British artist Dan White already knew his nine-year-old daughter Emily was special, and now he’s found the perfect way to show the rest of the world just how tough she really is.
Despite being born with spina bifida – a condition with effects the developmental of her spine – Emily has ever let it hold her back. So using his impressive drawing skills, her dad decided to create a crime-fighting superhero in her honour – wheelchair included.
In the comic book series, Emily leads the crime-fighting team The Department of Ability using her strength and flying wheelchair. The rest of the gang also use their ‘disabilities’ as an advantage, which means the story is accessible to everyone.
White, who is an illustrator by trade, hopes his project will help to remove the stigma of disability in society: “I wanted my comic books to break down the barriers so that instead of people staring at Emily they will come up and talk to her. I feel sorry for the children who stare at people like Emily rather than approach them because they’re really missing out on making some amazing friends.”
The idea for Emily’s character’s particular superpower comes from her incredibly strong arms: “The damage on Emily’s spine means it restricts movement in her lower legs and as a result she can only stand for short periods of time. On the flip side she’s remarkably strong because of having to use her arms so much – that’s why I wanted her superhero to have super-human strength.”
As well as being super strong and able to fly, Emily’s character’s wheelchair also features laser guns and can travel at lightening speed.
White and his wife Aimee were first alerted to their daughter’s condition only two days before her birth in 2006. Despite having no previous complications they were informed she had water on the brain, and further scans confirmed Emily also had spina bifida. Even though she is partially paralysed below the waist, White was, and still is, determined to make sure Emily enjoys life.
He was first inspired to design a disabled superhero when Emily was two-years-old, after noticing the lack of disabled rolemodels on childrens’ TV. The comic book – which has taken six years to commission – will be released next year and carries the slogan: “Born to be different, born to save the world.”
White hopes that one day he can turn his creation into a TV cartoon, so more young people with disabilities can find more on-screen characters to relate to. Celebrities including Harry Potter actor Warwick Davis – who was born with a rare form of dwarfism – and Paralympic swimmer Giles Long are backing the comic book series, as well as childrens’ charity Strong Bones.
In the mean time, Emily is really pleased with her dad’s work: “When I was younger I’d never see children in wheelchairs on television and no one who represented me. I started to think people in wheelchairs weren’t allowed to be on there.
‘It made me feel really upset but then my amazing dad turned me into a superhero to change all of that – I even roll over some of the baddies in my wheelchair which is brilliant.
“I’m really proud of my dad. He’s very good at drawing and has made me really happy – I think he should have his own character as he’s definitely my superhero.”
Awh! We can’t wait to see the first issue!