You know me. Even when I'm on hiatus, I can't help posting webcomics news.
A couple days ago, I received a press release in my inbox regarding the webcomic Snowflakes, an all-ages strip created by the cartooning trifecta of James Ashby, Chris Jones and Zach Weiner. The Snowflakes creators are collaborating with the American Heart Association to promote the Be the Beat cardiac arrest awareness campaign to teens and tweens.
When I first received the press release, my first thought was that the project had potential, but I was concerned that it might simply be a shabby token effort. Having checked out the strips that Ashby, Jones and Weiner have created, I can say that they're still producing top-quality cartoons for this project. Weiner stated in the press release, “The opportunity to use our humor and storytelling to promote a great cause was impossible to pass up,” and you can tell the team believes in the undertaking.
It's a challenge to make art that both educates and entertains, but I found myself laughing and learning as I read through the Be The Beat strips. What really carries the day is the characterization: obsessive student Wray's over-the-top, juvenile imagination, as her workbook partner Sloan plays the uptight and reasonable straight man. I'm not in the campaign's target market of 8-to-15 year-olds, but if anything, it shows that just about anyone can get something out of this stuff.
You can read the series at the Be The Beat website, with new comics Monday and Friday through February, or check it out at the Snowflakes website (which also updates on Wednesdays with its normal storyline). My only real complaint is navigability--it takes two to three clicks to see each strip at the BTB site, and on Snowflakes' site, the two simultaneous unrelated storylines keep interrupting each other in the archives. Still, I found it worth the navigational hassles to check out. It's some quality educational cartooning.
On a side note, I also discovered that one of my favorite nerdcore rappers, MC Lars, is also involved in the Be The Beat campaign, with a relentlessly, awesomely, unapologetically cheesy track promoting healthy heart habits and emergency responsiveness. You can scope his dope beats (ha!) at bethebeat.org.