Thursday, July 1, 2010

Enter: Amazing Arizona Comics!

Blogger's Note: Amazing Arizona Comics #1 is now available in comic book stores around the Phoenix area, and whether you've found my blog by picking one up or are just an old friend or fan, here's a little behind the scenes explanation of its beginnings . . .

My family moved from Stratford, Connecticut to Peoria, Arizona on November 1, 1988. If we hadn't, who knows if I ever would've developed my undying love for comics. When my dad worked for Mesa Moving, a customer offered him a box of comic books he would've otherwise discarded, and Dad left the box at the foot of my bed that morning. I woke to an unexpected Christmas and experienced Erik Larsen's Spider-man and Bret Blevins' Cloak and Dagger for the first time. I soon rode my bike to comic book stores around town to buy them regularly, including Stalking Moon Comics and Atomic Comics, and have continued to do so ever since – mainly because I've spent so MUCH money on comics, I've never been able to afford a car. I left the nest at seventeen for college in Southern California, and before long I developed a life of my own in Fullerton. I had a great career and many awesome friends, but a chance to work alongside my best friend from high school in his newly purchased business brought me back to the Grand Canyon State.

In Orange County, I had co-founded and self-published comics as K.O. Comix with my buddy Brent Otey, and I wanted to continue writing and drawing in Mesa, my new home, but I struggled for inspiration . . . until I looked in my own backyard. Driving home with my brother from a night of karaoke, I was flashed not once but twice by traffic cameras on I-17, where the speed limit is 55 mph rather than the 65 mph I knew well from I-10. Hey, I was still new to town, and the bright camera flashes were practically blinding and, in contrast to the dark desert night, possibly more hazardous than my speed. The sudden light show was like something from a comic book -- what residents of Keystone City might experience when the Flash zooms by, perhaps. That I could've been blinded enough to drive into the median reminded me of a superhero slugfest's potential for collateral damage, too, and how something intended to make things right could make other things around it totally wrong. The speed cameras were like stationary do-gooders, with their own built-in dynamic, so I thought, What would happen if one of them were alive?

Enter: Speed Cameron! One part speed camera, one part impetuous teen, Cameron's story quickly developed when Governor Jan Brewer decided to drop the traffic camera program, and in turn I decided that my new hero's adventures could parallel current statewide events. And no statewide event has had more of a national, if not GLOBAL, impact than SB 1070. Consider it as another superhero battle analogy -- with two definitive sides, and the safety of a group of helpless people caught in the middle. Writing a story around the immigration issue in Arizona, I couldn't avoid the influence of Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- a comic book character all by himself, with one part Commissioner Gordon, one part Norman Osborn -- so I went whole hog and made him a critical part of Speed Cameron's origin, more than you'd think from Amazing Arizona Comics #1. I'd concede it's a gimmick, if these weren't writing themselves every time I turn on the news!

Where does a Ronald McDonald lookalike fit in? Well, I won't give away too much of his origin here now, only to say that a line from the flick Demolition Man once inspired me to wonder what a real fast food war would look like (by way of the excellent original graphic novel Three Fingers), and I recently read an article that pondered why comic book writers don't go all in every issue, versus spreading their ideas over issues' and months' worth of story arcs. By this standard, I couldn't wait to introduce Donnie McDougal in some fast food comic that I might never publish anyway -- he had to live in Arizona, and a little analogous McDonald's history helped me make that happen.

Yes, the Grand Canyon State has offered plenty of inspiration, from the Phoenix metropolitan area, to its vast deserts, to its lush mountain towns. I plan on visiting them all soon, in reality and on paper, with a fantastical cast of characters, like Speed Cameron, ripped right out of the scenery. Indeed, if my family hadn't moved to Arizona in '88, I may never have developed my love of comics, and if I hadn't moved BACK here this year, I may never have rekindled my love of MAKING them! Arizona is a pretty amazing place . . . and remember, you can't spell amazing without AZ!

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