This terrifying villain introduced at New York Comic Con is a real-life horror for children

UNICEF introduces bullying-themed menace 'The Silence' and is asking kids to create a hero to fight it

Published On
Oct 05, 2018

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There’s a new, terrifying comic book supervillain in town, but the most frightening this is--he's real.

The Silence, a crimson-clad creep who looks like a cross between Slenderman and one of Emperor Palpatine’s Royal Guard, targets children who’ve been the victims of bullying, infiltrating their minds to keep them from speaking out and getting help.

In essence, he's a personification of the real menace children face at the hands of their tormentors.

The Silence was created for UNICEF and Comics Uniting Nations for a new comic book that debuted at New York Comic-Con during a UNICEF panel. The global children’s charity and advocacy organization is searching for a superhero who will defeat this terror, and it’s asking young people around the world to enter its superhero comic contest.

Through Oct. 25th, anyone 25 years old or younger can submit an idea for a superhero, detailing their hero’s name, abilities, story and picture. Contestants are encouraged to draw on their own life experiences to flesh out their hero. Judges, including comic artist Gabriel Picolo, will select the top entries, and the public will be able to vote for their favorite in November.

The winner will be announced on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, and will then work with a team of creatives to make a real comic book where their hero defeats The Silence. The final work will be presented at the United Nations in July 2019 at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development before being distributed to schools and kids worldwide.

It was important for The Silence to be a menacing villain. Finding the courage to speak up is difficult for many children, particularly those who lack strong support groups. A strong antagonist also provides fodder for the imagination, and will hopefully inspire better heroes.

“The team wanted to design a villain who lives in people’s minds more than the physical sense. We cannot see his face, so he could be anybody,” says Gabriel Jardim, creative director at VMLY&R, created The Silence, along with production company Zombie.

Because it twists the minds of his victims rather than beating them into submission, “the design isn’t typical of a normal villain with strong muscles,” adds Guto Monteiro, another CD at VMLY&R. This is apparent in a short film from the agency and Zombie (above). The spot is animated in comic book-style, with flipping pages and panels, but the content is dark. In the opening moments, a schoolgirl is trapped in an alley and slammed against a brick wall. Her eyes fill with tears as the camera pans away, tracking a falling button and school supplies.

In another scene, a young boy is prompted to hit another child with a baseball bat. This isn’t the playground name-calling many anti-bullying efforts oppose. The children in the film suffer extreme violence and abuse, yet The Silence still has the power to keep them quiet.

Video assets are running across UNICEF's social channels and global websites. This is the second superhero contest from UNICEF; last year, 21-year-old Sathviga “Sona” Sridhar from Chennai, India won with her character “Light,” a half-tree, half-human who protects nature from climate change.


Oct 05, 2018
Client :
Agency :
Global Chief Creative Officer :
Debbi Vandeven
Chief Executive Officer :
Jason Xenopolous
Executive Creative Director :
Fabio Seidl
Group Creative Director :
Silmo Bonomi
Creative Director/Art Director :
Gabriel Jardim
Creative Director/Copywriter :
Guto Monteiro
Senior Account Manager :
David Schwartz
Account Manager :
Amanda Morse
Planner :
Sanya Deshpande
Executive Production :
Natalia Gouvea
Account Services :
Fabricio Takahash
Account Services :
Account Services :
Daniel Franco
Director :
Paulo Garcia
Director :
Bruno Monteiro
Art Director :
Marcelo Fahd
Art Director :
Marcelo Garcia
Production Director :
Nayla Kols
Production Director :
Leticia Harumi
Coordination :
Marcio Lovato
Color Grading :
Psycho n Look
Global Digital Engagement Specialist :
Nelson Leoni
Voices of Youth Community Manager/Advocacy, Division of Communication :
Kristen Cordero
Social Media Content Strategist/Digital Strategy Section, Division of Communication :
Kavervir Sidhu
Public Partnerships Specialist/Public Partnerships Division :
Shannon O’Shea
CEO of Comics Uniting Nations and PC/Media :
Sean Southey
Public Partnerships Officer/Public Partnerships Division :
Callie King-Guffey
Director of the World’s Largest Lesson :
Alison Bellwood
Digital Engagement and Marketing Strategist/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Mauricio Aguayo
Graphic Designer/Digital Strategy Section/Division of Communication :
Lily Tidhar
#ENDviolence campaign project co-lead/Advocacy, Division of Communication, :
Rudina Vojvoda
#ENDviolence campaign project co-lead/Advocacy, Division of Communication, :
Siobhian Devine
Head of Social Media Campaigns and Supporter Engagement/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Laetitia Pactat
Media Specialist/Media/Division of Communication :
Helen Wylie
Senior Project Manager/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Libby Lang
Digital Youth Engagement Specialist/Advocacy, Division of Communication :
Katarzyna Pawelczyk
Spanish Digital Content Producer/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Adriana Mora Pacheco
Arabic Digital Content Producer/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Zineb Lahbabi
French Digital Content Producer/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Imane Fasla
Chinese Digital Content Producer/Digital Strategy/Division of Communication :
Communication Consultant/World’s Largest Lesson Coordinator/Advocacy/Division of Communication :
Yuliya Rimsky
Audio :

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