20th Century Fox.

 

Like a spoiled child at the playground, Marvel Comics decided to take their ball and go home. They made a dramatic strategic plan: destroy their comics characters tied to 20th Century Fox. Make certain characters unusable. Marvel Comics indicated how they want to end the print run on the Fantastic Four. In the new Fantastic Four movie re-launch, the Human Torch inexplicably transforms from Caucasian to African-American. Next, Marvel Comics killed Wolverine. Deadpool is, ironically, dead, too. More importantly, fans should recognize how these two characters’ deaths happened within the world of the X-Men franchise.

 

…which is the same sinking ship where Bobby Drake just professed his sexual identity.

 

Take a mature step away from the world of comic books. Look at these transactions like a business. Marvel Comics just drew a line in the sand- they killed two main characters in the X-Men line-up. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) won’t draw audiences to any new X-Men movies. Would YOU want to see an X-Men movie without Wolverine? Professor X died in the last movie, too. Who leads the team? How about Iceman? If 20th Century Fox does NOT use Iceman as a gay character in future movies, guess what happens:

 

20th Century Fox – NOT MARVEL COMICS – gets any heat for how well they use a character’s undefined homosexual/bi-sexual identity.

 

I really want to like the diversity we now see in comic books. Regardless of the genesis, I really want to like the new Captain America, Thor, and Iceman identities. I think they can be good examples of how people value heroism in different ways.

 

Hopefully, we’ve learned a lot about new comic books. More importantly, we may have learned a crucial business lesson taught by Marvel Comics. To this end, I challenge:

 

If Marvel Comics easily dismisses an African American Captain America – THEY ARE RACIST.

 

If Marvel Comics easily dismisses a female incarnation of Thor – THEY ARE SEXIST.

 

If Marvel Comics easily dismisses a gay Iceman, THEY ARE HOMOPHOBIC and/or HETEROSEXIST.

#tableflipped

School is still in session. Let me show Marvel Comics how they can embrace diversity and influence real social change.

 

Give Peter Parker, the Amazing and Spectacular Spider-man, CANCER.

 

C’mon- a RADIOACTIVE spider bit the guy! It gave Spider-man his unique super-powers. Why not add ‘cancer’ to the list? Partner with writers who understand the cancer experience. Solicit advice from well-respected cancer treatment experts. Welcome new fans who need a hero like themselves.

 

Imagine a world where Spider-man had too many decisions. Rescue the damsel in distress? Stop the villain bent on city-wide destruction? Study for tomorrow’s big chemistry test? When does he fit-in needed chemotherapy treatment? How well does he feel following a visit with his physician? This strategy taps into creative writing minds and see an opponent more deadly than any foe Spider-man ever fought. Will villains know about Spider-man’s diagnosis, and will they use his physical weakness against him? How will his allies help Spider-man combat crime? Will Mr. Fantastic or Dr. Strange suddenly “cure” cancer within five days of this story line, though?

 

Hopefully, our fans know how serious we take autism advocacy in comic books. We took our own advice! We’ve partnered with great professionals who help advise us about certain aspects of autism. Diagnosed as an adult with autism, I write the script for the world’s first featured autistic comic book hero. We weave real-life personal and professional experiences, and clinically-accurate diagnostic criteria, into our stories. Facial feature recognition helps many of our readers understand character’s emotions, and their own. This science has been well-researched for 25 years, and formed the basis for educational reform in our home school district. Yes- Face Value Comics helped influence tax-free educational reform for students with special needs.

 

Why would we expect a multi-billion dollar business to give the common man legitimate diversity in its heroes? I cannot respect Marvel Comics’ attempts, knowing the source of change was only money. Don’t feed me table scraps , call it ‘diversity,’ and expect me to feel satisfied.

