The disabled heroes catching Stan Lee's eyes

20 June 2016

Dan White is the creator of The Department of Ability, a comic book series featuring characters with disabilities. He recently talked about the creation of the comic to Frances Ryan in The Guardian.  

Two panels from The Department of Ability comic, featuring Pawsy the cheetah.

Dan wanted to provide some positive disabled role models for Emily, who has spina bifida. One of the main characters is based on his daughter and has a flying wheelchair. 

‘There was nothing. Some educational stuff but nothing fun. No one there just as them, rather than "the character in the wheelchair". So I did something about it.’ — Dan White

Meet the characters

Characters from The Department of Ability.So, with little to go on, Dan set about creating his characters for The Department of Ability — wanting both to create something comic book fans love, while commenting on the exclusion of disabled people.

There's Pawsy, a cheetah from London Zoo with a hi-tech running blade, and Claypole, a scientist with white canes and psychic abilities — and many others.

Dan has sought to use disabled talent wherever possible. Bradley Davies, an artist with a neurological disability, designed the villain's spaceship.

Emily came up with the character Azzi, who has a prosthetic arm and named after her teddy bear.

‘Disability blindsides people in the media — it’s not necessarily ignorance, just fear. But there’s breathtaking talent in the disabled community. It should be mainstream.’

The launchpad to success

‘It’s changing the game — not just for the comic book but for disability generally.’

A special event at Hamley's in London will officially launch the characters and the comic for the first time.

300 fans will attend the launch party, including Paralympian Hannah Cockroft. Other famous fans of the comic will also be there, including Zoë Ball and Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson. All three actually appear in the comic too!

Even more exciting for Dan is comic legend Stan Lee has shown interest in giving his support to the project!

Stan Lee created many of the genre's most famous names including Spiderman, Thor, Hulk and Daredevil — one of the first disabled mainstream comic book characters. 

‘It’s incredible. With the most creative, brilliant, globally known creator of comics and superheroes interested in this project, it will mean that finally disability has its most well-known creative champion.’ — Dan

The impact the comic can make

Emily with her dad, Dan.Emily is starting to notice the impact of Dan's work when she goes to school!

‘She was always the first to take the pages [of the comic] into school or copy them down.

‘Now kids she doesn’t know come up to her and ask, indicating to her wheelchair, "is this the flying wheelchair?"’

‘Everyone loves a superhero. It’s a huge part of culture — everyone has an Avengers bag or has seen that sort of movie. I thought, if I could do this, everyone would see it.’

The Department of Ability is really about challenging people's perceptions of disability. These characters are disabled. But they are the people who are going to save the world.

‘It’s something that’s showcasing disability as power and strength. Every kid, no matter what, has that ability.’

Read more about The Department for Ability on Dan White's website. All images belong to Dan White.


Congratulations Dan, I lived in Australia in the 1980's and one of my neighbours was a young lad with Spina Bifida. The young lad was Richard Coleman who went on to win Gold Medals at 3 Olympics including London and is training for Rio. Positive role models are really important, they may be few, but if you know what it is you want to succeed in then they are there. Just harder to find. Congratulations on making it easier.

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