Darren G. Davis can remember waking up on Christmas morning filled with excitement – but a bit too early for his parents.
The young boy would open his eyes around 4:30 a.m. on Christmas morning, unable to sleep another minute. But he knew if he woke up his parents before at least 8:30, he’d be in big trouble.
“So what do you do from 4:30 until 8 o’clock?” he said. “My brother would read me Greek mythology stories, and it was great. We used to do this every Christmas morning.”
Growing up, Davis developed a great passion for Greek mythology, and discovered an abiding faith in something else: comic books.
“When I was a kid, I had a love for Greek mythology,” he said. “And I’ve always been a fan of comic books. I loved them. As a kid I was a reluctant reader, and I gravitated to comic books first. My parents didn’t care what I was reading, as long as I was reading.”
These early passions would serve Davis well as an adult. He’s the president of Bluewater Comics, publisher of such popular titles as “The 10th Muse” and “Legend of ISIS.” In fact, “10th Muse” harkens back to his early love for mythology.
“When I was thinking of going into comic books, I decided to create a character called the 10th Muse,” he said. “I ended up launching this comic book and it ended up selling amazingly.”
The comic is about the modern-day daughter of the Greek God Zeus, and hit the market in November 2000. The debut issue became the sixth highest-selling comic that month and launched the career of Davis – who had previously worked in the field of marketing – into the field of comic books.
It’s a field, he said, that’s rapidly changing – and not necessarily in good ways.
Although comic book giants like Marvel and DC have been creating legendary superheroes like Spiderman, Batman, Thor and Superman since the 1940s, the comic book industry has fallen on rough times, Davis said.
“A comic book is a dying breed right now,” he said. “Comic book stores, there used to be tens of thousands of them, and now there’s about 2,000 of them. They’re dying off.”
Part of the reason, he said, is there are actually three kinds of comics available in book stores today. The first is the traditional comic, and then there’s the graphic novel – an illustrated story with “a spine and an ISPN number,” he said. The third kind is trade paperbacks – four or five old comic books from decades ago put together into one book.
It’s a lot more competitive today, he said, to create a new comic that catches readers’ attention and becomes a lasting saga.
“As you’re creating your characters, you really want to be sure that it’s sellable and that it’s different enough from the rest,” he said. It’s a philosphy that Bluewater Comics has followed for years, in unorthodox ways. Rather than finding the new Spiderman or Daredevil, they’ve gone off in different directions.
One was to set up a deal with Adam West, the actor best known for playing Batman in the campy 1960s television series.
“We’ve worked with Adam West, the original Batman,” he said. “The comic book is about Adam West, how he’s the most bitter modern actor. He just always felt like he was pigeonholed into the Batman-type role.”
In the comic book series, West goes back in time and gets to play different superhero roles.
“It’s kind of a Quantum Leap thing,” Davis said, referring to the 1990s television series with Scott Bakula. “It’s actually a really fun series.”
They’re working with author William F. Nolan on a comic book version of his 1967 science fiction novel “Logan’s Run,” which later became a 1976 movie starring Michael York, and then a TV series.
“He hated the film, so we’re trying to do the comic exactly the way he visualized it,” Davis said.
Bluewater has also waded into politics, though not in a partisan way.
Back in 2008, during the presidential campaign, “There was a comic out there on John McCain and Barack Obama, and we decided why not do a comic on Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, because they were really being treated unfairly in the press,” he said.
The result was the Female Force comics, an examination of strong women in politics.
“It’s any woman that has made a difference in society,” Davis said. “We really keep them fair and balanced. We try to do both sides of the (political) fence.”
They also opted to create a comic book about the late singer Michael Jackson.
“We did a Michael Jackson comic book right after he passed away, and we did it in a different way,” Davis said. “We contacted his fan club and asked them to edit it.”
Bluewater has also done a Charlie Sheen comic book, although Davis said he’s been asked if he will devote a comic to former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who just resigned from Congress following a scandal over text messages he sent over his Twitter account to numerous women. Davis said he’s probably not going there.
“Anthony Weiner is safe for now,” he said. “There’s no reason to do him. I don’t think it would sell, anyway.”
These comics have been far more controversial than Batman or the Incredible Hulk ever were, and Davis acknowledges this.
“We’ve been called whores and bottom-feeders and stuff,” he said. “This really hurt my feelings at one point.”
Still, he also knows that to stay competitive, comic books today have to be relevant, and keep in touch with readers’ interests.
“We’re trying to do things that are different,” he said. “And yeah, I’m trying to relive my childhood.”
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