 

Yes, I WILL buy the new comic book today. I wonder when Iceman may tenderly hold another man’s hand. I wonder when he may kiss another man in love. I wonder when Iceman will get married to another man. All of these things have heterosexual counterparts in the Marvel Comics Universe, so why not see these common life events happen to a gay hero? It’s a fictional world, so Marvel Comics’ writers aren’t bound by repressive same-sex marriage laws. If I can believe in green-skinned monsters and flying robot-men, I can imagine a (fictional) place where equality can finally reign. Can’t you?

 

Today, Marvel Comics’ biggest secret isn’t that Iceman is gay. Their push for diversity is driven by competing rights to their popular characters in a battle of attrition. Knowing our politically-correct society, Marvel Comics embraces new, gullible fans. Meanwhile, they use their free hands to gesture obscenely towards 20th Century Fox and Jack Kirby’s influences.

Don’t Feed the the “Animals”

Over the Easter vacation, my family attended an aquarium in New Jersey. I wanted to do some hands-on research about seahorses and poison dart frogs (remember- I also write comic book scripts). This experience became a moment for autism (self) advocacy.

We spent about two hours going through exhibits. However, near the end, I felt overwhelmed. As more guests trafficked, I became a pinball and bounced off of people. Then, I found myself under a speaker, which further disoriented me. I asked for a break, and my family agreed to meet me in a few minutes while they completed the tour.

Again, I became disoriented as I made my way through a sea of people to where I thought I was supposed to be. I rested for a while (10 minutes?). Sadly, I did not become aware of some facial tics or finger/hand stimming until people began giving me odd looks. To curb this expression and embarrassment, I walked around the lobby near where my family would reconvene.

However, I made a poor choice in hindsight. My anxiety swelled and I felt like vomiting. I began breathing heavier, and tears trickled down my cheeks. I asked for help to find my bench I left just a few minutes prior. I know that some people can be cruel by making fun of kids. People made fun of me- a 40 year old, 6’5″ man with a cane.

Not one single guest offered any compassion but worse- not one employee or designee offered help. Perhaps my stuttering, exaggerated by anxiety, made me seem less approachable. Maybe professionals are unfamiliar with some common symptoms of anxiety and/or autism. I plan to write the aquarium and ask about staff training about these two and more challenges for future guests. I do not want anyone else to have any experiences at this aquarium like I did. After what seems like hours to me, my wife and family reconnected and we decided to simply leave immediately.

When fans read our comics, my hope is we can lend legitimacy to the autism experience. In my mind, this is why none of the largest comic book creators have an autistic superhero. How could a non-autistic writer capture subtle nuances of sensory overload if they’ve never experienced it, or only experienced it second-hand? How closely will the fictional behaviors match real-life diagnostic criteria or experiences common among many person with autism? This is why we made Face Value Comics. This isn’t “just” a comic book. This is the world’s FIRST autistic comic book hero – reaching the first generation of autistic students who graduate schools largely unprepared to help them face a world that stares back with equal confusion about what to do. This post is likely an unprofessional mix of emotions and advocacy. However, one cannot remove human experiences from a…well…human experience. This post took me about an hour to write. Near its end, I finally regained powers of speech without stuttering, and I wear a band-aid where I repeatedly, absent-mindedly rubbed my skin raw from during my experience at the aquarium.

In conclusion, my heart is still pointed towards kids- kids who need heroes like themselves – like OURselves – because the real world has enough villainry and too few champions. If you’ve read this far- thank you. You are unlike the many people who walked away from an autistic adult having a sensory overload in a New Jersey aquarium.

Who Taught Us to Hate Ourselves? (Oops, we did…)

“Joe” self-identifies himself as “autistic.” He invites his friends to observe World Autism Awareness Day. They meet to celebrate at a fancy nightclub.

 

A Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim walk into the nightclub. After talking for a while, they each agree to set aside their different religious beliefs. Together, they understand how their beliefs include great compassion and service for their fellow man.

 

An African-American, an Italian, and a Mexican walk into the nightclub. After talking for a while, their agree to set aside their different experiences. Together, they understand how their experiences include great perseverance despite discrimination or persecution.

