Health and Inclusivity: The Past, Present, and Future of STE(A)M in Gifted’s P.B. SOLDIER

Health and Inclusivity: The Past, Present, and Future of STE(A)M in Gifted’s P.B. SOLDIER

Without knowledge, what do you do? When you don’t know the outcome, how do you take a step forward and challenge unhelpful vestiges of your past? Nat Cummings is an assassin employed by The Establishment, a seedy government group that often leaves its motives hidden. In the course of doing his job, he begins to find unsettling things, and as he embarks on a mission to take out a mark, he recognizes that the organization he works for may not fully align with who he is, or who he wants to be.

Nat’s story unfolds in PB Soldier, a journey through history and culture, values and independence, and a tale heavily influenced by STEM. For this Health and Inclusivity column, we had the opportunity to chat with Naseed Gifted, writer of PB Soldier, to find out how he tackles black underrepresentation in STE(A)M, the power of understanding our history and traditions, and how to bring different worlds together to enhance education and show people there’s far more opportunity in the world than we think or are told.

Allen Thomas: I got a chance to read a couple of issues [of P.B. Soldier] and it’s a very interesting story. I like some of the twists and turns you put in, looking at different events through time, especially with our main character. One of my first questions for you is: What was your initial inspiration for creating P.B. Soldier?

Naseed Gifted: Actually, I have two levels of inspiration. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, karate flicks, and I always try to emulate that, and what’s the definition of a hero? Hero comes from the word ‘heru,’ which has Kemetic origins. So, I always looked at that, but, as I grew older, I just got more into anime, more into basketball, moved away from the genre for a little bit, ‘cause I was a heavy comic book collector in high school. Girls, basketball, and other things took precedence over that, and it wasn’t until I actually had my own children that that’s where it stimulated from. So, P.B. Soldier was actually a t-shirt line that we formed in college. This logo was part of the P.B Soldier t-shirt line that we had. It wasn’t until that and I had my own children, I took my son to see Incredible Hulk, and I just had a conversation with him about heroes. Just to give you a little dynamic of my household, he knows about his history, where he comes from. We talk about Kemet, we talk about the three: Malcolm, Martin, and Marcus. All of that. When I asked him about superheroes after seeing this Incredible Hulk movie, he could name every hero that comes off the top of your head: Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, all of those individuals. The thing that I noticed was that when we talked about superheroes, he couldn’t name anyone that looked like him. That right there initially got me upset, and then, with my engineering background you don’t just look for problems, you actually look to do something about it, that set me on a journey to the whole comic series P.B. Soldier. I wanted to have representation for heroes that look like my son, as well as service the individuals that I’m interacting with on a daily basis.

Reading PB Soldier is a remarkable experience for many of these reasons. Representation is important, but it is a bar set so low that we cannot let it dictate how we create or consume media. However, this challenge is where PB Soldier excels. From the first pages, you’re exposed to rich culture and symbolism that will have a growing impact on Nat as we move through the story. As Gifted points out, this simple dynamic can be enough to show people that they actually fit into the world around them, something marginalized people do not get to experience when we aren’t in the narrative at all, but especially when marginalized people are not given adequate depth in a story. Recognizing that there is a problem to be solved, Gifted not only sets out to remedy the issue, but he brings in his own background to further flesh out Nat and the whole story of PB Soldier.

AT: That was a really amazing answer, but I love that you brought in engineering. When I write stories or when I do things, I think about my psychology background. I think about emotional relationships, how people connect, and it’s really cool to hear you built a narrative around, ‘If there’s a problem, let’s find a solution for it, or let’s find a way to work it out.’ That’s really cool. Black folx in STEM has been important, but [this idea has] been severely underaddressed, or unaddressed when it comes to education and training. What have you seen in your experience regarding that particular aspect and how does the comic help you in that process, in trying to address getting black kids and black folx into STEM?

