Travelers Made a Comic Book Honoring a Child Killed by a Distracted Driver

Zaadii lives on as a superhero

In 2015, 3-year-old Zaadii Thozon Tso lost his life, run down in Flagstaff, Arizona, by a distracted driver.

The youngster loved superheroes. He refused to remove his Batman costume, so his mom let him take baths dressed as the Caped Crusader. Zaadii was garbed as the Dark Knight on the day he was struck in a crosswalk, along with his mother and sister, who both survived.

Now, Zaadii will raise awareness about distracted driving and potentially saving lives as the hero of his own comic book.

"His story touched everyone who worked on this project because he had barely experienced the world, but his personality was so big and positive," says Walter Connelly, executive creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, which created Zaadii The Legend of Z-Hawk as part of its "Unfinished Stories" series for Travelers Insurance.

Gail Simone, Jeffrey Veregge and Jim Calafiore—the team behind D.C.'s Birds of Prey—developed the gorgeous 28-page narrative, timed to Distracted Driving Awareness Month and New York Comic Con. In the story, which features some sophisticated characterization and one doozy of a plot twist, Zaadii protects Navajo tribal lands as an environmental lawyer, moonlighting as Z-Hawk to battle the villainous Decimator. The book also features a section about the real-life Zaadii, presented in illustrated format, providing an "origin story" of sorts. (Every superhero needs one.)

Here's an animated trailer…

… and this project video features interviews with the book's creators and Zaadii's mom, Rachel Cox:

The Making of The Legend of Z-Hawk

"The person is never really gone," Cox says at one point. "Their spirit, their personality—they're always going to still be around. Where the ripples go out, they go out for eternity. They never stop."

Of her son, she recalls, "Everywhere he went, he was wearing his cape. I think he really believed he was a superhero." In the film, Cox chokes back tears, recounting how EMTs cut the Batman costume from her son's broken body before transporting him to the hospital.

The name Zaadii translates to "Speaks with the power of gentle water," she explains. So, his comic-book persona strives to protect the lakes and rivers of the Navajo Nation.

"I was trying to find a way to include any kind of Navajo symbols into the costume," says Calafiore, one of the tale's illustrators. "We wanted to honor the heritage as much as we could."

"Zaadii could end up saving someone's life," adds Simone, who helped devise the storyline. "And there's nothing more superheroic than that."

Travelers' "Unfinished Stories" launched two years ago with "The Route," an animated short about South Dakota State University track star Philip LaVallee, who was killed in 2013 at the age of 19 by a distracted driver. Subsequent installments hit similar themes using different styles, but the team felt an actual comic book was the best way to honor Zaadii.

The youngster, aka Z-Hawk, has a big job ahead. According to Travelers, 40 percent of Gen-Z drivers believe they can safely operate a car while texting or checking their social media accounts, and one-third of millennials have nearly crashed while engaged in such activities.

CREDITS

Travelers | The Legend Of Z-Hawk Production Credits

Travelers
Lisa Caputo, EVP, Marketing, Communications and Customer Experience
John Morris, SVP, Enterprise Integrated Marketing
EJ Conlin, VP, Planning and Execution, Enterprise Integrated Marketing
Jim O’Brien, VP, Integrated Marketing, Digital
Matthew Bordonaro, 2VP, Enterprise External Comm
Kate Hernandez, Sr. Director, Integrated Marketing
Sperry Mylott, Sr. Direct, External Comm
Heather D’Amico, Sr. Director, Digital Marketing
 
TBWA\Chiat\Day New York
Chris Beresford-Hill, Chief Creative Officer
Walter Connelly, Executive Creative Director 
Avi Steinbach, ACD, Copywriter
Alexander Holm, ACD, Art Director
Alli Walker, Associate Copywriter
Louis Prenaud, Associate Art Director
Josh Peterson, Associate Copywriter
John Doris, Head of Integrated Production
Chris Klein, Executive Producer
Steven Kreuch, Senior Interactive Producer
Sarah Haroldson, Producer
Alexa Pagano, Associate Producer 
Tricia Higgins - Executive Producer
Pietra Cangialosi - Producer
Deidra Peaches - Production Manager
Andrew Nethery - Director / Editor
Will Stone - Director of Photography
Mike Doyle - Director of Photography
Allan Chavarria - Camera Operator
Dave Phelps - Editor / Colorist 
Jason Augustine - Assistant Editor
Gary Fraser - Animator
Carrie Lipper, Business Lead
Mark Donohue, Business Director
Dan Erazo, Business Manager
Lesley Parks, Strategy Director, Digital and Social
Sophie Engelstein, Senior Strategist
Elise Reichard, Strategist
Thalia Tsouros, Director of Integrated Business Affairs
Stephanie Ambroise, Senior Integrated Business Affairs Manager
Asheden Hill, Communications
Rob Schwartz, CEO
Nancy Reyes, President

Collaborators
Gail Simone, Author
Jim Calafiore, Artist
Jeffrey Veregge, Illustrator (Variant Cover)
Rachel Tso, Zaadii’s Mother
Jeneda Benally, Zaadii’s Aunt and Popular Activist
Jason Wright, Colorist
Dave Sharpe, Letterer

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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