The U.N. Wants To Change The World By 2030. Can Comics Help?

'Comics are a universal language,' Reading with Pictures Founder Josh Elder tells MTV News.

This September, the United Nations General Assembly is getting together to ratify seventeen of The Global Goals for Sustainable Development. These goals include everything from educational opportunities for every kid, to eradicating poverty, to providing clean water for all.

And Comics Uniting Nations might well be their superhero to help get this done by 2030.

Comics Uniting Nations is part of Reading with Pictures, a Chicago nonprofit that uses comics as an educational tool. For this massive endeavor, they’re teaming up with PCI Media Impact and The World’s Largest Lesson, which is partnered with UNICEF, to create and distribute the comics. You might not be familiar with these names, but The World's Largest Lesson already has a lot of support from around the globe. Check this out: at the recent World Education Forum, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Latvia and Indonesia, among other countries, gave pledges to The World's Largest Lesson.

“The U.N. wants the people of the world to get invested in the Goals,” Josh Elder, Founder of Reading with Pictures, told MTV News. “We want that too, so we've assembled an international team of comic creators to craft a series of comics, one for each of the seventeen Global Goals. The comics will explain the challenges we all face and how every individual has a role to play in meeting those challenges.”

The project is on Kickstarter with a week to go, and a number of important comics creators' names are already attached, including Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Katie Cook, Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey, Ron Marz, Yen Yen Woo and Janet Lee. Likewise, Comics Uniting Nations is in talks with comics companies to publish single-page PSAs to talk about the Global Goals.

All of this started coming together after Natabara Rollosson, who does special events for the United Nations, met Elder at New York Comic-Con. Before any of this, the U.S. State Department had sent Elder as a "Comics Ambassador" to three different continents to speak about comics and education.

Josh Elder/Jerzy Drozd


“Comics are a universal language,” Elder said. “If there are language barriers, a lack of literacy or cultural differences, comics are more effective at communicating complex ideas than virtually any other medium.”

As an example, he pointed out the signage you find in airports. "No matter where you are in the world, practically every airport will use the same signage to communicate important information," Elder explained. "And it's all cartooned images in a sequence. In other words: comics."

And if all goes well with the Kickstarter, these comics will potentially be reaching millions of people.

Jerzy Drozd


“We're giving the comics away for free under a Creative Commons license," Elder said. "So anybody, anywhere in the world can host and distribute the comics as long as they don’t use them for commercial purposes or alter them in any way. Teachers could print out copies at their schools and give them to every student. And we hope they do, because we want to put these comics in front of as many people in as many languages and locales as possible.”

While many people read comics for entertainment, he also hopes it gets readers more involved in international activism. “The U.N. is welcoming all efforts to get the word out about the Global Goals,” he said. “We believe that comics are uniquely suited to that task, and we're proud to be sharing the message of the Global Goals with the world.”

Latest News