NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Manchester involves young people around the world in an ambitious webcomic about a pandemic

The third chapter of a nine-part webcomic, Planet DIVOC-91, featuring articles and art by young adults about COVID-19, was recently published.

The webcomic is a sci-fi satire set in the far reaches of outer space, and follows the adventures of UK siblings, Sanda and Champo Oung, as they navigate life on a new planet. The young protagonists quickly discover that they, along with 15 per cent of the World’s population, have been sent to Planet DIVOC-91 due to an extinction-level threat back on Earth.

Each chapter of the comic – which can be found on the digital platform WEBTOON – features the work of a different creative team and cover artist, and is interspersed with short articles and images produced by young adults about issues related to coronavirus.

It is produced by Dr Bella Starling, Director of Vocal – a non-profit group hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), in partnership with The University of Manchester (UoM) – and Sara Kenney, Creative Director at Wowbagger Productions. The innovative project was kick-started with seed-funding from NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

DIVOC-91 Chapter 3

Dr Starling said:

Planet DIVOC-91 is a youth-led story of a pandemic, that is accessible, entertaining, informative and reflective of our global diversity.

Planet DIVOC-91has recently received a significant boost with a grant from Wellcome, a charitable foundation which supports researchers, campaigns for better science and helps people to get involved with science and health research. This funding enables young adults in India and South Africa to join the project. The UK team is now collaborating with Sarah Iqbal, of DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance and Nabeel Petersen, of Interfer, South Africa and Anita Shervington, of Blast Fest in Birmingham.

Dr Anita Krishnamurthi, Head of Education and Learning at Wellcome, said: “Young people’s lives are being dramatically affected by COVID-19 and the lockdowns.  We are delighted to be supporting an effort that provides them with a platform to make their voices heard.

“Important choices and decisions need to be made about priorities and policy responses to pandemics, and a diverse group of young people from around the world need a seat at that table.”

Dr Iain McLean, Managing Director for Research and Innovation at MFT, said:

“Patients are at the heart of everything we do in the NHS and this is central to our approach to Research and Innovation at MFT, where we work hard to involve participants in every stage of the research process.

In these uniquely challenging times, it’s more important than ever that we keep communicating with the people whose lives we hope research can ultimately improve the lives of everyone. As such, we are delighted to be working with world-leading creative artists and young adults, to bring the scientific and social aspects of pandemic situations and research to a global audience.”

Other important funders of this project include; The Academy of Medical Sciences Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), UoM through the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund award.

Find the comic here. For news about the comic follow @PlanetDivoc91 on Twitter and Instagram.