Jake Adams Thrashes Onto Indiegogo with “Cobalt”
It is becoming increasingly popular for critics to focus on the topic of “accessibility” in entertainment. I often hear detractors demanding that works of fiction be made more accessible to very specific focus groups while simultaneously disparaging them for failing to appeal to broadly diverse audiences. I find it quite ironic that the modern media, obsessed with reducing whole casts of characters into deconstructed archetypes defined by identity paradigms, is baffled by their inability to create works of fiction that appeal to massive, multifarious audiences yearning to see themselves “represented” in the stories being told.
It is entirely possible to achieve a level of storytelling with characters specially designed to be accessible to specific audiences while also appealing to the greater masses. The trick is to not concentrate exclusively on the more superficial traits that compartmentalize them into identity-based boxes, and instead focus on the features that connect them with the audience as a whole, qualities based on the things we all have in common. That, in a nutshell, is what makes a work of fiction accessible and allows everyone in the audience regardless of age, race, gender, etc. to “see themselves” in the characters they perceive.
Recently, I sat down with Jake Adams from Tale End Comics, creator of COBALT: Thrashing About, to talk about how Cobalt came to be, and I admit I wasn’t entirely ready for his response. At a first glance of its description, Cobalt: Thrashing About seems like any other superhero campaign in crowdfunding on Indiegogo:
Mixing hard-boiled cyberpunk and neo-noir to deliver a suspenseful 32-page issue, Cobalt: Thrashing About continues the story of Jesse Jensen (Cobalt) struggling to balance his personal responsibilities with his journey to become the hero Atlanta needs. It begins with Jesse just trying to make this month’s rent when he suddenly finds himself having to play hero once again.
Little does he know; this new encounter will launch him into one hell of an ordeal. Now that Esmeralda Blasco and her cartel have been dismantled, the other gangs around Atlanta have been moving in to take the top spot, and the Atlanta P.D. just can’t keep up. Can one person help turn the tide? Jesse’s sure as hell gonna try in Cobalt: Thrashing About!
What I didn’t know was that Cobalt has had a history before this campaign, one that stretches back even before his previous origin story. Cobalt was initially conceived as part of an anthology called Super-Abled, aimed at children with “limb difference” written by creators in similar circumstances.
From the “One-Arm Wonder Mom” who uses her powers to show that heroism knows no limitations, to “Rebuilt,” a story about a woman enduring the aftermath of a terrible accident, Super-Abled is a work of fiction intended to cater to a very specific demographic, but unlike so many works of modern media, it achieves what others do not: true accessibility. Even though the comic isn’t created specifically “for me” as I am not “limb different,” I find myself resonating with these limb different characters on a level that transcends our physical diversities.
And that is what excites me about Cobalt: Thrashing About. Nowhere on his campaign page does Jake mention the accident that cost him his own hand. Nowhere will you read about the loss, the grief, and the anger that Jake worked through while creating Cobalt, or hear about his personal struggle. You won’t even find out that Jake’s an official ambassador for the company that built his prosthesis. Unlike so many other works of fiction that try to reach out to specific audiences and provide them with characters intended to “look like” them or reflect their identity, Cobalt is designed to be a hero who’s figuring out how to cope with sudden, dramatic developments in his own life and learning to become a hero to others. Oh, and he’s also got a bionic hand – so people who are likewise coming to grips with being “different” or who have been different their whole lives can relate to such an “accessible” character. And so can I, because Jake doesn’t “gatekeep” Cobalt from the rest of his audience by saying, “this character isn’t for you”. Instead, he focuses on the depth of Cobalt’s identity over any superficial aspects of his appearance to distinguish him – which “normalizes” Cobalt’s limb difference to where it isn’t something that separates his audience members at all.
Although it remains to be seen if Cobalt: Thrashing About will live up to my expectations, I’m eager to see what Jake can deliver. Erwin J. Arroza’s art is spectacular and jumps off every page. There’s a gritty realism to the aesthetic that gives this street-level superhero story a tactile quality (further enhancing its accessibility), and I find myself counting the days until fulfillment. You can call this a hype piece if you want – because it’s true. I am hyped for this book. And you should be too.
You can back the Cobalt: Thrashing About project here.
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