In the summer of 2022, Fanbase Press will be publishing the comic book series Ripple Effects, a 5-issue series in its line of Graphic Medicine books. What are Graphic Medicine books and why should you be paying attention? The Comic Book Yeti speaks to Fanbase Press and Jordan Hart, the person behind Ripple Effects.
COMIC BOOK YETI: I’ve seen the Fanbase Press logo around, but I confess to not knowing much about you. After a little research, I found you to be an interesting brand doing a variety of things. Can you tell us what you are about and what we can expect from your foray into Graphic Medicine?
BARBRA DILLON (Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief): First and foremost, thank you for your time and support in chatting about Fanbase Press and our upcoming series, Ripple Effects! For those unfamiliar, Fanbase Press is an award-winning comics publisher and geek culture website. We produce new and distinctive works, as well as daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts, that span the pop culture spectrum and give voice to the themes, ideals, and people that make geekdom so exceptional. As creators and fans ourselves, we are all about “Celebrating Fandoms and Creating New Ones,” providing a platform not only for the stories that we publish, but for creators of various mediums who seek to share their voice with new readers.
We recently announced our first foray into Graphic Medicine with Ripple Effects, a comic book series that explores life as a superhero with an invisible and incurable disease. The series was created and written by Jordan Hart, illustrated by Bruno Chiroleu, lettered by Oceano Ransford, flatted by Shane Kadlecik, and featuring cover art by Justin C. Harder.
JORDAN HART: "I have thrombophilia, which is an incurable blood clotting disease that needs to be treated with daily medication. I was young, in perfect shape, healthy, and took care of myself. Still, my body nearly killed me. I thought that could be twisted into a fascinating story hook – a superhero who couldn’t be hurt by anything but his own body."
What sets this series apart is a positive, person-first representation about life with a chronic disease...which just so happens to also include superhuman abilities. But, Ripple Effects isn't just a story about a character with an incurable disease. It’s also a thrilling and relevant superhero tale that touches on the difficulty of finding a work/life balance, the class struggles and economic inequality experienced by many in our nation, and the desire to help others during trying times.
CBY: How did Ripple Effects land with Fanbase Press?
JORDAN HART: Barbra and Bryant, the founders of Fanbase Press, have been friends of mine since my first comic book, Terminarch. I was on their podcast before the series’ release in 2016 and hit it off with both of them immediately. All of us lived in Los Angeles, so we’d see each other multiple times a year at the SoCal cons. As time went on, I realized we really shared similar interests and values. Ripple Effects is a story I’ve had for almost a decade but could never bring myself to write, as it’s so personal. In late 2019, I finally scripted the first issue and outlined the entire series. Once I finished the series overview deck, Fanbase Press was the only publisher I pitched. I knew they would do the story justice and treat it with love and care.
BD: As Jordan noted, he has been a longtime and dear friend, and we were incredibly honored that he trusted us with his story. Bryant and I always want to ensure that we are providing a great home for our creators’ stories, and with this being such a personal one for Jordan, it was doubly important that we get it 100% right. In doing so, we worked to fully understand and be respectful of the Graphic Medicine community, as well as the stories that have come before Ripple Effects.
CBY: Ripple Effects is a story of George Gibson, a man with the power of invincibility. But that power is a product of his Type 1 diabetes. Some coexistence. But Jordan, can we enlighten the readers that this isn’t just an interesting pitch, but something you are familiar with? Can you share with us your own situation?
JH: The idea for George Gibson came to me while I was hospitalized with pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs). I have thrombophilia, which is an incurable blood-clotting disease that needs to be treated with daily medication. I was young, in perfect shape, healthy, and took care of myself. Still, my body nearly killed me. I thought that could be twisted into a fascinating story hook – a superhero who couldn’t be hurt by anything but his own body. A hero who was externally invincible, but needed medication to stay alive.
CBY: In the history of comics, we are aware of superheroes suffering with mental illness; like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder. We are also familiar with heroes that struggle with drugs or alcohol and we all know those with visible disabilities like Professor X or Oracle. Ripple Effects is about a superhero with an invisible and incurable disease. Why do think this hasn’t been addressed very often in comics?
BD: That’s a great question! In learning more about the Graphic Medicine genre and the community that has been built by organizations like the Graphic Medicine International Collective, I realized that there are a vast number of creators and comics that have preceded Ripple Effects. Graphic Medicine explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare, including physical health, mental health, academia, and more. It can span graphic memoirs of an individual’s experiences with illness, or they can serve as educational resources to raise awareness for health concerns.
CBY: Why choose diabetes as George’s condition? Did you have to do research or do you know someone? Is there a certain dichotomy you are working with?
JH: Originally, George had Thrombophilia, but that proved too hard to write on an emotional level. So, I changed his condition to Type 1 diabetes, because one of my close friends has lived with it since he was a child. We’ve often commiserated with each other on our invisible illness over the years and found that even though we have very different diseases, we worry about the same things, experience the same treatment from uninformed people, and are equally anxious about the financial cost of being chronically ill. I knew if I made George a Type 1 diabetic, I could provide an accurate emotional side to the story and work with my friend to make George’s life experiences precise and true.
CBY: I think many of us know someone with an incurable disease, like diabetes, but we manage it in our own way. Do you hope that Ripple Effects can educate as well as entertain?
JH: This is exactly my hope! I’ve never wanted Ripple Effects to lecture readers. I aimed for it to be an entertaining story that shows what life with an incurable, lethal disease is really like. My goal is to have readers connect with George on an empathetic level, not because of his illness, but because of the person he becomes and the decisions he makes throughout the series.
CBY: When you were getting the creative team together; Bruno Chiroleu; Shane Kadlecik; Oceano Ransford and Justin C. Harder, what did they think of the idea?
JH: All of us have loved superhero comics since we were kids, so I think we shared a universal sense of excitement working on a new type of story in our favorite genre. Justin Harder is one of my best friends and one of the few that know about my health. So, he understands how much this story means to me and has been nothing but encouraging and enthusiastic to be a part of it.
BD: The entire team has been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic of this story, and we’ve been really fortunate to work with such a talented team. It’s truly exciting to see each new page of Bruno’s work, and we always jump at the chance to work with Oceano; his lettering skills are truly top-notch!
CBY: If you are looking for something different but still checks off your superhero boxes, bookmark your copy of Ripple Effects. And between now and then, check out Fanbase Press and experience their passion for all things geek and pop-culture current.