Superhero Annie Sunbeam visits Hurleyville

By Amanda Loviza

HURLEYVILLE – Who’s qualified to help humans learn not to pollute their beautiful and important oceans? Annie Sunbeam, of course.

Hurleyville Arts Centre was one of the first venues to host an event featuring Annie Sunbeam, the newest environmental superhero introduced by Comics Uniting Nations and UNICEF. Annie Sunbeam is Comics Uniting Nations’ newest hero in their line of comic books educating world citizens of all ages about UNICEF’s Sustainable Development Goals for the planet. The Annie Sunbeam team, featuring co-creator Jill Schneider singing Annie’s songs, along with Comics Uniting Nations co-founder Natabara Rollosson, DC Comics artist Bernard Chang, and Annie Sunbeam co-creator and executive producer Debbie Margolis Horwitz, came to Hurleyville Arts Centre on Saturday, June 10, to discuss environmental issues and the idea of using comic books for environmental education.

Jill Schneider, co-creator of environmental superhero Annie Sunbeam, sings songs about garbage collection and Mother Earth having the blues during a Comics Uniting Nations presentation at the Hurleyville Arts Centre on June 10.

“Annie Sunbeam and Friends: Protecting Life Below Water” is a comic book dedicated to UNICEF’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which seeks to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. In a colorful and accessible format, Annie Sunbeam teaches readers about key issues in the ocean, like pollution, over-fishing and acidification. And rather than just magically making the problems disappear, Annie helps humans see what they’re doing and change their behavior to protect the health of the oceans.

“If you make simple changes in your daily life, you can help reduce fossil fuel emissions and help save marine life and ecosystems,” Annie and her friends teach in the comic book.

Comics Uniting Nations was inspired by Comic Con, Mr. Rollosson said, where people of all ages gather with a shared passion for comic books. Comics have historically been used to educate and unite activists around the American civil rights movement and the Arab Spring, and Comics Uniting Nations hopes to create that same unity around protecting the planet. These SDG comics can also be downloaded easily all across the world, and they have been translated into a variety of languages. The Annie Sunbeam comic provides enough information to make a child reader more knowledgeable than the average American adult about pollution and climate change, Mr. Rollosson said.

Comics Uniting Nations co-founder, Natabara Rollosson, speaks about the power of education through comic books alongside, from left, Annie Sunbeam co-creator and executive producer Debbie Margolis Horwitz, co-creator Jill Schneider, and DC Comics artist Bernard Chang.

The world is in dire straits and people like the Comics Uniting Nations team are going to help get everyone in gear, H.A.C. Executive Director Janet Carrus said at the end of the event. Ms. Schneider told the audience that it is now their responsibility to go out into the community and spread the word about caring for oceans and the planet as a whole. Of every two breaths a human takes, one comes from oxygen provided by the ocean. The planet’s waters cannot be neglected.

Comics Uniting Nations, a partnership of UNICEF, The World’s Largest Lesson, PCI Media Impact and Reading with Pictures, has a dozen comics now, with more to come. Mr. Rollosson has big dreams for how these seemingly simple comic books can help save the world.

“The universe has been quite good to this project, and who knows where it’s going,” Mr. Rollosson said. “But it keeps growing.”