“I think of it as a literary anthology,” says Ivan Brunetti, an illustration instructor at Columbia College and local comic artist who edited An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories ($28; Yale University Press), out in October. The book spotlights more than 75 artists in the burgeoning genre, including four native sons, showing that Chicago’s comic community extends beyond superstar Chris Ware.
by Rebecca Little


Archer Prewitt , 43
Resides in:
Oak ParkMusic is his main gig these days, but singer/songwriter Archer Prewitt still occasionally resurrects his signature character Sof’ Boy, a marshmallowesque mystery character who first appeared in the early 1990s. Prewitt says he created Sof’ Boy as a reaction to the artsy, sober comics of the time. “I wanted to create something more slapstick, more of an oddity,” he says. An innocent wandering in a world populated by not-so-innocents, Sof’ Boy frequently encounters prostitutes, bums, and the like. The character reflects Prewitt’s own upbringing in a small Kentucky town: “I still sometimes feel wide-eyed. This helps me process life in the big city in a humorous way.”


Jeffrey Brown , 31
Resides in:
Lincoln Square
Jeffrey Brown’s self-published first work, Clumsy (2002), chronicled the often awkward and sometimes poignant moments of a relationship he had in his 20s. On the forefront of the autobiographical movement in comics, Brown’s latest project, Little Things, intertwines life experiences into similar story lines. “One story juxtaposes my windshield getting smashed in with this friendship I had that went on the rocks,” he says. “I have so many ideas for comics and stories, I’m tied up for the time being.”


John Hankiewicz , 34
Resides in:
A former college instructor, Hankiewicz began drawing in the mid-1990s and since has put out one book per year (the latest is his 2006 collection Asthma, published by Sparkplug Comic Books). “A lot of the work I’ve done has been fragments of memories that I turn into a strip, and quite a few of them have elements of my dreams,” says Hankiewicz, whose pieces typically star him. “I’d rather be drawing a strip than living real life. Each strip is like a little world for me, which I mentally inhabit while I’m working on it.”


, 29

Resides in: Ravenswood Manor
Onsmith is the pen name for Columbia College student Jeremy Smith, whom Brunetti commissioned to illustrate the book’s table of contents. A younger member of the comic community, mentored by Brunetti, Smith draws brash and colorful one- and four-panel gag strips. “I hear conversations on the el that make me think of something, and I take it to an absurd level,” he says. “It’s really more satire than antiestablishment.” Paraphrasing Ware, Smith cites Chicago’s cold weather as one of the keys to the city’s growing scene. Weather, he says, forces the artist to sit down and create. “I wouldn’t get as much done on the West Coast.”

Illustrations: courtesy of the artists