(KPIX 5) — Almost immediately after the Las Vegas massacre on October 1, 2017, an unusual fundraiser started taking shape – a benefit book put together by the comic book community.
“Where We Live: Las Vegas Shooting Benefit Anthology” is not a book that should be judged by its cover, although its subtitle speaks volumes.
Professional comic book artist and Las Vegas resident J.H. Williams was profoundly affected by what turned out to be the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
“When something like this happens to a community if affects where we all live,” said Williams. “What happened with the Parkland kids shortly after just really set things over the edge. ”And I just think people wanted to figure out some way to speak to the problem while being able to help people.”
Williams and his wife, Wendy, came up with the idea of a benefit book for the victims of the Vegas shooting. They turned to the people they know best: comic book writers and illustrators.
“And I just went on a little rant for about 20 minutes. By the time I woke up the next morning, I had people messaging me back saying they’ll help us do it,” said Williams.
They received enough help to fill 330 pages. “Over 160 different creators from our industry from all over the world wanted to step up and do something and help us out with this cause,” he said.
One of those who helped was Novato resident Haden Blackman, who has written comics for Star Wars, Batwoman and Elektra.
His home town of Seal Beach was the site of Orange County’s deadliest mass shooting in 2011, and he had friends in Las Vegas attending the concert.
“For me it was really an opportunity to explore the way I was feeling at the time,” said Blackman. “I felt like I was just kind of screaming into a void, I don’t understand why these things keep happening. I don’t know why as a culture and a society we’re not doing anything about it.”
One of his two stories in “Where We Live” describes his daughter’s job at school when the alarm sounds. She tapes a piece of construction paper over the window in the classroom door so a shooter can’t see inside.
“For her to have to practice that and to learn that and to be thinking about that when she should be learning math or reading or whatever else in 4th grade I thought again, that was also very tragic,” said Blackman.
While the book has a message, Williams says it’s not anti-gun.
“It’s a nuanced issue and it’s something that needs to be figured out,” said Williams. “We can’t just keep letting things move in the status quo as they are.”
Just like many comic books, these stories and illustrations don’t avoid violence, blood, death and loss.
Is there a mixed message? Is there some irony in that?
“It’s something that I had to think about myself, the fact that I work in the comics industry and the comics industry isn’t innocent of shying away from violent content,” said Williams. “At the same time you know, violent content within stories are still just stories. They’re not actual lives being taken.”
And while comics are filled with super-heroes battling evil, turning the tide of gun violence will take human strength.
“These are issues that they just can’t keep being swept under the rug, they have to get talked about otherwise we’re never going to solve this problem, we’re going to continue to see this type of violence occur in our cities,” said Williams.
The book sells for about $20 dollars and all the proceeds go to victims and survivors of the Las Vegas shooting.