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National

Comic Book Duo Hopes To Make Their Mark

MICHEL MARTIN, host.

Now, we're going to open up the pages of the Washington Post Magazine, something we do just about every week for interesting stories about the way we live now. This week, writer David Rowell takes us into the world of comic book artists Andre Campbell and Tyran Eades. For years, they have been creating fantasy cities filled with superheroes who battle threatening villains. But outside the pages of their make-believe world is a place where the odds against success also loom large. Andre is legally blind. That's just one obstacle he and his creative partner,Tyran, face, as they try to break into a comic-book industry dominated by two giant companies, with little room for independent artists. Andre Campbell and Tyran Eades join us now from Baltimore. Thank you so much for joining us, gentlemen.

Mr. ANDRE CAMPBELL (Comic Book Artist): You're welcome. I'm glad to be here.

Mr. TYRAN EADES (Comic Book Artist): Yup, feel the same.

MARTIN: Well, Andre, let me start with you. Your eyesight is quite deteriorated, and it actually has been for quite some time, really, almost as long as you've been drawing - since you were a child, right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yes, since birth.

MARTIN: But yet you have always, as I understand it, been a very talented graphic artist. How is that possible?

Mr. CAMPBELL: I guess I always question it myself a whole lot, but I think God just gave me that gift, and I just went with what God gave me, you know.

MARTIN: Tyran, how do you - I understand that you, kind of, another set of eyes for Andre. But how does it work with the two of you?

Mr. EADES: Well, that's a pretty big question. But I'm more or less the, I guess, his eyes, so to speak. And I see things that not only he wouldn't see, but I let him know from a useful standpoint since I'm actually probably, about, I think 12 to 11 years younger than he is.

Mr. CAMPBELL: This is Andre. Yeah. Rub it in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: The superheroes are called the Alpha Agents - Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Well, Andre, do you want to tell me who they are and what they're all about?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Basically, the Alpha Agents are a group controlled by the government. And the government actually experimented on the characters and gave them their powers in different manners and ways. And the characters are Skywar, I have Chain Reaction, and one of my favorites is Captain Goodwill…

MARTIN: And Captain Goodwill, why Captain Goodwill?

Mr. CAMPBELL: I gave it the name Goodwill because I was working for Goodwill at the time. But I like the character because he really is what I call a physical gestalt. The character is more than one nationality, so at any time the character can change.

MARTIN: Hmm, I see. And what about Matt Murdock? Tell me about Matt Murdock.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Well, you know, growing up, reading comic books and Matt Murdock, I really associated myself with Matt Murdock because he's Daredevil. He's blind, but all his senses are heightened. So, I would go around, and I was like, I'm Matt Murdock, I'm Daredevil because, you know, I've trained myself a whole lot to be aware of my surroundings. Do I have his heightened senses? No, I wish I did. But I still, you know, modeled myself as Matt Murdock, the Daredevil, because I'm blind and he's blind. And I was really excited - the fact that Marvel took the chance and created that character.

MARTIN: Who is a legendary character, for those who may not remember - since, you know, Andre, you and I are old, as Tyran, kind of, kindly pointed out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, Andre, I think that the piece - the magazine piece makes the argument that one of the things that are attractive about superheroes is that they take us out of our own limitations.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Exactly. And I think that's the fascination for characters because it's like a nice escape. I mean, you can escape into the world, and you can create, and you can do different things in your own cities and use your own character, so it's a wonderful escape. And it's a safe one.

MARTIN: It's interesting that superhero characters are more popular than ever, arguably. I mean, Batman is certainly more popular than ever, Iron Man. The characters, I mean, they are the - there's this television program "Heroes," which is about figures with powers. But, comic books per se - do I have this right? - are not selling particularly well. Is that about right? Do I have that right?

Mr. EADES: Yeah. You actually do have it right. Even when the big movies come out, you don't really see spikes in the sales of the actual comic books. You know, it's sort of a steady upward drive, I guess they would say, and now it's - the movies do more than the comic books, the video games, the action figures could ever do. Because everybody loves a movie, you know. And everybody wants to see a movie, whether you're a comic book lover or just - your friend loves comic books, and he drags you in to see this movie that you really don't want to see or have anything to do with.

MARTIN: Andre, can I ask - this is a little bit of a sensitive question.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Sure.

MARTIN: Your eyesight has been deteriorating since you were - really from birth, right? It's a, it's a...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yes.

MARTIN: Congenital defect.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah.

MARTIN: And as I understand it, you still have limited vision. You have some vision...

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yes.

MARTIN: The deterioration is going to continue. Am I right?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Yes.

MARTIN: What if you lose your sight completely, what will you do?

Mr. CAMPBELL: Well, I still can create stories. Actually, they have a lot of software where the computer can speak to you, and I would create stories, and I still would be very much involved with the comic-book process. But I have no doubt in my mind that Tyran can handle whatever is necessary visually and keep it going, keep the dream going, you know. So I feel really proud to have Tyran here with me, beside me, working on this dream because of the fact that he, you know, he knows what the dream is, and he lives it and breathes it every day that I do. So, I'm no longer afraid of that. I used to be, but I mean, I'm not afraid anymore.

MARTIN: Tyran, I have a question for you, too.

Mr. EADES: OK.

MARTIN: Why do the women in comic books always have such large breasts?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EADES: That's a good one. Well...

MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. EADES: It's, it's...

MARTIN: What's the answer?

Mr. EADES: It's targeted - if you didn't know, comic books are targeted for males between ages of, I believe, 12 to 21, or nowadays, 35. And that's generally where most of the money come from.

MARTIN: I see.

Mr. EADES: Yeah. It doesn't quite come from females. But in recent years, females have been getting into the anime style of art, and that's been drawing more and more female fans.

MARTIN: So, what do you think they might draw that's large?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CAMPBELL: Well, this is Andre. Got - actually collect a whole lot of anime how-to-draw books. And basically they still draw the breast very large, you know, even the females.

MARTIN: Yeah, right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CAMPBELL: But we try to draw it, characters. I mean, we may have very busty characters, but also we have characters that, you know, are different sizes and shapes and everything. And we try to lower our manly hormones and not draw everything so busty because we like versatility.

MARTIN: I hadn't observed that, but I'll take your word for it, so…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Comic book artists Andre Campbell and Tyran Eades were featured this week in the Washington Post Magazine in a piece written by David Rowell. If you want to read the piece in its entirety, we'll have a link on our Web site. They joined us from member station WEAA in Baltimore. Gentlemen, thank you so much for speaking with us, and good luck to you both.

Mr. CAMPBELL: Thank you for having us.

Mr. EADES: It's been a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.