Anyone who knows Bob Evans knows he has a passion for comic books and superheroes.
The pastor with Sicamous’ Shuswap Community Church is known to use superhero imagery in his work (particularly Superman), and has offered his knack for comic-book artistry at numerous community events – from teaching kids how to draw, to transforming people into pen and paper superheroes.
Evans’ long love for the stories of costumed super beings, altruistically risking all for the good of humankind recently culminated in issue one of True North.
“That’s all I read when I was a kid, comic books,” said Evans. “If it wasn’t for comics, I wouldn’t have read. They were all about superheroes, or Archie, that’s why I got into comics. I just became addicted to the characters and started drawing my own, at a young age, on Dad’s recycled paper from the airforce and I just started inventing my own heroes.”
True North is the first comic book Evans has produced since 1997. The book features the clearly Canadian superhero Will Strong, an environmental scientist whose life is transformed when he discovers something called “red energy” deep inside a cave in the Canadian Rockies. Dressed in a red and white bodysuit similar to another classic Canadian comic hero, Captain Canuck, Strong’s alter ego, True North, uses the power red energy gives him to fight evil and, of course, save the day. In the first issue, Strong is contacted by the Canadian government to assist a selfless missionary, Lydia Stiles, whose work overseas with orphans is being threatened (as is her life) by the evil Lady Aven.
Evans says he was a fan of Captain Canuck (in part, because he shared the same last name as the first Captain, Tom Evans), as well as a slew of other supers of comics and cinema, and True North is something of an homage to all those influences.
Along with some giant robot-smashing action, the book also comments on heroism, and how people do not need amazing powers or a flashy costume to be heroic.
“I also wanted to make this comic something that kids would get a lesson out of, in virtue and in courage,” said Evans. “So, when I showed the comic to my daughter when it was done, she actually thought Lydia Stiles, the missionary helping orphans, was the cool part of the comic, not the superhero…,” said Evans. “A missionary that wouldn’t leave her post, even though she’s in danger… that’s the kind of courage I was trying to convey.”
Asked why he chose a Middle-Eastern sounding name to be the domain of Aven and her cronies, Evans says it was inspired by real-life missionaries he knows who are doing work in Pakistan and whose own lives are in danger.
“Some of them have chosen to stay, putting their life on the line to keep orphanages open, stuff like that,” said Evans. “They’re people who have a lot more courage than I have. But they’re risking their necks, it’s like United Nations aid workers that are in the Sudan right now who are risking their lives to save people from slaughter.”
Evans describes True North as a simple, light-hearted super adventure with a lesson that is geared towards youth – anywhere from kindergarten to teens.
In his youth, Evans says he had aspirations to one day work with one of two biggies in comics, Marvel or DC. He taught himself how to draw with the help of books such as How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. At one point, he thought he would be attending the famous Joe Kubert School for graphic arts in New Jersey.
“It never happened – I got my first summer job at a church and it stuck,” said Evans. “I wanted to be a comic book artist, but when I got into church work I found that I liked it, and I could do comic book art on the side. And I think it’s kind of good because if I was stuck in an office eight hours a day I think I would get bored.”
Technology is what’s enabled Evans to put out his latest comic book. His studio consists of an iPad mini and a couple of apps, one for drawing and one that provides the frames and classic comic book effects. He says True North took four months to produce which – far less time that what it used to.
“It turned out to be 50 pages, and I’ve never done a 50-page comic in my life,” said Evans. “That shows you how much easier it is for me to get it done.”
Evans now plans to trademark his new hero, and then would like to do a kick-starter campaign to raise enough money to mass-print his comic, all profits of which will go towards helping the Christian humanitarian organization, Compassion Canada, with their work in the Philippines.
“About a month before the comic came out, the Philippines disaster happened, and I thought well, there you go, that’s what I’ll put it towards, and Compassion is in the Philippines helping,” said Evans.
Evans plans to continue with True North as a series, adding new characters who will eventually form the team, Strong and Free.
“I think with time, if I can keep doing it, which I plan on doing because it’s fun, I’ll get better at it and the technology will get better,” said Evans.