Longtime comic partners Bob Hall have created the “C’rona Comix” as an appealing way to educate Nebraska youth about COVID-19 and its risks.

By Natalie Saenz

ALincoln duo is teaming up to counter misconceptions about the coronavirus with a project aimed at educating young people.

Longtime comic partners Bob Hall, who is a Lincoln illustrator and writer, and Judy Diamond, who is a professor and curator at the University of Nebraska State Museum, have created the “C’rona Comix” as an appealing way to educate Nebraska youth about COVID-19 and its risks.

“With the pandemic, there’s a lot of information going around and it’s very hard for people to figure out ‘What is information I can trust?'” Diamond said.

So Diamond, Hall and a group of researchers got together this summer to create C’rona Comix, a five-part comic series about COVID-19. Diamond said the National Science Foundation reached out about creating the comic and she immediately set up a team.

“The intent is to help the field understand how to do this better, which is to create materials that are inviting and exciting for kids, but that also have high-quality scientific and public health information,” Diamond said. “We combine fantasy with good science.”

Each part of the C’rona Comix tells a different story related to COVID. The first two parts have the main characters — Professor Grey, Graffiti Mouse, Cat, Reporter Fox, Bat and Skate Goat — each working together to understand the new disease. Hall said he decided to create and use animals in the comic because of the power and trust children place on animal characters in comics and cartoons.

“It’s a history of animal characters being able to impart information philosophy, a certain seriousness that works very well,” Hall said. “Animals just have an empathy for us in the way in which they represent us metaphorically. As they stand in for humans, we’re able to read and empathize without worrying about who they are, what they look like.”

The virus itself and the antibody cells associated with it also have their own characters in the C’rona Comix.

“The T cells ended up being dark assassins that protect your body against the virus and they also blow up infected cells,” Diamond said. “The B cells that make antibodies (are) portrayed as woman rock climbers and they come down on ropes with their antibodies all ready to toss them at the virus. (Bob has) embedded these biological entities with personalities.”

Although Diamond and Hall are working with researchers and scientists from the Nebraska Center for Virology and University of Nebraska Medical Center to understand the concepts of the virus, they have both found themselves using the C’rona Comix and its characters to better understand the virus.

“That’s kind of what I would like kids to be able to come away with,” Hall said. “That they have at least a concept of what’s really happening and how it’s working and they can have at least a conversation.”

Elizabeth VanWormer, an assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the primary researcher behind the project. VanWormer’s role is mainly helping develop storylines and verifying that the science in the C’rona Comix is accurate and up-to-date.

“The science is shifting really fast on COVID because it’s so new and so every day and every week there are new things that come to light,” VanWormer said. “So we’re trying to keep that in mind and keep the science information as accurate as possible and still have it be fun and engaging and have characters that people would hopefully identify with.”

The other series in the comics include stories about bats and their involvement with diseases and stories focused on the Native American community. Hall is currently working on the final comic series with Winnebago artist Henry Payer.

Once the final series is completed, Diamond, Hall and VanWormer will soon be working alongside the University of Nebraska Press to print the comics into a physical comic book. It will be distributed in the spring to middle-school students in Lincoln Public Schools and students living on tribal reservations in Nebraska.

“The ultimate goal is to give kids the sense that they can begin to understand the pandemic and that they have the power to learn more about it,” Diamond said.

Originally published on journal star