The sales of comic books aimed at adults have rocketed in the past few years and now, millions across the globe enjoy reading the artistic magazines. Chad Allen was one such reader who from a young age growing up in Rhode Island, USA, enjoyed following the adventures of his comic book heroes, especially ones from Marvel. However, after being diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition in his mid-teens, his days of keeping up with the cartoon characters seemed over. Now though, Chad has developed Unseen, the first audio-comic. With the creation of Unseen, Chad hopes it will inspire more comic books to become more accessible.
Adapting to Change
Chad was 15 years old when he was diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition which affects the back of the eye and causes loss of vision. The progress of his condition went quickly and by the time he was 28, he was completely blind. Chad was determined not to let his condition affect his enjoyment of reading. Chad replaced text with audiobooks and taught himself to learn Braille. But none of these could replace the illustrated novels he loved to read. Soon after, he wondered if audiobooks existed, why not audio comics? Chad explained to the Guardian::
“The root of every comic is highly visual. But we don’t see those pictures with our eyes, we see them with our brain,” he says. “It’s the whole story that matters. It’s how we describe to our brains what that story is.” (The Guardian, 2019)
Not your Average Character
From there, Unseen was born. The audio comic follows the story of Afsana, a blind assassin fighting injustice while living in a dystopian society where she appears invisible to the rest of civilisation due to her skill. While she may not be able to see, Afsana uses her other senses to outwit and defeat her enemies and their biggest mistake is to underestimate her. Chad decided against giving Afsana any superhero qualities and decided instead to focus on her very real capabilities living as a visually impaired person. Chad made her seem invisible to the wider community to show not just how skilful an assassin she was, but also to make a point that people with disabilities can too often be treated as invisible.
Listening to the audio comic is a fully immersive aural experience. To help the listener keep track of the story without pictures, ‘Unseen’ uses audio-description and effective sound effects to set the scene and describe what would ordinarily be drawn in a panel. To let listeners know that the story is moving to a new panel, a whooshing sound is heard.
Though only the first issue has been released, the episode has intrigued many listeners who are desperate to know what happens next in the story. Luckily for fans wanting more, Chad has 12 episodes complete and ready to be launched. He ensures fans that there’s more to come and listeners will be able to follow Afsana’s story. He explained to The Guardian;
“I’ve got 12 issues laid out. Now we’re just planning out how to release them all.” (The Guardian, 2019)
You can listen and enjoy Unseen episode one here unseencomic.com.