Thursday, November 10, 2011
Captain America wants you to think twice about suicide
ANYHOW, that said, I posit that PSAs have been and are useful; they've provided flotsam and motivation for current social marketing practices, they can be directed towards a specific audience more easily than some other methods of health promotion, and, perhaps more importantly, they've lent a basic design to a whole melting pot of creativity.
Nick Dragotta and Tim Ursiny's "Captain America: A Little Help" is a PSA. Sure, it's internet-based and it features a superhero fighting a robot, but it is trying to highlight a specific health concern: suicide. (Side note: I feel that saying "health issue," "health concern," or anything similar sounds a bit glib if I talk about suicide. Is that just me?) Specifically, the digital issue is trying to "combat" (press release's wording) suicide by presenting 12 pages in the life of a young man, Zack McKenzie, who perceives his life to be at a pressure-cooked end point. He walks up to the roof, closes his eyes, and is stepping off of the building... only to be distracted by Captain America fighting a bunch of underlings on the roof next door. Do we expect Zack to feel differently and gain a different perspective on his life after this encounter with a guy in a red,white, and blue-plastered cat suit? Um... maybe? Definitely yes?
The upsides? First, it's an interesting read for someone who is both a health communications nerd and a comic book enthusiast. It showcases an actual suicide hotline and is free. The dark negative spaces that Dragotta (as penciller) gives are interesting to the eyes.
On the other hand, the concept is, to me, the best thing about the issue. I hope that the PSA and superhero blend will become a trend and, as an accepted design, evolve as any idea should. I wish I liked this attempt better than I do, but"A Little Help" falls into several of comic book clichés that, in such a short issue, distract the viewer away from its overall good intentions.
Zack is a) not white and b) living in a ghetto. Okay, I'll bite or, rather, I'll continue to read despite the fact that I'm a bit tired of African-American characters in superhero stories seeming to only have one option for an origin story.
But then I'm stuck again, and this time it's on a technical point. I press the arrow that, I think, means "next page," but instead the comic viewer screams back up the page I just finished reading. In fact, the Adobe Flash Player feature of this comic means that pressing the comic to go "forward" means that it zooms around art so that you are sure to read every panel. That's a bit annoying to me. I don't really want to release my control on noticing what I want to notice in the comic and, with satisfaction, turning the page.
Lastly, Zack's story is obstructed by the cover art (picture at the beginning of this post). A petty slug, I know, but the cover has nothing to do with Zack... or with suicide... or any mention of depression... or with anything other than Captain America and the flag of the United States of America. The cover is completely disconnected from the rest of the comic in mood, art, and its outward intention of what is to follow.
Now I feel like I've downed this comic enough. As I said before, I think it is interesting. I hope it becomes nourishing detritus for other PSAs.
Also, even though I think it could be done better, this probably will connect with someone in a really good way. I think it has too much potential not to.
The link is here if you're so inclined.