Comic-Book Industry Takes “It Gets Better” To The Printed Page With Anti-Bullying Comic

While many young LGBTs find strength and support in the videos posted on Dan Savage’s It Gets Better channel, some feel the campaign doesn’t directly address the anxiety kids can feel, other than to say “hang in there.”

Realizing that gay teens often have no one but themselves to rely on, out comic-book creator Zan Christiansen was inspired to create The Power Within, a new graphic novel that addresses gay-teen bullying head on.

Published by Lambda Literary Award-winning LGBT comics publisher Northwest Press, the book follows shy gay boy Shannon, whose parents and teachers think he gets picked on because he doesn’t make an effort to fit in. To cope with the harassment, he escapes into a super-powered alter ego when trouble arises.

In addition to a 25-page lead story by Christensen and artist Mark Brill, The Power Within offers bonus pages by comics-industry heavyweights like Gail Simone (Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey), Phil Jimenez (New X-Men), Greg Rucka (Detective Comics), Stephen Sadowski (Justice Society of America), Dan Parent (Archie Comics) and Andy Mangels (Gay Comics).

Below, Simone interviews Christiansen about the book’s origin.



The Power Within ($4.99, Northwest Press) is available online and at comic-book shops around the country. Free copies are also being made available to youth and teachers’ organizations.


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  • Kev C

    Hey gay kids, escape your problems with escapist fantasies, just like the adults do! Meanwhile everyone is jawboning about how much better everything gets, and some are making money from it, no one is actually giving a voice to the kids themselves. Placated into silence with fantasies and celebrity feelgoodisms.

  • Ganondorf

    @Kev C:

    That’s similar to my feeling, but you don’t want to say it too loudly lest you invoke the wrath of the self righteous “heroes” out there who conflate any critique, however innocuous, with openly advocating for lgbt teen suicide. I think it serves a purpose in placating lgbt adults who feel helpless to do anything about the lgbt teen suicide rate as well as self promotion, profit and ego feeding for others. Perhaps initially, anyway. Some of them want to believe that they’ve made a difference to combat this tragic trend, and I’m confident that it benefits those people in sustaining this delusion more than it could possibly diminish the lgbt teen suicide rate. But a lot of people want to believe that it’s made a difference, and “made things better”, because it makes them feel better. And who could blame them given the alternative? Similarly, crocheting for world peace won’t make it so. It’s like saying that talking about safe sex and condom use has greatly diminished the spread of HIV/AIDS and sti’s in general. Not at all, but it’s good to talk about it. If anything, it’s drawn attention to the problem, and that’s about it.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones


    Why are you still here? You haven’t added anything substantive to any post you commented on. You simply prattle on with your self-important theories based on nothing more than your opinion. Go out an actually do something to advance queer equality, and maybe you will be taken seriously.

  • Zan

    I remember picking up free copies of Ivan Velez’ “Tales of the Closet” comics through SMYAL, the LGBT youth group I attended when I lived in the suburbs of Washington DC, and how much that helped me feel less alone in high school. As much as things have changed, there are still kids out there who need to hear that they can get through hard times even if they feel nobody’s in their corner. We’ve tried to tell a story that isn’t *entirely* bleak (we’ve read about enough tragedies in the news) and depict a kid fighting his way through it.

    (And anyone who thinks the project is a moneymaker hasn’t worked in indie comics! Even with community support to pay for printing and sales through our main distributor, I’ll be pleased if we make enough to cover the shipping of free copies to youth groups.)

  • Kev C

    @Zan: Hi Zan, I’m not impuning anyone’s intentions. I’m saying that listening is the only way to learn what the problems are. Do you think the Giants or the Cubs are listening or care about troubled lgbt kids? But they sure jumped on the bandwagon to tell kids to rought it out … jawboning.

  • Alex

    From the image Queerty posted, the dialogue seems real. Good.

  • Ganondorf

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones:

    Shut the fuck up, you fool ass bitch made punk.

  • soakman

    Ganondorf quote:

    ” It’s like saying that talking about safe sex and condom use has greatly diminished the spread of HIV/AIDS and sti’s in general”

    Yes, yes it IS like saying that. And you know what? Talking about safe sex and condom use HAS diminished the spread of HIV/AIDS and sti’s. That’s what all the promotion about sex-positive education in schools is about dude. Abstinence only education and a refusal to talk about safe sex does nothing but hurt individuals. Same here.

