ST. GEORGE — Each night, Ivins resident Jared Gifford sits down in front of his laptop and works on a script. It not a script for a possible play or movie, but pending future issues of a comic book series set to have its publishing debut this Saturday. Aside from sharing his work with others, he also hopes some folks may draw some inspiration from his experience.
“I always set aside some time to write something,” Gifford, 34, said, while sitting across a table at Comics Plus in St. George. Beside him was Gabriel “Ol Raz” Ramirez, the owner of Crazy Monkey Ink, an independent comic publisher who is launching Gifford’s work.
Titled “Darum: Captain of the Stars,” Gifford said it is something people haven’t seen in a while and that it draws inspiration and influence from science fiction classics like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Star Wars, as well as the Japanese manga series “Captain Harlock.”
The first issue, set to launch Saturday at Comics Plus, features title character Darum as a 14-year-old boy whose father’s space freighter is attacked by pirates, Gifford said. As the story progresses, Darum grows up and takes lessons he learned from this father’s example and goes about aiding others while also standing up against a despotic galactic empire.
“It’s a story of standing up for what you believe is right in the face of adversity,” Gifford said.
Gifford started writing comic-inspired stories on an online Marvel Comics fan-fiction forum “just for fun” in 2012, he said. While there, he caught the attention of other writers with connections to the independent comics circuit.
One jaunt with a small independent publisher ultimately didn’t pan out, but it didn’t stop Gifford. He kept working on his own projects and fostering relationships with other writers and artists over social media.
While attending a Free Comic Day event at Comics Plus in 2014, Gifford met Ramirez, who was one of the featured artists at the event. Gifford shared his ideas with Ramirez and it ultimately led to a collaboration that has culminated in the upcoming release of Gifford’s “Darum” comic.
“One thing I like about Jared’s writing and about this book, it’s unlike anything Crazy Monkey Ink has done,” Ramirez said. “A lot of our stuff is urban, it’s gritty; it’s got a different point of view. … This is very family friendly.”
Though family friendly, Gifford’s writing also produces something dramatic and exciting to read, Ramirez said. Gifford’s writing is also very serialized, he said, with one issue setting something up for the next.
He’s also proven himself a tenacious writer, Ramirez said. While Ramirez said he would produce the first issue of a comic book and see where it goes from there before working on the next issue, Jared has already turned in 10 issues worth of scripts.
“If you want to be a comic book artist, if you want to be a comic book writer — create,” Ramirez said. “Put it out there, publish it. Let people know you can tell a strong story; that you can get it done.”
Ramirez pointed to the example of Robert Kirkman who started writing comics on the independent circuit, as well, and hadn’t yet been noticed by Marvel or DC, the “Big Two” of the comic book industry.
Kirkmam is the mind behind “The Waking Dead,” which was picked up by Image Comics in the early 2000s. The series became a major hit and was eventually adapted into a television series featured on the AMC network.
“He showed people what he could do,” Ramirez said.
Now Gifford is hoping to show others what he has to offer with the release of “Darum.” He also hopes his story of persistence and focus will be an inspiration for others, particularly those who may face some sort of disability, or other perceived barrier.
“I am what’s classified as high-functioning autistic,” Gifford said. “You tell some people that and they back away. They have a tendency to go, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re one of those people. Maybe I’ll catch it!’” he said.
He’s had ups and downs related to autism — some ignorant people being among them — Gifford said he hasn’t let that stop him for doing what he wants to do. He also credited the help and support of friends and family who see him as a person and not a disability.
“I would like my story to be an inspiration simply because I’d like (others) to see that, ‘Hey, look, he can do it, maybe I can, too,’” Gifford said. “This doesn’t have to be a barrier.”
Print copies of the first issue of “Darum: Captain of the Stars” will be available at Comics Plus Saturday from 2 p.m. Digital downloads will be available online at Indy Planet after Saturday.
Comics Plus is located at 348 W. St. George Blvd. in St. George.
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