October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Marvel Comics is celebrating by releasing a number of variant covers of its most popular titles – including Avengers, Captain America, Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket Racoon and more. Cleveland’s own Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop is seizing the opportunity to use comics to make a positive impact in the lives of our community’s young people.
“Bullying is something close to the hearts and minds of everyone involved in this project,” explains Carol and John’s owner John Dudas. “We’ve all been bullied, and sadly, probably been a part of bullying too. The best we can do is turn to our kids or anyone who looks up to us and say, ‘Look, it’s okay to be that person that says no, I’m not going to pick on this person to feel like I’m a part of a group. It’s okay to be unpopular for a minute if it saves someone even a moment of sadness. In fact, you’ll always be cool to me for doing that. Look out for that little guy. Watch out when you’re just going along with everyone else and it feels fun. You just might be bullying someone. Be a hero. Not a bully’.”
“Marvel Comics has inspired us by releasing some really cool Anti Bullying Variants,” adds Dudas. “As these books were limited, we were worried about the accessibility of these really cool pieces of artwork. So, working with the Scribble Nerds, we have created seven different stickers, one from each member, to help capture the spirit of Marvel’s endeavors locally.”
Another factor in Dudas’ efforts was the recent, unfortunate ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Bay Village. “When the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Bullying Incident hit Bay Village, I felt like social media was placing judgement on both parties before anything was even sorted out, and even almost having an affect on the media's sensationalistic take on the circumstances,” says Dudas. “Having just moved to Bay it really bummed me out. So I figured one positive action even unrelated to the event would be a step in the right direction."
“I also took inventory of times I probably laughed at someone with a group and realized there's no tracking someone down and apologizing, there's no finding the bully and telling him how far you've come. There's just turning around to your own kid and giving him/her the support he/she needs to make the right decisions.”
The full set of anti-bulling comic stickers is free with the purchase of any graphic novel throughout the month (including their discount bins). The project is the first for the Scribble Nerds; a new collective of Cleveland-based artists. The Scribble Nerds are Ryan Finely, Clare Kolat, Mark Laubenthal, Dee Pio, Henry Pope III, Ashley Ribblet and Shawny Walthaw. They will officially debut as a group at Oddmall on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 1 and 2.
“As a shy, overweight nerd who dealt with the occasional bully, I only needed to look as far as the spandex-wearing heros of my own childhood to find inspiration for my sticker design,” explains Dee Pio. “Little me had a weakness for X-men trading cards, the cartoon show and comics so I decided to choose characters from my favorite team of mutant do-gooders. For me, Storm and Wolvie always stood out and seemed like an obvious choice as defenders of the 'little guy.'”
“I picked Kitty Pryde and Lockheed because they have dealt with negative people in their lives and understand that caring more about the good things in life is always better than caring about the few negatives,” adds Shawny Walthaw.
“My sticker features Nightcrawler teleporting onto the scene and comforting a young boy,” says Mark Laubenthal. “Nightcrawler is portrayed as very compassionate towards others, so I enjoyed creating a piece showing my favorite X-Man doing something he would probably do in the comics. I chose to illustrate the sticker with a child-like look, to appeal to younger children.”
“The new ‘Spider Gwen’ is a strong female character with her own experience with bullying,” explains Clare Kolat. “When challenged, she stands up for those who need it most and tries her best to do the right thing. While she is far from perfect, the most important thing is that she tries her best.”
Carol and John’s isn’t just a comic book shop. Thanks to the store’s unique programming and special events, the store has become a catalyst for building community around pop culture and comics. Their annual Free Comic Book Day event is the biggest and best around, and continues to grow every year. Stop by Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop this month and see for yourself.