 

Three more people walk into the nightclub. They respectfully identify themselves as bisexual, transgendered, and heterosexual. After talking for a while, they agree to set aside their personal preferences. Together, they understand how their personal preferences represent individual pursuits of love.

 

Joe welcomes his guests and thanks them for coming. He adds his own doubts about who may show-up for his celebration. “Persons with autism sometimes don’t have many friends, let alone friends who would brave this social experience,” Joe begins.

 

“I’m not a ‘person with autism;’ I’m ‘autistic!’” says one guest.

 

“I’ve ‘Asperger’s Syndrome,’ not just autism,” retorts someone.

 

“I am a ‘highly-functioning’ autistic,” says a third member of the crowd.

 

With one introductory sentence, Joe unintentionally derails the solidarity within the group.

 

“Autism” serves as an equal-opportunity challenge. This diagnosis transcends religion, nationality, or gender/sexual preference. Autism affects one in sixty-eight persons without prejudice or respect to age, education, or financial security. In some way, autism promises to unite people who may otherwise have little in common. We have a new social justice rallying cry that impacts entire future generations.

 

Instead, we finish where we begin. Without cohesive definitions accepted by the group as a whole, we flounder. As autistics, we undermine our own struggles for equality while neurotypical people and associated supportive services watch our divisive, horrific trainwreck.

 

Autistic individuals tightly grip their own ideas about what autism is. Can we assign blame? Too often, persons with autism are browbeaten into believing that the reason(s) we don’t feel socially comfortable is because something is inherently wrong with US. How dare someone challenge how we define ourselves! More damning, how dare a neurotypical person tell me how to self-identify with my own clinical diagnosis.

 

Imagine if our political-correct cowardice world invaded other self-advocacy groups.

Would we tell a Jew that he isn’t Jewish, but a ‘person with Judaism?”

Would we tell an African-American that she isn’t African-American, but a “person of color?”

Do we remind a homosexual person how some religions damn them, while other sciences slate their sexual identity for extinction? What end goal do we have by using this language? Is it a GOOD goal? No, it is not a good goal, because it teaches hatred of differences. However, I sincerely encourage people who defend “person first” language to apply this idea across other cultures and see how well it is received. Argue how the diagnosis is problematically perceived by others in the community with equal vigor as those who deny equality on other topics, like gay marriage. Instead of rallying around the label, chastise others who think differently than you about something very personal. Become a global influencer by seeking division, not unity.

 

Do we, as autistic individuals, only feel better about ourselves by putting-down other individuals with autism? At comics conventions, we meet many different fans, with and without autism. I sit shocked as some fans whisper, “I’m autistic, but I’m high functioning.” What should I do with this information? Should I reply in kind and list my academic and professional accomplishments? Is there any value in trying to be more (or less) autistic than another person with autism?

 

Sociologists study interactions that take into account the real or imagined presence of other people. When someone reaffirms how they are ‘high functioning,’ they probably aren’t literally seated or standing beside someone with greater (or lesser) intellectual or sensory challenges. Similarly, most people wouldn’t point to the person whom they don’t know and state, “I’m smarter than this guy.” However, when people use the label “high functioning,” they are secretly disparaging other people with greater challenges. These individuals undergo a transformation in our minds – they are now “low functioning.” Like some perversion of a caste system, we label different people, like ourselves, as ‘untouchable.” We needn’t worry about reproach, however. “Low functioning” persons with autism aren’t likely to point out this prejudice, because they are less intelligent, or nonverbal, or socially anxious to criticize. If we continue to differentiate ourselves as ‘high functioning,” we automatically build the counterexamples of “low functioning,” with whatever additional garbage we wish to include. We demonize the spectrum of autism within our own autistic communities.

 

In a job interview, employers do not seek a “high functioning” autistic applicant. Can the prospective worker do the assignments, or learn the role? Does the applicant show creativity and punctuality? I doubt interviewers have any boxes to check about how autistic a candidate is.

