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Military Veterans Realize Lifelong Dreams with Futuristic Comic Book
As a teenager growing up in Southern California, Jason Tudor had always dreamed of having a career in comic books. He even had an opportunity to share his artwork with Shel Dorf—the legendary comic book industry figure who founded San Diego Comic-Con International in 1970. Dorf was impressed by Tudor's work, and gave the aspiring young comic book artist a push to pursue the comics career he had been dreaming of. "Something's here," Dorf told Tudor. "Work on it."
Tudor recalls all of these biographical details in afterword section for his brand new comic book, Vorpal #1, the first in a four-part series called Shoot Between Heartbeats. In addition to being the first part of a new and intriguing comic book series, though, Vorpal #1 is also the first comic book that Tudor has published. Ever. Despite having youthful dreams of a career in the world of comic books, and despite earning an early endorsement from an industry legend, Tudor took a different path. In 1987, the writer and artist joined the Air Force—a decision that would define the next 21 years of his life.
Throughout the years of his lengthy military service, Tudor retained a fandom for comics—as well as his hobby for drawing and writing his own comic book concepts. For a long time, though, Tudor's comic book hobby was just that: a hobby, a diversion that could fill up free moments, but nothing more serious than that. This trend began to change when Tudor met Keith Houin, a fellow Air Force veteran and comic book lover who would end his stint in the military with 22 years of service to Tudor's 21.
Around 2009 or 2010, Tudor dreamed up a comic book idea that involved a badass female assassin, a mysterious futuristic society, cities in the clouds, and a flying robot named Argo. In 2014, Tudor and Houin started to bring that idea to life, publishing pages of Vorpal online as they finished them. Tudor, pulling strength from the encouragement he had received from Shel Dorf all those years ago, decided to take charge of drawing and coloring the comic. As for the text, Tudor and Houin wrote that together. By October 2015, the collaboration had yielded a complete first issue—albeit, one fragmented into individual page releases on the internet.
As of January, though, Tudor and Houin can both tick off one huge dream from their respective bucket lists: holding a physical issue of their first comic book in their hands. Working with Cincinnati-based indie publisher Headshrinker's Press, Tudor and Houin turned Vorpal into a gorgeously put-together comic book that is now available for purchase in both physical and digital formats. And as Tudor says, "that's not the end of the journey." Though the cover of Vorpal identifies the comic as "Shoot Between Heartbeats No. 1 of 4," Tudor claims that he and Houin have 300 pages outlined for future installments of Vorpal—a total that would work out to about 14 more comic books. The Shoot Between Heartbeats series, it seems, is merely the first book of the Vorpal saga, with the next three installments already scripted and ready to be drawn and realized over the next year and a half.
While Vorpal is most groundbreaking as the realization of a lifelong dream, the first issue itself has just the right mix of exciting scenes and unanswered questions to get comic book readers interested. Starting with the titular assassin high in the clouds, reciting a poem to herself as she prepares to gun down a high-powered official, Vorpal immediately establishes a cinematic feel that pervades every panel and page of the story. The world building is engrossing, the characters interesting and mysterious, and the art impressive in its deference to classic comic styles. One page, which places five tall panels side-by-side as Vorpal tumbles from the city of clouds into endless nothingness, is particularly stunning. Another page flips the artistic style entirely for a surrealistic hallucination sequence. Those especially nightmarish panels are left as big question marks for now—as far as what they mean and why they are here—but they will supposedly factor heavily into later installments of the story.
In many ways, comic books are at an unprecedented peak of success right now. Movies adapted from Marvel and DC source material are virtually guaranteed to be smash hits, and comic book adaptations are taking over television as well. Comic-Con continues to be a massive event year after year, with many spinoffs or knockoffs taking the excitement beyond the San Diego city limits. And last year, Mike Richardson, the founder of beloved publisher Dark Horse Comics proclaimed his company "bigger than ever." However, despite these upward trends, many book lovers still haven't taken the plunge and started reading comic books like they read other texts. Vorpal, between its exciting futuristic environment, sense of mystery and adventure, and strong female lead—not to mention the great authorship backstory—is a great place to start if you still haven't embraced the comic tradition.
Vorpal #1 is available for purchase in both digital and print formats on the official Headshrinker's Press website.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.