Editor’s Note: Joshua Dysart is a comic book writer who, after learning about the Lord’s Resistance Army, was inspired to base a series of comic books in northern Uganda to help spread awareness about the group and the communities it is has affected.
For many comic book artists and aficionados, comics are a form of escapism, but comic book writer Joshua Dysart is interested in how comics might interact with the real world. This interest in bringing together his creativity and his keen sense of social justice are what eventually led to the creation of a comic book teaching readers about the predations of the LRA.
After first learning about the LRA, Dysart spent years reading whatever he could get his hands on, trying to understand how exactly it was possible that such a small group could be responsible for so much bloodshed and violence. Learning and understanding the crisis was an important part of his life, and an opportunity from DC Comics (best known as the home of Superman and Batman) opened the door for a revolutionary new project. When DC Comics approached him with the concept of recreating the character from the World War II comic called the Unknown Soldier, Dysart immediately saw the opportunity to use his art to raise awareness about the LRA by setting his book in northern Uganda. Dysart created a series of comic books about Dr. Lwanga, a fictional doctor who as the Unknown Soldier returns home to Uganda and does all he can to ameliorate the suffering of those victims of LRA atrocities.
When talking to Dysart about his work and its juxtaposition with efforts to end the conflict, the first thing he does is offer a caveat. “It’s violent,” he says, “very violent.” But that is Dysart’s medium, and he conceded that it very consciously uses some “pulp, mainstream action beats” to accidentally educate. In fact, Dysart stays awake some nights in fear that he is exploiting those who have endured atrocities committed by the LRA. In order to learn for himself, he spent more than a month in Uganda talking with anyone and everyone willing to speak with him. He spent nights in IDP camps and visited AIDS hospices and found himself inside the lives of people who persevere despite unimaginable hardship.
While Dysart continues to worry and work tirelessly to ensure that he is doing his best not to exploit the situation, he has begun to see the fruits of his labor. “When a sixteen-year-old wealthy white kid comes up to me and knows who the president of Uganda is,” he says, “I feel good.”
This profile and many others were compiled for The Enough Moment, a book by John Prendergast and Don Cheadle about engaged citizens – known and unknown, in the U.S. and abroad – who are mobilizing to help end genocide, rape, and the use of child soldiers in Africa. Visit the Enough Moment Wall to hear people describe their “Enough moment” and to upload a video, photo, or written testimonial of your own.
Photo: Joshua Dysart (Soyoung Jung)