NG: If you look at the statistics and the data, we make up less than 5% of the STEM population. When you look at the number of graduate degrees that’s coming out, most individuals who enter the STEM field, 60%, actually change their majors upon entering college, not because they weren’t interested, it’s actually the mathematics. The mathematical preparedness is one of the barriers that deter individuals from being a part of the STEM field because it’s so heavily math-related, especially if you get into Engineering, where you’d have to take Calculus I, II, and III, then take Differential Equations, then you’re in classes and actually have to do calculus with that, with LaPlace transforms, [or] based on your particular major or your specialty. That’s actually been a deterrent for individuals. The way comics is using that, you’d be able to take complex topics and break them down to something that you can relate to because what happens, especially in mathematics when you go from algebra into upper-level mathematics, it becomes more abstract and you can connect to the actual material. So, being able to create these mental models where they can actually see things visually allows them the opportunity to be able to connect to the material more and actually have a deeper understanding of what it is versus just  memorization or the rote way or method of being able to understand material, because now research has also shown with comics: Student A and Student B, one is using a textbook, one is using a comic book, Student A will understand the material, do well on the test, but once they’re done with the test, they’re done with the material. The research also shows that those individuals who are, when we talk about diverse learners, differentiation of instruction, Student B would actually understand the material, and then actually have a deeper understanding, and still want to engage in that level of content beyond the assessment. Your typical ‘good student’ will study for a test, or not study and do well on the test, and it’s almost like the typewriter: once that’s done, they’re on to the next thing. But, that’s actually…critical thinking, because that’s the next level of workers that we need. We need critical thinkers to be able to develop these systems, these complex systems, and be able to repair them and come up with different strategies for that. That’s the level of workers that we need now, because a lot of the remedial work, where we would get into more of robotic things, that’s the less skilled labor, is actually going to be moved into where it’s going to be machine-operated, where they’re going to program. You already see autonomous vehicles, almost like your Transformers, drive. They’re doing this for shipping right now. They’re doing drones. They’re doing all of these different things that’s gonna be job replacement. I mean, even when you go to the supermarket, you have the self check-out line and all these other things where it’s going to get to a point where there’s gonna be no need for cashiers and any of those other jobs. So, now, what we need to be able to do is be able to think more critically, be able to hone in on some of those other, additional soft skills, because the problem solving aspect, and that’s where the STEM fields come in, to be able to solve problems in all of those various areas. Comics is a way to just, when we talk about entry points, having multiple entry points for learning, that’s what a comic allows you to do. So, the Top Ten reasons get into how you can use it for Gifted and Talented, and you can use it for ESL. You can also use it for special needs individuals because there’s a graphic representation that’s attached to it that allows any level learner to be able to have access to the material. Once you have access, now you can be able to navigate and make your own associations with it to be able to move through the material accordingly.

Gifted’s focus on access is supported not just by his experiences, or my own, but also the reality that barriers do in fact interfere with learning and that the more we understand them, the more we can dismantle them. When we look at educational deficits, particularly those affecting children of color but especially black boys, we find that these barriers exist the moment they walk through the front doors of a school. While we can easily, and erroneously, say that this is a phenomenon relegated to high school and the transition to college, it actually begins as early as pre-school or kindergarten. What we also find is that these deficits, these barriers, are no fault of the child, but they do become compounded as years go by. These reasons are why PB Soldier works on multiple levels. From the visibility of a black man engaging with STEM to the ease of access of a comic book, this comic works to achieve Gifted’s vision by exposing young folx of color, in particular black folx, to the wide range of activities they can engage in with STEM. Thus, we move from just a simple focus on representation, who is physically represented on the page, to a deliberate and in depth story that addresses different needs at different levels, including how to bridge seemingly disparate topics.

AT: STEM is one thing, but STEAM adds another important element, and I like that the ‘A’ is being added on a more regular basis. How does P.B. Soldier address not just STEM as we’ve traditionally known it but also STEAM as a newer concept incorporating newer or different ideas?

NG: Once again, we talk about multiple representations: a comic is a graphic medium. It’s one of the untapped graphic mediums. At one time it was censored, but now you have free reign to be able to express, almost like poetry, your story accordingly, without having to filter it, water it, or do anything else with it. So, when we look at that, it’s an excellent opportunity just to be able to get individuals to see something different. I always look at it from an educational platform, the edutainment standpoint, but the art, just being able to engage in the art and be able to see something that goes beyond your reach and what you intended it to do. I can be completely honest: I was scared to death when I first put the book out just because I come from an Engineering background, I didn’t go to your traditional art schools or anything like that. I worked with an artist to make sure that the art and the level of representation was quality, because you always want to do that. You want to be able to put your stuff on the shelves with the other competitors, the Top 3: DC, Marvel, and Image, and just let people make a choice. I know, of course, brand recognition and everything else plays a factor in that, but at least if they just look at it from a surface level, and they flip through the pages, it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll give it a try.’ Just taking art and using art to express culture, to express some educational things, to express history, all of these things are something that I intentionally infuse into the comic, besides trying to tell a good story that’s trying to educate others on the back end just from the visuals that you’re actually seeing. Like, why do you see a sankofa bird in the background and what does that mean without beating you over the head and saying, ‘Oh, look! A sankofa bird! It’s right there!’ Why is that symbol important in West Africa, and those types of things. It’ll all get revealed throughout the story, but you’ll see the little bread crumbs embedded in there as you move along. That’s something that I always tried to do as a teacher who, from a sub teacher, to a teacher, to department chair to vice principal and principal, just being able to infuse the learning into whatever you’re doing, but not beat any visuals over the head with the learning, so they can actually enjoy the medium but subconsciously they’re still learning at the same time.

