Patricia Campos was the first female jet pilot in the Spanish Navy. She has been a soccer coach, a newspaper columnist, and a soccer commentator for radio and television. After she left the military in 2013, she came out as a lesbian in an autobiographical book.
And in 2015, Campos moved to Uganda to spend four years teaching the sport to women and children. That passion project became Goals for Freedom, a global nonprofit organization that promotes equal rights, education and empowerment through soccer.
Like the other women featured in “Voices That Count,” a new comic-book anthology released this week by San Diego-based IDW Publishing, Campos has an amazing, inspiring story to tell. And after you read IDW’s English translation of this acclaimed Spanish collection, they will be your stories, too.
“People can learn from all of these stories. You are going to read this and you are going to know things that really happen to women in life, ”Campos said during a Zoom interview from her home de ella in Valencia, Spain.
“With this book, you are going to be able to help your friends, your daughters and yourself. Maybe you are from a different part of the world, but in the end, we are the same. It is about respect and fighting for equality.”
First published in Spanish in 2021, “Voices That Count” features nine stories of love, liberation, struggle and emotional independence told in comic-book form. Each of the stories was written and illustrated by a different all-female creative team, and each collaboration tackles big issues and intimate revelations in its own very personal way.
In the cinematic “Julio,” author Julia Otero and illustrator Ada Diez tell the heartwarming story of how a strong father’s determination to raise an independent daughter turns him into a “self-made feminist.” The trippy “24 Hours,” which was written by Lola García and illustrated by Agustina Guerrero, imagines one assumption-busting day in a world where women have the power and men have to take what the alpha-females dish out.
And in “The Bug,” writer Diana López Varela and illustrator Akira Pantsu join forces to chronicle Varela’s harrowing battle with anorexia, which the story’s high-school narrator calls “this bug nesting in my brain.”
With illustrations that range from dark and nightmarish to bright and bubbly, “The Bug” follows Varela’s teen self as she struggles with depression, guilt and anxiety before working her way back to health through therapy, the support of her friends and family, and feminist consciousness-raising.
What this chorus of diverse voices adds up to is a tribute to survival. Survival of the heart, survival of the soul, and survival of humanity.
“Comics are about telling everyone’s stories. The stories in ‘Voices That Count’ are universal. They aren’t just for women,” said Megan Brown, editor for originals at IDW, which has highlighted serious issues with George Takei’s graphic memoir, “They Called Us Enemy,” and the “March” trilogy from the late civil-rights giant John Lewis.
“Things like body image and what that does to your self-confidence, those are things trans and nonbinary people also have to deal with. It is really nice when you can read something that speaks to your experience and that you can relate to. The idea that you’re not alone and that you have a community that has your back is really great. It’s a good feeling to have that support.”
The last story in the “Voices That Count” collection is “Mzungu,” which was written by Campos and drawn by Sara Soler. In nine action-packed pages, “Mzungu” (which means “white” in Swahili) follows Campos as she breaks one gender stereotype after another.
As a girl, she played the trumpet and lived for soccer, two hobbies that were supposed to be for boys only. As the first and only female jet pilot in the Spanish Navy, she had to be the best at everything all of the time.
When she left the military to coach soccer in California, Campos rediscovered the youthful joys of being a sportswoman. She loved it so much, she took her soccer ball and her passion de ella to Uganda, where she triumphed over a deeply sexist society to form soccer teams for girls, boys and women with AIDS
For Campos, being part of “Voices That Count” was a way to do what she has always done. Sharing deep stories in comic-book form opens lines of communication and reaches people in surprising ways. Campos will always be up for that. The louder, the better.
“Maybe you see a book that is about equality, and you think, ‘I don’t want to read that,’” Campos said. “But that is what makes the title of the book so beautiful. You hear ‘Voices That Count,’ and you think, ‘What are you going to tell me? I want to know.’ This book is perfect for the society we are living in right now.”