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Kids Fight Back Against COVID-19 With Comics

Creating art and finding ways to make people smile or laugh in dark times is a mitzvah.
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January 29, 2021

Children at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles are setting the standard for what it means to give back to the world in a time of great loss while also tapping into their innate creativity. When classes went remote in March 2020, first-grade children in Pressman’s Comic Book Creators’ Club decided to channel all the pent up energy of many days of sitting in front of a screen into creating a comedic story that has recently been released electronically. “Bat-Chef & R.P. Chichi: Corona Fighters!” is a digital comic that is both heartwarming and humorous.

The main character is Bat-Chef, a cook who incorporates bats into all of his dishes, even though, understandably, everyone finds his “delicious bat snacks” revolting. Oddly enough, “bat fries,” “peanut bat and jelly” and “batteroni pizza” are not particularly appetizing in the middle of a pandemic allegedly tied to bats. Bat-Chef’s misguided culinary business may falter, but when he meets a virus-fighting monster named Rainbow Pivity Chichi Jimmy Live everything changes, and the real adventure begins.

The name of the monster may be a dead giveaway that this story sprang from the minds of first graders, but the truth is that they may have had a little editing help from Emmy-winning comedy writer and Pressman parent Rob Kutner, who has created his fair share of comics. Kutner says that one of his favorite parts of the process was when the kids were brainstorming, and “they literally couldn’t stop thinking of new places [for the virus to travel, like] Atlantis! Venus! San Diego!” Kutner’s son Jeremy pitched the idea of “the observable universe.”

On one hand, it may sound like it’s all fun and games, but the truth is that creating art and finding ways to make people smile or laugh in dark times is a bit of a mitzvah. It matters deeply. “When the pandemic set in,” said Kutner, “I felt like, as powerless and trapped as we adults felt, kids must be feeling 1000x more. I launched this project to give them a feeling of agency over a strange and terrifying situation by being creative and ultimately getting to achieve some good against it.”

Creating art and finding ways to make people smile or laugh in dark times is a mitzvah.

The result of this excellent collaboration is a truly funny graphic narrative that will make both kids and adults laugh while also providing support to Gavi, a vaccine alliance organization that helps to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income families.

Illustrated by Allison Garwood (cover by Chari Pere), the images of “Corona Fighters!” are electric with vibrant colors that make the first-graders’ brainchild come alive. Consumers of contemporary YA graphic literature will find the style of the illustrations familiar, but even those who haven’t ventured into the world of graphic narratives will find them both compelling and hilarious. There’s even a page that depicts illustrations of the kids who worked on the project.

A pandemic isn’t something that can be compartmentalized. It touches everything, even the art and entertainment that is meant to help us escape from it. And although the world may still feel a bit dark right now, “Bat-Chef & R.P. Chichi: Corona Fighters!” is a testament not only to children’s resiliency but also to their capacity for creativity, humor and compassion. While most of us are eagerly awaiting the vaccine, it might do us some good to download a copy of this labor of love and humor. After all, laughter is sometimes the best medicine, and we could all use a little healing.

“Bat-Chef & R.P. Chichi: Corona Fighters!” is available now on Gumroad. Download the comic HERE. All proceeds will benefit gavi.org


Monica Osborne is a scholar of Jewish literature and culture. She is the author of “The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma.”

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