 

In marketing, I learned something as we advertised our comic books – the world’s first to feature a hero with autism. Labels DO mean a lot of things. For example, Marvel Comics seems to have clearly heard the ‘high functioning’ terminology in use. They responded by labeling less influential characters with autism as having a ‘mental illness weakness.’ Yeah, that label sounds like a good synonym for ‘low functioning.’ No wonder no Marvel-based hero has autism. On a side note, our social media inquiry to Marvel helped them realize how negative their labels were; they changed the label to ‘neurodevelopmental disorders’ in less than a week our our public question.

 

In our first example, Joe invited friends to celebrate autism. We see how individual identity is important to many different people. However, autism continue to self-divide itself on identity. Within our own autism advocacy groups, we struggle for acceptance and recognition. We have no major social agendas, except “nothing about us without us.” This sentiment is a farce- where are any autistic members of Congress? Is your child’s special needs teacher also autistic? Do you have an autistic pediatrician? Did you at any point stop and pre-determine: “Nah, nobody with autism could be a Congressional representative or doctor or teacher?” Well, some influential people must have these thoughts- how else do you explain the lack of such prominent examples?

 

Perhaps someone whispers, “I’m not autistic,” and secretly capitalizes on the spectrum of conditions and splintered social solidarity we have.

 

Until we forge a NEW, UNITED AUTISM IDENTITY, neurotypical sharks will circle our bloody boats. Sooner or later, we’re likely to toss out one of our own, anyway, for some difference we cannot accept (yet expect the world to recognize what we do not see or have). Mankind fears the unknown. In fact, fear motivates us to do more things than happiness. Do you stay at the office with a headache because you enjoy it, or because you fear reprimand by calling off from work? Do you pay the mortgage bill with a skip in your step to the mailbox, or do you hope the postmaster clearly delivers your rent check by tomorrow morning? If we do not know autism, we may fear what is unfamiliar. If we fear it, we move away from the source of fear. Next, we have neurotypical groups or persons who reinforce this fear, but who offer cures or even short-term fixes for the autism condition. We lose advocacy due to our fear. We lose independence by allowing other organizations to ‘speak’ for us, because – high functioning or not – we’re too divided to advise about ourselves. Capitalism finds and fills a gap. If autistic individuals willingly vacate opportunities to compassionately, mindfully unite…someone else will steal this agenda from us. Their claims will sound loudly – autistic individuals in-fight among themselves on identity, so, here’s what’s best for these low-functioning savages with social leprosy.

 

Wow, I’ve shared a lot of idea with you. What should we do about these challenges, now that we know more about how problems can arise? In lieu of actual leadership, follow me.

 

CALLS TO ACTION:

Beginner Level:  Vote during elections. Make your voice heard, even if you are nonverbal. Stop dividing ourselves over self-identification labels, and avoid negative stereotypes.

 

Intermediate Level: Ask what representatives are doing to accept autism in schools and communities. Ask how your child’s teacher understands the sensory overload experience, and how they mitigate these conditions while teaching basic reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Help someone with autism learn to read or write well.

 

Advanced Level: Hire persons with diverse skills sets, but avoid hiring a token autistic person to justify deep-seated feelings of guilt or shame or poorly-directed pity. Run for political office at communities. Write a blog about your experiences. Volunteer in your community. Learn facial feature recognition like you would study another language.

 

What do I plan to do? I’m going to keep writing comic book script and share ideas. When we talk about autism awareness, Face Value Comics is now more than a dozen pages deep on an internet search result without paid advertising. When we talk about autism acceptance, we are in the National Museum on Disability History, and sit on the same comics book shelves as Batman and Spiderman. Additionally, I will write the President of the United States, our local state representatives, and other influential persons of celebrity status. I will give them a copy of our comic book(s), and hopefully educate people about what an adult with autism is doing to unify understandings about autism on a global stage.

 

What are you going to do for autism awareness and acceptance?

