In this post, author Joe Caramagna answers our questions about his Batman comic that features a child with autism.
What inspired you to write "One Lock, Many Keys?"
When I had the opportunity to pitch DC Comics on a short Batman story, I wanted to do something different. One of my favorite comic books as a kid was about a group of campers who swapped stories about Batman around the campfire, so I decided to pitch a story that was from a kid's point of view. But I also wanted the story to be about something meaningful. I had recently read some articles online about autism and the story started to fall into place when I read one by a parent who said his autistic son really responded to reading comic books and graphic novels.
Can you explain what the story is about?
The story begins with the mom and dad of a boy named Lucas, who has autism, arguing over the kind of things that he should be exposed to. The father buys Lucas some comic books on his way home from work, but the mother does not approve, so she takes the comic books away. That night, Lucas hears a noise outside. He leaves his bedroom, climbs out of his window onto the fire escape and inadvertently becomes involved in a fight between Batman and one of his villains.
With this comic book, can you describe a moment you knew you were actually making an impact and helping more people understand autism?
There's a feeling of dread after you send a script to an editor and you're waiting for a reaction. At that point I'd been working on the story for so long I couldn't even pretend to read it objectively. Then Batman editor, Mike Marts, emailed me and told me he was getting emotional over my script while reading on his commute home, and I realized that some people were going to get it.
What is the one thing you want people to learn about living with autism after reading your comics?
What shocked me initially while doing research for the story is when I learned that the divorce rate among parents of children with autism is much higher than the national average. But being a parent myself, it made a lot of sense to me that having a child with a disability would put a lot of stress on a relationship. I wanted to show this in the story, but I also wanted to get the point across that even though there will be some hardship, there can also be moments of great joy that make it all worth it. You just have to hang in there.
What will your next comic book character focus be?
This depends on the character I get to write. But I love writing stories about real people and real issues even in a story about super heroes saving the world.
Do you think children with disabilities relate to one character over the other?
The Marvel Comics character Daredevil is probably the most relatable hero for children with disabilities because he's blind. But the great thing about super heroes is that even though they have extraordinary powers, they also have some difficulty that they have to overcome, so they're relatable to most people in some way.
What do you think is the most rewarding thing about writing?
There are so many rewarding things about writing. For one thing, it's an amazing feeling to build a complete story out of what started out as a simple idea or thought. And it's especially amazing when writing comics because it becomes more than just words on a page, you actually get to "see" your story. Also, writing could be a very personal thing. Letting other people read your thoughts makes you feel vulnerable. So when people tell me that they enjoyed something that I wrote, it's the best feeling in the world.
Do you have plans to write any other comics? If so, will they also be focused on autism?
I have two Spider-Man young reader novels coming out in May -- The Amazing Spider-Man: Behind The Mask and The Amazing Spider-Man: Vulture. After that I have a couple of projects I'm working on that haven't been announced yet. Nothing yet related specifically to autism.
Where can people go to get your comics?
You can find my comics at most comic book stores or search my name on Amazon.com. To find a local comic shop near you, go to www.comicshoplocator.com.
What else do you want people to know about you and your life?
I love talking to comic book fans and people with similar interests so if you want to chat, you can find me on Twitter @JoeCaramagna. Any and all are welcome, come and say hello! I answer everyone who reaches out to me.
What has been the most fulfilling moment for you, or what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
Personally, my three kids are my greatest accomplishment. Professionally...I hope it hasn't happened yet!