By Joel Dryden
CALGARY — Traditional media is dying, we’re told – digital content is the way of the future, and those who rely on the printed page are counting down the days until the final reader passes on. Not so with comic books and graphic novels – the medium begs to be read on the page, to spend time with the illustrations and pore over lovingly-crafted panels. And like any healthy art form, the medium enjoys a thriving – if under-publicized – local indie scene. Forget Spider-Man and Superman – Issue No. 1, a locally-shot documentary, is on the way to introduce you to a whole new group of heroes.
“What the film looks to find out is what does it take to independently create comics?” says director Eric Stroppel. “Why are so many comic book artists emerging from Calgary?”
One of those artists is Nick Johnson, who along with Justin Heggs publishes Wolf Hands, the story of cell phone salesman Vaughn Miller, who is bitten by a dying werewolf. When danger nears, he “transforms into a werewolf… but only in his hands!”
“I’ve been self-publishing comics for 15 years and I’ve seen the Calgary comic community go through ups and downs, yet it has always been filled with incredibly passionate, creative individuals who really push the comic medium to its limits,” Johnson says. “Being a part of this community has always inspired me, so the chance to talk about it (for the documentary), as well as the process of creating comics, was one that I couldn’t resist.”
Stroppel, who started production on the documentary with partner James Wu over a year ago, made initial contact with many of the artists profiled in the film at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.
“I knew of some of the talented people that worked in comics in Calgary such as Fionna Staples, Riley Rossmo or Scott Kowalchuck. But I had no clue (about) the large amount of people who created comics in Calgary,” he said, noting the community had support from people like Chris Humphries, who owns Calgary-based Alpha Comics. “If anybody puts a book out, he does a promotional signing event for the book in his shop.”
Issue No. 1 is still nearly a year away from release, said Stroppel, but the team is set to launch an Indiegogo campaign on August 10th for 45 days. The team is looking to raise $25,000 to complete production in order to include animated sequences and a soundtrack produced by Tyler Bragg.
“I think the two key reasons for people to support this documentary are to help support independent comic book (exposure) and to support emerging artists,” Stroppel says. “The whole story is one about beginnings. Both for the creators we are talking to, and for us behind the camera.”
Johnson says the indie comic scene still hasn’t broken through to mainstream audiences.
“I think most people are completely unaware of its existence. When they think of comics, they think of Batman, Spiderman and the Avengers,” he says. “I’m certain that there are even comic creators in town who think they’re all alone. But one visit to the Calgary Expo or the Panel One website shows that there is a vibrant social scene to go along with the diverse range of stories being made.”AB, Alberta, comic book documentary, comic books, Issue No. 1, Wolf Hands