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Local artists get chance to illustrate comic book

Courtesy of Ryan Brinkerhoff

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It begins with a splash of color on a page; a young couple canoodling in a parked convertible with the top down. Suddenly, a strange sound comes from the forest behind them.

The two venture into the woods to find a strange, un-Earthly creature emitting an eerie howl. The creature seems harmless at first. Little does the couple know, the creature’s intentions are not so pure.

To most of the world, this story is one only encountered in a nightmare. But for Ken Eppstein, simply dreaming up these stories was not enough.

“I’ve read and doodled comic books for as long as I can remember,” Eppstein said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The time was just finally right.”

Eppstein is the owner and editor of Nix Comics Quarterly, a series of comic books he created written with “equal parts horror, humor and raunchy rock-n-roll,” which will host its release party this Friday at Kafe Kerouac.

“I’d really like each issue to feel like an old punk rock album,” Eppstein said.

Music has a strong presence in every aspect of Nix Comics Quarterly, from Eppstein’s own past to the funding of the series.

“I was a record dealer (at Evil Empire Records) for years and years, so I had a big bunch of records that I had intended to sell anyways,” Eppstein said.

When the thrill of buying and selling records wore thin, Eppstein needed a new challenge. Ultimately, these records became a source of funding for Eppstein’s dream of starting his own comic book series.

This new beginning in Eppstein’s life contributed to the name of the quarterly series.

“I didn’t have a very good attitude about it,” Eppstein said of this time in his life. “It was time to ‘nix’ the attitude.”

Leaving his negative feelings behind, Eppstein single-handedly wrote the first issue of Nix Comics Quarterly.

For Eppstein, ideas for storylines can come from anywhere. Even a local bus stop.

In the comic, “Bus Stop Ned,” Eppstein brings to life the various conversations he’s overheard and people he’s encountered during his time waiting for the bus, including a John Mellencamp impersonator.

“We kicked it back and forth, tweaking it until it felt right,” Bob Starker, illustrator of “Bus Stop Ned,” said of the comic. “It cracks both of us up, so I guess it worked.”

For the second issue, Eppstein enlisted the help of various local illustrators.

“You can’t swing a stick in Columbus without finding someone who wants to draw a comic,” Eppstein said. “Artists always have their ears perked for a little work and exposure.”

One such artist is Darren Merinuk, who jumped at the chance to illustrate Eppstein’s stories in the second issue of Nix Comics Quarterly.

“My job has been to try to visualize (Eppstein’s stories) in a way that gets the drama and the subtle humor that he works into the stories across to the reader,” Merinuk said. “Ken’s stories are challenging, but still fun.”

Despite the challenges, Merinuk, who usually works on album cover art and posters for musicians, is grateful for the chance to work on the comic book series.

“Doing comics is usually fun and offers more freedom of expression than a lot of the freelance work I do,” Merinuk said.

With limited funds, Eppstein is unsure what the future holds. For now, he’s focused on publishing as many issues of Nix Comics Quarterly as he can.

“It’s kind of like hitching the leash on my dog and letting her steer the walk,” Eppstein said. “I don’t know where I’m going, how long I’m going to be out or how much mess I’ll have to clean up. Best to just enjoy the walk.”

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