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December 30, 2020

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Brandcenter Alum Collaborates with Marvel to Create Comic Honoring Nurses During COVID-19

What better way to honor nurses during a pandemic than give them the superhero status they deserve?

Brandcenter alum Rob Reid (AD, 2013) and his team at Doner partnered with comic book powerhouse Marvel to create The Vitals: True Nurse Stories, a comic starring real-life healthcare heroes in their fight against a real-life villain: COVID-19. 

The idea stemmed from an open brief for National Nurses Week last spring: how can Doner celebrate and honor the nurses who are bravely and tirelessly combatting the on-going pandemic? Reid and his partner, Burke de Piazza, contemplated the most suitable platform to celebrate heroism and quickly landed on a comic book.

“The format automatically elevates them to something even greater—superheroes,” says Reid. But they also wanted the comic book to be unique in that all the stories would be true. “We gravitated immediately to the concept that superheroes are no longer a work of fiction. They’re very real. They’re moms, dads, siblings, friends. They’re the neighbor you wave to on your way to work. But this neighbor is fighting a very real and frightening villain—COVID-19.”

Shortly after developing their idea, the World Health Organization named 2020 the Year of the Nurse. Reid and his partner realized they could make the project about the entire year of 2020, not just a week. “It gave us the much needed extra time to truly pursue such an ambitious project,” says Reid.

The team partnered with Allegheny Health Network in Pennsylvania to create the comic, reaching out to their entire network to collect true tales of heroism within their nurse ranks. “We weren’t sure how many responses we were going to get, but we were blown away by the number of submissions received and how incredible and emotional those stories were,” says Reid.

From there, the team at Doner worked with Marvel’s writers to craft the three main characters/storylines they wanted to tell, which ended up being a blend of several nurses’ stories per character.

After solidifying the script, Reid and his team worked on the design phases—pencils, inking, and coloring. “Marvel took the lead on that, but their team was always very receptive and collaborative when it came to implementing our feedback and ideas. It was pretty amazing to get a peek behind the curtain of Marvel’s creative process.”

The Vitals: True Nurse Stories launched in early December, and the response from both the healthcare community and general public has been powerful. In addition to being Marvel’s second most loaded and read digital comic of the year, The Vitals has been featured on CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, Anderson Cooper - Full Circle, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.

“I come from a family of three doctors and have four nurses as in-laws, so the success of this comic book and its launch was very important to me,” says Reid. “It's fair to say they were on my mind throughout the process and witnessing their reactions to the launch of the book was deeply rewarding.”

The Vitals ran a limited print for Allegheny Health and is available digitally for viewing here.