< 2021 Capstone Gallery

Very Verbal

A looping GIF. First image is a picture of the cover for the comic book that depicts the two main characters (Micah and Carmen), two side characters (Lucy and Daniel), in front of a college campus backdrop. The second image is the title page for the comic book, "Very Verbal" is black lettering against a white page. The third image is an example of the comic book panels from pages two and three, the content is not readable. The fourth and final image simply reads "The End" in the same black lettering as the title against a white page.

The inspiration for this project was mainly due to the fact that I have a close friend (requested to remain anonymous) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Along with this, I’ve become more aware of how autism is portrayed in the media through film and television.

My main focus throughout the research for this project was a case study that I conducted on my close friend with autism. However, because I’m choosing to portray a character in a comic book, I also focused on autism media representation. The research I conducted for this part of the project specifically focused on watching different documentaries on autism, as well as comparing different movies that feature autistic characters.

Although the portrayal of these characters tends to be in a more positive light compared to older film and television, there’s still a running theme that feels disingenuous; the characters with ASD usually have some sort of “ability” that almost makes it seem like people with autism are geniuses or people with some kind of superpower.

I wanted to create a story where the main character is a normal person who faces a problem that neurotypical people wouldn’t have to deal with. In this case, that’s a professor who isn’t willing to accommodate the character’s needs when it comes to classroom instruction. Although this short story only goes over one issue that comes up in the main character’s life, it makes you think about what other kinds of obstacles this person has to face simply because they’re ‘different’.

I hope you enjoy reading this comic!

First page. First panel reads: Pacific State College, first day of classes. We’re introduced to Carmen Rodriguez and Micah Greenberg, both college freshmen. Carmen says to Micah, “I’m glad we at least have a class together this semester!” To which Micah responds, “Yeah, it’ll be nice to know someone else in the class.”
“You say that like we haven’t know each other for years.” Carmen remarks with a pout.
Second page. We see a door slightly ajar, with Micah looking at it thinking, “Is this the right room?” We see inside the room to find a pottery wheel. Going further into the room, Carmen waves at Micah from a seat at a wheel. Micah sits down next to Carmen until he notices the professor walk in. Micah then gets up from his seat.
Third page. Micah walks up to the professor and says, “Excuse me, um, I don’t know if disability services have already contacted you, but just in case, I wanted to let you know that I have autism, but I wasn’t sure if you would know, so I just came up to tell you—“. Micah is cut off by the professor, “Okay have you turned in all the paperwork yet?” Micah replies, “Yes, but I needed to tell you because it’s hard for me to understand instructions that aren’t specific and literal, so if you could—“. Again, the professor talks over Micah and interrupts him to say, “Don’t worry about it, I’ve had plenty of kids in my class and no one’s had any issues yet.
Fourth page. Micah desperately tries to get a word in, saying “Okay, but I do need accommodations when it comes to—“. Yet again, the professor ignores Micah and only responds by saying, “If you have any more questions, feel free to talk after class.” The professor walks away as he says this, leaving Micah standing alone and feeling defeated. Carmen is sitting at her seat at the wheel, looking at Micah with a questioning look.
Fifth page. It's the next day, and Micah and Carmen are both in her dorm room. Micah just told Carmen everything the professor said, to which Carmen responds, "I can't believe he would just brush you off like that!" Micah looks dejected and says, "Yeah, me neither." Carmen asks if he went up to talk to the professor after class, but Micah says, "I tried, but the line of students was so long that by the time it got to me, we were being ushered out for the next class. Micah's face falls as he recounts the memory.
Sixth page. We're back in the ceramics classroom, and the teacher is demonstrating throwing on the wheel. His instructions are vague, however, as he only says, "And then if you just... do this, then make sure everything is centered..." Micah raises his hand to ask, "Why do we have to do that? Can't we just look to see if it's centered?"
Seventh page. The professor's face looks incredulous as he says, "Is that supposed to be a joke? Or are you trying to disrupt my class?" Micah looks confused as he stutters out, "I-I'm just asking because I don't know why we have to do it that way." The professor's face is stern as he says, "Listen, if you're just here to goof off and not pay attention to my instructions, then you can leave my classroom."
Eighth page. Close up on Micah's face as he grows more disappointed. The professor turns back to the class to continue the lesson, whilst Micah leaves the classroom. Carmen looks back at Micah with concern on her face.
Ninth page. Micah is sitting alone in his dorm room in the dark. Carmen left voicemails on Micah's phone saying, "Micah, I haven't seen you in class. Are you okay? Call me when you get this.", "Micah, I haven't heard from you in days. Can you please just tell me if you're alive?" She also left him a text telling him to call her. Four missed calls can be seen on his phone. Micah gets up from his bed and walks out the door.
Tenth page. Carmen opens the door to the ceramics room but stops in her tracks. Her face looks shocked before she says, "Micah, what are you doing here?" Micah sits at the pottery wheel as he looks back at Carmen, "I dropped the class, but I still wanted to make ceramics, so... I made a club." A small smile forms on Carmen's face.
Eleventh page. "I wish you'd told me." Carmen says with a disappointed look on her face. She looks back up at Micah, "What happened? You totally dropped off the face of the earth." Micah can't look her in the eyes when he replies, "I tried so hard to understand the professor, but he never even tried to help me." Carmen asks if he went to disability services to which Micah responds, "Of course I went there!" His face falls.
Twelfth page. "They just told me if the problem persists, to address it in the teacher evaluation at the end of the semester. But I can't wait that long!" Micah exclaims in frustration. Carmen looks upset as she says, "I'm so sorry, I had no idea." The door to the classroom opens to reveal two other students. One of them looks up and says, "Hey, Carmen! Are you joining the ceramics club?" Carmen looks surprised that they asked.
Thirteenth page. Carmen is unsure of what to say when Micah asks, "Well, are you joining or not?" A small smile forms on Carmen's face before it turns into a beam and she says, "Yeah, I am."

Riley DeFeo

Graphic designer and LA native. When I’m not working I like to crochet, build scale models, listen to music, and collect vintage finds.

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