Wild Ocean explores the plight of endangered sea creatures through comics

The graphic novel Wild Ocean dives into the plight of endangered animals by giving readers a glimpse of life in the deep sea. The collection of stories looks at twelve sea creaters that are dangerously close to extinction, from sea turtles to albatrosses.The book, edited by Matt Dembicki, was created in collaboration between Fulcrum Publishing in Golden and PangeaSeed, an organization that raises awareness about preservation of marine species through the arts.

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Dembicki is a cartoonist based in Washington, D.C. The son of Polish immigrants, Dembicki was introduced to comics at a young age as a way to engage him in reading. He fell in love with the art of comics, and avidly created his own until he began college and lost interest. "It wasn't until fifteen years later, when I met my wife -- on our first date she had a copy of Neil Gaiman's Sandman with her -- and I started looking through it and realized how much I missed comics and what a great format they are to tell stories."

Since then, Dembicki has worked on historical anthologies and nature comics, including Xoc, the Journey of a Great White. Xoc tells the story of a shark that makes a journey from California to Hawaii and encounters pollution, shark finning, natural dangers and more.

After getting a copy of Dembicki's shark comic, PangeaSeed approached him with the idea of a project that would be part of its annual campaign to raise awareness of the twelve most endangered sea species. Having worked with Fulcrum before, Dembicki suggested the company co-publish the graphic novel.

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The result is a collection of twelve stories by different writers and artists that explore the lives of these animals. Although the subject is inherently sad, Dembicki says he didn't want the book to be depressing. "All the stories, we made sure, have some good information in them about the animals themselves, their plight, why they are endangered. I also wanted to make sure that there's some of that fantastical element that you find in comics," Dembicki explains. "We have some fantastic stories and artwork to kind of lift your spirits. If anything, all the stories have this element of hope at the end."

The graphic novel is geared toward kids and teenagers, and is being used by some teachers to engage students in learning about ocean species and conservation. For Dembicki, the best feedback has come from ESL teachers who have used his comics to get students interested in reading. "It pulls them into that universe and it gets them reading and they're not just hooked on the information but on reading itself, and that is kind of at the crux of these books I do," he says.

Wild Ocean can be found at local bookstores such as Tattered Cover; through online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and through Fulcrum. Part of the proceeds of sales go to PangeaSeed. For more information on the book, visit Fulcrum's website. Get updates on Dembicki's projects by following his blog.

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