    Communication is the spread of information. If you think talking and disseminating information did nothing for society, there’d be no recognition of the dark ages as something in the past… we’d STILL be living in them.

  • Zan

    @Kev C: I’ve seen some backlash from LGBT folks about the “bandwagon” elements of the It Gets Better Project, and I can undersand it. There’s definitely something irritating about people recording an It Gets Better video just to get attention.

    But, personally, I find it really hard to be upset about *too many* people speaking up against anti-gay bullying and teen suicide, regardless of why they’re doing it. If you’d asked me a few years ago whether sports teams would be stepping up and speaking out about this, I would have said it was extremely unlikely! But here we are.

    Ultimately, the messages are for the kids, to saturate the world with enough of these that there’s a good chance they’ll get through to them, and I really hope they work. And I hope Mark and I can be part of that chorus of voices trying to push things forward.

  • Ganondorf


    Nah. There’s a huge spike in the transmission rates of MSM, which REMAINS the demographic of highest seroconversion rate. I’m confident that that information has prevented almost nothing. The only thing that’s changed, in reality (I like reality, you many not), is the treatment options that prolong the sick life for a few decades at exorbitant cost. However, it’s important to tell the truth about how aids is spread. Now, this is an obvious attempt to change the subject. I just don’t think you’re a hero for making and or supporting the it gets better campaign. It has made the issue somewhat topical, though. I guess that’s useful if something is done to curb the rate of lgbt teen suicide.

  • Kev C

    Successful politicians, athletes, businessmen, entertainers; most of them hetero, most from privledged, supportive families, living well, although some of them having experienced some level of bullying at some time, yet not the same as modern bullying, nor glbt bullying, are telling kids that that they should bear the bullying and hardships for now and somehow things will get better. Hardships that they themselves never experienced, or at the same level. I’ve seen these videos and can’t say I see much benefit to them. Vague feelgood sentiments and phony commiseration. It’s unrealistic and condescending. Kids are smarter than that and they need real information so they can lives real lives. Real advice so they can solve real problems. We should recognize the IGB movement doesn’t provide this.

  • Ken S

    @Kev C: no one is actually giving a voice to the kids themselves

    This criticism doesn’t really make sense, though; the “it gets better” message is directed at kids specifically because they don’t yet have to experience to assert that with maturity, things will improve. It’s a ‘campaign’ dominated by adult voices because it’s the adults who’ve been through– past tense– what the youth are struggling with– present tense– and can say based on experience that things can get better.

    For the sake of comparison, it’s like how only someone who has survived cancer can tell someone just diagnosed with cancer what it’s going to be like with any kind of credible authority. (Which isn’t conflating being gay with a disease, the metaphor relates to a shared struggle with adversity.)

  • Kev C

    @Ken S: Some of the IGB videos feature gays who have been bullied, but many haven’t and are in no position to understand or advise glbt youths. And the project doesn’t even deal with many root and ancillary causes of many of the problems such as class/poverty, broken or unsympathetic families, loneliness and sexual awakenings. You were a kid once too and can remember those feelings of urgency. Having some successful adult tell you to hang tough doesn’t solve anything. Please remember that kids don’t know everything and need to be educated step-by-step. The IGB project could be a lot more educational, IMHO.

  • x

    @soakman: Seriously. I don’t know how anyone can be dumb enough to think talking about safe sex hasn’t made an impact.

  • Spencer

    Well to get back to the comic… I love when the kid said “but I dressed totally boring today” totally know how that feels

  • Opinionated

    As much as I like more LGBT in comics, the idea that students and administration is all of the sudden accepting them is total bullshit. Quit trying to escape reality.

  • Zan

    @Opinionated: I don’t know about “all of the sudden”, but I do know that I’ve gotten about 25 requests in the last few days from teachers and student groups asking for copies to make available at their schools. There are a lot more fair-minded people out there than we might think!

  • Ken S

    @Kev C: Could it be better? Certainly. Is it already better than nothing at all? I’d dare say so. What’s missing from too many of the criticisms of the campaign is any acknowledgment whatsoever of the worth that it does have. And unremarkably, most of the people I’ve seen/heard shitting on it have yet to offer any better alternatives themselves, which is all too typical.

  • Zan

    I think it’s a good development that we have people debating the best ways to tackle the problem, especially a problem that’s been ignored by so many for so long.

Comments are closed.