Balloon artist twists up some fun at Homewood Public Library

Wonder Woman!

You don’t know Samurnauts?

Samurnauts are the newest superhero troupe that’s come on the scene to save the day.

They’re the stars of Unshaven Comics created by three friends who met in sixth grade at James Hart Junior High in Homewood, and graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 2000.

Marc Alan Fishman, Matt Wright and Kyle Gnepper created Albert V, better known as Al, a Samurai monkey knight. He started life as a space monkey for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1950s, but along the way disaster struck. Al’s rocket is destroyed and he comes back to earth in a different time period and with supernatural powers that allow him to fight off bad guys.

You get the idea.

Because of Al’s special powers he can go backward and forward in time, which allows the three cartoonists to put the battles in a host of settings and eras.

In Samurnauts’ first four-book series, Al’s grants five young human trainees Samurnaut special powers so they, too, can fight off bad guys.

The premise may sound bizarre, but in comic book parlance this is a terrific series. The entertaining story line flows nicely, and the colorful drawings are superb.

It was a friend from H-F who first got Fishman, Wright and Gnepper to put their creative drawing and writing talents to work developing a comic book based on the stories of four immigrants who took part in the 2006 Chicago immigration march.

Never having undertaken a project of that magnitude, the three said they’d have a 64-page comic book done in a month or two. In reality, it took about a year. Fishman said that’s when they “realized this stuff takes time when you have a normal life” with day jobs, friends and other projects.

Wright and his wife and son live in Homewood, and Fishman and his wife and son live in Glenwood Estates. Gnepper just recently relocated from Homewood to Wisconsin. All three still have their day jobs, but now writing and promoting their comics is an integral part of their lives.

Unshaven Comics has gone through several different themes. After the immigrant march book, they stuck with the idea of publishing comics and came up with a series about four young guys who face aliens. Fishman said it was a theme that spoke to them at the time, but it was a bit “too edgy and violent.”

As they matured, they took their work in a new direction and made it something available to all ages. It was 2010 when “Matt said the leader should be a Kung Fu monkey, and I said an immortal Kung Fu monkey fighting demon dinosaurs in space” and that was the birth of Samurnauts, Fishman recalled.

Samurnauts features Wright’s paintings that are very typical of comics. Fishman does interior pages as digital artwork. Gnepper and Fishman share the writing.

The response to Samurnauts at comic book conventions, called Comic-Cons, has been: “ ‘Stop talking—how much?’ to ‘This is the greatest thing I’ve heard!’ It just became like a drug and people responding back to it,” said Fishman. “And it was all ages, so for the first time we feel comfortable pitching to anybody.”

Samurnauts was launched on ComiXology, an online comics sharing site, but Fishman said “that’s like being a pebble in the ocean.” Traveling monthly to Midwest Comic-Cons to pitch Samurnauts is much easier. So far, they’ve been able to cover the printing costs and some miscellaneous expenses.

“We stand by our business model with 99.9 percent of our sales from business interaction. I can’t compete with the Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles, but I can sell you on Samurnauts by showing you the book and telling you what it’s about.”

In July, Unshaven Comics will try a crowd funding site as a way to generate visibility and money for future ventures.

“In my mind, the journey’s important. The friendships are important. Being able to see the country and meet those people who are fans of our comics makes it all worth the effort,” Fishman said.

“We all hope that we might one day make a living at comics; we believe in the Samurnauts product. If we can manage to raise funding, we would like to try licensing our IPs (intellectual property), and seek those partnerships in 2016,” he added.

Fishman, Wright and Gnepper want to continue to spread the word about Unshaven Comics and the Samurnauts, and to meet fans at Comic-Con shows, including Mighty Con on June 27 at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton.

They have an active community of fans on Facebook at facebook.com/UnshavenComics and their website http://www.unshavencomicsonline.com has free content.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]

More information:
Unshaven Comics website
Unshaven Comics on Facebook

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