Washington Post Magazine: Comic Book Hero

Video
Legally blind artist Andre Campbell works at his home studio in Maryland. Video by Rebecca Davis/washingtonpost.com
Andre Campbell and David Rowell
Comic Artist; Washington Post Magazine Articles Editor
Monday, December 15, 2008; 12:00 PM

Andre Campbell's vision is severely limited, which hasn't stopped him from pursuing his dream of making it as a comic book artist. But will he ever see success?

Andre Campbell, president of Heritage Comics HSQ, and Washington Post Magazine articles editor David Rowell were online Monday, December 15 to discuss Rowell's cover story, "Comic Book Hero."

A transcript follows.

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David Rowell: Hi everyone, this is David Rowell, and I wrote the story about Andre Campbell and his pursuit of his comic book dream. I had a great time working on this story, and I look forward to any comments or questions you have about it.

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Andre Campbell: Hi, this is Andre Campbell from Heritage Comics HSQ

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a local author/publisher. What's the best way to get in touch with Andre to discuss possible collaboration?

Andre Campbell: Hi, You can check out my web site and that will give you all the info that you will need. www.heritagecomicshsq.com and our e mail is hsq4ever@gmail.com.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Campbell, you are awesome! How do I go about purchasing one of your books? I'm not too knowledgeable about comic book stores in my area. Thanks!

Andre Campbell: Thank you. We have placed our books in five stores so far in Baltimore and you can see their locations on our site at www.heritagecomicshsq.com. You can also go to www.indeplanet.com to buy our books. Also we will be putting out three new titles the beginning the new year so look for them in store OK.

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Arlington, Va.: David, in his editor's note Tom Shroder said this is the first magazine piece you've written. Do you think you'll do more? And do you think the experience changed how you will approach editing other writers going forward?

David Rowell: Thanks for the question. I went into the experience as a total experiment, with no real plan that there would be more to follow. But it's true that I had a great time reporting this piece, spending the kind of time I did with Andre and Tyran, talking to all the many generous folks who gave me their time and insights, and I enjoyed the process of writing the story itself. I'd like to write another story if I can find the right one. More to your good point, this experience--being on the other side of it--should surely affect how I go about editing in the future, but at this point, I don't know that I can say how it will change, exactly. I guess I'd like to think that it will make me that much more sensitive to the entire process that the writer goes through, and in that way, it should make me weigh my thoughts on how a story should be shaped or expanded or cut back already more than I do. But in most ways, I think I'll only find out that answer as I go forward.

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Online: Hi,

I just wanted to say "hey" and throw kudos out there to a kindred spirit, and someone who's in a very similar situation to myself. I'm legally blind also, and an artist who does a lot of fantasy and dark art. I felt like a total anomaly for most of my life- (being a V/I artist), and only recently came to discover that there were other folks out there like me; who had poor vision but who were still somehow inexorably drawn (pardon the pun) to the visual arts. And it rocks to know you're not alone in the world. :)

I love that a fellow "geek" and visually impaired artist is making it; through working hard for something he believes in, on a project which he's created himself- and the fact that he's someone who has likely dealt w/much of the same stuff I have- and that he still won't stop, despite all the hurtles (personally and professionally) he must face on a regular basis. (Such as interaction w/public who don't quite "get it," working w/agencies who are trying to help w/low vision aids, job placement and the like, and just adapting to creating art w/low vision, etc..)

It's a bit of a paradoxical thing; to be someone who can't see well, but who feels so passionately about taking part in and the creation of visual media. But it's also a wonderful thing- as it's a point of view that very few others share. (I mean, how many people do YOU know live predominantly by shading and looking very, very closely at things? ;D) Personally, I'm still hoping to shirk the necessity for a "day job" and live off of the ability to sell my work more widely, but seeing Mr. Campbell really go for his dreams and making them happen is a real inspiration for me. It gives me hope that I might make it someday, even if I have to go my own route to do it. :)

I'm honored to share the proverbial ranks w/someone that free of spirit, strong of heart, and gifted of talent. And if he'd ever like to collaborate, or have a person who's in a similar boat in the area with whom to kibbitz- I'd be happy to toss my card in the pile. :)

Best of luck to you, and rock on, Mr. Campbell!

David Rowell: Thanks for writing in and for your thoughtful comments. I did find Andre to be very inspiring to be around, and I think whether you have a particular handicap or you're just trying to achieve some ambitious goal, there are lessons we can take from the way Andre lives his life. He never complains about the difficulties he has, and he loves to rise to the challenge of things. That really drives him. So being around someone like that for the period of time I had with him, yes, I was very moved, and I tried hard to capture that aspect of his character, which I hope comes through.

