Thursday, April 03, 2014

On -isms: Without Fear

Yesterday was Autism Awareness Day. Various forms of autism have shown up in TV and movies in recent years -- Abed from Community and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory spring immediately to mind -- but there's precious few examples in comics.

Alec Frazier is looking to change that. Being on the austistic spectrum himself (on the "high functioning" end), he's been an advocate of and for those with autism for many years in a variety of forms, and has spoken to large groups as a consultant on the topic. But this month, he's introducing another vehicle for autism awareness -- a superhero. He's come out with a book called Without Fear: The First Autistic Superhero. (I haven't looked into the "first autistic superhero" claim, but I'll take Frazier at his word. I can't even think of any autistic characters I've seen in comics, much less superheroes.)

The book apparently uses the "Wake Up" story from Daredevil as a sort of springboard, imaginging what the child character from that story might do after Daredevil's death. I haven't read "Wake Up" nor have I read Without Fear, so I can't comment on how far removed Frazer's story is from the original. He assured me, though, that he's had three copyright experts examine his comic, and they all say he's not treading on Marvel's intellectual property here. He also notes that it's actually a literature review of a comic, not a comic itself.

The more I think about this book, the more interesting it becomes to me. There have been children I know who seemed to have some degree of autism, and most everyone I knew agreed they were "on the spectrum" but I don't think most of us really understands what the really means. We're largely making mental references to pop culture (most notably Rain Man in addition to the two shows mentioned earlier) and not actually well-versed on what autism really is. And while Frazer's book is another piece of pop culture when you get down to it, I know Frazer well enough to know that he's deeply sincere about autism awareness and advocacy; I'm confident he's not going to throw out trite characterizations for the sake of a punching up the story a bit. I have no question in my mind that he's really trying to bring more attention to the topic and that this will be more approachable and interesting than a dry textbook type reading of autism.

You can order the book through Frazer himself, but if you want to take a closer look in person first, he'll be at the following conventions:
  • Ithacon 39
    April 5
    Ithaca, NY
  • Cripping the Comicon
    April 9-10
    Syracuse, NY
  • UB's 3rd Annual Diversity in Disability Symposium
    April 12
    Amherst, NY
  • Rochester Comic Con and SuperFan Expo
    May 4
    Batavia, NY
It is also available at Queen City Bookstore at 3184 Main, Buffalo, NY.

For more information about Frazer and the book, including more artwork, check out the Without Fear Facebook page.

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