Rodrigo Caballero sees web comics as more than just a platform for escapism or humour.
The East Vancouver writer is planning to self-publish an online series to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women.
“I think there’s a stereotype of comics being sort of a juvenile thing; it’s made by men for boys, basically,” Caballero told the Straight by phone.
“Maybe there’s some potential for trying to subvert that stereotype and trying to reach audiences that haven’t engaged with this issue [of violence against women] before.”
Caballero’s goal is to launch a free web comic this fall titled Branded, which would be aimed at a broad audience and published in 12 weekly installments.
The story, conceived by Caballero, centres on a mysterious vigilante figure known as the Brander, who hunts down and punishes men who have attacked women.
Other characters caught up in the Brander’s world are a college student who has been date raped, her activist friend, a hip-hop artist, and a police investigator.
Caballero said he wants to challenge how violence against women is portrayed, saying many incidents happen in the home, not just in dark alleys.
He also denied the comic is about endorsing vigilantism, explaining he wants readers to ponder what leads people to take the law into their own hands.
“Violence is not necessarily the answer, but why are we starting see people resort to this kind of action and what are the factors that are contributing?”
Caballero has received support for the project from the Sexual Assault Support Centre at UBC, a group that provides services to people who have experienced violence.
Caballero, a doctoral candidate in the UBC school of music, has received a $1,000 grant for the project from a fund co-administered by the centre. Centre staff members have also consulted on script ideas.
Ashley Bentley, Sexual Assault Support Centre assistant manager, said the web-comic project is an innovative approach to a serious issue.
“We think it’s a really great project and it’s going to be such a great medium to raise awareness around campus and within the community about sexual assault,” Bentley told the Straight by phone.
To support production of the comic, an online crowd-funding campaign is under way on the Indiegogo website until June 22.
With the deadline around a week away, more than $2,600 had been pledged toward the goal of $15,000.
Caballero, who is currently developing the comic with illustrator Reetta Linjama, said the project is not aimed at turning a profit.
He said any funds raised will help ensure the finished product is of high quality and that some proceeds will be donated to the Ending Violence Association of B.C.
Caballero said the $15,000 amount would help support the production of 75-pages of comic script, but falling short of the goal will not prevent the project from going ahead.
“I think it’ll just be a matter of how much we’ll be able to put out and any one given time,” he said.
“If we want to tell a full story then we’re going to write a 75-page script. But, having said that, you can still write 20 pages of script and start releasing episodically in September.”