“There’s nothing funny about porn,” says artist and child therapist Anita Oliveira, but that didn’t stop her from creating Watch Out, a comic book to fight pornography.

If you think only adult men are into porn wake up. The largest users of porn are boys 12 to 17 years old. To reach this group the comic format is ideal.

“All my problems began in grade six,” says Wright, the main character. We watch him making choices that in only 19 frames take him from puberty to parenthood to prison. Choices made in early adolescence affect Wright’s adult life.

Far fetched? Not according to the experts. Dr. Victor B. Cline, a noted U.S. researcher into pornography and violence, has endorsed Watch Out as “a terrific way of helping kids.”

Wright always looks an attractive young man on the outside, even as his passions take on monstrous proportions inside him. The addictive nature of porn comes across visually as a monster stretches its tentacles around Wright. We watch Wright descend through the stages of exposure, addiction, escalation, desensitization and finally acting out.

“It’s your future, your program,” the comic warns. We make choices that lock us in or program us. On the cover two kids program two computers, each receiving very different images and messages. Watch Out helps kids understand that the choices they make today will affect their tomorrows.

Portraying a sensitive issue like pornography is fraught with difficulty. You don’t want to sexually arouse, yet you need to show porn’s effects.

It also had to ring true for teens. Watch Out received extensive testing from students in grades 9 through 11. Oliveira used their feed-back on the images and language, as well as the story-line.

Is the comic educational? Yes. Oliveira employs a couple of catchy “Do you know?” side-bars and then on the back page has end notes to reinforce the “truth” of the story. Yet the side-bars and end-notes don’t break the visual line.

“Did you know?” one side-bar asks. “There are more outlets for hard core porn that McDonalds restaurants.” An end note explains, “In 1987 there were 20,000 adult only stores across North America, more than four times as many as there were McDonald’s restaurants.”

Serial killer, Ted Bundy, is quoted on the back page. “They looked at me and they looked at the All American boy…I think people need to realize that those of us who have been influenced by violence in the media, in particular pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monster. We are your sons, we are your husbands.”

Oliveira consulted professionals including Staff Sergeant Bob Matthews of Project P (the anti-pornography squad) and Judith Reisman, author of Porn Plays Hardball. Reisman, who also wrote, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud, has developed an anti-pornography curriculum that is used in several US states. Reisman thinks Watch Out would make a dynamic educational tool.

What do victims of porn think of her comic? A sister of Kristen French, one of the school girls tortured and murdered by porn-addicted Paul Bernardo has given Oliveira advice on the comic’s development and prayed for her. “Her prayers really girded me up.”

Oliveira usually creates works of high realism, pictures you almost think are photographs. She signs her work with her professional and maiden name, Atta. This is her first attempt at caricature.

In black and white and only six pages long, Oliveira kept costs down so school boards could afford copies. She is showing it to several provincial ministries of education.

Born in Toronto, Oliveira trained at the Ontario College of Art and at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, as well as Dalhousie. Oliveira had a pencil sketch in The Interim in 1985. Some of her work has been donated to Pro-vie, North Bay.

Oliveira works as a child therapist at Youthdale with disturbed kids. She knows what if feels like to be raised in a dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic father she always felt the shame of: “If you were better kids I wouldn’t be drinking.”

At 27 Oliveira had an abortion. Yet three days after the abortion she, “gave her heart to the Lord. I knew I was a new creature spiritually but I was emotionally still the same person. I still had lots that needed to be dealt with.”

It was another ten years before Oliveira dealt with the guilt of the abortion. “I presented it as a problem with weight (she had gained a hundred pounds) but as I went through a twelve-step programme my shame-based personality came to the fore.” She received eight months counselling for post-abortion syndrome. Today Anita counsels others around North Bay.

What drew Oliveira into the battle against porn? When her son Aaron was 8 he showed his mother some playing cards with frontal nudity while they were shopping together in a local variety store. Oliveira asked the owner to place them out of children’s reach and under an opaque cover. “You’re a mum,” she urged. She phoned the owner twice, only to be rebuffed.

The woman dared her to “call the cops” so Oliveira eventually did. The police investigated and told Oliveira, very apologetically, that they could do nothing since Sunridge, her hometown, had no bylaws.

Oliveira worked with the local chapter of Canadians for Decency to establish bylaws that would limit access to porn. It cannot be prohibited. But while others pursued bylaws (some are now in place in neighbouring Sturgeon Falls) Oliveira found herself drawn more to creating the comic.

Happily married, Oliveira discovered her family is her greatest support. Her kids tell her “don’t give up.” Leah, 9, is an art critic who spotted an inconsistency adults had missed. Isaac is 7 and Aaron will soon be 11.

Watch Out is funded in part by Canadians for Decency. With another $5,000 Oliveira could create a colour version. She is also working on a Christian edition.

For a single copy of Watch Out, send $1.00 and a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Box 555, Sunridge, Ont., P0A 1Z0. To discuss cheaper bulk purchases phone (705) 386-0345.