A Conversation with Josh Fort //
The world–and especially the internet–is full of people talking about justice issues. Why choose comics? What’s valuable about ZIP Comics’ approach?
Josh: I think one of the best things about comics is that they’re entertaining. As humans, we process life through story, and one of the best ways to learn something is by making the learning process enjoyable.
What sort of stories and voices does ZIP Comics elevate? Who are your characters, and how are they connected with the sorts of justice issues ZIP Comics focuses on?
Josh: ZIP Comics has two main titles at the moment, Ricochet! and Snapshots. While both are set in the same fictional city, they’re fairly different in scope. Ricochet! follows the story of Jordyn Washington, whose arc interacts with a host of social issues (race, class, gender, mental health, etc.) as her life unfolds. She’s 15 years old and still adjusting to her family’s move from the suburbs. Jordyn’s comic allows readers to track with a protagonist, her friends, and her family over time. Her title is a coming-of-age tale in which she comes to understand her city better while maturing as a hero.
Meanwhile, Snapshots takes a different approach. Rather than focus on a single character, the comic title offers readers a glimpse into the lives of any number of characters. In many ways, Snapshots is a platform that allows guest writers and artists to bring human stories to life.
How did ZIP Comics come about, and where are you hoping it will go in the future?
Josh: ZIP Comics started out as a childhood dream and didn’t begin to pick up steam until college. A campus-based “Shark Tank” event helped to kick the project into gear. Since then, about a dozen people have played a role in building the world and plotting out where we’re headed.
Long-term, we hope to bring on more guest writers, artists, developers, designers, and so on who are passionate about inspiring everyday heroism. As we build our team, we’ll be better equipped to change the world, one story at a time.
You also frequently comment on current justice issues on Facebook. What guidelines shape how you think and write about these issues?
Josh: I do make comments on occasion, but that’s become increasingly difficult for me as the weight of the work that’s left to be done wears on me. When I do write, I try to think about why I’m writing, who I’m writing for, and the context of the situation first. ZIP’s values are truth, justice, and people. I try to demonstrate proper regard for all three in the comments I make.
From your experience, what do you think is the biggest bar to talking effectively about social justice issues, particularly with people who may disagree with our viewpoint? What can we do about it?
Josh: I think the biggest barriers in conversation stem from a lack of common frames of reference. I said before that humans process the world through story; we tell stories using language. If two people are having a conversation using different languages–if even words like “justice” mean different things to them–you’re not going to get very far. If our goal is to persuade our audience, it will take a lot of patience, a lot of questions, and a lot of listening. Without those things, it’s incredibly difficult to tell a story from the other person’s side.
“When our grandchildren ask us where we were when the voiceless and the vulnerable in our era needed leaders of compassion and purpose, I hope we can say that we showed up, and that we showed up on time.”
– Gary Haugen
Josh Fort is the founder of Zeal Inspirational Productions/Projects (ZIP for short), a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring people to have a positive impact on society and making it easier for them to do so. When he’s not working on ZIP-related endeavors, he can be found working his day job as an associate consultant, listening to audio books, or enjoying quality time with family and friends. You can find the latest ZIP comics at http://www.zipcomics.us.