Like many, when Chas! Pangburn, author and senior editor at indie comic book publisher Mad Cave Studios, began witnessing the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, he felt compelled to take action. Relying on his extensive background in the comics world, as well as his professional network of artists and writers, Pangburn and his team at Mad Cave set out to create a comic book anthology that would address the tragedies of the Ukrainian invasion and celebrate “the power of resilience and community.” Lower Your Sights features work of close to 100 creators, and all of the proceeds are donated to the nonprofit organization Voices of Children, which supports the welfare of Ukrainian youth.
Tell me about the inspiration behind Lower Your Sights.
Anger, sadness, and frustration are very real and extremely valid emotions regarding the horrific events continuing to take place in Ukraine. For some, the constant bombardment of tragic details rattles deeply within your bones and urges you to do something—anything, really. Thankfully, I come from a publisher whose entire staff felt that call. Being sequential storytellers, we planned to help with our weapons of choice: pencils and keyboards.
We quickly set out to create a comic book anthology highlighting industry greats, indie darlings, rising stars, and, most importantly, numerous Ukrainian creators. These powerful and poignant tales from various collaborators round out a 156-page anthology where all proceeds will be donated to Voices of Children—a charity that supports the psychological and psychosocial development of Ukrainian children affected by war.
When did you decide this was a project you needed to see come to fruition?
Everything happened quickly. Internal discussions surrounding the how, what, and when evolved over the course of a week. There wasn't any discussion of "if" the project was going to happen—it was already a done deal—but more along the lines of "when."
Due to the current state of Ukraine, we wanted to have the book in shops as soon as possible. The quicker it sells, the faster we can donate!
However, comic creation can be a lengthy process. With that in mind, we created a deadline of May 31 for all completed stories. This gave our collaborators one month to finish their tales. It was a very tight deadline, but everyone knew its reasoning and rose to the challenge.
How did Mad Cave Studios end up teaming up with Voices of Children? What more can you share about the organization?
After locking in our goals for the anthology, our marketing director, Allison Pond, took a deep dive through numerous charity organizations that benefit Ukraine. Upon discovering Voices of Children and speaking with Lena Rozvadovska, CEO and cofounder, and Olena Ermolenko, communications expert, we quickly realized that we had found a perfect collaborator in their foundation.
Voices of Children provides psychological and psychosocial support for children affected by war. Their targeted humanitarian aid also ensures basic necessities, shelter, relocation assistance, educational options, and various forms of rehabilitation. In these dark times, they act as a ray of light to ensure the proper development and support of children.
To learn more about Voices of Children’s mission and impact, I invite everyone to watch this video from Voices of Children’s cofounder, Lena Rozvadovska.
How did you find and connect with the contributors to the anthology? What was the experience like communicating with the artists and writers?
We wanted to cast the widest net possible. Naturally, we pulled out our internal rolodex of collaborators, and we also had an open call for submissions on our website and actively reached out to creators throughout the comic industry.
All Ukrainian comic creators and pinup illustrators were found through the power of social media. I spent countless hours digging through various hashtags to find powerful art that aligns with the book's message. Comic creators were paired together with other talent in the industry, but I wanted to make sure pinup illustrators had an individual spotlight. Each illustration is part of a two-page spread with art on one side and an informal write-up from the creator on the other. Thoughts and feelings pour from every pen stroke.
With close to 100 collaborators on the book, many emails, phone calls, and direct messages were sent between creators. Even with the short turnaround, it was smooth sailing for all. Everyone donating their time and talents knew this was for a greater cause, so they continually brought their A-game.
I sincerely hope that readers will check out the full anthology, but here are a few sample pages.
Please share a few of the highlights from Lower Your Sights.
We did our best to let creators go wherever their heads and hearts took them. Naturally, this brought forth varied tales about resiliency, hope, heartbreak, and history. While we encourage you to check out the full anthology, you'll find a few pages attached below. Please keep in mind the attached are just one-page previews from each story, not a complete tale!
What can you share about contributing illustrator Tanya Vovk?
Seven-year-old Tanya Vovk is Voices of Children's author of illustrations and director of inspiration. Her creativity and positive nature are a guiding light for not only those working at Voices but also for the world as a whole. In addition to featuring her work, we have a short interview with her in Lower Your Sights where she mentions, “My ideas come because I see such a world: what the sea looks like, beautiful trees with swings and colorful flowers. I want to have fun drawing the world, so I paint everything brighter. I have such an interesting dream that buses and cars could fly. It would not be scary at all to see the world from such a height with birds. I am dreaming that the peace came and the children did not suffer.”
What do you hope readers ultimately take away from reading Lower Your Sights?
The power of resiliency and community. Whether you live on the frontline or view things from afar, you can make a difference. Together, we can overcome anything.