Page 4 of 5   <       >

Personal Liberties: Comic book artist Frank Cho has made a career of being bawdy and bold

***

Cho's daughters, Emily, 8, and Samantha, 6, sit at the counter of the galley kitchen, eating kimbap -- rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. Their big brown eyes are glued to "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" on a giant flat-screen television.

Somewhere along the way to becoming a top-selling comic book artist, Cho's marriage unraveled. The couple separated in 2008 and divorced in 2009. Since the separation, he has been dating Mara Herning, 24, a graduate student, whom he first met while she was caring for his kids. A film student at the time, she later went to work for Cho as his intern.

As divorces go, Cho's has been amicable. She kept the house; he kept his artwork. And they have worked hard to make the transition as smooth as possible for their daughters. Cho still picks them up from school every day and drops them off at his old home. And twice a week, they come for dinner.

As the girls finish eating, a lanky David Gill, dressed in a T-shirt and gray sweatpants, comes padding out from the other end of the apartment. Gill, Cho's childhood friend, had lost touch with Cho after high school. Now an out-of-work Web management specialist, he only recently learned that Cho had become a successful comic book artist and tracked him down at a comic book convention last year. Since then, Gill comes over at least once a week to watch movies or just sit on the couch and read while Cho draws.

On the drafting table in the corner is a page from an upcoming "Ultimates" issue for Marvel. Cho has started sketching an archer. He asks Gill to pose and hold the television remote as if it is a bow. Samantha gets up and stands behind her father, craning her neck to see over his shoulder.

Cho sketches for a few more minutes before he gets up to take the girls home. Before they go, Gill has Cho doodle something in a birthday card for his ex-girlfriend, a big "Liberty Meadows" fan.

"Thanks, dude," Gill says. "I don't think you know how happy she will be. Next time she sees you, she'll bow down."

"I have that effect on women," Cho deadpans.

***

In Paris, Cho arrives at Galerie 9 Art in a black suit -- his only suit -- that he bought specifically for the gallery show. He's wearing the black dress shoes that he got married in. He says he looks like a Toyota executive.

The walls are covered with his black-and-white drawings -- pages he produced for Marvel over the past four years -- encased in simple birch frames.


<             4        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company