Created by award-winning independent local comic artist Pamela Harrison in 2012, Voices Against Bullying presents a unique opportunity for writers and artists to collaborate on stories about a topic that has been an increasing problem in America: Bullying. The creative talents of the VAB Project come from all walks of life: gay, straight, transgender, all ages, all situations, each of them giving voice to their own experiences or what they have seen around them. The series does not shy away from tough topics: nerdy kids, school shootings, self-cutting, transgender teens, gay kids in small towns with small minds, have all been covered. Future issues will deal with racism and prejudice, ethnic issues and more.
Pamela Harrison encourages new artists and writers to participate in the project, and it is growing.
Editor and creative director Pam Harrison has worked in publishing and print for more than 30 years, and has been an innovator in comics and webcomics since 2007. She received the Prism Comics Queer Press Grant for her historical graphic novel series House of the Muses in 2008, and thrilled a new audience with her sci fi series A Deviant Mind in 2010. Pam recently asked the talented writers and artists these questions: “What are your thoughts about having contributed to the series, and what are your hopes for the stories you’ve created?”
Austin Allen Hamblin: “I live in a small town in Iowa, I’ve now finished up my senior year of high school while going after my dream of becoming a comic book writer. I love to write horror, and offensive humor. I write for myself and my goal is to make people feel things.
“I hope to help at least one person with their problems. At a convention last month, I sold a copy of Voices Against Bullying Issue #1 to a young lady and I talked to her, told her she wasn’t alone. That made all the work I did worth it.”
Neil Ellis Orts: “My first thought is that while I’ve written and published various things, this is my first comics script to be illustrated and published. That’s a thrill. Beyond my own sense of accomplishment, I hope my story creates thought, maybe even conversation.
“I hope adults read it and begin to ask themselves where they are in the lives of kids around them. I hope teens read it and are inspired to become the type of adults that may be missing in their lives. I have volunteered with a local group that serves homeless youth, but only on a very limited basis. Having written this story, I’m also asking myself where I am in kids’ lives. I’m looking for ways I might be more involved with kids in general. I’m finding it takes effort! But I’m taking baby steps towards that goal.”
Christianne Benedict: “My own objective is to get a trans story into the pool of narratives, given that 41% of trans people attempt suicide at one point or another. Dealing with bullying is a lifestyle for many of us. I want to put some of the onus for alleviating this on cisgender people. (Cisgender and cissexual describe related types of gender identity where an individual’s self-perception of their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.)
“I’m really proud of the third page of the story. I slipped into a groove for that page and it carried through to the two that follow it. I kinda wanted to redraw the first two pages, but that way lies madness.
“As for what it’s like to be trans? Well, there are all kinds of ways to be trans. This story isn’t autobiographical, so this isn’t my story, per se, so much as it’s A story. This could be a LOT different: kid kicked out of the home, living on the street, drifting into sex work to survive (also not my story). I chose a relatively benign narrative, because being in a school environment is a kind of privilege contingent on other things being a certain way.
“But mainstream trans stories? Whoo boy! I’m writing a book about that and it ain’t pretty.
“Sure, things are improving, but we are such a small minority that we can’t do it ourselves. We need to gain and educate allies. Hence, my story. I do wish my story were less didactic and afterschool special-y, but it’s what I could come up with in the time constraints. And it was fun to draw.”
Lee Neece: “Having my story, Down On the Farm, included in the first issue of this anthology certainly gave me a sense of accomplishment on a personal level, not just because I didn’t think it would be accepted. In the months before writing it I’d been the recipient of some blunt emails from homophobes and also figuratively butted heads with evangelicals in my local paper’s letters to the editor section. I was fortunate to have a supportive family when I came out in the late 1970s though it could’ve easily been the opposite as I feared, as still often happens to LGBT people today.
“The rationalization by and sense of entitlement from and ignorance of heterosexual bigots are infuriating and at the same time sadly not surprising considering racism still exists. Writing this story was therapeutic and also a bit scary because I had to imagine doing harm to a gay person, albeit fictional. I wanted to explore the notions of family and a sense of belonging. The rural, late 1910s setting of the story came after attending a family reunion on my father’s semi-estranged side and learning that a great uncle born in 1901 had never married. The story opens with my character Charlie reminiscing about the impetus for his grandparents to move from Alabama to Illinois at the start of the Civil War.
“The ‘irreconcilable differences’ with the Confederacy is a true account from my father’s family and goes on from there to imagine why my great uncle never married and a different set of irreconcilable differences coming into play that stood in stark contrast to a progressive attitude of two generations past. Charlie the character did the best he could under circumstances and there’s a hint at the end of the story that he has seen happiness.
“Charlie’s adult life is bookended with allusions to gay culture in New York City in the early 20th century and Stonewall at the story’s close, and I purposely did that hoping to intrigue people who may not be aware of LGBT culture before Stonewall. It got better for LGBT people over the course of the 20th century, but it didn’t just happen. Thankfully I have a supportive family but I’ve had a traumatic, life changing experience and it got better from action and perseverance. It’s still getting better from small and large actions we all make because we’re all in this together.”
The first two 24 page comics are currently available at IndyPlanet.com for the standard price of $3.99. Voices Against Bullying #3 is in production and will be dedicated to the life of Patrick Bergman, a Meade County, KY teen who committed suicide because of bullying. As of this writing, Ashley Witter (Scorch, Squarriors) has committed to the project and calls are being made for submissions for Issue #3. For more information on how you can contribute to this project, email Pam Harrison at this link.