Throughout human history, people have used comic book-like art forms to document the horror and valor of war, and now American defense scientists think continuing that tradition by producing online comic books could help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.
On Tuesday, April 26, DARPA, the Defense Department's research wing, put out a call for "user-friendly authoring tools to help service members express combat-related experiences through personal narratives in a graphic novel/sequential art format." They believe that by producing their own personal comic books, servicemen and women can confront their wartime stresses in a productive and healthy way.
"Art therapy and narrative are both useful techniques for helping individuals traumatized by life experiences process memories and channel emotions through a healthy outlet," reads the online Defense Department solicitation. "The goal is to create web-based software with a simple interface that assists in both storytelling and graphical content creation that can relate experiences either directly or metaphorically. While providing simple-to-use authoring tools, the results should have the look and feel of a professional product and provide the flexibility of telling a wide range of stories. For example, content creation could relate to modern combat, historical combat, science fiction, or fantasy."
Called the "Online Graphic Novel/Sequential Art Authoring Tools for Therapeutic Storytelling," the finished product, as outlined in the document, would allow veterans to go online, mix premade images and icons with user-generated art, and produce a finished comic book the confronts their personal relationship to war either realistically or in a sci-fi/fantasy form.
The DARPA product request goes into unusually nerdy detail for a government document, mentioning Joe Haldeman's novel "The Forever War," the comic strip "Doonesbury," and the comic books "Frontline Combat" and "Blazing Combat" as inspirations for the program.