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Capon Bridge, W.Va.: Hey,

I'm a senior in high-school and have been pretty heavy into drawing comics since I was about nine, and I found your article to be really inspirational. Just goes to show you what you can accomplish if your heart is set on something you love!

Andre Campbell: That is so true my friend. You are just starting out and the best advice that I can give you is to practice! practice! and to draw for you. There will always be someone out there that will not like what you do, but don't let that get you down. You can do anything if you just give it your all. I would like you to check out our site and send us some samples of you work we would love to see it. OK. www.heritagecomicshsq.com and our e mail is hsq4ever@yahoo.com

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Anonymous: I'd like to know Andre's thoughts on the Magazine's cover. Was it more Batman and Robin or Don Quixote and Pancho for you?

Andre Campbell: I love the cover but Tyran is not my sidekick, he is and will always be my equal. We are visionman and Tyran like the cover said.

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Anywhere, USA: I don't feel bad for Campbell because of his poor eyesight. I feel bad for him because he's obsessed with making comics. It's one of the most difficult things anyone can attempt and getting something -- anything -- printed is a major feat that is usually destined to go unrewarded. Unless you've done it yourself or are close to someone who has, it's hard to appreciate the staggering amount of labor that goes into a single issue of a self-published comic. If you think it's hard to research and write a novel, try drawing one.

The only thing more difficult than drawing a comic book is marketing it. Nearly all of the smaller distributors who would handle a comic like Campbell's have gone out of business. Not that there are many retailers who would agree to sell it. Or a huge number of comic book readers to buy it. That's how I know Campbell is obsessed: Everyone I know who makes comics is obsessed (whether they admit it or not). Illustrated fiction is a brilliant and underappreciated art form where the cream does not always rise to the top, let alone make a profit. As a lifelong devotee who would hate to see the medium dry up and blow away, I have to say thank heaven for lunatics like Campbell and Eades! (Even though I'm not a huge fan of superheroes... try "Embroideries" by Marjane Satrapi or pretty much anything by Chris Ware, Ivan Brunetti or Jaime Hernandez.)

If you're looking to buy some comics, I found Heritage Comics HSQ at the Indyplanet web site. Also keep in mind Bethesda's own Small Press Expo (it's not until next September, but keep it in mind anyway).

David Rowell: Thank you for writing in. I guess my own experience is that Andre is pretty obsessed with his comic book work, but I was also struck by his very healthy perspective on the whole thing. One, Andre puts his family above everything else, and he fits his comic book work in where he can, each day. On weekends he goes on camping trips with his oldest son and takes his boys to the movies or to mini-golf, ect., so I never got any sense at all that Andre's obsession--if that's how he'd see--has cost his family. He wants it to happen, of course, but it's not his whole life.

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Manassas, Va: I have two questions, one, would it be too personal to ask why you have such limited vision? And 2, is there anywhere in Virginia where I would be to buy your work? You guys are awesome at what you do. Keep it up!

Andre Campbell: I was born with a genetic disorder that affected the males in my family which resulted in my blindness. It was no one's fault, just fate. We are planning to expand our readership to more states but right now we have our books in stores in Baltimore. You can visit our site at www.heritagecomicshsq.com and get more info on buying our books. If you like to talk with us more you can always e mail us at hsq4ever@gmail.com OK

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Herndon, Virginia: What do you do when you have a creative block?

Andre Campbell: I know those well. I talk with Tyran and other artist friends. I play my Playstation 2 and look at movies, cartoons and my comic books. If those things don't work I leave my table alone and surf the Internet. Being an artist is a very hard job, but our emotions have a way of interfering with our creativity. If you are happy do happy art and if you are sad do sad art. I hope this helped you some.

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Toronto, Ontario: Hi, I was wondering what is Mr. Campbell's favourite Daredevil story, and what did he think of the Daredevil movie?

Thanks.

David Rowell: I'd just like to add my two cents to this one, since I seem to be the only one who thinks that the Daredevil movie, by superhero movie standards, was really good. I can hear the groans out there, but I put it above the first Batman movie (with Michael Keaton) easily and most of the others. I thought it really captured the spirit of Frank Miller's Daredevil--both visually and in the writing. But since all the critics I hated it, I know I'm in very rare company here.

Andre Campbell: I agree with David. I loved the Daredevil movie and I looked forward to seeing another. My favorite issue was a final battle between Daredevil and Bulls eye after he had killed Electra. I don't recall the issue number at this time but that was one of the best story lines ever.

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Upper Marlboro, Maryland: I've always been interested in comic books. As a child my aunt be the Dare Devil series, and a Spiderman issue. From then, on I was hooked. I'm an Artist at heart, and have been drawing since the age of nine. I have progressed from drawing cartoons alone to people, vehicles, and buildings. My name is Stephen Emmanuel White. I am an African American Male with a vivid imagination, and passion for Art. I hope to become a comic book Artist one day.

