Drawing a dream life

Shane Will

PHOTO BY Vic cantu

Chico’s Shane Will considers himself a lucky man. His job is writing, drawing and producing his fantasies in the form of superhero comic books. At age 5 he was stricken with leukemia and “practically grew up in a hospital,” where he was captivated by the stacks of comic books his father would bring him. Now 36, Will is the owner of CK Comics, which has produced four issues this year, mainly featuring his crime-fighting superhero, Caliber. He’s also left his creative mark on Chico by making an independent horror film (Waning Solstice) and web series (Monster Operatives); owning a gaming store (Kettil’s Keep, now under new ownership as Sanders Hobby Shop); and putting on Chico’s first comic convention, Chico Con, this past September.

What are your comics about?

The main superhero is a teenager named Matthew McAdams, whose hero name is Caliber. Caliber is the namesake of one of our two lines. He’s been forced into a crime-fighting role by his overbearing mother since he was 4. A criminal killed his father and raped his mother, so she raised him as a fighter to be her instrument of societal protection and vengeance. Our second line is Tales of the Tomorrowverse, which features three different superhero stories in each issue. I write two and [CK Comics writer and editor] Joe Burttram writes one.

How did comics become your thing?

Comics have been my first love of entertainment since my dad brought boxes of them to me in the hospital as a little boy. I’ve also always loved telling and writing stories. In junior high I’d write unpublished, 300-page fantasy books for fun. Plus I’ve always loved doodling and learned painting at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

What’s your work process?

I spend a couple of days brainstorming the story and script before taking another day to roughly sketch the artwork. My wife, Susan, uses inks over the pencil lines and adds depth and shadows. Finishing a full 20-page book takes about 20 days.

Your covers are colorful and beautiful. When did you start drawing?

When I created Caliber, about a year ago. I submitted drawings to friends who had 30 years experience in the field, and they gave me great advice. My best mentor was Dan Brereton, who’s drawn Batman and Superman comics. He gave me the confidence to do it.

Are they selling well?

Yes, especially my first two issues of Caliber, which both sold out. Our publisher, Scattered Comics, is printing a second run to be sold in several states. Locally you can get them at Collectors Ink comic shop or on the Apple App Store.

Are you planning another Chico Con?

Yes. Our first one went great. We outgrew it before it even started. The capacity at the Veteran’s Hall was 600 and 1,200 showed up! So next August we’re having it at the Chico Elks Lodge, which holds twice as many people. We’ll have attractions like comic creators, a costume contest and demos by professional wrestlers, and the medieval re-creationist Society for Creative Anachronism.

What are you future comic plans?

I eventually want my comic book business to be self-sustaining. I have Caliber planned through issue 22. In the summer of 2015 we’ll launch the six-issue Invasion of Terra series, which will feature 22 superheroes written by myself and Joe Burttram.