Autism Education Reform

PAGE ONE

INTERIOR – GENERIC (HIGH) SCHOOL CLASSROOM – DAY

Zephyr stands.
The Zephyr (Michael) stands to defend children, and give them a voice of inclusion!

1. ACTION: The Zephyr sits behind a teacher’s desk in a generic high school classroom. Place Items commonly associated with teachers (ie: pencil, textbook, shiny apple, etc.) on the desk. Smiling, the Zephyr appeals to the readers as he introduces new thoughts about (autism support) special education, economics, and long-term planning.

ZEPHYR: Good day, citizen! I want to share fantastic news about new initiatives for individuals with autism. Together, we can literally change the FACE of public schools’ special needs education.

CAPTION: Kids need and want heroes like themselves!

2. ACTION: The Zephyr stands in front of a group of professional adults in a classroom. His audience includes teachers, psychologists, and parents. Behind the Zephyr, the chalkboard shows an expression of sadness (similar to what Myra drew in Issue #2), complete with reference lines to the quantification of the emotion. At least one (female) adult-student raises their hand to signify a question.

ZEPHYR: We see how an expression of ‘sadness’ looks. This expression is multicultural. People of any age or gender show sadness in the same way.

CAPTION: Studying facial feature recognition allows people to correctly and universally identify, name, and contextually place their own and others’ emotional expressions.

3. ACTION: The “teacher” who raised their hand (see above) now instructs a small class of young children at their desks. She points to a same/similar expression (sadness? anger?) on the chalkboard. This teacher also looks toward a student with their hand raised, now. An analog clock on the wall reads 9:15am.

TEACHER: That’s correct! Let’s use the word “angry” or “sad” instead of “upset.” If we use the same vocabulary for the short list of emotions, we’ll all clearly understand.

CAPTION: Teachers and direct-care staff can be taught and subsequently re-teach uniform expressions. Using social learning theory, graduate-level staff can bill third-party payers at group therapy rates.

INTERIOR – ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE – DAY

4. ACTION: An administrator sits behind a desktop computer. A stack of papers in an “OUTBOX” piles up (indicating opportunities to have multiple billings).In the “INBOX,” place stacks and wads of cash!

CAPTION: This model is the first non-partisan test of the Affordable Care Act. Even if only using ACCESS, this model offers an additional, insulated funding stream to education from insurances.

CAPTION: National averages for group therapy range $35-$85 per hour. In a month, one special needs classroom could generate about five hours of billable services about emotional identification and appropriate social reactions.

Michael and TESS relax at the Park.
Michael and TESS relax at the Park.

PAGE TWO

EXTERIOR – SCHOOL PLAYGROUND – DAY

1. ACTION: Children play on jungle gyms, shoot basketballs into a hoop, and a couple of kids surround a water fountain (outside) because we imply lots of activity and need for hydration. A teacher (or more) supervise the energetic kids during recess.

CAPTION: With insurance dollars, schools could re-invest into academic textbooks and supplies, or new equipment for the betterment of all students.

2. ACTION: A typical man holds a check for a million dollars, payable to “TAXES.” Standing next to him, the Zephyr holds out a hand to indicate halt/stop. He shakes his head “no,” with multiple heads turning in action of no, with motion lines. A child runs by the pair, holding a balloon and bouncing a colorful playground ball.

CAPTION: …without raising a single dime against the average taxpayer. This plan promises to net several hundreds or several thousands of dollars to invest in education!

CAPTION: Research about facial feature recognition is well-vetted in peer-reviewed literature. Most graduate-level helping professionals and insurances recognize the utility and value behind social learning theory, too.

INTERIOR – BANK  – DAY

3. ACTION: An individual wearing a fine three-piece suit offers the same female teacher (see above) a briefcase. Bursting with money, bills lay pinched and trapped in the closed briefcase, with a few dollars floating and falling away.

CAPTION: With careful investments, these monies could be invested and protected under FDIC regulations. Even a modest investment rate, multiplied by each billing classroom, provides a new economic practice.

