I’m honored to have been asked to participate in Comics Uniting Nations, a collaboration that a handful of nonprofits are undertaking to help spread the word about an indispensable United Nations project.
The United Nations concerns itself with no less than ending war, reaffirming the value of human life and fundamental rights, raising living standards around the globe, and holding nations accountable to international law. And this September the U.N.’s general General Assembly will be convening in New York to focus its mission on a number of specific goals, which include bringing a halt to poverty and hunger and helping economies and societies around the world become more resilient and sustainable.
To be precise, U.N. member states are concentrating on fourteen distinct sustainable development goals (SDGs in their lingo) and hope to ratify these into a coherent plan for action this autumn.
These SDGs are so ambitious and towering in scope that my mind can’t help but flash on Lincoln’s line in the Gettysburg Address about a “poor power to add or detract.” What can any one person or group do to promote these?
And yet part of the uphill battle of realizing the goals is simply the challenge of spreading the word about what they are—and what can be done to genuinely achieve them.
That’s where Comics Uniting Nations comes in.
Like the folks at Reading with Pictures, I have seen first hand that comics are a fantastic tool in the toolbox for conveying knowledge and ideas in an innovative way that almost anyone can understand.
(One of my favorite things to witness in person is when someone obviously prejudiced against comics picks up one of my nonfiction graphic novels at a book fair or something, starts to skim it with obvious skepticism, then does a clumsy double-take in the process of putting it back down in which they reflexively pick the book back up again, study a sequence of panels more closely, and then nod in a kind of roughly-brought-around persuasion at a point being made. I saw this dozens of times mostly with old, grizzled, war-vet types while attending the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania a couple years ago).
And so Comics Uniting Nations plans to produce and publish a comics anthology to explain the United Nations’ fourteen SDGs. One of the most exciting prospects about this is that the resulting work could become the most widely-read comic in the world! Moreover, Comics Uniting Nations is teaming up comics writers and artists from nations all over the inhabitable continents. I and a yet-to-be-named artist will try to tackle the challenge of explaining one of the SDGs. This will be in an (ideally) wordless ten-page comic that will be visually compelling and fruitful of content yet free of specific cultural references—and comprehensible even to the illiterate. I look forward to it not only as a chance to do my bit for the world, but also as a challenge to the art and craft of writing.
As one of the creators invited to participate, I am proud to be in the company of fellow Americans Fred Van Lente (who also happens to be at the helm of another time travel comic on the stands right now), Ryan Dunlavey, Roxanne Palmer, Ben McCool, Dan Mishkin, and Matt Dembicki, as well as writers and artists from Chile, Denmark, The Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea.
Comics Uniting Nations needs your help! Please consider throwing a few bucks their way on their Kickstarter page and beating the drum for them wherever you make your online presence known!