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August 28, 2012

Jack Kirby meets Charles Schulz: Chris Giarrusso’s ‘G-Man’ in flight

Posted in: Comics

Chris Giarrusso created the all-ages comic series "G-Man," about a boy whose cape gives him super powers. (Peow Yeong / From Chris Giarrusso)

Chris Giarrusso is the artist behind "Mini Marvels," which portrayed Marvel heroes as kids. (Marvel)

Chris Giarrusso puts his own spin on classic comic covers. (Jack Kirby / Marvel Comics; Chris Giarrusso)

Chris Giarrusso’s comic characters might possess super powers, but they really have more in common with Charlie Brown and his “Peanuts” crew than the Man of Steel or the Caped Crusader. Giarrusso, whose previous titles include the adorable “Mini Marvels” and “The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks,” says his work is inspired by the classic newspaper cartoon strips he read growing up. His latest comic series features a pint-sized hero named G-Man, whose magic cape endows him with super strength and the power of flight. It’s a bright, all-ages story that leaves out the violence endemic to the superhero genre at large and instead offers a glimpse into the everyday perils of growing up. Hero Complex caught up with Giarrusso to talk about “G-Man.”

HC: How did G-Man come about? What inspired you to write this character and this comic?

Chris Giarrusso (Peow Yeong /From Chris Giarrusso)

CG: “G-Man” was the nickname my friends called me in high school, which was right around the time Image Comics was forming their new comic book company with brand new creator-owned superheroes. With all of those brand new characters being created, I was inspired to turn myself into a superhero, and soon I was sketching G-Man superhero designs in my school notebooks. Years later, when I had the opportunity to create my own comics professionally, I decided to modify and develop the ideas I had come up with in high school. G-Man and the characters in his world are heavily inspired by my experiences growing up, but with super powers added in.

HC: Why do you think kids are drawn to stories about super powers?

CG: It’s no mystery — super powers are fun! It’s fun to pretend and imagine “what if,” and to read stories where fantastic things happen.

HC: Your comics remind me of the comics I read when I was a kid — “Casper” and “Richie Rich” and even “Peanuts.” What inspires your artistic style?

CG: I’m influenced primarily by my brother and the newspaper humor comic strips that we grew up reading. My brother would draw a lot and copy the characters from the comic strips, and soon I was copying what my brother was doing. We read everything and tried to draw everything (“Garfield,” “B.C.,” “For Better or For Worse,” “Heathcliff,” “Marmaduke,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Beetle Bailey,” etc.), but I became mostly obsessed with Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts.” Eventually I graduated to reading superhero comic books as well. Today, the stories I create in “G-Man” are very much a hybrid of the humor comic strips and the superhero comic books I was reading as a boy.

HC: “G-Man” seems very kid-friendly. Is that the audience you’re aiming for?

A page from Chris Giarrusso’s “G-Man.” (Image Comics)

CG: Initially, I wasn’t aiming specifically at kids. Again, I just wanted to do the kinds of comics I grew up reading, which, at the time, were read by kids and adults. My parents read the funnies in the newspaper. There were always adults in the comic shop buying the same superhero comics I was reading. But today there seems to be a line drawn — it’s either got to be for kids or for adults, but it can’t be both. I still approach things the way I always have, writing for everybody, trying to make my friends and my brothers and my peers laugh, but with adult readers largely predisposed against the sort of comics I make, I’ll absolutely embrace an audience of younger readers.

HC: Do you think comics are still a viable medium for children’s entertainment?

CG: There’s a big market for kids’ comics, but for the most part, you won’t see it in comic shops with all the middle-aged men. Kids get their comics in bookstores and libraries. “G-Man” is available in Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Some comic shops do carry “G-Man” and successfully market books to young readers, but most comic shops do not support my work.

HC: You’ve made a name for yourself drawing Mini Marvels. Do you prefer working with existing characters or creating new ones?

CG: I’m a huge fan of Marvel comics. I grew up reading Marvel comics. I loved working on “Mini Marvels.” But I do enjoy creating my own new characters in “G-Man” even more.

HC: I love your Tribute Tuesday blog posts. How do you go about choosing covers and artists?

CG: Thanks. Mostly I just pick my favorite classic comic book covers for the Tribute Tuesday art. Naturally, most of them seem to be early Marvel covers drawn by the greatest comic book creator of all time, Jack Kirby.

HC: What do you have coming up?

CG: A new volume of “G-Man” will be coming out next year: “G-Man Vol. 3: Coming Home.”

HC: Anything else you’d like to add?

CG: I’m currently drawing a weekly comic strip with writer Brad Guigar for the Emerald City Comic Con website, called “Tales From the Con.” It’s a lot of fun!

– Noelene Clark

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