Yesterday saw the release of Adora and the Distance, a digital-first graphic novel from writer Marc Bernardin and artist Ariela Kristantina, available through ComiXology and Amazon. The book is an allegorical fantasy that centers on a young woman who serves as something of a proxy for Bernardin's own daughter. Bernardin, who has a history with Marvel Comics but is also known from his work in journalism, podcasting, and television writing, told ComicBook that he had been developing the book for ten years, and comes from the axiom that you should write what you know -- in this case, raising a girl with autism (and, of course, comics and fantasy stories).
The book is currently the top-selling ComiXology original for the week, putting it ahead of recent installments of The Drops of God and Snow Angels. It also, one would assume, has some crossover appeal due to Bernardin being successful outside of the niche of comics.
"Adora and the Distance is about a young woman in what appears to be a kind of fantasy-esque storybook scenario," Bernardin explained to ComicBook. "She's a lady of state stature in this kind of port city. And she has these awful, awful dreams which seem to be portending a journey, a journey to go face something called the distance, which she doesn't know what it is. Nobody seems to know much about it. But it's just, it's a force that's coming that's threatening the safety and sanctity of everything that she holds dear. And so it's a quest story where a young woman, her lady in waiting, and six knights travel off into the wilderness to do battle with forces beyond their ken. And while it is that, and all of the daring do and adventure and shenanigans that that would imply, it is also a story about autism, specifically a child with autism and the fantasy world that she creates in her own mind, where she spends most of her time. So, it is the story that kind of goes on these dual tracks that hopefully by the time you get to the end of the story, you understand the totality of it."
Bernardin knows that most autism-centric narratives are built around male characters, since boys are signfiicantly more likely than girls to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. He said that obviously he's glad to be able to tell a story aimed at an underserved audience, even if he feels like it was nothing more than "the luck of the draw" that he ended up doing it.
"My daughter was also diagnosed with autism and the odds of autism afflicting a female person are far longer than they are for a male person. It's something like one in 50, some long shot like that," Bernardin said. "And so given that that was the world that I was living in and the life that I was currently navigating, it made all the sense in the world to me. Because it's a personal book, but while I was absolutely not writing about myself, because I had no interest whatsoever in doing the things that so many friends said to me, 'You're a journalist. Why are you not writing the memoir about raising an autistic kid and the journey that you're taking and the struggles that you're enduring?' I'm like, 'well, I'm boring.' Of the two of us in this scenario, I have the least interesting story. And I also know how it ends. I know what's going to happen. The thing that I don't know at all is what's happening inside her head. And so that's what I'm interested in trying to write about and analyze and invent stuff. And because I'm a nerd, it turned into the sort of the Lord of the Rings quest saga as opposed to anything else. But it was always going to be about, in ways, both obvious and less so, about my daughter."
You can get your copy of Adora and the Distance on ComiXology now. Adora and the Distance will be available in print March 1, 2022 from the Dark Horse Books and it's available for pre-order now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local comic shop.