South Elgin cartoonist using Twitter to publish his work
New life online for Knight Watchman
Spend a few minutes on Twitter and you'll see everything from news to rants, musings and everything in between. But comic strips?
South Elgin cartoonist Chris Ecker has been tweeting Knight Watchman comic strips, which he first created in the 1990s, three times a week since Jan. 1, while also posting them on Facebook.
His partner, Gary Carlson, a former Elgin resident, is posting them at bigbangcomics.com. A new storyline will be released in the same fashion starting Feb. 24.
"With the ability to just publish online, you can do it for the love of it," Ecker said.
"Before, you had to worry about distribution, printing the physical book, production. Now you can just do it because you want to."
Knight Watchman is set in Midway City, Ill., which Ecker says was named as an homage to Elgin as a midway point between Chicago and Rockford.
The style is reminiscent of the old comic books of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, which he decided to embrace early on, he said.
"When I was an aspiring cartoonist, I was told, 'That's nice, kid, but it looks like an old guy drew it,' " he said. "I decided to go with it."
The superhero created by Ecker -- under the pseudonym Tom King -- first appeared in 1993 as a secondary character in the comic book Berzerker published by Caliber Comics.
Later, it appeared as its own story in Big Bang Comics, created by Ecker and Carlson in the 1990s. At its height, Big Bang Comics published 50,000 copies of each issue, Ecker said.
Ecker and Carlson have been gradually rereleasing "The Origins of The Knight Watchman" story in three-panel comic strips as a way to get readers reacquainted with the character, Ecker said.
The superhero's real name is Reid Randall, a former Olympic decathlon hopeful who has no actual superpowers but relies on athleticism and smarts.
"Kind of like Zorro and Don Diego de la Vega, he has a foppish sort of a cover," said Ecker, who works as assistant director of activities for Moose International.
There are other Elgin references such as Knight Watchman's archrival, Grandfather Clock, whose hideout is an abandoned watch factory, a reference to the Elgin Watch Factory that closed in 1968.
Ecker said he can't reveal the new storyline, written by Roger McKenzie, a former writer for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. All he'll say is, "In Midway City, it doesn't pay to be a food critic."
The new storyline, after being drawn in pencil by Ecker, is embellished in ink by Matthew Hansel of Harvard, and colored by Carlson.
Hansel works in McHenry County's planning and development department, and teaches political science at McHenry County College.
Hansel said he's been a fan of Big Bang Comics since high school.
"I was super excited I got to work on it," Hansel said. "It's an opportunity to hang out with cool guys with a lot of experience. I've also learned lessons about visual dynamics, visual storytelling, meeting deadlines, honing your craft and working with other people."
The Knight Watchman is not just for fans of superheroes, Hansel said.
"It's about quality stories, drama and interesting stories -- you shouldn't be afraid of it because there's a guy in a costume."