The Grim Reaper, an alien that looks like a dinosaur and another that looks like a muscular frog make for an odd batch of heroes.
But in the comic book Zenon, the characters represent different parts of co-creator Gary Grossman.
"Zenon is mostly about events in my life."
Grossman, at age 11, created the titular character as a skateboarding Grim Reaper-type. As time went by, he added the other characters. Cow Dud, the dinosaur-looking alien, is the science geek Grossman says he always wanted to be, and Jerry reflects Grossman's sarcastic nature.
A warm reception among his high school classmates Grossman went to boarding school in Arizona but returned to the Springs to graduate from Doherty inspired the burgeoning artist to develop an actual series based on his work.
A decade later and midway through the fifth issue of Zenon, Grossman met Kollin Strand in an art class at Pikes Peak Community College. Grossman showed Strand copies of issues Nos. 1 through 4, all of which he'd printed on copy machines (50 to 100 copies per issue) at Office Max and distributed at coffee shops for free.
The two began collaborating on issue No. 5, wherein the three heroes battle a slew of zombies and a character named "Boogeyman."
While preparing for issue No. 6, Grossman met Karen Kunz and Jeffrey Oelklaus, owners of local gallery Heebee JeebeeS, at an art show in June. Grossman arranged a meeting, at which he and Strand showed them storyboards; Oelklaus and Kunz accepted their proposal to host a show and support the book.
It took nine months to get there. Strand explains that although a 28-page comic can usually be created in a month, he and Grossman maintain day jobs and college careers. He also says that because this was the first comic they had professionally printed (they had 75 issues done at Accent Photo), they had quite a bit to learn.
Grossman says the work done after creating the storyboards and the narrative proved the worst experience of his life.
"It took three or four weeks of messing around with digital files to set the pages up just right," he says.
The comic book takes real-life situations and exaggerates them, adding violence, monsters and extreme behavior. For instance, an evil housing developer sells the three heroes a dilapidated house. In real life, this might mean moldy walls or a cracking foundation; in the comic book, it includes "cabinets falling down and vortexes in the closets."
When the heroes confront the developer, they find him eating a panda bear and using slaves to run his business.
Strand says they've been able to "throw in jabs, wherever we could, about societal wrongs." But Grossman assures the comic isn't overtly moral. It is, after all, still a comic.
By Kollin Strand and Gary Grossman
Heebee JeebeeS, 318A E. Colorado Ave.
Storyboards on display through Jan. 26. Copies of Zenon available for $6; call 635-0620 for more information.
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