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'Ember Black' Graphic Novel Drawn From Artist's Unique Perspective

Marieke Davis
(Photo courtesy ASU)
Marieke Davis is a senior at ASU majoring in drawing

Marieke Davis draws with a unique perspective. Three brain surgeries shes had since age 10 have left her with a significant visual impairment. For Davis, drawing was a kind of physical therapy.

"Art was very therapeutic for me," Davis said. "It helped me move my eyes around, helped me get used to my impairment. But even before my surgeries I was pretty good at it and I wanted to continue it. It's just a matter of adapting."

Her condition, known as hemianopsia, means Davis has half of the field of vision in both eyes. When she reads, it’s hard for her to track across a page. But there is one form of writing that she can read really well: comics.

"The reason why I love comics so much is because it's in a bubble — it's in a finite area. I can read that without any audio assistance or anyone reading to me," Davis said. "I found that comics could be so much more than just people punching each other. They can be philosophical, they can have elements of mythology and they just really fascinate me."

Comics and graphic novels have become a perfect medium for her to express her art as well, but she says she definitely thinks it’s an area that could use a new perspective.

"I see comics differently," Davis said. "A majority of them tend to be quite sexist or just very male-centered. I wanted to create my own comic that could include more women characters and also deal with issues that women face."

Davis' graphic novel is called "Ember Black" and tells the story of Emily Black. The main character is a 22-year-old woman, but that's about where the similarities between author and subject end.

"She's a rather cynical 22-year-old. She's also very protective of her little sister Amy. When her sister is kidnapped by this cult-like group and Emily is left for dead, she becomes possessed by an evil spirit called a Wendigo which is from Algonquian lore," Davis said. "This is actually a cannibal spirit. But since the spirit can't live without Emily and Emily can't live without it they have to kind of learn to work together and also try and find her sister."

Davis also commissioned and directed a cast to produce an audio component to the novel so that people like her with a vision impairment can experience the story as well.

Davis said it’s been a lot of working putting all the pieces together, but for her, the project is really a statement.

"I would really like to hope that people don't just discount people with visual impairments — that because we don't have your vision that automatically limits us to what we can do in life," Davis said.

Davis is drawing and inking "Ember Black" by hand and she still has a few panels left. She hopes to have the graphic novel and audiobook published with ASU Printlab this fall.

Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.