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Thursday, March 3, 2005
DRAWN & QUARTERED
Local comic creators
The character of Keiki is also Fujitake's tip of the hat to Bill Watterson's lively title character in the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes."
But he acknowledges that the project is Yokoyama's concept, and he's glad to help bring the denizens of Forest Town to life.
The town "is loosely based" on Waimea on the Big Island," Yokoyama said. "But it's strictly a fictional town, building it with certain people," including one based on a friend, Nikki Borengasser, who modeled for the Hopaco ads.
"Dylan is kind of like Keanu Reeves, and Otis is based on one of my favorite TV characters, Barney Fife of 'The Andy Griffith Show,'" he said.
As you can guess, both men are longtime comic book aficionados. Yokoyama was a seventh-grader from Saint Louis School when he started attending Hawaii State Comic Collectors Club meetings at the Moiliili public library in the early '70s. There, he shared the same room with club founders including Fujitake, Gary Kato and Stan Sakai, who's won national fame with his popular "Usagi Yojimbo" comic book.
"We tried to have regular meeting sessions," Fujitake remembered, "but they usually ended up with everyone just wanting to trade, buy and sell comic books with each other."
Yokoyama said he just wanted to be in the same space as the comic book artists he admired, without bothering to approach them, and later helped to keep the club going after the three artists left the group.
"Not just kids, but all ages," Yokoyama added, "although we haven't introduced any teenage characters yet."
Yokoyama starts with his own pencil drawings and storyboards to get the creative process started but says, "I let the professional do the real work," acknowledging additional layout and logo design work by Janel Cabebe.
If you pick up issue No. 1 this week, you'll notice it's dated Summer 2005. That's because the comic book is getting an early release here, but if the title gets picked up by the national Diamond Comic Distributors, it'll take two to three months to hit comic book stores on the mainland.
"I think it's a decent enough product," Yokoyama said, "but I know it's tough for new independent titles to get picked up by Diamond nowadays. It's not cheap, either. ... The first issue has an initial 3,000-copy print run, a thousand more than most other independent titles usually run."
In the meantime, Fujitake continues his freelance work here, including developing titles for Mutual Publishing's newest children's book subsidiary, BeachHouse Publishing.
"But I want to continue to illustrate for Len," he said. "I'm happy with what I'm doing -- it's entertaining -- and Len's happy with it."
Drawing on small-kid time memories of reading a classic title such as Walt Disney's "Uncle Scrooge" by the late, great Carl Barks, Yokoyama said: "I've always wanted to do something along those lines. Our book is the kind that anyone can read, and you don't need to have gathered 10 years of comic book history to enjoy it."