Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Comics Empower brings comic books alive for the blind

by A Martínez and Francine Rios | Take Two®

Illustrations for the comic 'Wynter,' featured on Comics Empower.

If you're a fan of comic books, you can easily take in the sight of the bright red suit that The Flash wears; the sleek, dark look of the Bat mobile; or how webs jet out from the palms of Spider Man.

But for those who are blind, reading and enjoying comic books can't happen the same way. One comic book lover is now helping to change that. His name is Guy Hasson, and he's the creator of Comics Empower.

It's a comic book store that lives on the web. If you're a person with vision, you'll see this when you visit the site.

This is what the Comics Empower website looks like for people who are 'sighted.'
This is what the Comics Empower website looks like for people who are 'sighted.' Courtesy Guy Hasson

But for people who are blind, the site is active and waiting to be explored with assistive technology. This was partly intentional on Hasson's part. He says it's a way for sighted people to know what it's like to visit a comic book store — and not actually see what's inside. 

The Comics Empower team includes people from all over the world, including a sound artist in Norway (who is blind), and writers in India and California. Comics Empower offers indie comic books right now, but Hasson hopes to eventually expand the selection to Marvel and DC.  

Hasson joined Take Two host A Martinez to tell more about how he came up with the idea. 

Interview Highlights

Guy Hasson is not blind himself, but he has always loved comic books:

"I grew up in Israel before I moved to the States, and there weren't any comic books. I had heard of comic books, I had heard of Spider Man, and Super Man and so on, but there were only two, really bad comic books in black and white: One was Tarzan, and the other was a Tarzan rip-off. I got to the States at age 11, and I bought two things on the first day. One was TV Guide, because you had more channels than we did, and the other one was a Spider Man comic book."

Where the idea for Comics Empower came from:

"I created an independent comic book company called New Worlds Comics, and about a year and a half into it, I suddenly had a thought, why are there no comic books for the blind? And there was no reason to think that. I didn't have any blind friends, I didn't have any visually impaired friends. But dominoes started falling in my head, and I figured out, OK, it should be done like this, and then the website can go up like this, and the first stage should be this, and then so on and so on. In half an hour, I had a plan, and a month and a half later, we were on the air with comicsempower.com with three comic books as a test, because you don't want to do 50 comic books and do them wrong. You have to test them, and you have to test the website. Do the comic books even work when there's no visuals? Because most people would automatically tell you, they don't."

How he translated comics from a visual medium, to strictly audio:

"I think it's about the story. The main thing is that you have to remember that every panel in a comic book, that's one picture, every panel may fill many things, but the eye is always drawn to one thing, and that's the story in the panel. So the main thing is to tell the story in that panel, and everything else — if it's important we should mention it, and if not, we shouldn't." 

What's next for Comics Empower?

"I'm really hoping that every comic book that ever existed will eventually be on the website. Right now we're actually growing, so I do think I can approach Marvel or DC safely in a month or two and then start that process."

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