INTERIOR – CLASSROOM  – DAY

4. ACTION: The Zephyr sits behind a desk. The briefcase (see above) also sits opened on his desk. Around him are several people of different backgrounds. They all wear t-shirts with a label to identify them, so “TUITION” speaker wears a t-shirt labeled, “TUITION.” The Zephyr hands money to each person like he were an many-armed octopus.

ZEPHYR: Who needs a tax-free grant?

TUITION: I do! I’ve to pay for books this semester.

THERAPY: My insurance won’t cover equine-assisted therapy this year.

HOUSING: My landlord asked for a deposit if I was serious about this new apartment.

TRAINING: Our classroom needs more puppets to teach facial feature recognition.

CAPTION: Wise investments over time allows schools to build interest on their original capital. These funds could be offered as non-profit, tax-free grants!

PAGE THREE

INTERIOR – CLASSROOM  – DAY

1. ACTION: From the teacher’s POV, students sit in their seats. Several students’ thought balloons betray their facial expressions.

CAPTION: Teachers and direct-care staff will learn to spot facial features of their students.From this identification, we can work together to overcome individual challenges.

SAD BOY: I miss my dog. I hope our runaway comes home tonight…

AFRAID BOY: Those kids always wait to tease me during gym class…

SURPRISE GIRL: I didn’t know there was going to be a test today! Oh-no Oh-No Oh-NO!

ANGRY BOY: Just wait til I get my hands on those kids spreading rumors…

Sadness
Michael’s expression of sadness has biological constants, making his sadness look like anyone else’s expression of sadness, too.

2. ACTION: One meek boy hides behind a row of library book shelves. His eyes peer in the direction of a monstrous bully. This peer bully has a bull’s head (minotaur), and balled his fists as he swings them through the air. In his wake are a series of drop-kicked books, overturned tables, etc. This bully is on the warpath!

CAPTION: …as well as empower students to navigate social situations. At its core, autism is a social communication condition. We’ll give kids more information about human behavior and build predictive empathy.

BULLY: <RAWR> <CRASH>

BULLIED BOY THOUGHT BALLOON: I’ll have to tell the teacher about Billy’s bullying behavior. In the meanwhile, I should stay away from him while he clearly looks angry!

3. ACTION: A small girl smiles and extends her hand to a boy who smiles at her.

GIRL: You seem happy. Would you like to be my friend?

CAPTION: In elementary schools, our curriculum includes basic buildings of genuine friendships and skills to combat sadness or anger outbursts.

4. ACTION: In a traditional woodshop classroom, two young adults and a teacher banter by a band-saw (complete with cutting safeguards, their safety goggles, etc.)

KID 1: You seem to understand this assignment better than I do. Will you please show me how to operate the power saw?

KID 2: In our last project, you taught me about electric circuits, and I passed the test. I’d be happy to help!

TEACHER: Great examples of teamwork, kids!

CAPTION: For older students, facial feature recognition helps to build pre-professional relationships. Kids begin to identify how people can help, and who may be most receptive to offering said help.

PAGE FOUR

1. ACTION: This splash page shows the Zephyr surrounded by many children of various ethnicities, ages, and abilities. Do not be afraid to depict diversity in learning, including physical challenges like arm canes, wheelchairs, glasses, braces, etc. All of the kids show either 1) feigned happiness, 2) genuine happiness, or 3) neutral expressions. A teacher, a parent, or other loving adult also looks at the Zephyr with awe.

ZEPHYR: Let’s review what facial feature recognition can do for your school’s special needs (autism support) classrooms:

CAPTION: Build vocabulary to consistently learn multicultural, universal emotional expressions.

CAPTION: Empower kids to recognize their own feelings, and emotions of their peers. By building predictive empathy, we dispel a damaging myth about autism’s lack of reciprocal emotions.

CAPTION: Create insulated funding streams from third party payers.

CAPTION: Grow capital through long-and-short-term investments for immediate educational projects or post-graduate assistance.

