Comics can Save the World

facebook_banner2.jpg TOKYOPOP Fam:

Happy Mother's Day from beautiful Santa Monica, California!  It's nice to be back in the good ol' USA and spending a relaxing Sunday curled up with my MacBook Air and some Pan Dulce & Mexican Coffee from my favorite local bakery La Monarca.  Before heading out for dinner with Mom, it's time to hit my weekly blog!

So, one of the most blessed parts of my job is when an opportunity arises to give back to the community by helping out when it counts.  Through various charitable organizations over the years, we've done our part to fight illiteracy, donate books to schools and libraries, and even been part of a child's wish through Make-a-Wish foundation.

There's nothing quite like seeing the tears of gratitude in a mother's eyes when her terminally ill daughter forgets her pain for a few hours while touring an anime studio in Japan.  I'll never forget that day for as long as I live.

In manga and anime, as well as entertainment overall, we have many ways to reach people and hopefully enhance their lives.  But every now and then a special project comes along that reminds you why you're in this business.

Enter the United Nations and Josh Elder (creator of Mail Order Ninja!).  When Josh and his partners contacted me about the incredible opportunity to support the United Nations' Global Goals by creating manga, I jumped at the chance!



Josh has now embarked on a Kickstarter Campaign to fully fund the program and I was able to snag a few moments from his busy schedule to dive a bit deeper into the background so the entire TOKYOPOP community can learn more about this special project.

Check out the interview below - and join me and TOKYOPOP helping out the world!





STU:  What inspired you to work with the United Nations?JOSH: It was an utterly chance meeting at New York Comic Con with Natabara Rollosson, a producer who develops high-profile events with the United Nations. He felt that comics had a role to play in communicating the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and I, of course, agreed!

_______________________________________________________ STU: Why do you think comics are a valuable medium to communicate the UN message?JOSH: They're a universal language. They overcome written language barriers, cultural differences and limited literacy. And because they're both analog and digital, they can travel anywhere at low cost regardless of physical infrastructure.

_______________________________________________________ STU: Is this a special project that happens once, or will it be ongoing?JOSH: Obviously a lot of that depends on the response to this Kickstarter and then to the final product. We certainly have big plans to empower comic artists all over the world to tell their stories, but that all depends on how much interest we can generate here and now.

_______________________________________________________ STU:  There are 17 Global Goals it seems - how and when did the UN choose these, and what do they mean?JOSH: It was a multi-year process involving multiple conferences on multiple continents. This was the work of a lot of diplomats trying to find common ground for EVERYONE. No easy task, that. The Goals are a series of ambitious targets to end extreme poverty and and other major global threats for everyone by 2030. If the Goals are met, they ensure the health, safety and future of the planet for everyone on it.

_______________________________________________________ STU: Are all 17 global goals equally relevant to the people who will likely pick up these comics - or some more than others?JOSH: I think with anything of this scope, some of the Goals will naturally be more relevant to some audiences than others. There are a couple goals in there about the ocean, and while that is technically relevant to everyone, it probably won't resonate as much with someone living in a landlocked desert. But everyone has a stake in ALL of these, and that's the key. We're all connected, and what affects one of us, affects all of us.

_______________________________________________________ STU: Which people (audience) do you expect and hope to reach (i.e. age, demographic, etc.)?JOSH: We think is a great tool for reaching everyone for the reasons I listed above, but there's definitely a focus on older children and teens since that's a big focus for the larger UN messaging campaign as well.

_______________________________________________________ STU: There are some great publishing partners (including TP!) - how do you think they will contribute? Will there be other partners joining up?JOSH: We hope to keep bringing on partners as we go, though I think we've honestly already assembled the biggest comics publisher coalition I've ever seen. All of the publishers and distributors involved are giving promotional and material support and some will be providing content featuring their branded characters to act as "Public Service Announcements" promoting the individual goals.

_______________________________________________________ STU:  What can manga or comic book fans do to get involved?JOSH: Well, the immediate answer is to support us on Kickstarter! Anything helps, even a dollar pledge. If we can get enough of them then it all adds up. Share why you're excited about this idea on Facebook and Twitter. Just spread the word. That's so important.

_______________________________________________________ STU: If the Kickstarter doesn't reach its goals, what does that mean for the project? Will it still happen?JOSH: I honestly don't know. We've set a huge goal for ourselves, and while there's a real possibility of grant funding materializing during or after the conclusion of the campaign, it's not something we can count on because this grants take a very long time to come together. So for now, the Kickstarter is it. And that means we need everyone coming together on this or it just won't happen.

_______________________________________________________ STU: Can you explain a bit the non-profits involved (Reading with Pictures, PCI Media Impact, and PVBLIC?JOSH: We're all 501(c)3s based in the US. RWP, which I founded, works to promote the use of comics in education. PCI uses storytelling and creativity to affect social and environmental change. PVBLIC is a grant-making organization that harnesses the power of media outlets to drive social change.

_______________________________________________________ STU: Any "dreams" when it comes to creators, artists, writers getting involved?JOSH: Too many to list! Though we've already got a few. Folks like Randall Munroe or Rich Burlew, Scott McCloud, Rumiko Takahashi. I could REALLY go on, but I should probably stop before I just fill up the blog with names.

_______________________________________________________ STU: Anything else you want to add about how this is affecting you personally, or other aspects?JOSH: It's a big risk. I've been devoting myself to this full time for months with no compensation. Reading With Pictures has bet all our assets on this. It's the biggest opportunity imaginable, but it's also the greatest risk. I don't want to let anyone down, so we're going to do everything we can to succeed!