By all accounts, 18-year-old Jacob Bolin was just like any other teenager.
He was a bit of a wisecracker at Brunswick Christian Academy, where he sort of played on a championship-winning basketball team in 2014. After breaking his foot early in the season, he quipped that his position on the team was “third seat from the left,” said his mother, Michelle Bolin of McIntosh County.
Although Jacob Bolin enjoyed basketball and making jokes, his first delight was all things comic books and action heroes.
“He loved superheroes, and he was a collector of action figures,” Bolin said. “He loved ‘Star Wars,’ and when he was little, he would watch the movies with his action-figure collection.”
Jacob — called “Jake” by his family and “Bolin” by his classmates — would often spend the night with his friend, Trey Wright. The two teens bonded over Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man and many other masked marvels.
All along, though, it turned out Jacob was the one wearing the mask. Six months after graduating high school, the seemingly gregarious teen took his own life Jan. 5, 2015.
Two years later, his mother still struggles as she reflects on the occurrence Like any grieving parent, questions without answers swirl in her mind. Yet, she has somehow managed to turn her anguish into action.
“We had a lot of support from friends and family, but early on, I knew I wanted to do something to cope,” Bolin said.
Shortly after Jacob’s death, Bolin embarked on a superhero’s journey of her own — a quest, in a small way, to avenge her son’s death.
She created the St. Simons Island-based nonprofit Bolin’s Heros, which is raising money to create a custom comic book that will include tips for spotting the warning signs of self-harming behavior.
The comic book is in the works now, and Bolin has joined forces with St. Simons Island artist Bob Pendarvis, founder of Savannah College of Art and Design’s comic book program.
“He’s in the process of creating the comic now, and pulling in the superhero theme,” Bolin said. “The plan is to distribute it to youth for free. We’d like to give it away at comic (conventions) and schools.”
Knowing any good superhero needs a sidekick, Bolin enlisted the help of her friend, Jesup resident Patty Wright, mother of Jacob’s friend, Trey Wright.
“She called and said she’d been thinking about creating some educational material in comic-book form,” Wright said. “I knew immediately I wanted to help. Our boys connected, and the Bolins were generous to share Jacob with us.”
Bolin and Wright are well on their way toward making the comic book a reality. The dynamic duo — with the aid of other Bolin’s Heroes board members — has raised more than half of the $5,000 needed to create and print the comic book’s first edition. Once published, Bolin said the book will be 16 pages, with suicide-prevention advice on the inside of the front and back covers.
“We want to be able to unmask depression,” Bolin said. Her main concern is that people may not recognize the signs of severe depression until it’s too late. In teens who are already prone to being moody, looking for the signal within the noise can be a challenge, Bolin added.
“With Jacob, it was different. He was withdrawn, more isolated, but we never —,” she said, her voice trailing off.
“He seemed better,” Wright said. “We didn’t know the state he’d been in. It’s been hard. Our sons were very close, and I don’t want to see another kid lose his best friend.”
Bolin hopes the Bolin’s Heroes’ comic book, when published, will help young people recognize and prevent self harm.
“I want to be able to educate young people to recognize the signs,” Bolin said. “It’s friends and peers who spend the most time together, and if they know the warning signs, they can be a hero and save lives.”
For more information about Bolin’s Heroes, or to make a donation to help fund the comic book’s first run, visit www.bolinsheroes.org or call 877-223-HERO. On the website, visitors can also find information on suicide prevention and other resources.