Joseph Schmalke will appear at an event for Awesome Shoppe at monthly downtown art walk
By Ben Meiklejohn
Graphic novelist Joseph Schmalke will appear at Awesome Hobby Shoppe to promote his novel, “The Calamitous Black Devils,” on Friday, July 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. as part of the city’s monthly art walk. (Ben Meiklejohn photo)
BIDDEFORD – Graphic novelist Joseph Schmalke ofWestbrook has only been making comic books for two to three years. He began self-publishing issues of his first comic story, “The Calamitous Black Devils,” in October 2012. After releasing his second issue of the comic, Broken Icon Comics became interested in it and, in May, the independent Ohio-based company published a 186-page graphic novel compilation of all six issues in the series.
Schmalke is the first featured artist whose works are on display at the recently opened Awesome Hobby Shoppe, at 311 Main St. Schmalke will be at the store for this month’s art walk from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, July 25, to sell the novels and prints of his work and sign copies.
An acrylic painting, “The Wizard of Oz,” by Joseph Schmalke, on display this month at Awesome Hobby Shoppe at 311 Main St., Biddeford. (Ben Meiklejohn photo)A master controller at WMTW, Shmalke has experience in both film and art. He received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Massachusetts Boston and worked on reality TV productions in Los Angeles as an assistant editor. Master controllers direct the technical aspects of video production, including light and camera operations, before the signal is broadcast.
Schmalke said comic books can be as cinematic as any film, except the artist doesn’t have to deal with the actors and producers. A one-man creator, Schmalke said he did all aspects of making “The Calamitous Black Devils” himself – writing, illustrating, coloring, inking and lettering his debut work.
“The Calamitous Black Devils” is a World War II horror sci-fi graphic novel about a brigade of Army operatives that are behind enemy lines trying to prevent Nazis from opening a multidimensional doorway into another world, Schmalke said. While they succeed in stopping the Nazis, they get sucked into the doorway and find themselves on the planet Nibean, at the center of the universe.
The soldiers encounter multitudes of supernatural beings including gods, aliens, the undead, vampires and werewolves, and find themselves in the middle of an intergalactic war. While battling for survival, and contending with evil protagonist Anan-Zaha, goddess of fire and rebirth, the soldiers have to also figure out how to go back through a multidimensional portal to return home.
“I’ve always been intrigued by World War II because the Nazis are seen as the evil empire and the SS was involved in weird, ritualistic stuff that nobody knows about because they destroyed all the records,” Schmalke said. “It leaves room for a lot of rich speculation.”
Schmalke said as a child, he lived in many different states as his family moved around. While in Florida, he remembers going to the Cartoon Museum in Orlando, which was owned by an artist who had done some work for MAD magazine. The man had one of the largest collections of raw comic pages – original art – in the world, said Schmalke, and it was through viewing that collection that Schmalke first got a sense of how to create comic art.
“He would let us fly through the collection,” Schmalke said. “After studying a raw page, after a while, you get an idea of how to make them.”
“Part of the thing with comic books is, you have to use common sense. You have to show it. Show us, don’t tell us.’”
Jamie Jordan, art director at Awesome Hobby Shoppe, said the store hopes to incorporate more local artists into the fabric of the business. Four local artists already have works on display and she said the store plans to have a featured artist each month who will be in the store for the city’s monthly art walk.
In addition to “The Calamitous Black Devils,” the store is selling graphic works by another Maine artist – Shawn French who writes “Escape from Jesus Island.”
Schmalke said when he makes an appearance at the store during the art walk, there will be exclusive prints given to the first 10 people who buy “The Calamitous Black Devils.” The prints are one-of-a-kind, he said, because they have the Awesome Hobby Shoppe store logo printed on them. They will not be reprinted.
Schmalke has four works on display at the store – a large acrylic painting titled “The Wizard of Oz” and three other illustrations, which he is also selling.
The illustrations include “Skeletor vs. Mummia,” “Spirits of Vengeance,” a Ghost Rider depiction, and “Adventure Time,” a mashup of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” with an animated television series, “Adventure Time.”