ISLAMORADA, Fla – The future of the Sunshine State is in the hands of the children. A new project is using comic book superheroes to get kids interested, informed and involved in addressing Florida's numerous environmental challenges, like habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species. In the premier issue, slated for publication in February, the team faces Everglades pythons and an exploding oil derrick.
"Florida Five" is the creation of Islamorada writer and artist Erich Decker-Hoppen. He designed a superhero for each of five eco-systems: Gator for the swamps, Panther for the fields and forests, Osprey for the coastline, Dolphin for the seas and reefs, and Manatee for the inland waterways. The stories will feature their adventures fighting to protect the environment, and they will also be about Florida's youth taking action.
"The superheroes are for inspiration," Decker-Hoppen says. "The real heroes will be the kids who get the message and make the environment a personal priority before they reach adulthood. We need these kids to become the scientists and politicians who can solve today's dilemmas."
To give kids an outlet for their inspiration, the project has an interactive website, floridafive.org. Visitors can read ECO-Alerts and ECO-Tips to get ideas for their own projects. They can share their stories and learn what other kids are doing to make a difference. They can also submit coloring pages and their own Florida Five artwork and story ideas.
"My plan is to get this rolling," Decker-Hoppen, "and then let the kids take over!"
Funds from the Kickstarter campaign, Florida Five: Superheroes for the Environment, will be used to print, market and distribute the first 28-page issue.
"We're also looking for green businesses to advertise. We want to showcase their efforts. The more money we raise, the further will be our reach with the mission. Our target audience of Florida 10-14 year olds has a population of 1.2 million. We can spread our message with PSAs, web ads, billboards. We definitely would like to grab the attention of our state's educators."
Florida Five #1 will debut Feb. 27 at the Green Planet Festival in Ft. Lauderdale. After that it will be available online and at participating retailers. Decker-Hoppen plans initially to publish the comic book quarterly.