CAPTION: Reduce bullying by limiting victimization tactics and spotting problematic behavior as it stews.

ZEPHYR: Based on the success of our international award-winning comic book – the world’s first to FEATURE a hero with autism – we’ve global advocacy groups interested in our research. We’re reaching the first generation of autistic students…with a comic book. Take a deeper look at the science we use on two-dimensional pages.

KID (PICK ANY ONE): Ask how you can help us!

— end

Copyright (C) 2015, Autism at Face Value

Email: Angie@faceValue.US email

An Evolution of Understanding

Face Value Comics is the world’s first featured comic book hero(es) with autism. We hold this copyright without apology. With the same attitude, we explain our decision to make Issue #1+ available as long as demand is viable.

 

#1- Some fans are just learning about this comic book, and can’t find it. Imagine if a professional baseball player announced their autism diagnosis. Their rookie card would fetch a higher-than-expected demand, but becomes more difficult to find over time. Fans wanting that player’s merchandise may pay exorbitant fees by third-party resellers who use capitalism effectively. Since the comic provides some educational and therapeutic ideas, maybe it’s more valuable than some baseball cards. Fans seem to want our comics, so a responsible creator should meet the demand.

Face Value Comics #1
Face Value Comics #1

 

#2- We’ve willingly terminated our relationship with Diamond Comics Distributors (DCD). Unquestionably the world’s largest distribution chain about the comics genre, DCD treated our fans just like any other fans. We alerted DCD about how our fans are not quite like typical comics fans; (grand)parents with a child on the autism spectrum may not know about pre-order details. Today, we could waltz into a common bookstore and find best-selling books on their shelves at cover price (adjusted for inflation). After a few weeks, fans couldn’t find copies of Face Value Comics Issue #1 in stores. Some stores were unwilling to risk investments on the unknown title written by an unpublished writer, even with 50% off cover prices to re-sell at full price. Some stores held their limited copies for ransom; one North American comics retailer asked $35 for Issue #1 (MSRP: $5). On ebay.com, history shows how copies sold for twenty-times their cover price. Read again- these copies actually SOLD for $100+, not just listed for $100+ by third-party resellers. Demand is high, and entrepreneurs took capitalistic advantage of this knowledge. Thankfully, ebay.com helped cement our copyright claim in public opinion, and we are grateful for that opportunity. We knew and then informed DCD about these practices as an alert to the comics’ demand. Although we re-printed a second printing and were offered a third, we still had to resolve a majority of these problems ourselves.

 

When DCD declined to comment about their professional relationship to the NBC Nightly News, we scratched our head. Why would the well-believed monopolistic distributor not want to share in socially good commentary? This declination stung our founder, especially after meeting DCD’s hand-selected team to assist us- a team who constituted of individuals with a personal connection to autism. For DCD, this seemed like a personal investment as much as a professional risk. While we respect their decision to keep the attention about the comics and not their influence, they failed to grasp how much their public endorsement of actions already taken would elevate public opinion.

 

With our partnership to re-launch Issue #1, we agreed to a bi-monthly (every other month) schedule. Issue #1 was re-released in August. Add two months. Issue #2 released in October. Add two months. Issue #3 did not release in December as intended because we were inexplicably bumped. Other comics scheduled to release in December hit shelves on time, so why not ours, and why was it delayed? Still, we wanted to reach as many fans as possible. Remember, the lure of Diamond Comics Distributors casts a wide net. Anyone with a tiny bit of background about comics knows DCD is king of distribution (and printing) among comics, and really one of the only avenues to fans.

 

When we asked for more help to advertise, develop strategies, and advise us about content, DCD declined. If you are wondering what happened to the same hand-selected team of professionals with a relationship to autism went, you are asking the same question we did. We were told that our marketing strategies are working well, and that we didn’t really need DCD’s help. We already outsold many popular titles, and stand as one of the most successful independently-published comic book in DCD history. We did this work through our own blood, sweat, and tears. How do we build a website? What about blogging? When should we post to social media, and should we pay to promote these comments? We cobbled an impressive pile of notes gleaned by reading a lot of e-books from subject-matter experts. Help has been offered and been good. However, we are an independent comic book for a reason. If we want to have upside down pages, we will. If we use different colors, or different spellings, what would you expect from an independent comic book? Do you want the same thing as on shelves now, or an honest attempt at doing something new for kids’ sake?

