Marc Alan Fishman, Matt Wright and Kyle Gnepper create comics for their publishing imprint Unshaven Comics.
Additionally, they teach how to make comics in a class sponsored by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District. Their Comic Book 101 class is set to return in the spring, they said. The program is kid-friendly, but adults are also welcome to take the class.
All three men in Unshaven Comics are Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduates. They met in sixth grade at James Hart School in Homewood. Fishman and Wright still live in the area while Grenepper lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Unshaven Comics is an officially licensed LLC in the state of Illinois.
“When we were growing up and going to H-F, our interest in comic books was definitely cultivated. The art department at H-F was certainly open to us learning and making it. But there weren’t any comic book makers in town that would’ve been able to help us on that next step of the journey,” said Fishman. “So, this is kind of our way of bringing that to the community ourselves.”
There are kids who return to every class they teach, Wright said, adding many of the adults who take the class are surprised by how much goes into making comics.
“As much as [comics] can be a one-person rodeo, it’s a multifaceted machine,” said Wright.
Comic books often have one person writing the script, someone else drawing the comic, another person inking it, another coloring it and yet another person lettering it. This is to say nothing of the editorial team that can often play a major role in the crafting of comics, especially at larger comic book companies, such as Marvel and DC.
Wright said in the class they emphasize to their students that the brainstorming process is important and that “you don’t just sit down and magically Spider-Man draws himself on the page.” But rather, the beat-by-beat process of planning and making a drawing is important to the final result.
“It’s making a movie without a budget. Your only limitation is your imagination,” said Wright, explaining why he loves comics. “Sometimes you get a little writer’s block or artist’s block. You can stop or pause that project and start something else and then come back to it when you feel inspired.”
At conventions, the Unshaven Comics team sells comic books, draws sketch cards for fans and promotes themselves. In 2020, the only major comic book convention that happened at all was C2E2 in February. After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, there were no more large conventions until the autumn of 2021.
Unshaven Comics’ first show this year was Dragon Con in Atlanta during the first weekend in September. They also attended Fan Expo Canada and most recently, C2E2 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
“It was a rough year for everybody, especially in comics and anyone who lives and dies by shows like this,” said Fishman, referring to conventions being a primary source of income for many artists, writers and vendors. “We just started doing shows again in Labor Day weekend this year.”
Issues of The Samurnauts, an all-ages action-adventure comic by Unshaven Comics, are available at Zone Comics & Games in Homewood. It’s been available in graphic novel format at Zone as well, but they recently sold out.
The Samurnauts is about “samurai astronauts led by an immortal, kung fu monkey defending the earth from zombie, cyborg, space pirates,” said Fishman.
“It sells pretty well. People like that they’re local artists and stuff,” said Alex Stritar, owner of Zone.
Fishman said the Park District has “already asked us” to return to teaching classes in the spring and they plan on doing so.
Additionally, on Jan. 6, Jan. 15 and Jan. 22, Unshaven Comics will teach people how to play the tabletop game Heroes of Stream at the Irwin Community Center. Everyone who signs up will receive a free copy of the game. You can register through the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.