Ultimate 5 Squad: The New Avengers
In a time full of uncertainty and unrest, one wishes to have a crime-fighting team of superheroes to restore peace and save the day. This idea isn’t as far-fetched as it seems and a local entrepreneur was able to turn that wish into a reality for children everywhere.
Meet Roudy Derisse, better known as RJ Rise, the creator of the Ultimate 5 Squad. RJ is a Boca Raton entrepreneur who has a passion for influencing young kids for good. RJ previously worked as a P.E. teacher who wanted to open up his own gym for kids. RJ wanted to teach children about fitness and exercise in a fun and interactive way. He also wanted to teach them about self-confidence and how to think better about themselves. However, the origin story of the Ultimate 5 Squad does not start there.
RJ Rise says that the origin of the inclusive superhero comic started when he was looking for educational presents for his nieces. After looking all over his local Barnes & Noble, RJ realized that the children’s section not only had a small supply of interactive books but that it lacked diversity. That’s where the idea, or origin story, of the Ultimate 5 Squad began. RJ didn’t like that this was the way that things were and decided to change the narrative in an important way. “I started from scratch and started creating it,” he says. And create he did. RJ wanted to see representation for children.
“I have nieces and I want them to also know that they can be heroes because there’s a special thing that happens when you give a minority child a book and they see themselves on the cover. They realize that they too can be a hero,” RJ says.
For the superhero writer, representation was a major player in the creation of the Ultimate 5 Squad. RJ heavily emphasizes the importance that representation has in how children see themselves. “That’s what prompted the book, the lack of diversity. A lack of options on the bookshelves and I wanted kids to see heroes that looked like them.” He also mentions how representation affects how children see things like race relations.
During an interview, RJ Rise addresses the impact of the racial unrest that affected him and the importance of unity among different groups of people. Hearing about the deaths of people like Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Emmett Till, and others was traumatic and forced him to grow up quickly. Seeing a constant level of injustice in minority communities fueled the inspiration behind the characters, says RJ.
“The characters came from a generation of hurt and from that hurt came strength. So these characters have so much strength to almost undo all the wrongs that had been done throughout what we’ve seen. The spirit of all these people has inspired me and the characters.”
This was not the only thing that inspired RJ while creating his team of relatable superheroes. RJ shared that workbooks and coloring helped him get through difficult and frustrating days as a child. This inspired the activity book that is a part of the Ultimate 5 Squad experience. “The book has activities that’ll help a child start to think positively and think like a hero. It says on one of the activity pages ‘to become a superhero you first have to believe in yourself. Circle how a superhero should think.’ Another one says ‘It’s okay to be scared but don’t give up.’ When kids go through that activity in the book, it starts to shift their thinking.”
RJ’s ultimate goal with the Ultimate 5 Squad is to create a new way for children to feel seen, heard, and empowered because “what’s out there doesn’t work for everyone.” RJ talks about how normal his superhero characters are. All the characters are everyday people who are very intelligent and even better when they put their heads together he says. The Ultimate 5 Squad becomes who they are when they are a team and that’s one of the biggest takeaways from this series.
“We just want to be represented in the right way. I’m doing my part for my community and I’m sure that there are others doing things for their community.”
RJ steps up to the role of local hero by creating the Ultimate 5 Squad and encouraging diverse and empowering dialogue. RJ hopes to constantly expand the Ultimate 5 Squad and tell more stories that empower children to become heroes themselves. With a message of unity, representation, and positive mindsets RJ Rise strives to create a new generation of superheroes with a comic book full of activities and unforgettable illustrations.