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Today, I’m speaking with David Kot, the founder of the nonprofit organization known as Face Value Comics. Find out more about their organization, how their comic book will be increasing awareness of autism, how they are using Facial Action Coding System (FACS) in their comic book and more.
Me: What is your role in Face Value Comics?
David Kot: Publically, I founded Face Value Comics, Inc. as a nonprofit organization in October 2011. I help write script, and consult about autism spectrum disorders, too. Lastly, I help plan our primary social media strategies on Facebook and Twitter, and interviews.
Me: What is the message you’re trying to send with your comics?
Kot: Face Value Comics tells ONE story of a young man’s adventures with autism. We include fantasy elements, like steampunk airship battles and aliens, to craft an engaging plot. Everyone needs a role model, and Face Value Comics remains the world’s first comic book to feature a hero with autism.
Me: Who is the creative team behind Face Value Comics and what is their experience with comic books and Autism like?
Kot: As a conscious business decision, we respectfully decline to answer. We hope fans will like our comic book based on its own merits, not our collective body of work. Many members of Face Value Comics have close family or friends with an autism spectrum disorder.
Me: What is Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and how are you using it in the comic?
Kot: Dr. Paul Ekman developed FACS as his theory describing emotional expressions. In Face Value Comics, readers can see consistent facial expressions with matching speech/thought bubbles. This strategy helps readers link emotional expressions with specific language skills.
Me: Why did you choose to use it?
Kot: Academic research, as well as professional and personal experiences, suggests how FACS builds empathy. Face Value Comics tells an exciting story, but also aims to improve social communication by example. Our heroes have no traditional “superpowers,” but understanding how other people feel becomes their best weapon in a fight against social misunderstanding and prejudice.
Me: What is the title of your upcoming comic book and what is the premise?
Michael and Tess at the Park
Kot: Face Value Comics, Inc. debuts its self-funded, self-titled issue #1 later this year. Our working subtitle is: “The Sky is the Limit.” Readers will discover how middle-school aged children handle a galactic alien invasion, as well as typical stresses like bullying and pre-teen romantic interest.
Me: Why did you decide to make this Steampunk?
Kot: Like our target audience, a steampunk comic book lacks accessible and prominent title lines. Futuristic steampunk also allows us to make important environmental commentaries about energy conservation and (ab)use of natural resources. A steampunk world presents a different-looking world without being too alien or complex.
Me: Can you describe some of the supporting characters, like Dr. Darling Moebius, Francis Shaheen and Claudia Faust, to name a few?
Kot: “LIKE” Face Value Comics on Facebook! Every Tuesday, or “Who’s-Day,” we provide unique art and short character biographies leading up to Issue #1’s release. Currently, we have over 550 fans on Facebook over the last ten weeks. Our FB “Likes” are all organic. Another business decision was to avoid paid promotions for “Likes” or Twitter “Followers.”
We draw names from classic literature and personal experiences. For example, Francis Shaheen shares the last name of a character with whom we have already planned a collaborative effort. In the future, Face Value Comics and another comic book writer will feature the experiences of a young, completely non-verbal girl with autism.
Me: Why did you decide to make Michael, your protagonist, have autism, versus something else like being blindness, having social anxiety disorder, etc.?
Kot: Growing statistics suggest most everyone knows someone who has an autism spectrum disorder. Until Face Value Comics, this special population lacked a voice in comic books; we offer ONE voice amidst a crowd who advocates more admiration and understanding for people living with autism. Having an independent comic book promotes fan appreciation without supposition of larger businesses’ gimmicks.
Cassiopeia and Chipper
Additionally, many of our characters also struggle with personal problems. We use ideas like social anxiety disorder (Frank the Tank) and depression (Cassiopeia) to help guide characters’ backstories and subsequent behaviors. Diagnoses cannot completely define any person, but remain a piece of their life that we respectfully portray.
Me: When, where and for how much can people get their hands on Face Value Comics?
Kot: We optimistically await word from our distributer/printer. Our goal is to have Issue #1 – a 22 page color comic book – available in November 2013. Although we offer educational and therapeutic material in addition to a fun storyline, we aim to keep costs close to $5 per issue. Please follow us on Facebook (Face Value Comics) for more details about upcoming availability, including digital downloads and worldwide distribution!