The following is an interview with writer/producer Sara Kenney (Creative Director at Wowbagger Productions) regarding the recent release of the collected print edition of PLANET DIVOC-91, the international COVID-19-inspired webcomic which caught the attention of leading scientists and policy makers. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Kenney about her experience throughout the creative life cycle of the project, how the profits from the sale of the book will be donated, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the print release of PLANET DIVOC-91! In looking back at the development and creation of this collaborative series, what can you share with us about your own experience in shepherding the project and witnessing its impact?
Sara Kenney: Thanks for the congrats! The project started small, originally 6 x comic strips. As more funders came on-board, we were able to be more ambitious, and in just a few months, it became a massive project with over 100+ people in various roles, including the young editorial team from South Africa, India, and UK. We had young people who were living in townships, cities, hostels, and rural villages, and that diversity of experience/ perspectives was massively inspiring.
In terms of impact, we felt very proud of the young people, some of them only 16-years-old, when they spoke in front of these prestigious experts. (I was virtually mute at that age!) Our key message was ‘involve young people in your work’ and out of this so many opportunities emerged, and we witnessed science orgs setting up ‘youth advisory boards’ and inviting our cohort into their meetings. See the manifesto they created here with illustrations by the comic artists.
Ultimately, we had a great team. A ‘flock of shepherds’ – Prof. Bella Starling (Vocal, Manchester NHS) has years of experience and great wisdom working in patient involvement, and Anita Shervington (Blast Fest) is a brilliant community organiser and engagement strategist, always ahead of the curve. Charlie Adlard with his excellent character designs and Joe Muggs and his musical ear bringing the global DJs on-board. Nabeel Petersen (the lead in South Africa) and Sarah Iqbal in India worked alongside us to make the story and young people’s experience culturally relevant for them. It was a great example of what collective working can achieve. We need more of it and less individualism.
BD: As the print edition is a not-for-profit publication, 100% of its profits will go towards helping young creatives in South Africa, India, and UK. What can you tell us about how these young creatives will benefit from the proceeds of the book?
SK: Comics don’t make much do they, unless you’re a big name/ brand/ runaway indie success?! So, we’re not talking huge amounts here – but when we get a few hundred quid, we’ll bring some of the young people together and ask them what they want to do with the money. Split it so they can buy art materials or spend on creative tools/ licenses? Or they might decide they want the money to go to the most in need to pay for rent, food, equipment? We’ll put ideas forward to the young editorial team and it will be up to them to decide. They’ll come up with a good plan.
BD: The collected edition will also feature incredible bonus material in the form of never-before-seen interviews from the world-class DJs who provided a soundtrack for the comic, as well as artwork by top-tier comics talent. What are you most excited for readers to experience with this special collection?
SK: The series originally came out on Webtoons Canvas, which is obviously mostly read scrolling up on a phone, so I’m really excited about the readers getting to experience it as a more traditional comic. To be able to flick through all the covers and art styles in one go! Seeing how each of the creatives drew the characters and world in their own unique style is ace.
But I hope readers engage with the young people’s articles and art in the back material. It was a great opportunity to share their work in the print comic, and I wish we had space for more. All their work is available here. It’s worth taking a look.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about PLANET DIVOC-91?
SK: Beware of the Smash Plants!… Buy the comic to find out why.
In bookshops in the UK and for global shipping at Velocity Press.