Michael Easton is a Marietta native who has worked tirelessly to bring the joys of comic books to the MOV, whether it is through his web series “Short Pants Romance” or from his business River City Design. You might also recognize him as a fitness instructor from ZK Fitness or behind a table at comic conventions across the Tri-State area with collaborator Jordan Lowe (owner of Asylum Comics).
Michael grew up on Matthew Street in Marietta where he ran around with a bunch of kids in the neighborhood. His family didn’t have a phone in their house, but there was a payphone at the corner of Matthew Street and he would often be there on the phone talking to his friends. When he was 16, they relocated to Front Street.
“On the weekends I’d be listening to the Q-102 dance mix while drawing in my room. The bulk of my formative years were spent at friends’ houses because aside from a movie theater there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to do in Marietta,” he said.
His love for art and spending time in his drawing room developed at a young age. He loved anything that had to do with superheroes, whether it was the Superman movies, the 70’s Spiderman TV show or The Incredible Hulk.
“As soon as I could hold a pencil I was drawing. When I lived out in the Warren area I used to draw monster trucks. I loved all the cartoons around superheroes but I didn’t get into comics until I was in 4th grade,” Michael said.
While attending Washington Elementary School in Marietta he bought my very first comic around the corner at Nelson’s Drug Store. It was an Avengers comic, issue #290. This began his deep reverence of comics and from that moment on he became a comic book collector. He started off tracing the covers of the comics he owned and that was how he first learned how to draw superheroes. Around the 6th grade he became proficient with drawing and as a result art took over his life
“In the following year, my English teacher gave me drawing assignments instead of the traditional English assignments in order for me to do any of my work. She found that when I was given assignments centered on drawing I excelled at them. Meanwhile, local artist Andrew Jones was instrumental in giving me my foundation into learning and knowing how to draw. He would print out character books for me of characters he had done to show me the right way to do the body structure,” Michael recalls.
His family also serves as inspiration for his work. His sons are such an important part of his life, and he wants them to be proud of him. He believes that meeting his wife and raising his family is the best thing that he has ever done. Michael met his wife while working at Alliance Data Systems. She had three kids and worked exhausting hours.
“She would fall asleep on me from time to time. I didn’t think she was very interested in me as a result. Little did I know it was a combination of her working all the time and taking care of three kids. Consequently she was just worn out and she felt comfortable enough around me to pass out. One night in particular, I took a paper towel and a green marker and drew her on the couch sleeping, and wrote “Sleeping Beauty” on it as I left that night,” he said.
However, his influences stem from numerous mediums aside from those he knows well. Comic-book-wise, it is Jack Kirby because he created half the Marvel comic universe to include the vast majority of heroes people are familiar with like Captain America. Some of his other influences are architecture. He love Marietta because of the downtown – all the detail and craftsmanship that’s gone into the design of the buildings influences his style.
“They stand as a historical testament to the artistic nature and craftsmanship of yesterday compared to the unrefined, mass-produced architecture we primarily see today,” he said.
The artistic atmosphere of the Mid-Ohio Valley has helped Michael flourish. There is a strong influx of new artists with a DIY spirit that Michael really enjoys. He also finds the Internet to be a great resource for growing artists. The instantaneous connection among artists helps to grow the community, and bring people together which also contributed to his success.
“I am by no means a well-known artist but I do feel like a successful artist. Art takes bravery, and bravery is sometimes just creating something,” he said.
As far as creating goes, Michael self-published his first comic book Paradox City in January 1997. From there, he continued pursuing a career in art in anyway possible. Currently, he creates the long running web comic Short Pants Romance. The comic features the misadventures of Sam Starkey aka Triceraman (known as Triceralad in his earlier days) and Terry Dactal The Pterodactyl.
The story begins 10-15 years down the road when the cameras and the money are all gone. Sam is in his mid-thirties and he is a hero still out there fighting the good fight but not knowing what he is going to do with his life. Sam has a steady girlfriend that thankfully puts up with his crazy lifestyle. Triceraman is the Charlie Brown of superheroes. While he sees other people around him succeed in life, there he is missing the football.
“If you can imagine the 60s Batman and Robin TV show as a reality TV show, you’d have a good idea what Short Pants Romance is like. Of course, instead of Batman and Robin, it’s The Pterodactyl and Triceralad.”
Michael has plans for the future too. He is also working on a new project with Jordan Lowe, owner of Asylum Comics. They plan to “bring the fun back into funny books,” he said. They are going for the all-age demographic. They want to get back to the joy of comics and stray away from gritty comics that are prevailing in the market today. The first project is Heroic 9.0. It’s about a brother and sister that have to share a cell phone and who accidently download an app that gives them powers.
“One thing I feel there is a void of is female characters that girls can look up to and we wanted to fill that void. The plan is to make a character that girls of all ages can read and be inspired by for the right reasons,” he said.
Those wanting to look into the life of a comic artist can find Michael on May 8th at the Merchants and Artists Walk. In the meantime, his office is in the Putnam St. Commons on the second floor, where he’ll probably be working on either a website or drawing a Me-Hero (Michael takes commissions to draw people as super heroes).