Lora Innes, creator of the Harvey-nominated IDW series "The Dreamer" sends out the call to comic creators this holiday season in a special guest editorial on Comic Creators for Freedom, an organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking in the United States.
I remember my amazement the day I noticed that "Girls with Slingshots" creator Danielle Corsetto has twice as many Twitter followers as Adam Hughes. Having been a webcomic creator since 2007, I’ve seen the power of the medium. Unlike a book that you probably read once, webcomics are a part of a reader’s everyday life.
Five mornings a week Danielle Corsetto makes me laugh. And then all day long as I follow her on Twitter. I’d never wish travel complications on her, but they sure do make for funny status updates. And when she’s sick in bed with her cats, I know about it and might even get an Instagram.
This is a powerful and instant connection that creators have with their audiences. When our computers break, our fans pay for a new one. When we want to attend a new convention, our fans donate the money for a plane ticket. And when we recommend a book or a service or a product, our fans go check it out.
In 2009, I had the idea to use this influence for something more important than a Kickstarter Campaign.
At the time I was mentoring a young girl through a program at Columbus City Public Schools. One morning near the end of the school year she was nearly abducted on her walk to the bus stop. Men threatened her at gunpoint and told her to get in the backseat of a car where several other teenagers were trapped, duct tape over their mouths. She decided to run instead and when a neighbor came out scaring the gunman away, that split second decision saved her life.
This happened less than five miles from my house. I’d heard enough about human trafficking to know that Toledo, Ohio, a few hours away, is one of the major hubs. But when it happens to someone you know, in a place you could walk to, it all becomes very real.
Human trafficking is a sanitized way of saying "slavery" and there are more people enslaved today then there ever were during the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Most of it is secret, hidden out of site. 1.2 million children every year are sold into slavery, most of it is forced prostitution. The US Department of Justice estimates 16,000 victims of human trafficking are brought into the United States every year.
The girl I knew got away. How many more don’t?
I didn’t know what I could do, but I did know that I had a special relationship with my readers. I planned to create an exclusive wallpaper featuring the girls in my webcomic and use it as a reward for a little fundraising drive on my website. I’d give all the money to Gracehaven, an organization in Ohio that was making renovations to a house in order to turn it into a rehabilitation center for survivors.
But how much could I really raise? Five hundred dollars? A thousand? It was better than nothing.
Then I thought about asking my friend Scott Sava ("Dreamland Chronicles") to participate. I bet Scott would help out. Or what about Sarah Ellerton ("Phoenix Requiem")? She has a huge readership and a big heart. In fact all of my colleagues had as much clout with their readerships as I did. So why not ask them all?
Comic Creators for Freedom was born.
The idea is simple: every participating creator donates a single drawing of a creator-owned female character and all of the drawings are assembled onto one wallpaper image. Participation is low-commitment: a drawing you can do on your lunch break, and the humble request that you mention the drive on your blog and other social media outlets.
We pull together the circles of influence we’ve established in our own corners of the internet and combined, the impact is far-reaching.
This is the third year for the CCF. We’ve had over 100 creators participate every year. Together we’ve raised $15,000 to fight Human Trafficking. 100% of the money is split between Gracehaven House and Love146, an organization that does work both domestically and abroad. And with a world-wide group of creators (and a world wide problem) that is important.
This year’s wallpaper theme is Snowball Fight. Imagine 100 comic book women in the most epic winter battle the world has ever seen. There’s still time to join. Final art is due December 31st, and the donations drive goes live Monday January 9th - 20th, for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
One person alone won’t accomplish much, but together, we will make a difference.
Full details on how to participate can be found on the project tab of our website.
(And those creators I mentioned? Danielle Corsetto is a veteran and returning member of the CCF, and Adam Hughes was a 2010 participant.)
So let’s see what we can do in 2012!
Lora Innes is the writer/creator of the Harvey Award Nominated "The Dreamer," from IDW and founder of Comic Creators for Freedom.