World's Biggest Comic complete

The Whyalla Suicide Prevention Network have finally completed their magnum opus, with the final part of the World's Biggest Comic being installed.

Residents can jump in their car and take a trip around Whyalla to view all 15 parts, which touch on the theme of the power of empathy and human spirit to endure and overcome great hardship.

The Whyalla News recently spoke to creators Richard Parker about the project and their thoughts on the accomplishment of finishing it.

Q: How exciting is it to have all of the comic parts completed?

Richard Parker: I am extraordinarily proud of all our participating artists.

They have produced some truly magnificent, objectively beautiful work and I am so happy to see their efforts rewarded with the artistic exposure and public admiration they deserve. It's a thrill to see the vision of the project fully realised, and I hope it inspires some deep and sincere conversations in our community.

It is especially important to reflect on our mental health during such difficult times, and we must now unite as a community to overcome some of the greatest challenges of our age.

As a social species, we invariably do better when we work together, and in any crisis lies profound opportunity. We must choose generosity over fear - this project is our gift to the people of Whyalla.

Q: Are you happy with how it turned out?

RP: I am so grateful this project has come to fruition. Happiness can be a notoriously fleeting experience, but gratitude is a practice that I have some measure of control over.

Most people who create something new will struggle mightily with a range of complex emotions along the way. Oftentimes, it is far, far easier to look upon one's efforts and see the mishaps and the mistakes.

That's just the truth. As artists, empaths and creative people we have been gifted with high definition imaginations. We can see the possibilities of the world in four dimensions.

The downside of this personally, is that it isn't difficult for me to envision how I could have done things better and subsequently become ensnared in the trap of wishing that it was so.

If we live in that impossible perfection, it can naturally lead to sadness, distress and mental illness.

As consumers of things, it is easy to become disconnected with the personal and collective costs of their creation - and evidence seems to suggest a higher prevalence of depressive illnesses among creative people.

To this end, I have very slowly come to the realisation that the most amazing thing about art is that it exists at all. Dragging something into existence, despite the social, cultural and biological gravity that surrounds us and insists that we stay silent and anonymous - is the definition of a miracle.

Q: What are some of the art styles incorporated in the comic?

RP: Community development not only seeks to build capacity and empower others, it also recognizes diversity as one of our greatest strengths.

We have sought to include a variety of artists in the project, from primary school kids to recognised professionals.

Each artist has brought with them ideas and lived experiences that have been folded into the story to create a rich tapestry of emotional content.

Each artist was encouraged to interpret the source material while embracing their preferred style. Some artists have chosen to use digital methods while others have embraced traditional media.

If you drive around and read the comic, you will notice an amazing variety of personal styles that defy definition.

Q: What are the themes the comic touches on?

RP: The comic features so many themes, it can be thought of as a clothesline of ideas blowing in the wind.

The central thrust of it all is the power of empathy and the human spirit to endure and overcome great hardship, while encouraging us to consider what we can do to enhance our own mental health.

The comic promotes the five ways of wellbeing - taking notice, giving to others, lifelong learning, being active and connection. These are things that everyone can do to enhance their quality of life.

Q: Does the comic link together to tell a story?

RP: The story is about a man called Will who is literally stuck in a hole (a metaphor for depression).

Will is found by a young Aboriginal woman called Hope, who climbs down into the hole with Will and uses her empathy to guide him on a journey of self-discovery and recovery.

Hope encourages Will to seek professional help, provides tips on dealing with anxiety and explores the therapeutic power of the arts and creativity. It's an inspiring story not to be missed!

Q: Do you encourage the community to get out and check it out?

RP: I am endlessly appreciative for the support of our funding providers Country SA PHN, SA Health and the Whyalla City Council, along with over 26 local businesses and organisations who have made the project possible.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge our team at the Whyalla Suicide Prevention Network, whose tireless efforts and commitment to preserving and promoting life inspires me each day.

I encourage readers to pick up a map at a variety of local businesses and the visitor centre.

Alternatively they can visit our website where they can check out bonus content such as videos, a podcast, artist profiles and more.