Health and Inclusivity: Finding Commonality in Weaver, Lee, and Robles-Valdez’s THE UNCOMMONS

In an effort to do more to highlight the work of diverse creators, I recently sent out a message on Twitter about the column.

One of the first people to interact with me was Tony Weaver, Jr., writer of The Uncommons through Weird Enough HQ, a publisher dedicated to enhancing representation and discussing the role of media in how we view the world. These chance connections and encounters have always lead to interesting ideas, and this circumstance is definitely no exception.

Art by Andy Robles-Valdez

So, why don’t we have a discussion of The Uncommons, by Weaver, Hannah Lee, and Andy Robles-Valdez and how it connects to Health and Inclusivity?

Delta City is a futuristic utopia whose peaceful days are numbered. Iris is the only one who can glimpse the future, but foresight alone can’t prepare her for what’s coming. In the face of a disaster centuries in the making, will she and her allies prove uncommon enough to change the fate of everything?

– Official The Uncommons blurb

The comic starts with an introduction to Iris, gifted with “seeing” and able to understand how things and people work. Part of her power, though, has brought on images of an apocalypse, and she is dedicated to make sure it doesn’t happen. She immediately seeks out her city’s hero, Influencer, hoping to bring about a change in fortune. However, he’s not so convinced until an attack on the city leads to new clues and helps Iris and Influencer find a team amongst the chaos.

Interior art by Hannah Lee

One of the things I appreciate about The Uncommons is that you can immediately see how diverse the world is, and the creative team creates this representation look seamless. And in that moment when Influencer and the young boy Alex are trying to save themselves while also navigating a communication barrier, you can easily see that the team behind The Uncommons has put work and effort into making their world accessible to virtually anyone.

The idea of “representation” is an admittedly low bar when it comes to making stories that reflect the people who read them, and so we have to recognize it as one of many important factors that need to be in a diverse story that is also well done. This criticism is also precisely where The Uncommons does something extraordinary.

Within this moment between Influencer and Alex, we find that Alex communicates through sign language, which means that Influencer has to think very quickly and work with a language barrier in order to save the both of them. Alex immediately has his time in the spotlight, quickly showing Influencer a card with pertinent information about himself. Through this exchange, both Alex and Influencer get to be heroes, and we get to see how the creative team crafts cross-cultural interaction in a meaningful way.

Interior art by Hannah Lee

Alex as a character represents a reality many people live with. There are many reasons that people use sign language to communicate, thus what abled people consider a “normal” interaction — like asking “What is your name?” — is something that has to be communicated differently for people like Alex, often including the use of a card or something else with identifiable information about them. This is a type of interaction that abled people likely take for granted, and the fact that The Uncommons includes space to show this reality and how folks who live it can respond in stressful situations is a testament to its creative team’s range for meaningful inclusion of diverse people.

Further, I appreciate the fact that most of the comic’s characters are people of color. Such representation exhibits itself through cultural garb, names, and language — among other iterations. More than ostensibly writing white people with different colored skin, as is unfortunately the case in many comics, we see a wide variety of people showing up in a wide variety of ways. So, in a story that leans lovingly into enthusiasm and super-heroics, we get small intimacies that show us we can totally make stories about diverse people while still giving enough time to actually and respectfully illustrate many cultures and ways of being.

The degree of inclusion in The Uncommons is wonderful to read not just for who is in the comic, but also for how these characters manage problems. Because media plays a huge role on how we form our worldview, we have to remember why it matters that we see folks who look, feel, and love like us.

Interior art by Hannah Lee

There are so many factors that affect how you view the world, and media’s prevalence allows it to seep into our subconscious and influence our behavior. So, when we don’t see folks who look, feel, and love like us, we lose the “guidance” that folks with privilege are more likely to see. Such relationships go on to affect how we problem-solve, how we think, and what options we feel are available to us.

I’d be remiss if I said media’s impact couldn’t be mitigated, but I still would be so if I completely discounted it. These realities are why we cling so strongly to representation of folks like us when there’s little to nothing around. These realities are also why, the summer after Moana is released, you see multitudes of little brown girls at San Diego Comic Con in costumes of a Disney Princess that — finally — looks like them.

Encountering people like us in media can have a profound impact on how we see ourselves. In particular, if they are solving problems similar to ours, there can be a positive impact on our capabilities of moving forward and reaching a solution. There’s a lot to be said for feeling seen and reflected in the media you consume, and there’s also to be said for the sense of kinship that can come from feeling represented.

For The Uncommons, this means that the number of emotional and personal issues the characters have to work out, like how to be your best self, how to form meaningful connections, or how to manage that unhelpful voice in your head, may also be providing potential roadmaps as to how to handle those issues because part of the roadmap is often folks who look, feel, and love like us solving the same problems we are experiencing.

Interior art by Hannah Lee

The Uncommons is a nice surprise for me and I found that it is the importance of representation and inclusion made manifest. The characters are engaging, but more than that: they mirror many of our experiences. Their characterization, their appearance, and their everyday lives fit many people’s, and the creative team combines all of these factors to give a true example of what deliberate and meaningful inclusion looks like. Representing people isn’t a Herculean task when you do the work, and that’s exactly why The Uncommons is great in general and in its connection to folks’ well-being.

You can find The Uncommons here! The comic is ongoing, so be sure to keep an eye out for other ways it continues the spirit of Health and Inclusivity.