From Horror to Heroes

For these Sudanese refugees, just surviving makes them real comic-book supermen

"Now remember, these were young children seeing people shredded in front of them, killed," she begins. "I mean, the way they were treated was like animals, right? Even in the camps, even when they got to Ethiopia and to Kenya. I think that they need to work through the pain. A lot of them had repressed the pain, and that would come back over and over and over again in maybe inappropriate ways. So I think this is a very good process, to talk about it."

The conversation is just beginning. The first issue of Echoes was a setup issue, introducing the boys and their world. The next three installments will take Gabriel, Matthew, Michael and Santino through the jungle into Ethiopia and Kenya, then finally to the United States. Gabe De Aganyni and Dut Benjamin will provide more pictures. Daniel Deng will make sure all the details are correct. Before it's over, maybe more lost boys will join the team.

One thing is certain: More people will get a chance to read the book. When the first issue was released, only one store, Titan Comics on Northwest Highway, carried it.

Gabriel Akol, one of Sudan's "lost boys," whose flight from civil war in Africa is captured in a new comic book
Mark Graham
Gabriel Akol, one of Sudan's "lost boys," whose flight from civil war in Africa is captured in a new comic book
Michael Ngor saw his brother murdered by soldiers before he fled for Ethiopia.
Mark Graham
Michael Ngor saw his brother murdered by soldiers before he fled for Ethiopia.

"I've sold quite a few of them, and I've sold quite a few of them to walk-ins, just people walking in and saying, 'Hey, this sounds great, let me buy it,'" Titan owner Jeremy Shorr says. "They had no prior knowledge of it. I've had lots of telephone inquiries from around the country saying, 'OK, you're the only one who's got this, great, sell me some.'"

That interest led to Borders Books and Music on Greenville Avenue and Lovers Lane picking up the book as well. (You can also special-order Echoes through all Borders stores.) Disco is working to secure a distributor that will put the book on shelves all across the country. A deal should be in place before the second issue is finished. People like Tami Trussell in Sioux Falls are doing their best to get Echoes into junior high and high school libraries, if not in the actual classrooms. Churches, universities, charities--they're all attracted to the story.

The book's media exposure--slight but significant--has started a snowball rolling down the hill. Before long, no one will be able to avoid it. Once they see it, they'll want to see more, do more. That's what Disco hopes, anyway.

"There was this girl, and she was reluctant to take a copy," Disco says. "And then she started reading it, and then all of a sudden, she's bringing me articles about Sudan. This thing does have wheels. It touches people. Someone's going to pick up the licensing on this, after NPR and Newsweek and BBC. We can't be ignored forever. Someone's going to take this thing and run with it, and we can do a lot of good."

But then, Disco and the Echoes team already have. If for no other reason, their mission was accomplished the first day those comic books arrived at Titan. Because then, Michael, Matthew, Gabriel and Santino were right where they belonged, next to Superman and Spider-Man.

"They really are superheroes," Disco says.

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