Jim McCarter is a mild-mannered, fifth-grade teacher in his Sycamore Elementary School classroom. But on paper, he battles his brother for supremacy in the desert, jeopardizing the safety of children at a summer paleontology camp.
His students’ parents shouldn’t be worried — McCarter’s evil side only comes out in his first comic book, “Pulverized Density & Dinosaurs #1,” which he recently wrote and published with a Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant.
McCarter will sign copies of the comic book from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kokomo Comics, 1201 S. 17th St. Retired Kokomo teacher Ed Pulver, who is the comic’s hero, Taylor teacher Steve Dishon, who is one of the villains, and several former Kokomo students, who also are characters, will attend the signing as well.
Pulver, Dishon and McCarter all formerly taught together at Central Middle School.
McCarter said there are nine characters and he expects most, if not all, of them to be at the event.
The story is based on a trip McCarter and Pulver took about 10 years ago, to dig for dinosaurs in Wyoming. He and Pulver are brothers, and in the story both have super powers to manipulate mass and density.
“I use my powers to locate and steal good skeletons from the desert, and [Pulver] uses his powers to battle with me,” McCarter said, adding that his character is manipulated by Dishon’s character to steal the dinosaur fossils.
“In the end, Ed and I reconcile and Steve gets to go to jail,” McCarter said.
He has been a comic book fan since he was a child, and continued to collect them as an adult. He said he had always wanted to write one, and when he heard about the teacher creativity grant, “I thought this would be a cool way I could do something educational, but also have fun with comic books.”
He received the $8,000 grant, and used some of the funding to attend the HerosCon comic book convention in Charlotte, N.C.
The convention draws a lot of independent writers and artists. He talked to some to find out what he needed to do, and hired artist Leanne Hannah as his illustrator.
He wrote the book using the full-script method, meaning he would tell what panel he was on, how big it would be, what was happening in it and what the characters were saying.
Once he wrote the script, he sent it to Hannah, who did layouts using stick figures. They met at a comic book convention in October to review those, and then she started drawing the pencil roughs.
Once McCarter approved those, she drew them over in ink and filled in the words. Artist Jim Calafiore drew the cover. McCarter said he has worked for Marvel and DC Comics.
McCarter saw his first completed copy in April,
“It was pretty exciting. I had been anticipating it for a long time,” McCarter said. “It was great to hold it in my hand.”
Dishon was excited to be the villain in the book.
“It’s the exact opposite of me,” he said. “I actually asked him if I could be the bad guy when he was originally planning it.”
When he saw the finished book, he was really happy with how much the characters look like the real people who inspired them, especially Pulver.
“His character is so close to him, it’s great.”
His family and his Taylor High School English students also are enjoying the book, Dishon said.
He hopes McCarter can use it in his classroom, “to get them excited about fossils and dinosaurs and different scientific things. Anything you can find that will captivate the kids and make them excited about it, they’re going to learn more than if it’s a struggle.”
Pulver said he knew McCarter was writing a comic book, but did not know until the script was complete that he was going to be the hero.
“I thought, ‘OK, that’s interesting,’” he said. He had no worries, though.
“I knew whenever he said he was going to do this he was going to do a really good job with it,” Pulver said of McCarter.
Pulver went on paleontology digs for about 10 years in Wyoming, and took Kokomo-Center students four summers. McCarter and one of his daughters went for the first session, Pulver said, and the two of them reviewed their pictures from the trips to give some to the illustrator.
“Besides having a great script, we were able to find almost the perfect picture for each [block], so when she did the artwork, she was able to depict it with the right colors and everything else.”
Pulver also provided fact-checking assistance.
“This is something where I look at this comic book and I know that happened in real life.”
He said, though, he’s had to explain to his three grandsons that some of it is fiction.
“I tell them, ‘This is just a story. This isn’t Grandpa’s life. Grandpa can’t really fly.’ It’s fun to read those pages to them.”
McCarter’s grandson, who is 2 1/2, inspired the name of his comic book company, Tiny X Comics. His grandson likes to sit at the computer and type lower case x’s.
McCarter is selling copies for $3 at the signing Tuesday, and also has them available online through www.indyplanet.com
McCarter said he is going to see if the Children’s Museum would like to sell them, because of its Dinosphere exhibit. He also will use the books in his classroom.
He is already developing plans for Pulverized #2, “if I can find a way to finance it. I have started some stories for another one. We’ll see if it works out.”
• Danielle Rush is the Kokomo Tribune education reporter. She can be reached at 765-454-8585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.