PLANET DIVOC-91, is an offbeat sci-fi satire set in the far reaches of outer space and 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.
I was delighted when I heard Sara Kenney’s idea for DIVOC-91 and her creative response to the COVID crisis. I, like so many, felt really impotent and unsure of what my role as an artist was in the midst of a global pandemic. It was fantastic to be inspired by the conversations with the young people and the previous chapters. I drew on the things that I’d read about during the pandemic like an article written by an NHS nurse who could do nothing but hold the hands and gazes of patients as they died. I wanted the emotions to be true even if it was in a sci-fi setting. I love choosing contrasting, bright colour schemes. I knew Sanda had a yellow hoodie from the previous episodes so I threw in a lime greeny/yellow which clashed rather nicely with the pink and blue. I wanted a realistic style to convey the complex emotions, but also something – Karrie Fransman
Sanda learns that humans have been brought to Planet Divoc-91 because the Earth is at risk of an extinction level event – and young adults have been moved to safety by the Board of Adversity Scientists for Intergalactic Leadership’ (BASIL), led by a charismatic and fearsome alien named ADRO.
Each chapter features the work of a different creative team and cover artist and is interspersed with short articles, links to videos, and other pieces of art by young adults about issues related to COVID-19.
Chapter 4 focuses on mental health and explores the backstory of Sanda and Champo back on earth. It features a special mix by DJ Ifeoluwa (Yewande Adeniran). Lecturer, writer and founder of INTERVENTION, Ifeoluwa’s musical selections is as broad as their resume.
The project is a huge collaborative effort with the involvement of scientists and researchers from a wide range of disciplines spanning infectious diseases, behavioural sciences, health economy, health inequalities, and more. As well as being an opportunity for young people to respond to the science and research, the project aims to influence future decision making and policy.
So far in Planet Divoc 91 – Siblings Sanda (23) and Champo (19) have been zapped to a strange planet along with all other young adults on earth, in order to protect them from an asteroid. Sanda just wants to go home, but when she learns the baby aliens are suffering from a mysterious virus, she is challenged to help rather than run.
This project has evolved so much since inception. We started with a small pot of funding to do some comic strips. We’ve expanded to a 9-chapter comic, with accompanying articles, art and films – made by young people in India, South Africa and UK who are interviewing government scientists; WHO experts; artists; anthropologists and reacting to the conversations with their own artistic creations. We’re designing a ‘power, influence and change’ programme so the young people have a plan for how they can utilise arts, science and activism in their lives. This includes career mentorship (including reverse mentoring) and access to researchers and policy organisations who are opening up in order to engage with our young people.
We’re also running sessions on the power of art and storytelling – we made a film about one of our workshops, which is held on YouTube as part of this years Thought Bubble Digital Comic Con Programme: ‘THE END – What makes a good comic ending? with JEREMY DELLER, KIERON GILLEN & MEGHNA GUPTA’.-co-lead Sara Kenney
An impressive roster of comic book creators — including, colourist and designer James Devlin, and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou — are collaborating on PLANET DIVOC-91. Chapter 2 is written by Charlotte Bailey and illustrated by Nick Brokenshire.
Chapter 3 is written and illustrated by UK Comics Laureate Hannah Berry, who also provides an afterword for PLANET DIVOC-91’s first chapter. Additional creative teams include Karrie Fransman (THE HOUSE THAT GROANED), and Zara Slattery (COMA COMIC).
Find the comic here.
PLANET DIVOC-91 is 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 UK Academy of Medical Sciences.
The project was kick-started via NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre seed funding who are providing continued support.
Additional supporters include The Wellcome Trust; The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC); Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC); The University of Manchester through the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund award.
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