Local art teacher debuts comic book ‘The Keepers’

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A Hawaii high school art teacher has created his own comic, and will soon head to Las Vegas to share it with the world.

“The Keepers,” by Kalaheo High School teacher Art Wong, is broken into three parts that all take place in the same fantasy world inspired by Wong’s own Chinese heritage.

Part one follows a veteran monster slayer who belongs to a secret organization that existed throughout 5,000 years of Chinese history before branching out across the world, protecting others from the forces of darkness.

The second part is about baristas. “I came up with the idea when I was grading papers one night at a coffee shop, and I thought, well, baristas hear a lot of interesting things. What if they were monster slayers too?” Wong said.

Part three features two kids who keep a pinky promise, no matter how long it takes to fulfill, and the monsters it might bring along.

Wong grew up reading the Chinese comic “Old Master Q” and “Garfield.” But it wasn’t until he took a class on sequential art by Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance founder Sam Campos that he really fell in love with storytelling through art.

Now, as a member of the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance, Wong is working with his former teacher to turn his passion into a reality.

“I’ve collected a bunch of people who are professionals and publish their own books and we share information, and we also do community work and just go out and help people. Even if you’re not in the alliance, we are available. We help and share,” Campos said of the local comic community.

“You would think generally, because you’re a comic book publisher from Hawaii, it would strictly be from Hawaii, but we have stuff that’s like medieval things. We have futuristic stories. We have steampunk kind of things,” Campos added. “What’s also cool is a lot of the creators, not only are they professionals, but we have a couple teachers. We have a couple of real-life superheroes, policemen, involved. It’s a really good group of people.”

Campos, Wong, and other Hawaii creators will soon hit the road to showcase their work at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con, June 29 through July 1.

“I want to go and bring my comic out there, get a little bit of promotion, get a new life experience to bring back to my classroom to share with my kids so they can live out their dreams too, and maybe make a comic if they wanted to. I think that’d be cool,” Wong said.

“(Wong) produced this book from start to finish in under three weeks, which is insane,” Campos said. “He drew it, he scanned it, he colored it, he lettered it, sent it off to press, got it back, and he shares that every day in his classroom. Now, he’s taking this to the Ninth Island, and he’s going to have a lot of experiences, meet a bunch of new people, and when he comes back, his students this coming year are going to have the benefit of that experience, so I think that’s really cool.”

You can find “The Keepers” and other local comics at various comic events across the state, comic book shops, and the Amazing Comic Con Aloha in August.

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