Bay Area presents “Harmony:” a boundary-breaking comic book

Tracy’s Annual Become One Voice Comic Show brought more than just fun costumes and cool gadgets; there, Harmony was introduced — a new comic book featuring a deaf heroine.

For many, thinking of comic books conjures up images of badass superheroes, aliens, mutants and more. While these are all fun and fictional, when looking deeper, comic books talk about many real life problems, such as losing a loved one, drug use and relationships. This mix of the real and unreal attracts people from all around and presents a platform to appeal to all audiences. Unfortunately, it is all too common for writers to miss the mark — their stories lack racial diversity, female characters, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Luckily, big name brands and local artists alike are working to reverse this trend and create a more inclusive, representative superhero universe. This is seen firsthand with the creation of Harmony.

Harmony was created by Lawrence Iriarte and Morgan Johnson. The inspiration for Harmony comes from one of Johnson’s mentors, Ovida Dejulia, a local ASL teacher who worked in Castro Valley for over 25 years before passing away from cancer in July 2015. Johnson wished to create a character to honor her mentor’s legacy, so she approached Iriarte to create a deaf superhero. Iriarte, who has always been an admirer of comic books, was thrilled to help create a character that represents the deaf community.

“I believe that it is of great importance to try to represent all cultures accurately. My love for the language [ASL] inspired me as a writer as well as the deaf culture as a very unique community.”

The originality of this comic is shown not only in its diverse characters and unique plot but also in how it is structured. Like most comics, it features thought bubbles, but since it has a deaf character, Iriarte created a unique system to provide a way for her to share her thoughts.

“I designed a ‘thought box’ shape for Harmony when we were in her thoughts, and designed a ‘signing bubble’ whenever she was using ASL. For other characters we used traditional dialogue bubbles. It allows the reader to feel that they were Harmony and can be part of her character.”

This comic book was just released at Tracy Comic Con which took place Nov. 4 & 5. This event was put on by Become One Voice and benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Become One Voice, which was started in 2006, began as a group going by Kidz-4A-Kauze.

“It was a group of kids just wanting to do something good, productive and selfless in our community. We believed we could use our talents and passion for ART to create and fundraise for some local and national charities you might already be familiar with,” their mission statement says.

Starting conventions in 2014, they are hosting their fifth annual convention this year, and proceeds will be given to the Make-A-Wish Foundation once again. The convention founder helped create Harmony and then the comic was distributed at the convention. Between raising money for nonprofits and spreading the message of diverse characters, it’s no wonder they got the name “convention with a heart.”

Seeing the progress in an industry as big as comic books, both nationally and locally, provides hope for the future in representation. This comic book shows a more progressive road to inclusiveness in comic books and provides another relatable character for people part of the deaf community. Through and through, Harmony has been a story about diversity and generosity, both on and off its pages.