Creating a graphic novel had been a longtime dream for software engineer Brian Romero.
When he saw a flier in the Clovis Branch Library a few months ago advertising an eight-week “create your own graphic novel” course, he thought he was finally going to get his chance.
Then he realized the class was geared toward teenagers.
Luckily for the 51-year-old, he has a 15-year-old son, Simon, who will enter his sophomore year at Clovis High School next week.
“My dad really wanted to do (the class),” Simon Romero said. “So I said ‘sure, let’s do it’ even though I had no idea how to draw anything…except an angry Charlie Brown.”
But artistic skills weren’t needed, according to class instructor Dana Huber.
I can finally take this off my bucket list.
“We spent a lot of time studying concepts, understanding comics, the theory of comics, their historical significance,” Huber explained. “Then we referred to the book ‘Making Comics’ and looked at the different techniques. About the halfway point of the class, they began creating their own.”
Although the class started with about six students, it dwindled down to the father and son duo, who successfully completed four-page comics.
“There were two girls out of the first four students, and being a woman, I would have loved to have those girls here to continue the class,” Huber said. “Comics are kind of a boys clubhouse.”
Huber said she was a bit taken aback when Brian Romero sat down for class, because she thought she was going to be teaching a group of teens.
“But he’s turned out to be my most diligent student,” she said.
24Romero estimates he spent about 24 hours creating the comic, both in class and at home, including all revisions.
The Friends of the Clovis Library provided a budget to buy each student an art kit, which included a sketch pad, three Micron drawing pens, pencils, a ruler and Wite-Out.
The students had a broad spectrum of artistic skill, Huber said. Simon drew his comics by hand, while his father used computer software to build his.
“I’m a strong proponent of ‘anyone can draw,’” Huber said. “In first grade you walk into a classroom where all of the kids are drawing, but then as they get older there’s a line drawn between the ones who ‘can’ draw versus the one’s who feel they ‘can’t’ …then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — they can’t draw because they don’t draw anymore.”
For Brian Romero, drawing became digital. The software engineer works for Smith Micro, which manufacturers Poser and Manga Studio — the two programs Romero used to create his graphic novel.
“I wanted to do an homage to the cliffhanger serials of the 1930s, kind of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon adventures, very action-oriented,” Romero said. “I also wanted to make an Asian-American main character.”
Romero’s comic follows his fictional characters Cmdr. Emerson Bolt and Regan WIlliams in a battle with a generic villain.
“They actually have equal footing, so there is no sidekick,” Romero said. “Instead of Ree (Regan) being a damsel in distress, she’s actually an equal character. The whole time (Bolt) looks like he’s going to save her, meanwhile she’s fighting the monster man and she’s able to save herself. That’s the twist that I wanted to convey.”
Romero estimates he spent about 24 hours creating the comic, both in class and at home, including all revisions. His son, Simon, also made revisions to his graphic novel over the weeks, but didn’t add dialogue because “…procrastination.”
“I based it on what I like the most — sleep, and dreams,” Simon said. “A red monster comes in and beats up the screen, and then the main character has a crazy dream.”
Simon plans to scrap this comic, “D.R.E.A.M.” and develop new ideas, while his father plans to finish his first edition of “The Adventures of E.B. and Ree.”
“I can finally take this off my bucket list,” Brian said.