One comic book fan with a vision is making a difference for children in need through the magic of comics, and he's hoping more people will do the same in their own hometowns.
The Comic Book Connection Initiative, an Ohio-based charity, donates comics to kids at local homeless shelters, food pantries, hospitals and after-school programs for economically depressed areas.
"It's actually very simple," said Fate Spears, who founded CBCI earlier this year. "People and retailers donate comic books; I give them to organizations that reach children in need."
In just a few months, Spears has already collected and donated thousands of comics to children's charities thanks to local stores like Comic Town and Packrat Comics. Because many comics go unsold, and others are discarded after reading, the idea has really caught on.
"The contact people for these organizations have told me that the response [from kids] has been fantastic," Spears said. "The children have really enjoyed their books and even trade with other kids to read multi-part stories."
But Spears is hoping the CBCI can expand to other cities. "I don't have any copyright on this idea or name, so people are free to use it in their own cities if they want to do this," he said. "I just ask that you let me know so I can put it on our [Facebook] page."
Spears, who has multiple sclerosis, said he came up with idea when he was looking for something positive to do while recovering from hip surgery. It was his two daughters, ages 11 and 14, who came up with the idea to help kids with comics.
"My wife, a middle school language arts teacher, told me to find something positive to do while I was healing," he explained. "I had given away many of my comics to children over the years. As a long time comic book reader and collector — 35 years — I have witnessed the many ups and downs of our hobby. A lot of retailers and collectors have a huge backstock of 'un-sellable' comics and graphic novels. I discussed all this with the girls, who came up with the Comic Book Connection Initiative name and idea."
Once he receives the donated comics, Spears roots out what he calls "sophisticated" comics, because the CBCI charities target children ages 4 to 14. But even those more mature comics don't got to waste. "[They're] currently being donated to a group that sends packages to troops overseas," he said.
And although it's not food, shelter, medicine or money, Spears said he thinks comics can provide three things for kids in need:
1) They get kids to read, hopefully creating a spark for learning;
2) They provide inspiration for children to make the right decisions in life;
3) They provide an escape, albeit temporarily, from their situation.
Spears said he's hoping publishers and creators will get involved, but at the very least, he'd like to see some other readers do something similar in their own area.
"Sort through your own collection and approach your local comic shop for comic book donations," he said, "then deliver them to kids in need. If you don't want to do that, you can mail them to us and we would be happy to distribute them for you."
Comic Book Connection Initiative can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Facebook page. For donations of comics, send them to Comic Book Connection Initiative, c/o Comic Town, 1249 Morse Rd., Columbus, OH 43229. CBCI will also be accepting donations at Mid-Ohio Con.<li> Art & Franco Bring ARCHIE & TINY TITANS Together! <li> A Kid Lives Out Pirate Fantasies in UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN <li> The MUPPETS Explore Mystery as SHERLOCK HOLMES & Friends