While bullying a target may be easy, no one, absolutely no one, should ever be bullied. That’s the exact point Kindness Works — a new 10-page Archie comic story — makes.
Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie comics, said that while selecting a graphic literary creator for the new story, she had specifically looked at India. “The focus is on connecting with people and I thought I must connect globally, not just with the fans but with graphic literacy creators. So, when I went on a search for creators, India became the first place that I looked at… I looked for a person who had the skills to be part of the Archie team…,” Silberkleit told The Indian Express in an e-mail interview.
That’s how she found Dheeraj Kumar Mishra, who has worked as a freelance artist with the Union Defence Ministry and National Book Trust. Mishra, a member of Archie’s creative team, said the Archie story was the best way to drive home a simple message: bullying is a sign of weakness, not strength.
Scarlet, a new character introduced in the iconic comic series, represents people on the autism spectrum. Scarlet wants to be included in the group of students at Riverdale. “She is a gentle soul who does not want to hurt anyone, but she is often not understood… she could possibly be a target of bullying and be made to suffer,” said Silberkleit.
Silberkleit is the daughter-in-law of Louis H Silberkleit, one of the founders of Archie Comics Publications. She stepped into her role as co-CEO of the company in 2009, with a vision that the comic book, as a graphic novel, was a valuable tool to develop literacy among first-time readers.
During her visit to Pune last year, Silberkleit had stressed on the importance of graphic literacy as a crucial platform to communicate information in today’s society. “Graphics is the oldest form of language – one that can be globally understood,” said the co-CEO, who is a former public school educator.
“This particular Kindness Works project is a global issue and one very close to my heart. No one is an island and I believe that no one can do anything alone. There needs to be team work and collaboration, so what better support can I get… than from a country that holds Archie Comics in such high esteem…,” she said.
“This Archie Comic story is helpful in teaching children on the autism spectrum what bullying means, and why it is not okay. It sends a message about inclusion,” added Silberkleit.
While awareness about Kindness Works is being created through anti-bullying articles, groups working with autistic children and other outlets, Silberkleit said she has been dedicated to helping victims of bullying handle the painful experience. “I know first-hand that being the subject of bullying creates loneliness and isolation… letting this story not be attached to a cover or anything else makes it unique and will garner more attention,” she added.
On the evolution of Archie comics, which has been around for 76 years, Silberkleit said, “The story lines belong to the people… now parents, teachers and administrators need to find ways of approaching the topic of bullying, to make sure tolerance is understood and practiced. By keeping the dialogue on differences and disabilities ongoing, we can try to keep kindness going”.