This feature is part of Blavity’s Quarantine Creators series which spotlights Black creatives offering artistic, educational and uplifting resources amid the coronavirus pandemic. Our unique penchant for creativity has been put on full display as we aim to navigate this crisis. Whether you’re on the frontlines or protecting yourself and others by staying at home, don’t sleep on this Black genius we’re about to serve you.

Forty-three states have decided to extend statewide school closures through the remainder of the school year, The Journal reported. Many students have found their education structure uprooted while parents improvise ways to keep their children engaged and learning. At the very least, parents would like their children to be caught up in a good book. 

But Black parents may have a hard time finding literature with characters who reflect their families. In fact, according to The School Library Journal, only one in 10 children’s books feature Black characters at all. Tragically, animals and inanimate objects get more action in children's books than all minorities combined.

Weird Enough Productions is a company that is using comic books to change that. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in which remote learning has become the only option, the company has made over 400 pages of comics, lesson plans and activities, all of which are free on their website.

Tony Weaver Jr., CEO and founder of Weird Enough Productions, told Blavity that his work is filling much-needed gaps in the young literature market and explained how the company's flagship comic series is doing just that. 

The UnCommons follows a motley crew of unlikely outsiders that have to save each other in order to save the world. The series begins with an introduction to the main character, a West African girl named Iris, who has a vision that predicts the end of the world. Despite apocalyptic themes, the comic isn’t all doom and gloom. Rather, the stories encourage readers to face their fears and grow with the characters. 

Diversity in art is only as good as the storyline. Weaver wanted to create characters everyone could relate to by having the team struggle with issues that everyone goes through. Some of the struggles are incredibly on-brand for modern-day youth. Iris has to learn to balance her cheerfulness with the harshness of the world. One character, who goes by Influencer, uses social media to cover up his insecurities. 

“The world of The UnCommons is where lots of different characters grow, and I hope our readers can see themselves in that world too,” Weaver told Blavity. 

That’s why Weaver believes the lesson plans and activities would be especially impactful from such a cool medium. To support parents and teachers impacted by COVID-19, Weird Enough Productions created 400 comics and lesson plans as a completely free resource. In just the last month, they estimate that they’ve impacted over 30,000 households. 

“Right now I think people need hope. So many students have been separated from their friends and support systems just to be stuck in the house and watch a global crisis unfold,” said Weaver. “I think now more than ever people need stories that encourage them and bring joy, and I’m glad The UnCommons can do that while also helping students improve their literacy and social, emotional learning skills."

Since most schools have switched to distance learning, it’s difficult to get students to even log into school portals in the first place. And for millions of students living in poverty, schools provide their only access to learning materials. Weaver believes that with comics' known ability to engage students, Weird Enough Productions offers an opportunity for parents to read along with their kids. 

“We’re doing our part to empower students with representation, and I’m grateful I get to support so many communities I care about,” said Weaver. 

The UnCommons is an ongoing storyline, and the company is always releasing new content. Their work on the comics app Webtoon is updated three times a week, and new lesson plans are just about to hit the site. 

“As we do crucial work of helping students, this is only the beginning of our journey to create diverse characters and fill the world with stories that let everyone know they’re never too weird, they’re just weird enough,” Weaver said.