There are a lot
of similarities between Mario Cauley ('99)
and his comic contribution to Ghostwerks #1, Darius Davidson. Dare
For the Ghostwerks
company, Cauley is the accountant, the businessman and the pragmatist — he doesn't
really seem like the creative sort. But he wrote the comic Dare.
The Darius character
has no super powers, special gadgets or even a cool costume — he's
not a superhero. But he does heroic things.
"More than anything I'm just a fan of comics," Cauley
says. "Samax, Khalid and the rest of the guys are the really
eccentric, creative ones."
Like Cauley, Dare
isn't one to seek out the limelight, but
he is the one to count on when things get bad. Darius is a young
teen-age boy with a few smarts and whole lot of fearlessness. The
closest thing he has to a superpower is an uncanny ability to attract
trouble. When we first meet him, he is trying to catch a cab to
the museum for class. He ends up strapped between the city district
attorney, his wife and a bomb.
He's just an average person thrust into extraordinary situations — not
too different from Cauley. When the Ghostwerks crew is together,
Cauley isn't the one who stands out. But without his role,
there'd be no Ghostwerks. He also finds himself in the extraordinary
situation of getting to go from fan to comic writer.
Much like his creation,
Cauley sees what he does as just part of the job. Darius is heroic
only because it's necessary — no
glitz, no fame, no glamour.
put aside the intense characterizations, the cool plot concepts
and the clever lines — all Corance Davis ('99) wants
to do in his comic Champion of Children is blow stuff up.
a must," he says. Davis is the central writer for the series.
anime and manga (Japanese cartoons and comics), and the one consistent
theme is an undefeatable bad guy and blowing
up a lot of stuff."
It sounds a little strange, but Japanese comics and cartoons have
had an immense influence on American entertainment. For instance,
the Matrix movies are based on Japanese comic concepts and have
their own manga-based series. Even major comic companies like Marvel
have manga series and versions of their characters.
Davis says the characters in these series risk and lose more than
those in traditional American comics.
"These writers get the idea that their characters have to
risk something in order to be interesting," he adds.
And all this is coming from a man who, prior to working on the
Champion comic, spent most of his time reading literature classics.
"Before reading things like The
Killing Joke (a Batman classic)
by Alan Moore, I always thought comics were badly written," Davis
says. "But then I learned that comics can be cool, using
literary devices and complex characters — plus they blow
a world of pacifist bears and avenging rabbits, and maybe you'll
get a small glance into Michael Lagocki's ('99) mind.
Of all the Ghostwerks
characters, Lagocki's represent some
of the most unique: Toho the Pacifist and Test Subject A. These
characters are featured in Ghostwerks #1, a collection of stories
from everyone on the team.
Toho is a gigantic polar bear who looks as if he should be plastered
on the side of a red Coke can. By some unexplained twist, Toho
ends up on another planet in an arena forced to do battle with
Unfortunately, as you can guess by his name, Toho the Pacifist
practices strict non-violence. He often conjures up images of Ghandi,
John Lennon and Martin Luther King Jr. in the face of conflict.
Test Subject A, who is unhindered by any notions of pacifism,
is a lab rabbit who willed himself to be human. He takes a very
direct, heroic approach to life by rescuing fellow test subjects
everywhere by any means necessary. As if he were an avenging icon
for PETA, he burns down every test lab he can find.
"Like a lot of the guys, I've been drawing comics
since I was a kid," Lagocki says. "I've got dozens
and dozens of scrapbooks full of ideas — but this has been
a chance to put out the ideas that may not be so easily received."
Randolph ('99), the most important element of his art is
authenticity — being yourself and most of all being human.
However, when it
comes to black characters in comic books, he says they're
anything but authentic.
"So often when I pick up a comic with a black character
in it I wonder, ‘Do these writers know anyone who is black?'" says
Randolph, who is one of three artists behind Champion of Children.
He says high-top haircuts from the '80s, misused slang and
stereotypical caricatures point to characters created as a cursory
nod at minorities.
"And most companies are satisfied with that," Randolph
says. "In a lot of cases companies are afraid to try something
different or new."
He says black readers of comic books are conditioned not to expect
to see characters like themselves.
"Part of the whole premise of Ghostwerks is that we're
catering to an underserved market," he says. "The indie
comics are bringing fresh new ideas and authentic characters, black
or otherwise, to the comic industry."
Robertson ('97) is quiet and thoughtful. He'd say
he was just brooding, but that kind of melancholy doesn't
match the heart of the characters he creates as an artist of
the comic Champion of Children.
Nor does it fit
the attitude of someone who cites his artistic inspirations as
the Powerpuff Girls show and the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. As he puts it, "I never got over that cartoon
"I got into comics after reading the Dark
Knight Returns (a Batman classic in the comic book industry)," he says. "Batman
as a dark and brooding character resonated with me, because I was
dark and brooding.
"Later on I realized you don't
have to be moody to be good."
In fact, Robertson sees the humor of the comic as its best selling
point. In his eyes, Champion of Children is more about him and
his brother. Like Little Mad Skillz, the hero of this comic, and
her brother, Jr. Raw, Robertson has spent a lot of time fighting
with his sibling.
"The problem with siblings is that they know you well enough
to know just what rubs you the wrong way," he says. "They
bring out the worst in you, but then your family will always be
the first to defend you — a lot of that comes out in the
In between saving
the world and fending off supervillains, he says, the brother
and sister superheroes spend a lot of time "getting
on each other's nerves."