Bullying addressed in graphic novel with help from local writer

Credit: GrayHaven Comics
Credit: GrayHaven Comics

Marc Lombardi was bullied because of his weight.

“I’ve fluctuated in weight since I was a kid, it went up and down,” said Lombardi, a native of South Philadelphia. “And when I was fat, things were a problem.”

These stories, his personal tales of battling the bullies, were his contributions to the graphic novel “You Are Not Alone,” published by GrayHaven Comics, which attempts to reach out to the bullied and to show them – with images and words – that it’s not forever.

“The general message,” Lombardi said, “is to give hope to the victims of those issues and let them know they are not alone.”

Lombardi, 40, a graduate of Central High School and Temple University but an Abington resident since 2003, works in transportation. He joined GrayHaven recently as a fun side project.

And then 20 children and six adults were shot and killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 11 days before Christmas in 2012.

Pondering how a collection of comic book writers and artists could help in its own way, the company’s creative directors decided to try and help address an entire issue instead of an isolated incident. They wanted to try and offer hope to those young people who are tormented and abused because of their race, creed, color, sexual orientation or physical appearance. Those who are most likely to lash out violently.

So they combined their powers and talents to create what would become – hopefully – a beacon of hope.

The result was a collection of short stories in the form of a graphic novel that would be distributed to schools, youth groups, shelters and other locations for free to help students deal with typical instances of bullying.

They felt their medium was a perfect megaphone.

“We figured that comic books are sort of an outlet that kids might be a little more accessible to the message,” he said. “There are only so many after-school specials that you can watch. And you sort of hear the same message delivered the same way time and time again. It loses its impact.”

And they hop to reach the bully as well.

“Not only do we want to reach out to the people who have been bullied and kind of give them hope,” he said. “But reach out to someone who’s bullying someone and really give them some perspective.”

Besides bullying, stories cover violence, homophobia, racism. “We really tried to cover as many topics as possible,” Lombardi said.

At the end of each chapter contact information for resources that can help with similar problems are listed.

The team is already planning a sequel, which brings the victims to the forefront.

“The goal,” said GrayHaven Editor-in-chief Andrew Goletz, of Reading. “Is to have the kids write it.”

‘Kids can be very, very brutal’

District Attorney Seth Williams, who spoke at an anti-bullying event Wednesday at Dimner Beeber Middle School in Malvern, said talking about bullying helps to open discussions concerning conflict resolution.

“Kids can be very, very brutal and it leads many students to not want to go to school, it leads to violence,” he said. “And so us talking about bullying really allows us to begin the discussion about how can we resolve conflict.”

Copies

Any educational, youth or victims organizations interested in a copy of the book should email the company at gatheringanthology@hotmail.com. The book is also available for purchase on its website.

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Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

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