Mon. Jan 25th, 2021

‘Planet Divoc-91’: A webcomic about 2020’s most pressing issues

Artists and scientists collaborate to address young adults’ experiences of the pandemic.

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In a world where technology is constantly changing the way people are communicating, it is necessary for new methods to be devised for scientists and other experts to reach young adults.

Wowbagger Productions has succeeded in doing this through Planet Divoc-91, a webcomic inspired by 2020’s coronavirus pandemic and many other contemporary problems. 

The first edition was released in June and since then five issues have been released, which are available to read for free on webtoons.com

What is ‘Planet Divoc-91’?

Issue one of the comic series opens with a group of humans who find themselves on an alien planet. Siblings Sanda and Champo are greeted by strange and colourful aliens. The aliens tell Sanda and Champo they need their help to combat a viral outbreak that has struck an alien species. Unfortunately, to do so will require great sacrifices from Sanda and Champo. 

The pandemic faced in the comic series bears many parallels to the coronavirus 2020. In both cases, there is a lot of initial confusion and uncertainty regarding the virus. This, in turn, invites fear.

In the world of Planet Divoc-91, this fear manifests as a stigmatisation of those who volunteer to help the sick. 

Another unfortunate similarity in both pandemics is that, when people feel threatened, they will often play the blame game. In our own world, this occurred through increased sinophobia — an anti-Chinese sentiment.

In Planet Divoc-91, humans become the enemy when it is discovered they are the spreaders of the sickness. 

South Africa’s most talented artists embrace webcomic project

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A frame from the new comic aimed at young adults. Image: Supplied

Planet Divoc-91 is made possible through the combined efforts of some of South Africa’s best artists. Local music artists such as singer Toya Delazy, house DJ NV Funk and electronic DJ Angel-Ho are involved in the project. They work alongside visual artists such as muralist Mohamed Hassan aka Fok. 

Also contributing to Planet Divoc-91 is Nabeel Petersen who is the director of Interfer, a company also involved in the project. Petersen came to work on Planet Divoc-91 after being approached by Sara Kenney of Wowbagger Productions.

As Kenney states in the first issue of Planet Divoc-91, the project was born out of the idea to create a comic “curated with young adults to explore this pandemic in an attempt to ‘make sense’ of it all”. 

‘Planet Divoc-91’ a Platform for Scientists, Young Adults to Interact 

Each issue of Planet Divoc-91 features articles from scientists and other experts who speak about 2020’s pandemic. The articles are written in a way that is informative and accessible to young adults.

Many of the topics discussed are issues relevant to young adults. For instance, in the fourth issue, Alma Jbeili discusses metal health during a time of tumultuous change and social distancing.

Alma gives practical tips for those struggling to keep level-headed, and lists practical recommendations such as guided meditation, exercise and healthy eating. 

Lucas Mannion discusses the conundrum of opening schools during a pandemic. The risk of transmitting viruses is something that many young adults are reasonably fearful of. However, as Lucas points out, education is important for the youth.

Furthermore, schools serve far more purposes than simply academic education. They are also important places for children’s social development. 

These topics, and many more, are brought to young adults via a webcomic that both educates and entertains. 

Minorities in spotlight in ‘Planet Divoc-91

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The new webcomic was released on Webtoon in June. Image: Supplied

Those involved with Planet Divoc-91 have made a concerted effort to feature characters with identities that are usually neglected in popular media. For this reason, both Sanda and Champo are black, which is rare for protagonists of a sci-fi comic.

This is something Petersen is proud of. As he said in the third issue of the webcomic:

“I love the direction and story of the comic, and that the protagonists are black (and do not die in Chapter 1)”. 

Champo, who is non-binary, brings another layer of diversity to the comic. This issue is explored in further detail in the fourth issue of Planet Divoc-91. Petersen said there was a need “to instil pride in the stories we tell about being black” and “challenge the way minorities are presented in creative media”. 

‘Planet Divoc-91’: The Story Continues 

The fifth issue of Planet Divoc-91, released on 18 November, ends on an exciting cliff-hanger. The pandemic continues to be a threat and humans face the possibility of their own extinction level event. 

Planet Divoc-91 brings some well-needed fun and knowledge to an often-chaotic year. The webcomic acknowledges many of the challenges the world has faced and helps young adults, through stories, to engage with various issues.  

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