Like the characters in his favorite comic books, Ian Flynn ’01 is hoping to make a difference in the world — by encouraging new generations of scientists.
As vice president and one of the co-founders of I&T Publishing Company, Flynn is helping to create “AcademyX Space Crew,” an online action-adventure comic book series that presents academic quests tailored to each reader.
Geared toward students in 4th to 8th grades, the comic allows readers to take on the roll of Star Agent, who — along with a crew of colorful characters — promotes peace and justice in the galaxy through personalized, 30-page stories that incorporate various STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) themes and concepts that students might encounter in school.
“The world is inexorably heading toward a market and society driven by science, technology, engineering and math,” said Flynn. “We want the kids of today to find those topics interesting so they actively pursue them at home and in school.”
He also hopes to encourage more girls into STEM fields, because “they’re woefully underrepresented right now.”
Encouraging STEM interest in students is fitting for a former student who once found aspects of it daunting.
“I have always struggled with math,” admitted Flynn. I will always remember Mrs. (Pam) Wilson and Mr. (Matthew) Zippin at Providence Day especially fondly for helping me through my math courses. They made me feel mathematics was accessible.”
The “AcademyX” concept was the brainchild of Tariq Koosa, president of I&T, which takes its initials from both Flynn’s and his first names.
With a teaching career in children’s education and, like Flynn, a deep love of comic books, Koosa wanted to blend his two passions — a fun and unique comic aimed at young readers that promoted STEM as well as equality.
“Comics are inherently cool,” said Flynn, “and they’re a nice stepping stone for young readers graduating from picture books to full prose.”
The appeal of comics is the way the art and dialogue work together to convey a story, said Flynn.
“A well-written, well-drawn comic can give you a sense of splendor, movement, joy or terror that the written word alone cannot,” he said. “At the very least it does so in a different way.”
After graduating from UNC-Greensboro in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in English, Flynn quickly got his first professional gig working for one of his favorite childhood titles — Archie Comics’ “Sonic the Hedgehog,” a popular comic book based on Sega’s videogame franchise. He was named lead writer in March 2005.
In 2008 Flynn married Aleah Baker, a fellow writer and colorist at Archie Comics. He has kept busy over the years with his podcast and gaming channel, and writing for television, videogames and of course comics, including popular titles such as “Mega Man” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” He credits his writing influences to a diverse group of authors including Shakespeare, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Kirkman and Dr. Seuss.
“I’m working on producing some original works while also nailing down new contracts,” said Flynn.
At I&T, they’re hoping to launch an intricate website housing the customizable “AcademyX” comic book in summer 2018. Once operational, customers will be able to create their main characters and become the heroes of their personalized series.
“We’re dreaming big,” said Flynn. “Whatever we do, however we branch out in multimedia, we want it to be in a way that supports teachers and inspires kids to be their best.”
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