New Comic Book By Boca Raton Educator Helps Students Boost Their Confidence
This story has been updated.
The importance of failure, resilience, and confidence. The importance of developing skills sets, team strategy, and delegating tasks. These are some of the lessons elementary students are receiving from a new comic book, where superheroes without powers work together to take on space villains trying to invade earth.
“They’re [superheroes] not from Mars or from some outer space or bitten by a spider,” RJ Rise said. The new author goes by the pen name RJ Rise. He says the “five protagonist characters of color” are “regular folks who come together and make this happen.”
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Rise — real name Roudy Derisse — is of Haitian descent and he had another goal in mind before publishing the Ultimate 5 Squad comic story book and activity book: racial and cultural representation within the context of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
He spent two years working on the book and in his day-to-day life he's an independent gym owner and educator — who runs a PE program for elementary students in Boca Raton.
Rise says the story and activity book drew inspiration from the films "Black Panther" and "Crazy Rich Asians," two international blockbusters that have found financial success and proved doubters wrong about the bankability of diverse characters on the big screen.
Ultimate 5 Squad is not on the level of those aforementioned films but it’s making a local impact in the community.
“So you have parents that are white, that are Asian, that are Latinx — that want their kids to be exposed to a melting pot,” Rise said. “That’s what America is. And so they’re very happy that this is here. The overall feedback has been so positive.”
Rise hopes that momentum carries into the comic book industry. He believes the multi-dimensional characters in the book, Q, Jayden, Bronx, Destiny, and Jada can keep the fire going.
In January, Apple reached out to Rise to feature Ultimate 5 Squad for its February edition of the Apple Pay campaign, which highlighted small businesses. He says the next step is to turn the book into an animated film.
Rise says he also drew inspiration from his students who often “lack confidence.”
“They don’t think they’re cool enough. They don’t think they’re smart enough. They don’t think they’re beautiful enough. Handsome enough,” Rise said. “They don’t see themselves represented.”
He said he saw a need for the comic book “way before the pandemic” and last year's racial justice protests.
“This book was something for a lot of families,” Rise said. “A lot of therapists, a lot of teachers, a lot of grandparents gravitated to show their children.”