In the first “issue” of this collaborative project between myself and writer/historian Julian Chambliss, we meet our hero Future Bear as she prepares to leave the future for the past. Her mission, to save our planet from the ravages of climate change, is only vaguely hinted at by scientists Skallgards and Bush; in fact, as the story develops, it seems clear that she will need to find her own strategy to complete the mission. When she arrives at her destination in the past, however, she is without her gear, lost and in trouble. Will she survive this initial encounter with humans from our time? And if she does survive, how will she convince us to save ourselves from a future without hope?
I created the Future Bear piece during a 2008 workshop at Anderson Ranch, just months away from my first visit to Antarctica and polar exploration was on my mind. I was reading the epic adventures of explorers like Shackleton, Amundsen and Scott, enthralled with the grand narratives and heroic figures of their life or death experiences. I liked the idea of a similar type of hero, one that seemed to be lifted from the pages of an adventure/ sci-fi comic, but whose narrative had to be shaped by the viewer.
After a few more works featuring Future Bear and a 2010 TEDx talk in which I described the polar bear as a visual symbol for our struggles to act on global climate change, I became interested in expanding the Future Bear pieces into a narrative. My colleague, Julian Chambliss, an urban historian and comic authority who also presented at TEDx, saw an opportunity to write his first comic script. Since then, have enjoyed the benefits and challenges of working collaboratively with our students and members of our community.