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Stick to your whistles!

It was nearing the end of my senior year in high school. The year was 1992. A classmate and I were discussing my plans after I graduate.

“Well, my family wants to move out to California, so I’ll probably go to college somewhere out there…”

“You gonna try and get into comics?”

“Yeah, that’s my goal! Hopefully I’ll be able to create my own characters, the way Image is doing it”

“Yeah, that’d be cool. What comic would you want to kick it off with?”

“Whistle Man.”

After a riotous snicker, my classmate sputters out: “THAT’S the character you plan on breaking out with???”

That was a pivotal conversation for me. Why? Because I wanted to do this pretty much all my life; draw a comic, that is. And now, I was told that I could not do it, with the most ludicrous of characters. It was a challenge to me. But its greatest resistance would be I.

I had started on this journey as far back as the age of 4, periodically creating a new character and trying to make each book more and more like a professional publication. By high school I had created a “serious” character called the Golden Scarab. He was a herald of Ra, forever battling the schemes of Apep, Set and numerous other Egyptian evil deities. It was a textbook character of his time: Grim, gritty, violent and enigmatic, rife with past guilt.

I was developing this particular character for a few years, but I never felt I nailed this particular one, because I was constantly trying to distance him from all other established Egyptian themed characters. The problem was they all seemed way too similar. But I figured after my friend snorted at the idea of my debuting my original childhood creation, I should stay focused on the more marketable Golden Scarab.

I had done a few stories featuring Whistle man at the same time. He was largely unfocused in terms of what kind of book I wanted to tell his story. His Alter Ego was not yet established. He was still a dick head football coach, womanizer, and all-around jerk, but instead of the origin that Ted and I have planned for him now, he was merely struck by “mystical lightning” and awakens with a golden whistle for a head. And because my favored childhood color of red was now blue, so too was Whistle Man’s costume, complete with Spawn-like white cape, trimmings and “whistle disks” that he could detach and throw like ear-piercing Frisbees. He inherits a blonde female sidekick named “Air Head” and fights the likes of “The Balloonster”, “The Burgler” and other equally embarrassing names. These were early ancestral roots to Poverty Pack, with its crude humor, ridiculous character, but with intent to take the stories seriously. I tried to use Dark Horse’s “The Mask” as a way to make a twisted book with humor. But I decided early on, that I didn’t want my 4 year old creation to be a psychotic madman. I eventually shunned this comic in favor of the modern superhero ideal.

The Golden Scarab was then the main focus for me. I spent most of my days borrowing Egyptology books from libraries, taking classes at community colleges to bone-up on my knowledge, so That I could create the most authentic of characters. I created a vast bible of all things Golden Scarab. Never have I dedicated so much to one character. I worked with a writer to help keep the stories from sounding amateur. I even completed a full issue on 11 x 17 comic boards…something I had never accomplished up until that moment. Yes, the Golden Scarab was going to be my debut character.

As it would have it, I had burnt myself out with the character. I had worked with shady individuals who “promised” to help make my character marketable, in exchange that I do graphic design for them. These “scratch my back/yours” scenarios never worked out and lend to my abandoning the character for an undetermined hiatus. Heartbreaking, because I had mapped out quite the story arcs I wanted to tell, but needed to gain a fresh perspective.

I spent the next decade working with others on trying to create the next great serious comic. Because during the 90’s, comics were to be taken very, very seriously. Joel Schumacher declared that because the word “comic” was utilized, that these were to be categorized as “funny books” and slapped all who made them a hobby, in the face with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. So if I were to make a comedic book, I was thus helping to destroy the serious artistry of graphic novels.

So, as you can see, there was constant resistance to even WANT to try and bring a character like Whistle Man to the public.

When Poverty Pack finally began to take shape, Whistle Man found his home. Among a bevy of other absurd characters, I finally found a way to introduce him to the world. I always take the “you’ll never make it” speech as a blessing. It fuels one to defy that notion and to prove those wrong who don’t believe in you. For me, this has been a triumph, and a valuable lesson for all to learn from. The next time someone laughs at your ambitions, accomplish them, no matter how much you are told otherwise. Because it only means that they don’t get it, and it is your job to educate them.

‘Til my next rant!


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