AT: That’s a really cool perspective. I like how you’re taking the visual representation of the comic and applying it, infusing that element [of STEAM] but also I think creating some new ideas about how you’re able to expand STEM to bring in more artistic representations, whatever that means. You’re right: multi-modal learning is incredibly helpful for people, so I can definitely see that.

NG: You know, when we get to the next level and move beyond animation and be able to create virtual experiences? That’s the level of STEAM that people will be able to further appreciate because now you can create a learning and reading and engaging experience, almost like how you would do in a video game. That’s something that we are looking to do with the series as we expand into other markets.

AT: That’s a really good point. When you said that, [I thought of] Steam the video game platform, being able to get RPG Maker. Then, thinking about Final Fantasy, [it] probably helped me with reading comprehension because I played a bunch of those games growing up. Like you’re talking about, I love that PB Soldier starts with a glimpse at a different culture, and that that story is interwoven into everything, too. Final Fantasy was also how I learned about a lot of mythology, a lot of different creatures, a lot of different lore from across the globe. That gives me a new level of appreciation for what you’ve done in your comic especially.

NG: Thank you, I appreciate that. That was part of what we’re looking at. The origin of the main character where he sees these visions ties into the origins of the characters who he’s modeled after. That was intentional, without someone just having flashbacks. Just to talk about your ancestry, and how you’re always connected to your past, and for you not to know your past, how it impacts the present, and how it paves the pathway for the future. As Black people or people of African descent, we get into these generational loops, or sometimes a generational curse, where we keep repeating the same cycle, generation after generation after generation. One of PB Soldier’s subplots is going to be able to break the cycle of what’s been happening, and that’s where all of  the ancestors tie in. They had to make decisions, so how do those decisions impact the next generation?  

Whether through explicit messaging, like Nat’s story and the abundance of black folx in the comic, or implicit messaging, such as art representing STEM as a potential way to create a STEAM framework, Gifted and the PB Soldier team craft a world that illuminates countless possibilities for people. Much of this comes back to Gifted’s value of multi-modal learning. This type of learning, built to engage multiple systems of processing, from visual to auditory to critical thinking, has been shown to support student learning and growth. Keep in mind: this is certainly the rougher path, as many students discuss the difficulties of moving from one-track learning to more expansive models. Still, creating the opportunity to learn ideas or concepts in varying ways helps people develop new tools for making connections. Through the hard work of uncovering how these topics relate to each other, students are left with much more than information that will be forgotten once the utility for remembering it is gone.

Thus, this comic’s contribution to health is not just in portraying black and brown bodies engaging in science, but also in showing us the different ways through which we can process the world around us. Giving STEM a visual representation helps us know the concept, but also see what it may look like. Multi-modal learning, or thinking, can also be helpful for challenging systems of marginalization. Systems of power that create oppression will often lead us to think there is only one way to solve things and that is the way of those who are in power. What this means for black kids in school, and many other marginalized groups, is that they are often at the mercy of a system that does not want to adequately educate them, thus they feel as though there are fewer options, and thus they seek them at a lower rate. With a comic like PB Soldier, though, we can see the potential for this dynamic to change. The more people are exposed to possibility, the more broad and wide their world becomes, rather than the narrow vision often handed to marginalized folx and especially marginalized kids. We begin to see the world for what it can be, not for the limitations placed on us or barriers placed in front of us.

These points can help us understand PB Soldier as an opportunity to get black kids into STEM, but also an opportunity to challenge what has been placed before us. It helps to see a black man at the helm of this story, to see black folx who are engaged in STEM despite the underrepresentation of us in STEM’s reality. This comic has the potential to open doors and help people see that there are different ways to solve problems, and all of these facets of the story are a deliberate action from Gifted, aided by his perspective and his prospective.

AT: What has been your favorite part of writing the story?

