The Comics Issue
Have a look at original strips created by Detroit-based artists.
Published: March 18, 2014
"Gapo The Clown" by Tony Miello
"Postcard" by James Anderson
"Roller Derby Skaters In Their Own Words" by Jane Irwin
"The Tomato Condition" by Nathan Bortz
"El Mariachi" by Chris Sanchez
"The Adventures of Carl" by Brett R. Pinson
In the mid-’80s, Aquaman kicked Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and most of the other big guns out of the Justice League of America. In their place, he recruited lesser-known heroes Vibe, Vixen, Gypsy, Steel, Zatanna and Elongated Man, retained the services of the Martian Manhunter, and based his all-new team in an abandoned warehouse in downtown Detroit.
Unless you’re a die-hard comic book fan, you probably didn’t know that, but it’s true. An incarnation of DC’s “world’s greatest superheroes” worked right here in Detroit and hardly any Detroiters know about it.
Marvel Comics, too, had a “Great Lakes Avengers” squad, trained by Hawkeye, led by Mr. Immortal, and featuring such heroes as Big Bertha and Flatman. But DC’s embrace of Detroit is more interesting because the comic universe is generally made up of fictional cities like Metropolis, Gotham City and Star City. The inclusion of Detroit says a lot about how this place, a visual buffet for the comic artist, is viewed by the comic book world.
It’s no surprise; this metro area has been a breeding ground for talent for years. Native James O’Barr created and wrote The Crow, and based the story of poor Eric Draven in Detroit on Devil’s Night. Rich Buckler, another local, created the character Deathlok for Marvel and he too was from Detroit. Jim Starlin wrote the fan-favorite Batman: A Death in the Family story arc (in which he killed Robin) and created the character Thanos for Marvel. Geoff Johns, who revamped the Flash and Green Lantern, is now the chief creative officer with DC, making some of the biggest decisions for one of the biggest comic book companies in the world. Did you know that the Green Hornet first emerged as a radio play on Detroit station WXYZ? We could go on.
Look to the underground and you’ll find a lot of talented writers and artists working in the indie realm. Dave Petersen is the creator of the popular comic book Mouse Guard, while Katie Cook has drawn for Star Wars and Fraggle Rock.
Today is no different. When it comes to the world of comic books and strips, much like any other art, Detroit has talent oozing out of it by the bucketload. We wanted to showcase some of that local work in what is our inaugural Comics Issue.
We tasked six of our finest cartoon artists with creating original strips for us, and the results display the incredible level of diversity, talent and gloriously unique and oddball perspective they offer.
Tony Miello, who provided us with this week’s cover and the image on this page, has been drawing and writing the Gapo the Clown strip for 10 years. He’s provided art for major trading card companies, and he’s drawn comics for TV shows like Who Wants to be a Superhero and Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-In. See more of his work at tonymielloart.blogspot.com.
James Anderson is the creator of popular Web comic Ellie on Planet X, which follows the adventures of Ellie the robot as she collects data on a previously unexplored planet. See ellieonplanetx.com for more.
Jane Irwin is the author and artist behind the graphic novel Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of a Chess-Playing Automaton, which was funded by Kickstarter and released to rave reviews. See more at clockwork-comics.com.
Nathan Bortz is an illustrator and graphic designer who has worked with multiple musicians creating flyers, album art, T-shirt graphics and logos. He has scribbled for Tunde Olaniran, Passalacqua, Cold Men Young, James Linck, Duende!, Jamaican Queens, and Electric Fire Babies. See his work at naynaybane.com.
Chris Sanchez is a local freelance comic book artist who has been writing and drawing his own comics for about 12 years. He’s the co-founder of El Arto Press, a small company made up primarily of Latino artists. He currently writes and draws Quick Draw (a steampunk Western), and El Mariachi (a series of short stories following the adventures of a traveling mariachi reanimated one year after his murder). See more at bankystar.deviantart.com.
So drop in on your local comic store and, while you’re there, pick up a local indie comic book. Just like any other art form, the local comics scene needs your support.
> Email Brett Callwood