With the release of the all-female Ghostbusters reboot fast approaching, the U.S. has seen an increasing effort to diversify lead characters in all forms of media.
We can now follow resilient heroines in such movies as The Hunger Games and Insurgent or even Ms. Marvel, as she juggles her identity as a Muslim Pakistani-American with her crime-fighting duties.
Children and teens from diverse backgrounds have ready access to characters they can easily identify with as protagonists shift away from the generic main character of white male. This also opens up a dialogue about neurodiversity.
This was notably seen in the bestselling series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, where a young Percy battles, not only with Greek gods and goddesses, but also with ADHD and dyslexia. Both disabilities are major influences in the novel’s character development as the series progresses – issues that the author’s young son actually has. There was also the long-running series Monk, which had a titular character with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
However, the genre rarely showcases notable neuro-diverse supporting characters with conditions like autism, much less lead characters. Enter Face Value Comics (FVC), a new comic series that centers around the autistic character of Michael and his friends, as they embark on adventures in a steampunk world filled with aliens and robots.
Retailing at around $6 per issue, the series is professionally drawn with a flowing, easy-to-follow layout. It also introduces the steampunk universe, which is not often seen in young adult fiction.
With neuro-diverse readers in mind, the creators wanted a popular, relatable medium, rather than just another “teaching tool,” something that could be picked up off of a local library shelf next to the classic heroes we see every day.
Autism is certainly not the character’s entire identity but simply a defining trait as part of a whole. Like most children, Michael and his friends eagerly wait for the new adventures with their favorite superheroes and role model, The Zephyr. But Michael also struggles with some actions and moral decisions in everyday life while facing threats much larger than himself.
For parents who worry about certain aspects of traditional comic books, such as violence and moral ambiguity, FVC adheres to very strict ethical guidelines. Profanity and overt sexuality are prohibited, while violence is kept to a minimum and only occurs if it is central to the plot.
Family values, as use of the Facial Action Coding System (which is actually labeled in-story for the reader’s benefit) are far more emphasized, as vocal or silent autistic characters make their way through their steampunk universe, dealing with anything from giant robots to peer pressure and bullying.
The series is now on its third issue and is available at multiple online stores and some libraries. For parents who are curious and want to check out the art and direction of the comics before investing in them for their own child, FVC offers example pages and sketches on their Facebook page.