NG: The favorite part is one thing that I infused a little later and then backtracked. I’ve always used feedback. I look at it as your cell phone. So Apple comes out with the iPhone 11. They give it to you 99.9% finished. Then every couple of months you get this thing called an update. And the update is based off of the feedback from the consumers, the clients, the individuals. I always wanted there to be episodes, and that’s why they’re named episodes, because I always thought about this as 30-minute animated series. That’s from my upbringing watching Saturday morning cartoons, and then my fascination with anime, too, so I always thought of it like that. In a 30-minute series, if you’re not putting it out the frequency enough, just being able to make sure that you tell a story where people aren’t be confused, and then add in those layers where we put those breadcrumbs. So, being that I know where the 65 episodes is going, I’m able to infuse all of those breadcrumbs into the stories before and where it’s all leading up to. I got that modeled from Tyler Perry where he sold a hundred episodes of Meet the Browns to TBS. He had a hundred-episode deal. Didn’t matter if it aired or if it didn’t air. He had a hundred-episode deal regardless, so he knew where those hundred episodes was going. In my profession, I knew I didn’t have the latitude to be in the writing room developing the story, so I had to lay the whole thing out. If I got picked up today or tomorrow, I could at least give the producers and the writers a direction in which the story is going and be able to add my pieces onto that. Being that PB Soldier has an engineering background, he’s like a MacGuyver type using the resources. I actually had to do more research to make sure that we infused those types of things, as far as chemical combinations, that’s not something that’s my speciality, but, doing little things like that, then actually putting in the formulas there in the actual comic. It’s based on a lot of real things, but just told in a foreshadowed future of where things could go if things were amped up. And now, with the whole COVID-19 thing, it actually seems that much more real for what we’re doing. I started writing this in 2005 and projected it for 2020. Now, we’re in 2020, I forecast it out a little further to 2026, that type of thing. That was the intention. It was always supposed to be some futuristic graphic novel series, which we were trying to do some really cool things, then make technology look cool. It’s alright to interact and play and be a computer hacker, then, take the hacker piece away, how that goes into computer science and cybersecurity and coding and all of those things, just adding those layers to that. You know, you see a movie, you hear about hacking, and then kids actually do some things: they hack their video games, they hack their phone, they do all these little things, but then, now, this could be a valuable career because you’re interested in this and now you’re taking them to another level. That’s one of the things that I’ve done throughout my career is just try to help inspire the next generation of technology leaders, using the comic as a medium to help foster that.

Gifted’s foresight comes from deliberate work, and this work also leads to a comic that has many important layers and moving parts. As part of this process, we also see complex politics thrown into the mix. Whether it’s the gender dynamics of a fight or a system exercising corrupt power, PB Soldier addresses many intricate topics that both inform and are informed by the comic and its multi-faceted story. The creative team works to flesh out these ideas, while also thinking of their developmental application, so that the resultant story once again hits us from multiple angles.

AT: I think that’s a really excellent perspective and I like how you’re putting that into the story. Similar to what I said before, when you talk about breadcrumbs, you can easily see that in the story, you can see where you’re going to go with it. So, that leads me to my next question. One of the things I noticed is that you immediately have cultural and traditional stuff, you have a black man fighting a black woman, you have our protagonist working for an organization that clearly has some dubious ethical standards. So, when you talk about those political things, they’re really complicated and there’s a lot of things to parse out. What made you want to include those specific elements and what do they mean for your story as a whole?

NG: I know that the protagonist is actually up against a black woman because of the information she knows, but the one thing I did not do and I did that intentionally is you never see him actually attack or touch [her] or do any of that intentionally. You assume that from the panels, but he’s really on the defense the whole time. I was very deliberate in making sure he wasn’t attacking the black woman, but he is after her and that is a ‘mark.’ As far as the story is revealed, and these of course are in the latter chapters, he uncovers more of the information of what the Establishment is actually doing, and he makes a choice to go rogue, and that’s where he’s at currently, where he’s going rogue and getting more information because he’s hacked into some information and understands why society is the way it is. He’s actually in a sense forced to make the choice [to get into] this organization that he’s in and now he’s trying to find a way out. That is where we’re taking the story. I always thought about you always have the good guy and the bad guy, but just dealing with children, and dealing with people in general, everyone has good and bad in them. And that’s how we wanted to build the characters, [to] be complex that way. It’s all based on decisions that you make. Based on the environment that you’re in. So it’s a choice that you made. You thought it was the best choice for you at the moment. But now, you get more information, and now you’re like, ‘Wow, maybe this wasn’t the best choice that we made.’ May need to do something else and then try to correct those things that you damaged moving forward.  I wanted him to have a kind of murky, dark past, similar to Malcolm, and then move him to the light as he gains more information, gains more knowledge of himself, his past and how that’s going to move into the future.