Face Value Comics Issue #2
Face Value Comics #2

 

#3- We want to make the comics available to the public as long as there is a demand, but inventory control means housing unsold comics in our living rooms. How much room does three-thousand comics take? Trust us- you don’t want to know!

 

How much do we charge for shipping and handling, especially when fans want personalized notes and signatures? Do we charge extra for signatures? Our writer doesn’t believe we should charge for signings, because the books are more important than we are. In fact, he didn’t reveal anything about our art team or his own adult autism diagnosis until the books were printed in fans’ hands. We believe that the integrity of the comic must stand above possible gimmicks or knowledge of any work done previously. If fans like the book, they’ll like it because of content, not because some autistic comics fan/therapist wrote it.

 

Therefore, we will soon make available copies of Issue #1 available for print-on-demand and digital download. This process means fans can visit our website in the near future and click to order the comics. If you want a single copy, the printers will get an invoice to print a single copy and ship it anywhere in the world. While this may mean higher international prices, we also have new friends willing to serve as distribution hubs in the United Kingdom, Australia, and China. Digital downloads are non-printable files suitable to read on electronic screens. With the launch of one new title, we will make those issues available to print at home because they’ll be in black-and-white colors. By comparison, our artists’ colors are so rich and robust that we can only print about five pages before emptying our personal ink cartridges.

FVCover-3
Face Value Comics #3

4) We kill third-party resale prices. With the ability for anyone to buy a print-on-demand copy, resellers cannot re-sale over cover price without losing reputation. We support capitalism, yet we don’t want our fans to be price gouged over low supplies of our comics.

 

In summary, we’re making Issue #1 available indefinitely, because 1) new fans haven’t seen it, 2) we do as good of a job marketing and distributing the comics by ourselves at our own schedules, 3) this opportunity requires no initial investment and subsequent storage on our parts, and 4) we reduce third-party resellers hold on inflated prices.

 

Finally, we realize that we may need to change how we print the comic book. For $5, comics fans could buy the latest issue. In this issue, typical comics offer 32 pages. Grab a typical comic off the shelf, and count the number of advertisements. Now, grab our comic and count the number of advertisements. Issue #3 is well over 40 pages, with NO advertisements. In a way, fans would have to buy TWO traditional comics to get the same amount of story in just one of our books. This suggests how we may want to print fewer pages of a book, or slightly increase the price closer to the $5 original cost to self-publish, or, we should offer advertisements. Whom should we endorse or allow to promote in our books as a trusted resource? Not wanting to polarize our audience by selecting Ad A over As B, we may never print advertisements. This is information we openly share to our fans about the adventures of making the world’s first comic book hero with autism.

 

You add meaning to our lives by your unflinching support. What started out as a fun idea has become what some professionals are citing as the first mainstream child-friendly resource about autism to the first generation of autistic youth. We never planned for this honor, so we cite you as the source for our overwhelming popularity. People talk about increasing autism awareness. We’ve made top-selling international news stories and international awards, so we met the demand for positive attention about autism. Next, people strive towards autism acceptance. With record-breaking sales for an independently published comic, and with a line of action figures already completed and released within the coming month, we see how public demand for autism advocacy places us in the autism acceptance discussion, too.

 

Join the fight…against misunderstanding. This post shows and tells you why we’re going back to our roots. Expect more awesome stories. Expect the unexpected. This isn’t a gimmick sale, nor a flash-in-the-pan. As a team, we’ve personally invested everything we have into the success of the comics. The returns on investment are richer than any monetary value known to man. Thank you, fans…

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