Christensen and Brill started work on THE POWER WITHIN in October of last year for 24-Hour Comics Day, an event where artists and writers attempt to create a complete 24-page comic book in 24 hours. Their story focused on a boy named Shannon who deals with bullying at school by escaping into a super-powered alter-ego but ultimately has to find the strength to face the harassment in real life.
The decision to do a comic that tackles antigay bullying was prompted by the previous month’s numerous reports of teen suicides linked to bullying and harassment. Those reports spurred Ellen Degeneres to speak out to raise awareness and Dan Savage to start the It Gets Better Project.
“We didn’t go into this project knowing where it would go,” said Christensen, who scripted the book and coordinated the project. “We just felt compelled to tell a story that confronted the epidemic we saw unfolding before us and offered some hope. We’re humbled to be recognized for our efforts, and hope that others will continue use their skills and their resources to change kids’ lives for the better.”
THE POWER WITHIN was completed in Spring of 2011 and released as a limited edition black-and-white comic at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic-Con, but Christensen and Brill decided to raise funds for a much larger color print run of the book and make it available for free to schools and other youth resources. Brill continued to work on the book, adding full color and additional art, while Christensen recruited special guests to contribute bonus pages to the project.
The finished book contains pages by a collection of comics industry heavyweights, including Gail Simone (Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey), Phil Jimenez (New X-Men, Wonder Woman), Greg Rucka (Detective Comics, Gotham Central), Matthew Clark (Outsiders, Wonder Woman), Stephen Sadowski (JSA, Warlord of Mars), Dan Parent (Archie, Kevin Keller), Donna Barr (The Desert Peach), Andy Mangels (Gay Comics, Iron Man: Beneath the Armor) and Carla Speed McNeil (FINDER).
“It’s been really amazing—this project seems like one of those things that was just meant to be,” said Brill. “I think Zan and I were both really inspired and motivated to do something positive with this story and people have really responded to it.”
“THE POWER WITHIN goes well beyond what’s expected of a project done with the best intentions,” said François Peneaud of The Gay Comics List. “It’s a moving depiction of what’s unfortunately the real life of some teenagers in our society, and the creators involved can only hope it will contribute, in its own ways, to the improvement of that situation.”
“Gay comic creators Mark Brill and Charles ‘Zan’ Christensen have created what may be the best comic book of the year,” said Andrew Belonsky of Towleroad.com.
To date, Northwest Press has distributed over 700 free copies of the book to over 50 Gay-Straight alliances, schools, churches, community centers and other youth organizations across the United States and beyond. Northwest Press encourages organizations to request copies of the book to use as teaching and outreach tools. In addition to the main story and bonus pages, the book contains a page of discussion questions and resources for LGBT teens.
THE POWER WITHIN was released by Northwest Press, an LGBT graphic novel and comics publisher founded in 2010. The publisher’s books include the Lambda-Award-winning TELENY AND CAMILLE, Lambda-Award-finalist GLAMAZONIA: THE UNCANNY SUPER-TRANNY, David Kelly’s RAINY DAY RECESS: THE COMPLETE STEVEN’S COMICS, Rick Worley’s A WASTE OF TIME, and Christensen and Brill’s supernatural comic series THE MARK OF AEACUS, co-published with Class Comics.
Christensen and other Northwest Press artists will be exhibiting at the Los Angeles LGBT comic convention BENT-CON on December 3rd and 4th.