AT: That’s a really interesting parallel, too. A lot of the people we look up to, especially in Civil Rights, we learned a really sanitized, and really a really whitewashed version of what went on through history. One comic that helped me get a lot more context was March by Rep. John Lewis, because he talks about Martin Luther King being a celebrity and what that meant for how he related to white folx at the time. I was like, ‘Damn, that’s a really good point.’ It is important that we have more of that context and more of that background, and you can definitely see that in [PB Soldier]. The fact that you hinged that on decision making I think is really key, because that same decision making is something that we assume everyone is going to have the information, always make the right choice, always do the right thing, but sometimes you don’t have the information, sometimes there’s a barrier to it, like the Establishment, and that stops you from making the wiser decision, but also, as you get more [information] you do things better. You know better, you do better (hopefully). That’s a really interesting way that you laid that out

NG: It goes back to the saying ‘Knowledge is power.’ Those who have knowledge have the power. And the separation between individuals who know and those who don’t know, that’s a parallel to now you’re informed, now do you make the same decision or do you move another way? For instance, if you know the water is tainted, it’s poisonous, do you still drink it, you say, ‘It’s not really that tainted. I think I can still survive off of it’? You make those choices, but now it’s more of informed choice, versus when you’re not in the know and you make the choice without knowing. That’s a part of the makeup of the story that I wanted to tell with this whole thing. Just try to captivate an audience on how this can be cool and then use this as a resource to do something else or hopefully inspire individuals. I think of something like Star Trek and Star Wars. The technology that they introduced in those films and those series is something that we are using today. It’s only because someone as a kid, or even as an adult, got the idea like, wow, that sci-fi tech that’s in there is something that we could probably even work towards and make real some day.

AT: Honestly, I really think that’s valuable because my background, where I work, we’re connected to the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, and we have black students in nursing, working on pre-med, and I think one of the things that they don’t have a lot of the time is the information to really know what you can do, or to know that there’s so many cool things or so many cool opportunities, and I want them to have that. Because, when they do have access to that information, I really think their world changes. So, having something like this [comic], all the folx look like us, and so when the folx look like you and  they’re doing that cool technological stuff, then, there we go, hey, here’s your opportunity.

NG: Yeah. The whole reason I wanted to be an engineer is because I had one experience. I was one out of ten that was a part of this robotics team. We partnered with AT&T Bell Labs, this is my sophomore of high school. Because of that I got to work alongside a black engineer. That black engineer was an electrical engineer. So, guess what. I saw him, I said, ‘Oh, wow, I could possibly do this as well,’ and then that sent me on a journey to want to be an engineer. That one experience, just seeing that, having that exposure, being an inner-city youth, not knowing what I wanted to do, because at one point I thought about being a fireman or whatever, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life prior to that. I’m glad I actually went to do engineering because…  Engineers are problem-solvers. Regardless of the discipline, they analyze, build, test, modify, go through that whole cycle of the engineering design process. So when it came to me, ‘Oh man, I want to do comics, but I don’t know how to,’ I used that same process. I took some courses at NYU. I researched different kinds [of comics]. I didn’t even know there was black comic book creators out there until I went to Philadelphia and went to East Coast Black Age of Comics and saw individuals who were doing some phenomenal things. Ran into one individual who set me on fire. His name is Mshindo, please look him up. Mshindo was like, I don’t like to compare to Picasso, but I put them in the same light as Picasso for the graphic designs and concept art that he develops. So, I saw that, I was so inspired that I said, ‘One day, Imma work with this guy.’ So, I worked with high school students, local artists, then I circled back around and he did my character designs almost two years later. That allowed me to be able to take that, work with the artist that I’m working with currently, which is Abel Garcia, and just been on fire ever since. I thank him for working with me, but just setting the precedence of having this Afro-futurism look, this inspired look for the characters. They had to have a certain look for me. That’s why it was so hard for me to be able to come out with the book initially, because, like I told you, I started in 2005 writing the story. My wife at the time, she was a flight attendant, so all I did was write, write, write, that’s all I did. That’s how I was able to lay out 65 episodes, because I was just writing, writing, writing. Being able to take that, then I did an audition for an artist and all this other stuff, and now, just being able to take that even further and then just listening to what the community was looking for. One of them, like I said, was we know we are underrepresented in the STEM fields. So, I was like, ‘Man, maybe I can use this as a platform to be able to introduce more individuals to the STEM fields.’ I knew what the problems were because my whole plight and journey was always trying to get more students into STEM. That’s why I started the Pre-Engineering Academy and all these different things just moving forward.

