The Power of Comic Art to Teach and Promote Inclusion

Scarlett Archie Comics

New character in Archie Comics, Scarlett Saltee, is autistic.

By Nancy Silberkleit, Co-CEO of Archie Comics

The most common way humans connect is through ordinary speech.

The art of communication is to propel people to talk, share thoughts, and spread ideas. However, the art of communication is not easy for everyone, especially for those that are autistic. Humanity relies on others to varying degrees. Life provides choices in how we connect, and the arts provide one means to connect people. You could look at this form of art as non-intrusive. However, when we wish to connect with dance, music, and visuals, it again becomes very individualized and unique in its result, messaging, and what it communicates.

For the most part, the arts bring enjoyment.

Art is a powerful means. When you have something to say, place it on paper, canvas, wood, or mold clay. At that moment, you are providing a visual and encouraging others to engage. You are intentionally inviting others to learn about you; who you are, what you have to say, and how you see the world. The visual naturally triggers the brain for analysis. It sparks engagement and provides a very individualized experience by allowing one to naturally internalize information at their own pace and understanding in a way that makes sense for the person. That sets the platform for comfort; a non-threatening engagement of ideas and information.

The arts of the comic book world are a literary experience that is arguably based on the most ancient languages around. Art propelled man to become social beings, to connect, to communicate, and to understand one another.

Individuals with Autism usually share the challenge of sensory overload. They often share various behaviors that can be misread. They may have a strong desire for friendships and social engagement like anyone else, but face challenges of expression and/or reading of social cues. It’s up to everyone to learn to understand one’s different behaviors and communication styles, and to build the utmost patience so that a person can communicate and flourish in building the friendships they seek.

The arts are a viable tool for all to obtain knowledge.

With Knowledge comes understanding. Once one has understanding, it is that understanding that heightens compassion and insight towards others. Respecting one’s knowledge and actively engaging in understanding promotes creativity. One feels confident and good about themselves; to challenge themselves by engaging in creativity. It’s a full circle to how all human beings should operate.

As a publisher of Archie comics, combined with a 25-year background in education, I felt it was my responsibility to utilize the graphic literacy rainbow over my head and develop a new character in the Archie cast that, like so many people, is autistic.

Scarlett Archie Comics

Her name is Scarlet Saltee. She is Irish and Filipina, and enjoys building stuff as well as building ideas!

Archie is an iconic storyline set in a high school. I am sure there have been story lines where there were other autistic students at Riverdale but just never pointed out. It’s that strong Archie intellectual property (IP) that engages folks into conversation. I like to say, when Archie speaks, people all over the world listen.

The history of the Archie characters’ individual IP varied greatly. They’re all are so different! Their differences have promoted emotional statements for decades. Veronica’s spoiled entitled persona I have elevated to CIA – Confidence, Intellect, and Allure! It’s the conversation around the table, water cooler, and camp bunks, that have propelled this brand to be a household name and part of readers’ lives. For scores of people, childhood would not be complete without experiencing the world of Archie comics.

Archie has been an icon on many levels. Its foundation deals with support, getting along, inclusion, respect, school setting, and a community called Riverdale High. Riverdale High can be anywhere on the planet. I used to say the word Riverdale alone is a beautiful-sounding American word, but as I travel the world, I learned that sound has become embraced globally. How and why Archie is embraced & loved… I solely attribute to human values. Values are not found in any particular place. They are instilled and shared by all people. Archie comics create conversation because humanity shares the threads of friendship, love, support, and inclusion as natural, universal experiences.

Archie is about PEOPLE and reflects people. Archie and his pals reflect our audience. Our audience sees themselves in those panels. With the expansion of the Archie cast of characters to include Scarlet Saltee, we create an access point of representation of the people who comprise our schools and communities. We add another gateway to compassion and diversity.

Archie characters have always demonstrated inclusion and support. The comic series promotes being comfortable with who you are.

One aspect of part of Scarlet Saltee’s identity represents the desire for inclusion and an understanding to various social cues the autistic community demonstrate. This is an important part of today’s culture. Archie reflects contemporary culture and has always been a voice of the times. Archie promotes opinions and thoughts of real people. We are in the business of social engagement, and that 30 minutes of getting lost in the enjoyment of entertainment is welcomed and needed. As long as there are children, there will be Archie. It’s time to understand that all children are different and will grow to be adults. Aging can be different and diverse. As long as Archie reflects the people, the people will keep the beat of Archie continuing into the decades ahead. Inclusion and Kindness must grow in all hearts

Over the decades, the gags, jokes, and moments that make us laugh at those panels are our own personal moments. We have all had Archie Moments and I’ve used this example on occasion.

I can remember my husband renting a big truck to pick up a painting. My internal thought was a Betty… how on earth is he going to drive it? I called the trucking company to see if the truck could be returned before I attempted to question my husband’s ability to drive such a truck! The place was closed. So the next morning — with Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the Archie Pals written across my heart, I said nothing but hopped in for the ride to support my husband’s journey … riding into to the crowded New York City streets to fetch a very large painting! Well, he and the truck did not get very far. He went about 800 feet from our home and took the roof off the truck! There had been a large branch looming over the street from a tree. Well, that became a story in one of our Archie digests!

As long as folks have moments like this, Archie comics will be published.

Archie is supported by the global population and our company continues to reflect the people of our world. Humanity is complex and filled with bewilderment, but we fill our comic panels with people’s lives and hope we promote thought, friendship, love, and laughter! We surely have created conversation. I call the conversation of this lovable, orange-haired, freckle-faced boy Archie Andrew the “Ambassador of global conversation!”

Now, his new friend Scarlet Saltee can help readers build friendships, understanding, and a voice for the Autistic community. And we can do this engagement and open this dialog through the power of art.

Nancy Silberkleit

Website :
ABA Speaker :
Twitter: @NancyEduSpeaker Hashtags: #KindnessWorks #KindnessIcon

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