Dave Kot released his first-ever comic book in December, and now, seven months later, he’s releasing the second issue in the Face Value Comics series.
The book is not something he thought would get any media attention, but since it’s the first time a comic has featured an autistic superhero, people are starting to take notice — and not just in the Midstate.
Kot’s book came to fruition because he was working with a lot of clients who were on the autism spectrum and he noticed there wasn’t someone out there with whom they could identify.
“We decided that we would have a comic book as a way to deliver this because it’s a great way to capture a fun story — it’s something that’s not threatening to a lot of kids,” he said. “We believe that kids need and want heroes like themselves, and that’s why we have a hero with autism. We want kids to learn a little bit about autism and social skill building. Our characters are heroes not because they have some great, super, superpowers but because they try to do the right thing.”
People gathered on Wednesday at Comix Connection in Hampden Township for a small release party for the second book in the “Face Value Comics” series and to get their copies signed by Kot and Sky.
Joe Hare, the manager at Comix Connection, said while he hasn’t been directly affected by autism, he does know people who have been, so it’s great to see something that aims to teach more about the disorder.
“I think that that’s an audience that has different needs,” Hare said. “I think what’s neat about this is that Dave has taken something in his own life that he has had to struggle with and created a hero that can handle it — that can overcome it and help others do the same. I think that’s quite admirable.”
After the first book was released, the doctorate student in psychology began working on his second issue, with illustrator Sky doing the art work. However, this time, there is even more attention being paid to it because the comic has been picked up by Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest comic book distributor serving North America.
“Face Value” will be released nationwide, as well as in England, in August, which is exciting to Kot because that means his book will be on shelves next to Batman and
“Diamond approached us this spring and asked us if we’d be interested in a partnership,” the York resident said. “They were so impressed with our outreach and advocacy done in a family-friendly way that they wanted to be a part of this.”
The comic is in a genre called steampunk. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that melds science fiction and fantasy. It mostly deals with alternate worlds where steam technology meets futuristic technologies.
Kot said the book centers around a character named Michael who is moving up to middle school. Michael is autistic, so sometimes when he is having trouble computing an emotion or thought, his thought bubbles appear upside down.
Each of the other characters has a psychological profile that could include anxiety or depression, which Kot said provides education but also allows for there to be a lot of conflicts throughout the story.
Along with the thought bubbles, the facial expressions are important cues for the readers as well. Using the facial action coding system, “Face Value Comics” uses facial expressions that are universal and easily figured out by those on the autism spectrum.
“(FACS) is a certain taxonomy in the way the faces show emotions,” Kot said. “They’re universal theories that when a person looks happy or mad, they’re going to look happy or mad whether they’re in Australia or Alaska. Context about what makes a person happy or angry or any other emotion may be affected by an individual’s culture or experiences, but when a person is feeling angry, those looks are universal regardless of age or gender or even where they may live.”
The technique helps the readers by allowing them to match the expression of the person to the language and then follow the adventures and see the consequences of each behavior as the story moves forward.
Kot says for young readers who may not make much eye contact, the strategy helps teach them about emotions and predicting emotional social situations.
Since there is so much misinformation out there about autism, Kot said his long-term goal is to not only help those who have it, but also get more accurate information out to the public. Since Kot is on the spectrum himself and has spent a lot of time learning about it and counseling people with autism, he has a lot of experience with the disorder.
Kot even hopes to create toys that use other senses to teach children with autism to play better with other children.
“We’re looking to have what will be the world’s kind of first developmental versus chronological age toys,” he said. “Imagine if there was a character that was based off of our comic book that smelled like blueberries and grape because he had a blue and purple costume, and his cape had the crinkle sound to it. Imagine if he lit up, if his costume wouldn’t be a complete slick lycra outfit, but would have textures and feelings that you can run your hand over for textural stimulation. It would really enhance the level of inclusive play.”
For more information, visit http://autismatfacevalue.com.