Looking at PB Soldier, it is apparent that it is a story crafted with many people and many things in mind. Knowledge comes not only from education, its own implicit manifestation in the characters’ use of science and technology, but also from our experiences. The more we know about a subject or the world around us, the more equipped we are to handle any number of issues. What I appreciate about this comic is that it addresses the idea of ‘knowledge is power’ from many different angles, all expressed through words, images, or Gifted himself. Being able to access this knowledge can lead to a vital shift in how people are able to navigate the world. In particular, knowledge is one of the greatest tools that helps us combat marginalization.

Black people having options is something that white supremacy doesn’t always account for and that it always works to diminish. One of the ways we find out we have options? We see people who look, think, and feel like us doing things that are extraordinary, or sometimes even ordinary. This framework is evident through each page of PB Soldier, made all the more real through Gifted himself. As he points out, sometimes it is one experience that can alter the trajectory we imagine for ourselves. For marginalized kids, and particularly for black kids, having that space is not always a reality. So, to have a representation of themselves, and to see that representation doing things and being fleshed out through storytelling, can be the thing that shows those same kids that they really can do more, that the barriers they face are much more often a construction of society and so much less a reflection of their ability. Being able to move through these possibilities can help marginalized kids see opportunities that may otherwise stay hidden, and it starts with giving them a chance to encounter different things.

AT: This question I hadn’t considered, but I think it’s appropriate for what you’re saying. With your work with students, what has been their reception to the comic so far.

NG: Oh, man. First of all, when you’re a teacher or an administrator or anything, they think that’s all you do. They think that that’s all you do. So, now, when you add this layer onto it, like, ‘Wow, you write comics?’ they’re so highly interested. Then, once again, it’s one of those entry points. They’re like, ‘Wow, you come up with this whole concept?’ Now, once again, the exposure, they’re like, ‘Maybe I could do something similar. I could develop my own app. I could develop my own game. I could do all these things.’ Now that starts a conversation as far as mentoring, entrepreneurship, all of those different things, what they can actually do with conceive, believe, achieve: Conceive in your mind, believe in your heart, achieving with your hands. That whole concept. Being able to just move forward with that. So, it’s actually been just like a tool to get them to see that there is more to this world that you can do, just because you have ideas.

AT: I’m really glad that they’re [having] that type of reception, and what you’re talking about is adding another layer to it because they get to see you as more human, they get to conceptualize, they get to figure out, ‘Oh wait, I could do something different.’ So, as you’re rolling out more of the episodes, what do you hope readers get from this story?

NG: I believe my main thing I would like for them to do is just understand how we can break a generational curse by understanding our past, how it plays an impact on our present, and paves a path into the future. That’s all based on choices that we make each and every day. If we can balance and make healthy choices, hopefully healthy, you know sometimes we think they’re healthy, but they’re not healthy, we can actually impact society on a grand level. So, that’s what I want people to get out of this. And then, being able to solve problems in their community just by looking, analyzing, and coming up with solutions, or the ills that may be going on in their community.

I will stand firmly by the idea that if we have someone who looks, thinks, and feels like us, and we see them solving problems, we have a chance to experience more self-efficacy for ourselves. We have black scientists in comics like Blue Marvel, Static, and Bumblebee, and now we have Nat in PB Soldier, a comic that endeavors not just to enhance representation, but to create material change and opportunity in people’s lives. Gifted’s vision for the comic is informed by history, culture, and knowledge, and much of this is made manifest throughout the series. PB Soldier stands as media that has a great chance to expose marginalized kids to the wide breadth of things they can do. Through this comic, STE(A)M may become much more of a reality than a piece of fiction, and as a result, new generations of folx who didn’t always have the opportunity may have the chance to drastically alter what these fields look like, who is in them, and who gets to make things happen. Ultimately, there’s a lot to learn from PB Soldier and Gifted, and there’s a lot that Nat as a character can do for readers of the comic, especially black kids interested in STE(A)M.

AT: Anything else?

NG: We are finishing our Kickstarter. We were hoping to raise more funding so we could actually do a pilot. We’re glad for successful funding, so thus far we just want to be able to take this thing a lot further. You can reach us on social media @PBSoldier on Twitter and Instagram, and PB Soldier on Facebook, of course.

You can find copies of PB Soldier here!

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