San Diego SUNFLOWER SEEDS
By Gabriel Neeb
The pictures were horrible. Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and subsequent targeting of civilian infrastructure, an estimated five million Ukrainians fled their homes and countless civilian casualties were incurred. Scott Dunbier (editor, IDW) was moved by these images and the situation. In his frustration, he began having conversations with friends and colleagues in the comics. Thus was born, Comics for Ukraine: sunflower seeds.
On Friday July 22, Dunbier and many creators involved in the project gathered at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about it. The editor was joined by John Layman (To chew), Marc Evanier (groo), Richard Walker (CEO, US Operation), Billy Tucci (SHI), Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo)and Eric Moss (crowdfunding platform, Zoop).
When Dunbier described the idea of a book as a way to raise money for humanitarian aid, many creators agreed to provide material and stories for the book. Some of the first steps were determining where the money raised would go. One of the main criteria was that the money had to go to a charity that didn’t have the onerous overhead that some charities have. Evanier suggested Operation USA (www.opusa.org).
The next step was to come up with a title. master storyteller Kurt Busiek suggested one based on the viral video of an elderly Ukrainian woman telling a Russian occupier that he should keep sunflower seeds in his pocket for them to sprout when they bury him (watch here). Thus was added “Sunflower Seeds” to the title.
Comics for Ukraine was originally conceived as a 96-page draft. However, as word spread, more and more creators were eager to contribute stories. Among the panelists, Layman contributed To chew history, Evanier contributed to a Groo story drawn by Sergio Aragones (and colored by long Groo colorist Tom Lute who came out of retirement for this story), Tucci was contributing Rocket story, and Sakai would contribute a story. The creators also involved but not present at the panel were the following:
- Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson (ASTRO CITY story)
- Howard Chaykin (History of the AMERICAN FLAG)
- Walt Simonson (STAR SLAMMERS story)
- Louise Simonson and June Brigmar (new story “The Cost of War”)
- Emile Ferris
- Larry Hancock and Michael Cherkas
- Chris Sprouse
- Colleen Doran
- Greg Hildebrandt
- Jill Thompson (SCARY GODMOTHER story)
- Kevin Nowlan
- Liam Sharp
- Matt Wagner (GRENDEL story)
- Peter Kuper
- Pia Guerra
- Joe Jusko (title page and has Ukrainian ancestry)
And all this is preceded by a Alex Ross cover.
The 96-page draft quickly became a 128-page draft. Comics for Ukraine: sunflower seeds is available in many editions through Zoop, which is accepting new orders for the next 12 days (ending August 1, 2022). The campaign has so far raised $155,000 and Dunier presented a check to Richard Walden for $100,000 at the panel.
The questions from the audience soon began. At the moment there are no plans to publish the book in Ukraine. The priority is funds for food and live support. Attempts were made to bring Ukrainian artists into the project, but the nature of the ongoing conflict made this extremely difficult. The book is not yet available through normal retail and distribution channels. Dunier says this is the next phase of the project. Eric Moss confirmed that Zoop sold a few packs to retailers and a few creators bought packs to sell through their appearances.
As the conflict continues, the level of destruction is approaching a level not seen since World War II. Even if the war ended tomorrow, relief would still be needed. A follow-up project is under consideration. Tucci said it was an honor to work on this book.
Comics for Ukraine: sunflower seeds is currently available at Zoop.gg/c/comicsforukraine. Operation USA has been providing humanitarian aid worldwide since 1979. Donations to Operation USA can be made here.