Andre Campbell: If you love what you do and put your all into it you can become a comic book artist. We at Heritage would love to see your work and talk with you. Our e mail is hsq4ever@gmail.com and visit our site at www.heritagecomicshsq.com

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Columbia, Md.: Hello David, great article. Does it seem to you that Andre and Tyran are (minimally just) super heroes to and for each other in a cold world, and if they never otherwise succeed conventionally in comics, that alone is enough?

David Rowell: Thanks for the kind word. You raise an interesting question, and their relationship is something I thought about a lot during the process. First, I think their friendship means a great deal to both of them. Tyran talks about how Andre was the first person who really made him believe that he could be successful with his art, and there is no question, I think, that when Tyran came back to the group, after his years in the Navy, he gave Andre a kind of boost and sense of hope that no one else could have given him. So I was very moved by how they regard each other. If they have already reached the highest level of success that they're going to have, which I don't believe, I think that they would still enjoy sticking with it together to the very end. They bring different strengths to the process, and they respect each other a great deal. And while I was inspired by their determination, I was also just inspired by their friendship and their level of comfort in speaking openly to each other about it. The very first day I spent with them, the three of us were sitting at this table at the Pittsburgh convention, and at one point Andre just said, "I love this guy right here." Maybe it was the first time he had said that, but I think they would do anything for each other.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you sell your art?

Andre Campbell: Yes we do sell our art. Check out our site at www.heritagecomicshsq.com and you can also email us at hsq4ever@gmail.com

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Bowie, Md.: When and where is the next Comic-Con? How can I purchase your comic book(s)?

David Rowell: The next big convention may actually be the Pittsburgh convention in April, but if you just type in Comicon into Google, the list of conventions comes up quite quickly. There are A-list major conventions, and then, as one person put it to me, a kind of second tier level of conventions. But I was struck by how many there are across the country, big and small.

Andre Campbell: If you check our site it will give you info on buying our books. I really appreciate your interest in buying our books. We are planning to release three new titles the beginning of next year.

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Anonymous: Washington, DC: David, Were you present on Career Day at the elementary school and if so, did that have any effect on Andre's presentation?

David Rowell: Thank you for the question. I was not able to be there at Career Day, since I had just had a death in the family, I couldn't get back in time. But I called Andre and said, I'm going to ask you about every detail of that day, so just turn your senses on high. And that's how I was able to re-create that scene, because we talked about it for a very long time. But I suspect my being there would not have had much of an impact on how he went about his presentation. I never, in all the time I reported the story, felt like Andre was ever "performing" for me or going about his interactions any differently had I not been there. I think as Career Day went along, he was just totally in the moment, feeling all the attention he was getting and all the exctitement he was causing. That experience was very meaningful to him, and when he stepped outside he called Tyran and said, You've got to do this with me next year.

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Fairfax, Va.: Great article! Has Mr. Campbell acquired the CCTV system yet? If not, how can we donate to help make it a reality?

David Rowell: Thanks for the kind e-mail. Andre has not acquired the CCTV. It's funny, but so many people asked me, as I was working on this story, How did I think the story was going to change anything for Andre? My feeling was that it was harder to see how the story alone could change his publishing success, but I thought it was possible that someone would be moved enough to want to buy him the CCTV, since in the piece it becomes clear how much easier his life would if he had one. In any case, I belive that Andre has listed his e-mail in the chat, and please do follow up with him.

Andre Campbell: Hi I would appreciate any assistance in obtaining a CCTV. You can reach me at hsq4ever@gmail.com. Again I thank you very much. The CCTV would be very helpful to me.

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Comic Writers?: Who are some of your favorite comic book writers nowadays? Do you like Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, etc?

David Rowell: I'm not nearly as well versed in comics as Andre--not nearly. But I do like Frank Miller quite a bit. Very noir-ish stuff, gritty just right for the kinds of characters--like Daredevil and Batman, that he has written for.

Andre Campbell: I love Frank Miller, George Perez and Chris Clairmont and STAN (THE MAN) LEE

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DC: Andre, do you feel that your vision impairment has hindered you with following modern day comics, both stylistically and in terms of dialogue?

Andre Campbell: As my vision got worse over the years and the lettering got smaller in comics, I did stop reading them. So that it may have hindered me a little.

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David Rowell: Thanks to all those who tuned in. I know everyone is really wishing Andre and Tyran the best as they go forward.

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Andre Campbell: I like to thank everyone for your wonderful questions and good bye and seasons greetings from Andre Campbell and Heritage Comics HSQ.

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