Cloudscape Comics Society to illustrate plight of refugees

A Vancouver-based comic book collective is taking a temporary reprieve from the traditional fare of zombies, gags and men in capes.

Instead, members are using their pen and ink to drive social change.

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The Cloudscape Comics Society is launching a new project where members illustrate and describe the experiences of immigrants who came to Canada, specifically under life-or-death circumstances.

The end goal is to create a series of one-page comics depicting those stories of hardship and perseverance at bus stops across Vancouver.

“I want to know the stories of any refugees who were forced to come here because of war, persecution or their lives being endangered,” said society executive director Oliver McTavish-Wisden.

The current movement is borne out of a 2015 initiative the collective undertook called Comics in Transit. At that time, 20 artists created similar one-page comics documenting life in cities across the world: Vancouver, Paris, Guadalajara, Copenhagen and Tokyo.

At that time, the focal point was to familiarize Vancouverites with the comic book medium and expose locals to foreign locales.

Now, the group is adding advocacy to the mix. That move was spurred on as the migrant crisis began to take shape across the Middle East and Europe in 2015. McTavish-Wisden’s group specifically wants to depict the experiences of those fleeing war, political strife or religious persecution.

“I personally want to do something to welcome these people to Canada,” McTavish-Wisden said. “As artists, this is a way we can give back.”

The group has found a few potential candidates and will cap its number at 10. The process will see participants asked about why they came here, how they got here and their experiences transitioning into Canadian society.

It’s McTavish-Wisden’s hope the comics will be at bus stops across Vancouver by November through the city’s Transit Shelter Advertising Program, which offers free access to transit shelter advertising for non-profit arts and culture groups.

Those interested in being part of the initiative are asked to email

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