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.