Sue Seserman is out to prove that anyone can be a superhero. Her graphic novel, Epilectra, stars superheroes with different disabilities that turn out to be their superpowers.
The story reflects many of the writer’s own battles with autoimmune disorders, as Sue was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1993 and epilepsy in 2013.
“Epilectra leads a team of superheroes, all of whom have different disabilities that they can transform into super abilities, which is another term for superpowers,” Sue said. “The idea behind it all is that people with disabilities are all in a sense, superheroes because it takes a superhero to manage both a disability and handle life. People with disabilities are really capable of virtually anything.
The graphic novel’s primary audience is children ages 10-13 who have disabilities and their loved ones. Sue said this age range tends to enjoy adventure stories with unusual and exciting characters, two things Epilectra is chock full of.
But people of all ages can enjoy the message: They can live out their dreams just like the character Epilectra. They just have to get themselves out in world and be positive and determined.
“My characters are not your typical graphic novel characters,” Sue said. “We really go about things in very different kinds of ways. So, you know, the goals are twofold: It’s to help people with disabilities understand the vastness of their capability. But it’s also to help people without disabilities understand that people with disabilities are not that different from them.”
According to the United Nations, one in 10 children are living with a disability worldwide. In the U.S., 3.4 million people have epilepsy in the United States, including 470,000 children. About six out of 1,000 students live with epilepsy, according to the CDC. And epilepsy isn’t the only invisible disability. It’s estimated that 80% or 1 billion people globally live with a non-visible disability.
After Sue was diagnosed with epilepsy, she got into a good medication routine and has been seizure-free since October 27, 2019. She started volunteering in hospital epilepsy monitoring units, first in New York City where she was living at the time, and then in Denver where she lives now. She found two things from volunteering.
“One was they started calling me things like brave and heroic, for coming out on my own with epilepsy. and, to me, that sounded ridiculous, because, you know, I was taking the precautions I needed to take,” Sue said. “I wore a MedicAlert bracelet, I took public transportation, I let people I worked with know I had epilepsy and what my seizures look like and what they need to do if I have one. So, I was doing something that I’d love to do, and I wasn’t going to let epilepsy stop me from doing it.”
The other thing she discovered was a lot of people she met had given up a dream because of their disability.
“Because of their epilepsy, they’ve given up on a relationship, they’ve given up on their education, they’ve given up on a career. And I found that immensely sad and so unnecessary. It broke my heart.”
Once the pandemic hit she wasn’t able to volunteer anymore. The seed for Epilectra was planted.
“My brain started going nutso and Epilectra started tickling my brain,” she said. “When I thought, what if there was a real—even though she was fictional—a real superhero with a disability? Who went out into the world with a positive attitude and started accomplishing amazing things? That’s where the idea for Epilectra came from.”
The graphic novel is set to be released in the fall when books one and two are finished. Sue said she would love to see this grow into a series, and she hopes the book can go beyond just the graphic novel. She also plans on expanding her platform to be a hub of epilepsy awareness around the country.