Supported by the Worlds of Connections (WoC) SEPA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID project Using Popular Media to Educate Youth About the Biology of Viruses and the Current COVID-19 Pandemic, the article “Developing Pandemic Comics for Youth Audiences” appears in the Special COVID-19 Issue of the Journal of STEM Outreach. The COVID-19 Issue (Volume IV, Issue 2) was released on July 19th and is available to read at jstemoutreach.org. Developing the article was a collaborative effort, led by NSF RAPID PI and WoC senior personnel Judy Diamond. Contributing authors include WoC team members Amy Spiegel, Trish Wonch Hill, and Julia McQuillan; WoC advisory board members Liz VanWormer and Judi gaiashkibos; comic artist and writer Bob Hall; and University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) professor of Art and Art History Aaron Sutherlen.
The NSF RAPID project builds on a decade of expertise in creating comics about the biology of viruses (including Carnival of Contagion and Occupied by Microbes!). This decade of collaboration has been supported by prior UNL SEPAs World of Viruses and Biology of Human and the current WoC SEPA.
Incorporating the expertise of scientists, such as veterinary scientist VanWormer and virologist Peter Angeletti, and artists, such as Hall and Henry Payer, the NSF RAPID team developed a series of three comics about COVID-19 and posted them online during the last half of 2020. The fictional stories address real issues in biology, virology, and network science to help readers understand the complexities of living through a viral pandemic. The comic narratives focus on three themes: the biology and social context of the COVID-19 virus, the impact of the pandemic on Tribal communities, and the relationship of wild animals, particularly bats, to the pandemic.
All the pandemic comics, plus five essays for youth about the virus and the pandemic, are available to read for free on worldofviruses.unl.edu. A volume containing the comics and essays, C’RONA Pandemic Comics, is available for purchase from University of Nebraska Press.
Poster-sized panels from C’RONA Pandemic Comics will be on display at the Nebraska State Capitol through September 6, 2021 (Labor Day). Panels from the comics will also be on display this fall the Leon S. McGoogan Health Science Library at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. A celebration of the exhibit featuring talks from virologist St Patrick Reid, Judi gaiashkibos, and Bob Hall will take place at the McGoogan Library on Wednesday, November 3, from 12 Noon–1 PM CT.