New Comic Book Series By
George Morneau and Keith Ashton
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by John Liviero
Talent has a funny way of lingering, of waiting, biding its time and then exploding outwards.
Karmic Malice Comics, a local publishing company, has just released the first issue of their debut title: Dream Reapers.
The comic was written by George Morneau and illustrated by Keith Ashton.
George, a lumber yard worker, first started embracing his artistic talents in his early fifties.
“I come from a very artistic family,” George explains. “My brother and sister are unbelievable artists. We’re all self-taught. None of us have any formal training. Then, about five or six years ago, I became a very spiritual person. I started applying these gifts in a more sincere way.”
Within two years, George experienced a volcanic eruption of creativity. He began writing poetry and sculpting. He donated an art piece to Crossroads on Ottawa Street. Some of his watercolors and poems were even featured at the Gibson Gallery in Amherstburg.
During this incredibly fertile period, George began working out the details for what would eventually coalesce into Dream Reapers.
“I’m friends with Tony Gray, from Glass Monkey Studios,” George states. “He’s developed his own comic book series, Conduit. He told me I had a pretty good story, the makings of a great comic book. That I needed to find an illustrative artist.”
After a couple leads didn’t pan out, George encountered Keith Ashton at an art show.
“They had a bunch of artists in the area show up and set up booths in the Windsor Market Square,” George recalls. “I sold a couple pieces. At one point, I was talking to this other artist and said, ‘You know, I’ve got this story. Do you know anyone who’d be a good fit?’ And she said, ‘Yeah. The young fellow behind you.’”
The young fellow was Keith Ashton, a local freelance artist.
Keith first began pursuing art in his teens after becoming embroiled in an unlikely love affair with comic books.
“Back in high school, I never took art all that seriously,” Keith explains. “I dabbled, here and there. In high school, my art teacher, Mr. James, taught me about comic book art. He was teaching me about different comic book artists and different styles and the techniques they were using. I ended up looking deeper. I went to Border City Comics, a local comic book store. I looked at all the different comic books. One of the artists that I stumbled upon was a man named David Finch.”
To Keith’s surprise, David Finch was local. And thanks to his art teacher, Keith was able to meet his favourite comic book artist.
“When I went in, he showed me some of the techniques he was using,” Keith recalls. “He told me that I was way too rusty to be taken on as an intern but that if I kept it up for the next couple years, who knows?”
Emboldened, Keith ended up enrolling at the University of Windsor, hoping to secure an internship with David Finch. However, at the time, Finch was not taking on interns. Undeterred, Keith continued to hound his hero for a position.
“I was emailing him every day for about a month,” Keith explains. “Eventually, he said, ‘You know what? You’re persistent enough. I’ll take you on.’”
The internship turned out to be Keith’s baptism by fire.
“David took me back to the drawing board,” Keith states. “He said I was one of the least experienced artists he’d taken on but I had the passion. So, for those four months I absolutely killed myself. Multiple pages of sketches every day. But by the time the internship was done, I think I’d gone through 250 11×17 pages.”
Following the internship, Keith began sketching backgrounds for DC Comic’s New 52 Batman: The Dark Knight title. After about a year, Keith eventually left Finch’s tutelage to make a living as a freelance artist.
“I was working as a page layout artist,” Keith recalls. “I was trying to get my own standalone title. But, at the time, I didn’t feel like I had the experience necessary to pull that off. It’s one thing to be flying under somebody else’s wing while they’re doing a comic. It’s a completely different thing to do it yourself. And then I ran into George.”
George’s offer ended up being the motivation Keith needed to take the final step towards his dreams. The two collaborated on the title for months, meeting once a week at the Tim Hortons on Jefferson. “I would write a script and break it down into panels,” George explains. “Keith would have his pad and paper. Keith has this ability to break a script down, close his eyes and immediately understand it. He’s the other half of the brain I wish I had!”
“I’ve had a decent amount of experience with panels from when I was working with Dave,” Keith states. “Dave said that one of things he never had to teach me was storytelling. It’s one of my strong suits.”
“The only thing we’ve ever clashed about is who has to buy the coffee,” George laughs.
While hashing out the content, the two set about securing funding for the comic.
“Keith’s art really augmented the story I was trying to tell,” George explains. “But the big part was how we were going to pay for it. So I went around to different places. I didn’t have to go to a lot. Each business that I went to sell advertising space for the comic were more than receptive.”
George and Keith were able to receive backing from 10 different companies around Windsor, including Capone’s Grill and Pasta Shop, Soulliere Solutions, JoJacks, Custom Home Builders and others.
In addition, George and Keith decided that a third of whatever profits they made would be donated towards Canadian Mental Health.
Dream Reaper tells the story of Conflict, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. After rescuing a damned soul, Conflict decides to thwart the end of the world by entering the dreams of those responsible for the devastation, using their worst nightmares against them.
The title is planned for eight or nine issues. George and Keith have also developed three other original titles: Vengeful Spirit, Malice Riders and Mr. Beeju.
“The big joke is that I’m going to have to get Keith a belt because he’s getting a hernia carrying the workload,” George states.
Significantly, the release of Dream Reapers allowed Keith to reconnect with his old mentor.
“After we released the first issue, I ended up running into David Finch,” Keith explains. “He was impressed by my panel layout and pages and the flow of the book. He said I’d proven that I could make it in comic books. He even bought a couple copies and invited me out for lunch!”
Dream Reapers is currently available for purchase at Border City Comics, Paper Heroes, Rouges Gallery, Storytellers on Ottawa Street, Brimstone Games, the CG Realm and a couple Home
Hardware Stores in Essex.