Resident finds niche creating comics for all ages

by Charles Cassady

Northeast Ohio has contributed luminaries to the comics and graphic-novels field. Everyone knows about Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster, the Glenville guys who concocted Superman. “Underground comix” writer Harvey Pekar, file clerk by day, used himself as a character in drawn-from-life stories. Brian Michael Bendis worked both sides as an artist and a writer for both DC and Marvel superhero characters and noir-ish crime fiction. And Tony Isabella became a Marvel Comics mainstay.

Now, look on the rack! It’s Hudson’s Caleb Thusat, who has been building his own gallery of panel-story titles. His latest addition is “Supercats.”

“I really didn’t dig deep into comics until I was in my 20s,” said Thusat, who writes original material under his “Village Comics” banner. “But when I was a kid, I read ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ and ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ I didn’t really think much about comic books thoroughly until I read ‘Watchmen’ when I was out of college.

“It really showed me that there was a depth to comic creating that I was missing. It revealed a new source for storytelling. … There was a world of great stories at my fingertips that I had been missing all of my life!”

The Ohio native and his wife spent a decade in the metropolis of Chicago (actually Oak Park, on the outskirts), where they moved after college.

“I majored in Popular Culture studies with a minor in film. I knew I was going to do something with writing eventually. I hoped it would be film related. I spent the better part of a decade working with filmmakers in Chicago producing short- and feature-length films. I ultimately decided that filmmaking wasn’t for me,” Thusat explained. “I didn’t enjoy the pressure and long hours of film production. My interest in writing comics came from reading a number of influential graphic novels and learning more about the creative process.”

It was, fatefully, a Batman movie shooting in Chicago that nudged Thusat towards his new identity.

“My wife and I were extras in ‘The Dark Knight,’ which was quite an experience to see how a mega-blockbuster film is orchestrated,” he said. “While I was working in film, I never once thought about writing comic books. That only came to me when I was done with film and searching for a new path for my creative work.”

Thusat said he wanted to create stories but “knew the limitations” of “low-budget filmmaking.”

“Comics just made sense to me. It’s visual storytelling without the high production cost of film and with a lot fewer creative egos flying around,” he said.

Having since relocated with his wife to Hudson, Thusat’s priority today is being a “stay-at-home Dad.”   Authoring comics comes second. Fatherly considerations, in fact, inspired “Supercats.”

“‘Supercats’ started as a series I just wanted to make for my son,” he said. “Something to get him excited to read, and something special that his dad made just for him. After I finished the first two books, I saw the potential in stepping kids into reading with comics.”

Thusat said most comics aren’t made for young readers. Even the all-ages books, he explained, are filled with “walls of text” and established characters “my kids didn’t care about.” He set about creating a series that “starts with sounds and works its way up into an actual comic series” and with “new characters that kids will love.”

Scout Comics picked up “Supercats,” which is now available in comic shops all over the country, according to Thusat. Other properties under his Village Comics banner include “Strange Stories,” an homage to vintage-1950s Atlas and E.C. horror-anthology comics, a ghost-ridden WWII-era graphic novel called “Nook,” and a time-travel sci-fi saga called “Flytrap.”

“I try to keep most everything outside of ‘Supercats’ at a PG-13 rating,” Thusat said. “I try to make my stories accessible to everyone. I will say that adults will probably get more out of my books than children, but everyone will enjoy them for their stories.”

While names like Stan Lee and Neil Gaiman conjure up comics-universe stardom and lines of buyers, the reality for an independent creator is a lot different.  

“I think the key is to just keep going,” said Thusat. “When I started making comics eight years ago, I was basically just bleeding money. I was paying for art, printing, convention tables, and I really wasn’t seeing much return. … By creating quality comics over the years and consistently delivering on crowdfunding campaigns, I have built a solid fanbase. Without that, I wouldn’t be able to keep creating comics.”

Regarding comic-cons, Thusat said, “I usually plan at least one show per month during the year, but smaller appearances and conventions pop up. I think on average I do between 15-20 shows per year.”

There, he hooks up with potential artists, does reader meet-and-greets and affirms the Village Comics brand. This year, he plans to be at Monster Fest Mania at Emidio’s Expo Center in Akron on Feb. 3, and Fantasticon in Toledo on March 9 and 10.

“Around that same time, I will be launching the 5th and final issue of my series ‘The Neverland.’ It’s a modern stand-alone sequel to the original Peter Pan novel about a boy escaping to Neverland during a global pandemic,” Thusat said.

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Writer Caleb Thusat continues to expand
his comic brands. Photos submitted.

Caleb Thusat launched the “Supercats” comic
series to help children, like son Raymond,
learn how to read.

On our cover (photo): Dad-by-day Caleb Thusat, pictured with wife, Angela, and son, Raymond, uses his downtime from parenting to exercise his love of storytelling through comic creation. Photo submitted.