- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | The U.S. Naval Academy released a graphic novel Thursday to attract minority students and applicants from areas that don’t send many students to the college, using sharp drawings, tales of saving the world and sound-effect words such as “FZZZZZZZ” and “FZAAAAAAT.”

Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, the academy’s superintendent, said the academy wanted to use a format that appeals to high school students. The Navy also released a graphic novel last year in Japan, where manga comic books are popular, to ease concerns about the move there by the aircraft carrier George Washington.

A graphic novel is a lot like a comic book, but Navy officials underscore that graphic novels contain more mature themes and complex story lines.

The 12-page publication is called “Bravo Zulu” after the naval signal meaning “Well done.”

Adm. Fowler has made diversity a priority at the academy, and minority characters play a prominent role in the story. The 4,500 minority applications for the class of 2013 were the most ever received at the school founded in 1845.

The publication, which had an initial run of about 100,000 at a cost of 40 cents a copy, will be distributed during outreach programs throughout the country.

“This is a first edition,” Adm. Fowler said. “We are under way planning the second one and we’re going to see how it’s received and what its effect is before we decide how much further we go.”

“Bravo Zulu” tells the story of five midshipmen on the day of their induction at the academy. They envision their futures during a night in an ornate crypt under the academy’s chapel, a shrine to Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones.

One student touches Jones’ sarcophagus to a thunderous “FZZZZZZZ” and sees “Destruction. Despair … the world is on the brink of chaos. It’s strange how the decisions of one can affect so many … and sometimes the entire planet.”

The student then is shown “a future where you graduate first in your class and are assigned to the [carrier] Ronald Reagan.”

“Then one day … while on watch navigating the ship … you spot a pirate ship … in the cornerstone of evil in the world.” Panels illustrate the student peering through binoculars and spotting two armed pirates on a ship in the distance.

A shadowy adult character who earlier chided the students for not being able to “see past the next five minutes to your future” tells the student: “Your eyes caught what no one else would have. And no one else might.”

Another student envisions being a doctor on the hospital ship Comfort and going on to “be the doctor to one of the greatest presidents of the United States.”

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