New COVID-19 comic launched to support voices of young adults

The first issue of a new comic about COVID-19 has been published today to help young people make sense of the challenges they face as the result of the pandemic and promote their views.

The comic, PLANET DIVOC-91, follows the adventures of two earthlings: Sanda Oung, a 23-year-old girl from the UK, and Champo Oung, Sanda’s 19-year-old, non-binary sibling. In the series, 15% of the world’s population of 7.5 billion people are now stuck on another planet, miles from the safety of home.

It is being produced by Dr Bella Starling, Director of Vocal at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Sara Kenney, Creative Director at Wowbagger Productions in association with the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President Academy of Medical Sciences, “There has been an amazing response from scientists and doctors worldwide pulling together and doing everything possible to understand and treat a virus that only emerged at the end of last year. The situation sometimes feels like the script of a science fiction movie, so it seems fitting to develop a comic that helps young adults understand that reality through an engaging story. It will also provide an important opportunity for those scientists and doctors working on the COVID-19 response to hear what young adults think and feel about living through such an unprecedented time.”

The stories will be created by leading comic creators including Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, the UK Comics Laureate Hannah Berry and Friendo writer Alex Paknadel. There will be 9 issues of the comic, each developed by a different creative team, and released on the platform Webtoon.

Storylines, articles, art and videos are generated by an editorial team of 16-24 year olds from UK, India, South Africa, and Malawi. The Academy are linking in Fellows and grant awardees as experts to be interviewed, the first or which was with Sir Patrick Vallance FMedSci, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor and Academy Fellow.

Dr Zania Stamataki, Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, University of Birmingham and Academy SUSTAIN alumni was interviewed as part of the storyline development for episode 3, she said; “

“This project is a great way to understand the views of young people and their response to the unprecedented situation we are all dealing with. Planet DIVOC-91 is a long way from the lab I work in, so it was certainly a very different conversation from the ones I have been having about COVID-19. There’s lots we can do to make sure this generation gets heard, but it’s not just about listening, it’s about making sure we incorporate what we hear into the work we are doing to understand the coronavirus pandemic and how to deal with it.

Shanjida Hossain, one of the young adults contributing to the comic, wrote up her interview with Sir Patrick. She said:

“Being teenagers and going through the most challenging stage of our lives is hard in itself — but now the impact of this new virus is resonating through our lives without any sense of when this will end.”

“Having studied hard since the age of five, getting to the very end of our educational journey to face this global pandemic wasn’t something we could have ever planned for, yet here we are, left with nothing but insecurities and confusion.”

Shanjida’s interview accompanies PLANET DIVOC-91’s debut chapter.

Professor Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Advisor, said:

“Seeing and understanding how young adults tackle the issues of a fictional pandemic can help scientists, doctors and governments around the world better understand how to respond to the very real coronavirus pandemic. I was delighted to have the opportunity to talk with some of the young adults involved in the project and was so impressed by their questions and comments.”

To find out more about PlanetDivoc91, follow them on Twitter and Instagram. To find out more about Academy public engagement and dialogue, visit our dedicated web page.

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