Fan Base Press introduces us to the first of a five-part series exploring the life of a superhero with an invisible, chronic illness. Written by Jordan Hart, illustrated by Bruno Chiroleu, flatted by Shane Kadlecik, lettered by Oceano Ransford, and featuring cover art by Justin C. Harder, Ripple Effects is the story of George Gibson, who has gained invulnerability to physical harm. But his superhuman abilities cannot save him from his type 1 diabetes.
“40% of Americans have an incurable disease, some more lethal than others,” says Hart. “A superhero who struggles with medical bills, weekly doctor visits, and the anxiety of depending on daily, erratic treatments seems well overdue.”
Here, Hart discusses his own experiences with an incurable blood-clotting disease, and what it means to be able to tell this story.
Why do you feel you’re the right person to tell this story?
I feel that I’m the right person to tell this story because I struggle with each of those things. I have Thrombophilia, which is an incurable blood-clotting disease. I depend on daily blood-thinning medication to stay healthy and alive. I go through routine testing and blood work to make sure my levels are okay. Ripple Effects is a reflection of my struggles, both physical and emotional, of living with a chronic and lethal disease.
Type 2 diabetes is common in society, but you’ve chosen to write about a character that struggles with type 1 diabetes, a hereditary autoimmune reaction. What is the significance of this choice? Why did you choose to write about this particular disease rather than the one that you personally experience?
Originally, George (the protagonist) had Thrombophilia like myself. But as I started writing, the story hit too close to home. It was too heavy, and I just couldn’t bring myself to push through and write. One of my closest friends has type 1 diabetes, and we’ve consoled each other over the years with our struggles and journeys. We’ve always felt like we’re the only two who really understood each other out of both of our friend groups. So, I knew if I made George a type 1 diabetic, I could combine everything I’ve felt and gone through living with an incurable disease with my friend’s history. Most importantly, he gave me direct consultation and guidance on making the story as authentic and accurate as possible.
Will we get to learn something about the origins of George’s disease and abilities and the coping mechanisms he employs to manage it outside of medication and doctor’s visits. Does he have any mental supports or friends and family members who help him get through his day-to-day life?
Yes and yes! Issue #2 covers both of George’s origin stories — how his body developed type 1 diabetes and the power of invincibility. Throughout the comic, we see his support groups and how they think and advise him differently. We’ll also see a few characters’ perspectives change along the way, too. My goal with this story has always been to show how a chronic illness impacts one’s life and decisions on a daily basis. And how, at times, it feels like it’s controlling you. To bring that authenticity, I wanted to stay out of medical offices as much as possible… even though that’s where the story begins.
Tell us a bit about George. What makes him special beyond his abilities and the disease he struggles with.
I think what makes George special is that he never gives up. He’s stuck in a crushing rut of Writer’s Block, yet sits at his laptop for hours every morning trying to breakthrough. He doesn’t think he’s cut out to be a superhero, but he still tries to help people in his own way with his powers. He has a serious illness, yet worries more about his parents’ financial burden than himself. Every time he wants to throw in the towel, he finds a way to push forward.
What about the world he lives in? Superheroes are quite common in your story — and presumably, there are a few supervillains as well? Who are some of the people we might meet along the way?
In the world of Ripple Effects, superheroes are a relatively new thing. They started appearing three years before the story begins, and there are only a handful of them scattered across the planet. Because of that, a full-blown supervillain hasn’t risen yet. Everyone has chosen to become a public figure or hide their powers in fear of losing their personal lives. (George picked the latter.) But, there are a few superhumans who live in the gray area. They’re definitely not villains, but they use their powers to break laws to help those in need. They see themselves as modern Robin Hood-type figures. We’ll meet them in Ripple Effects, as well as some of Los Angeles’ unknown superhumans.
What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this series?
There are two main things I’d like readers to take away from Ripple Effects. For readers in good health, I’d like them to see what it’s like to live a life with an incurable and invisible illness. How someone can look healthy on the outside but be struggling on the inside.
More importantly, for readers with a chronic disease, I’d like them to remember that they are not defined by their illness. It’s part of what makes them who they are, but it is not all they are.
Ripple Effects #1-5 will be released digitally through ComiXology and Hoopla Digital starting in the summer of 2022 and will be collected in a printed trade, which is currently available for pre-order.