Right now, and until 7 tonight, two guys are sitting at Zeus Comics on Oak Lawn Avenue waiting to meet you. While that may sound unappetizing--yeah, that's just what you wanna do, drive to a store that sells comic books and action figures and hang out with dudes who are there all freaking day--trust me, it will be well worth your time to head on over during a late lunch or after work. That way, you can shake the hands of writer David Hopkins and artist Brock Rizy and buy their stellar new graphic novel Emily Edison, which is being published today by locally based Viper Comics. And if you do go today, you can buy the book for half off its $12.95 cover price, as the nice folks at Zeus are covering the other half for the boys' first meet-and-greet of many to come, including a stop July 15 at Unfair Park's fave comics-only retailer Titan Comics and a week later at the mammoth Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Hopkins, an English and creative writing teacher at Arlington Martin High School, and Rizy, an Arlington-based illustrator with an estimable portfolio, have been working on Emily Edison for about two years--which Hopkins knows off the top of his head only because he started working on it when his daughter was a newborn. In fact, he sort of wrote it for her: Emily Edison tells the story of a young girl whose old man's an appliance repairman and whose mother is a superpowered being from another dimension. The couple met after Emily's dad created a rift between earth and this other dimension using a, uh, vacuum cleaner; turns out, being from separate dimensions isn't good for a marriage, and after their divorce Emily spends every other weekend in the alternaverse with her mom. But that isn't good enough for her grandfather, who wants Emily away from her average-Joe dad and living permanently in the other dimension; it's his evil scheming, involving robots and squishy monsters and other dastardly doings, that drives the story. Also a major character is Emily's half-sister Koo, who's less evil than she is merely misunderstood.
Re-reading the above synopsis proves only one thing: There is no good way of recapping the plot of a comic book without sounding like a total dork. But trust me: The story's first-rate, and the art's equally impressive. (Some of Rizy's work for Emily Edison hung for a while in the bar at the Magnolia Theater; on more than one occasion I overheard patrons inquire about purchasing the pieces, which is the nicest compliment anyone could ever offer.) Fact is, despite the copious action sequences at which Rizy excels--his work is reminiscent of that of Jack Kirby, Mike Mignola and, especially, Kyle Baker, with some anime and Kim Possible thrown in--the story holds its own, refusing to obscure its broken-family subtext behind standard superhero derring-do.
"When we started, I had fatherhood on the brain at the time and wanted to do a comic I thought my daughter would enjoy one day," Hopkins says. "I wanted to something fun and something that dealt with family things. There's a deeper message there, and I don't know if anyone else will pick up in between pillow fights and slug monsters. I read into it a little too much maybe." He laughs. "But in a lot of comics, you don't have many divorced families. Now, parents die tragically all the time. Hey, you get superpowers, you're guaranteed that one or more parent will die tragically. But for me, I knew that with the readership I wanted to reach--a younger audience and girls, especially--why not tell a story about a mom and dad who live in two different worlds and have it be the dominant metaphor. The idea is you have to choose between them, and my overall message is that families don't end when there's divorce. The family changes its dynamic, and you have to change with it and, in this case, that means you have to fight the evil grandfather."
Hopkins and Rizy have known each other for years--they grew up in Arlington and shared the same circle of friends as kids--but haven't worked together before. Hopkins' previous projects, including the mini-series Karma Incorporated and Some Other Day were done with other artists, as will his forthcoming retelling of Antigone, which has already generated some nice advance buzz. Fact is, Hopkins says, Rizy has established enough of a career as an illustrator that he didn't want to be seen as someone else's mere partner--the guy riding shotgun in someone else's story (both writer and artist even make cameos in Emily Edison). But theirs turned out to be a pretty profitable collaboration: Hopkins would write during the day and send Rizy his scripts, Rizy would illustrate the text overnight and e-mail Hopkins the results, and back and forth they went till the thing was done.
"I've worked with a few comic book artists, and almost always I can't tell the story till I see the characters, because their personalities change,' Hopkins says. "I didn't have a fix on who they were till I saw Brock do the sketches, and he brings so much enthusiasm to it that often he stays up all night doing this. It's been a lot of fun, and I'd dare say more so than with any other artist because he has all these ideas. I just give him these Saved by the Bell plots: Emily has homework and can't do it because she has to fight robots. And then he will send me these sketches, and they're hilarious. As a result, every page in the book came about out of a mutual consensus, and I have never had an experience like that." --Robert Wilonsky
Emily Edison is available wherever comic books--and regular books, believe it--are sold beginning today. For more information, visit Viper Comics' Web site, from which you can order the book if you don't actually want to leave your computer.