I grew up reading comic books. Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men primarily, though every once in a while I could be talked into another title if the art were cool enough. I had friends who collected some of the more esoteric stuff, and some that collected nothing but the kind that were pretty much commercials for crappy toys. Regardless of type, there was something magical about getting lost in those illustrated pages for a couple of hours that became an essential part of my childhood.
And so it was that I met Ashton Adams.
I'm leaving out a lot of the story because there's just not enough time, but long story short, I met Ashton during high school and we became fast friends because we both loved comic books. Well, that's not quite true; I loved comic books. Ashton loved comic books. Loved the stories. Loved the characters. Loved the art. Loved the genre for the genre. It was that passion that gave us a lot to talk about.
Would Superman beat up Batman? What would happen if Wolverine ended up with Jean Grey? How often did superheroes need pee breaks?
We spent hours reading comics, talking comics, and, eventually, creating comics. And it was those creative endeavors that first led us to Galactic Quest Comics. Galactic Quest was a store owned by Kyle Puttkammer, a fella who didn't seem too much older than Ashton and myself, and who loved comics on a level that surpassed anything we'd ever seen. Kyle was so into comics that he even sold the official comic Bristol pages - the kind with blue lining that the pros used when drawing our favorite books.
Naturally, Galactic Quest became our go-to comic store.
Then life happened. We roomed together freshman year at the University of Georgia, but our lives during college went in different directions. So did our lives after college. You know how it goes: things change. You meet people, you get married, you start your career, and many of the the things that used to define you fall away and get replaced by other things.
Except for Kyle and Ashton. There was still a love for comics through it all. In fact, as Ashton said in a phone interview last night from his home in Suwanee, "Some people might say, 'Oh, you're immature,' and some people might say, 'Well, I'm young at heart,' as I like to put it. But I have stories to tell."
One of those stories can be found in Galaxy Man #4. Now, if you don't know Galaxy Man, that's okay; it's the brainchild of Kyle, who noticed that the comics in his store weren't necessarily for kids anymore. A father himself, Kyle wanted younger kids to have a comic all their own, one that was written with them in mind. So Kyle and a local artist named Allen Belk went to work.
The concept was the stuff of comic tradition: a family who loses their astronaut mother while she's on a mission to Mars; a father, Stanley Quest given super powers when a meteorite crashes near his observatory; a helpful sidekick named Cosmic Girl who hides a secret identity. This rich platform became the beginning of Galaxy Man. After the first three issues, the writer Kyle was using stepped away from the project.
Having been a customer of Kyle's for years, and having developed a rapport with one another (even going so far to develop other comic projects still in the works), Ashton volunteered to step into the void. Kyle was hesitant.
"Well, Kyle said, 'Listen, I've read what you wrote for this other project and I like it a lot, but this is a completely different field.' But, if you can write a scene or two of Galaxy Man and show me what you can do with the character, then we'll talk about you writing it.' And I went home and wrote an entire comic book script."
That initial script wasn't used for the issue, but it more than showed Kyle that Ashton was capable of handling the book. He hired Ashton on the spot to write Galaxy Man #4, and after months of hard work, the book is now available in print and in digital form (via Comics Plus on the iPad). And perhaps most exciting, Galaxy Man was recently added by Diamond Distributors, the official clearinghouse for all things comics.
Now, anyone can walk into their local comic shop, ask for the owner to order Galaxy Man, and the owner can look in the Diamond catalog and find it. It's as legitimate as anything from Marvel or DC, and it's a huge step for an independently produced book. In fact, Kyle recently went to Chicago to speak about independent publishing in the comic book world and both he and Galaxy Man were well received.
Two weeks ago, Kyle hosted a signing party for Galaxy Man at his Lawrenceville store, and fans of the book turned out by the carload. Ashton said it was nice to feel like a rock star for a couple of hours. "You had these kids asking you to sign their books for them, and they were so excited. It was a great moment for me."
It was also reconnecting with his childhood in a way. "This is just the natural way for me to tell my stories," he said. "I was not ready in my teens or in my early twenties to be a writer, and certainly didn't have the experience to write for kids. I'm an expecting father, but I'm not a father yet, but I do have nieces and nephews, and it was my experience with them that allowed me to tap back into my own childhood and write about what would be appropriate in entertaining the kids."
But now comes the hard part: getting the word out. While sales at both of the Galactic Quest locations (Lawrenceville and Buford) have been good, the hope is for other local stores to begin carrying the book. With so much emphasis lately on keeping things local, it only makes sense to share our stories too, and this is a story that is completely family friendly: the goal of Galaxy Man has always been to produce a comic that a parent could either give their child to read or, even better, read with them.
Ashton feels like they've accomplished that. "One of our models is Pixar: where they really tell great stories that kids love but adults can enjoy too. Uncles, parents, aunts, grandparents - they can enjoy it with the kids in their lives."
So how can you help? Buy the book. Head to your local comic shop and ask for it by name. Download the digital edition. Read it with your kids. Share a little of the magic from your childhood.
And when you do, you'll share a lot of magic with some local talent hoping to make the comic book shop safe again for kids of all ages.