TNT Comics started out as TT Comics in June 1977. I was
inspired by old Superman, Jimmy Olsen, Adventure and Action Comics from
the '60s that my Aunt Kris had. On a family fishing vacation to Canada, I picked
up some comics at the grocery store. Inspired by the likes of The Avengers,
The Fantastic Four, The Justice League of America, and The Teen Titans, I "created" my
first team of heroes: the Junior Justice
Club. The heroes were Supertodd (created
for a 7th grade English theme; thanks Mrs. Anders!), who had powers just like
Superman (except he could change into his costume in an explosion, a la TV's
Wonder Woman), Wonder Girl (copied
from The Teen Titans' Wonder Girl), Space Boy (copied from Space
Ghost), Speedy (an African-American copy of The Justice League's Flash
[but his name came from The Teen Titans' Speedy; I couldn't understand
why an archer was named Speedy, and not Kid Flash], but in an orange costume),
and Water Boy (copied from Aquaman, but he had a gun (?!) that let him
project a strong spray of water). The Junior Justice Club headquarters even had
a portal into the Negative Zone (an anti-matter dimension from Marvel's Fantastic
Four)! The art was crude; the story worse. But it was a start, and now I
knew what I wanted to do when I grew up: comics. Specifically, comics about groups
of heroes. And so my brother Timm and I started producing comics out of our Pecatonica,
The Junior Justice Club was revamped into the Justice
Club in July 1978. "Published 17 Times A Year" the inside proclaimed
(a little optimistic, let me tell you.) The group had been moved to the future
(just like DC's Legion of Super-Heroes) in the year 2154 (later 2454),
and Supertodd, Wonder Girl and Space Boy had to repel an alien invasion of Space
Boy's home planet, Topaz, by the planet Timbe.
Now we're cooking. We're producing quite a few titles, we're
up to six subscribers (friends and family), and then we
get in the paper. We start getting calls from people who have seen the article
and want to send comics to their kids and grandkids. Within a few months, we
have 54 subscribers in nine states. We even get on the local news. We're making
practically no profit, but that's okay, because we like what we're doing.
Around this time we get a strip in the local Pecatonica newspaper
(they run the school paper as two pages inside). Supertodd has a few stories,
then Timm tries his hand at a Fantastic Fish tale.
Things grind to a halt. High school takes too much of our time,
so the comics have to stop. I keep drawing my own strips for myself. The Justice
Club becomes the Heroes from LEGION. I update and revamp characters: Wonder Girl
becomes Astra, Canada Boy (?!) and Canada Girl (?!) become Scout and Comet, Solar
Boy becomes Sunstar, Intangible Girl becomes Etherea and Thought Girl becomes
Wanting to start fresh and new, I shelve Supertodd, et al, and
set about creating a whole new world of heroes and villains. The Guardians are
born, starring Aura, Micron, Prism, Sparx,
and Zero Lad. Set in the present,
the heroes work from the United Nations Building and handle global threats.
I send the first issue of The Guardians to Washington
D.C. with $10 to get it copyrighted. Later, I attend the Joe Kubert School of
Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. in Dover, NJ. I make a few good friends and improve
my artwork. I start redrawing the first issue of The Guardians to make
it more professional-looking. I travel to First Comics in Chicago and present
a sample of The Guardians to the editor. He pretty much tells me to learn
to draw, but he likes the story. 1985
After another year at the Kubert School, I go back to First Comics
with a new sample. The editor says it looks better, but keep at it. He suggests
I go up to see someone at NOW Comics (also in Chicago). I do, but the editor
is out. I'll keep practicing. 1986
Back to First Comics with another new sample. The editor likes
it, and says we'll talk soon. Editor then leaves company to work for DC. First
Comics soon goes under.
After DC introduces The New Guardians during their Millennium mini-series,
I change the name from Guardians to Vanguard.
I get married to Kim, the best wife ever. I start re-drawing
the first issue YET again, but re-craft the story.
After Image Comics releases a title called Vanguard, I
try to come up with a "nonsense" name that (hopefully) no one else will come
up with. I play around with Unicorps and Unicore for a while, but finally settle
I finish re-drawing the first issue (good thing I didn't have
Kim's friend Brenda Herrmann, who worked for the Chicago Tribune
at the time, gets me into the Chicago Comicon for free. I show my re-drawn first
issue around to various companies, but no one is impressed, until I get to NOW
Comics. The art director, Jim Bradshaw, likes my coloring, and hires me to color
an issue of Universal Soldier. I complete that, then color an issue of The
Twilight Zone. Brenda writes an article about me in Rockford Magazine.
While talking to Jim Bradshaw at NOW Comics when looking for
more work, he mentions they need someone full-time in-house. I immediately volunteer,
and he eventually submits. Two weeks later I'm driving 78 miles (one-way) five
days a week to be a full-time freelance production assistant. I am in heaven.
I even get to write an issue of The Green Hornet!
Moving on to more than coloring at NOW, I also get to letter,
ink, write, and help proofread. I do everything but pencil. All my years of doing
all those functions at TNT Comics has paid off. I suggest that NOW publish UNIGUARD, but
they would want to own the characters, and I can't have that.
After some bad business decisions (can you say Mr. T and
the T-Force?), NOW dies a quiet death. The entire industry is taking a nose-dive,
and there are too many professionals looking for too few positions. I am unable
to find work anywhere else in the comics field. Maybe I should self-publish again...?
In the meantime, I fall back on my graphic art skills to get a job at a local
advertising agency. No more long commute into the northwestern Chicago suburbs!
Welcome back to TNT Comics.
The TNT Comics web site goes online January 1st, first under
my AOL account, and then under its own domain name (a gift to me from brother
I submit my sample issue of UNIGUARD #1 to Diamond Comics
Distributors to see if they will pick it up for distribution, but their panel
of experts (i.e., comic shop owners) suggests they decline. But they like the
artwork, they say. I plan on selling my comics myself over the Internet and cut
out the middle man.
The web site gets revamped. Kim and I start work on our new
TNTeens, set in Forest City, IL. Maybe if we can generate some local interest
in a different title, we can interest Diamond in picking up The TNTeens and UNIGUARD for
Kim and I have triplet girls (Maxine, Trinity, and Cassandra).
Life as we know it takes many exciting and strange turns, but our free time is
at a premium. I try to work on my comics when i can, but I get sucked into playing
Final Fantasy XI Online with most of my free hours (I love the Internet!).
Another site revamp! I've given up Final Fantasy XI for City
of Heroes and City of Villains, which inspires me to get back to my comics.
City of Heroes/Villains gets cancelled at the end of November. With a lot of gaming time freed up, I work even more on my comics... new characters and new groups.
A big site re-design as I unveil my newest character, Excarnate. I'm also planning on finally finishing and releasing the Captain Defender and our high school Dungeons & Dragons campaign trade paperbacks, as well as new merchandise and a new fan page entry.