One rainy day at his family?s lake house, Jeremy McFarren discovered a long-ago discarded Superman comic his parents kept around in case the kids got bored or, as it so happened, it rained and they couldn?t go outside.
In that issue, the Man of Steel battled the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk, a creature who in one incarnation hailed from the Fifth Dimension and could not be banished back there until Superman said his name backward.
McFarren was 5 years old – and he was hooked.
?It hooked me forever,? the 37-year-old Carroll High School art teacher now says.
Today, McFarren writes and draws his own comics, and like many of the roughly 100 artists who attended Saturday?s third-annual Summit City Comic Con have, he was able to do this with a little help from the digital age.
When he was a collegian in the 1990s, McFarren said, no one thought highly of comics. Professors and teachers didn?t encourage any foray into comic book art and, unlike today, no classes were offered.
But in 2008, McFarren started a blog.
He started posting some of his drawings, and soon those morphed into the character ?RocketBoy,? which became his first self-published comic in 2010.
?Technology is an amazing thing,? he said. ?Anyone can get their ideas out there now, and you have access to so much amazing stuff.?
He unleashed his new comic, ?Lunchbox Doodles,? at Saturday?s Con at Grand Wayne Center.
The book consists of drawings he would slip into the lunchboxes of his kids – 8-year-old Olivia and 6-year-old Nigel – each morning before they went to school. They were extra treats for the kids, he said.
Throughout the year, he has posted the drawings online.
And it?s online where the comic book industry has begun to focus its attention, with a proliferation of new tablet apps such as Comixology becoming the way many people are reading the medium.
In fact, Zack Kruse, founder of Summit City Comic Con, said digital comics are the reason the industry is growing, even more so than the proliferation of the big-time Hollywood superhero movies like ?The Avengers? and ?The Dark Knight Rises.?
?It makes them so much more accessible,? said Kruse, who also writes his own comics and has a digital comics website at www.mysterysolvedcomic.com. ?You don?t have to go out and find a comic book shop.?
Like McFarren, Kruse also said it helps independent artists get their work out to the masses. They don?t have to get hired by Marvel or DC – the two biggies in the comic book world – to have their stuff seen.
Now, it just takes a server and a website.
But still, there?s something about holding an actual comic in one?s hands that will never go away, both McFarren and Kruse said.
There?s nothing like waking up in the morning and finding a box full of comics you created on your front doorstep. There?s something special in the feel of the paper you just can?t get with digital comics, McFarren said.
McFarren talked about this while taking a real pen and sketching out a rendition of the Avenger hero ?Hawkeye? on a real piece of paper, a drawing he was doing as a special request for a boy named Jacob who had come to the Con with his father.
?I?ll always think paper should be a part of it,? McFarren said of the industry. ?I can see it all going digital someday with the paper product a niche market, but I want it to be something that stays.?