Curt Shoultz’s ‘Brandoon Stack Cats’ comic strip set to debut in The Brandon Sun


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Transporting readers into the fictional world of Brandoon where anthropomorphic cats have been charged with protecting stacks of archival newspapers, local comic artist Curt Shoultz has an ambitious project ahead of him.

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Transporting readers into the fictional world of Brandoon where anthropomorphic cats have been charged with protecting stacks of archival newspapers, local comic artist Curt Shoultz has an ambitious project ahead of him.

Formerly with DC Comics, the weekly comic series exclusive to The Brandon Sun will be Shoultz’s largest artistic endeavour since shifting his professional focus back to teaching several years ago.

It’ll also be the largest-ever comics-related project for the Sun, with Shoultz’s weekly colour comics filling an entire newspaper page, beginning on Sept. 2.

It’s a project that has been years in the making and which Brandon Sun editor Matt Goerzen considers a significant boon for the newspaper, particularly given Shoultz’s talents.

Shoultz’s interest in comics dates back to his early childhood.

He still has a picture he drew at the age of seven of Mighty Mouse, Underdog and Superman defending the White House and the Acropolis from what appears to be Godzilla.

He was an impressionable youngster during the heyday of the Adam West “Batman” television series of the 1960s, and he ate it up, falling in love with the character and his associated comic books.

After spending his childhood in Ann Arbor, Mich., Shoultz relocated with his family to Brandon after graduating from high school in 1975, where he attended Brandon University to achieve his goal of becoming an educator.

During his university days, he worked at the student newspaper, The Quill, initially as a reporter until his editor saw him doodling and enlisted his services as the publication’s official illustrator.

After a stint teaching in northern Quebec, he returned to Brandon, where he worked as a freelance artist drawing various local companies’ advertisements, spending some time working at the Cross Country Shopper.

During his time at the Cross Country Shopper in 1987, he had them publish an issue of “The Electronaut,” about a Brandon-based superhero he created, with advertisements for local businesses throughout the issue.

The comic book sold 5,000 copies, which inspired him to set his sights on something much bigger, pushing him to begin applying for jobs at DC, one of North America’s top comic book companies.

With DC home to his favourite comic book character, Batman, Shoultz said there was no other option.

For the next few years, he kept up a routine by mailing a collection of work samples to DC every six months.

His persistence paid off when he was enlisted by the comic book company in the early ’90s.

He knew that he’d made the big times when he was sent his very first page to ink.

This page, within “Man of Steel Annual No. 3,” featured Batman crawling through a porthole.

Shoultz remained with DC for approximately eight years, working on titles such as “Hawkman” and “Deathstroke,” before reaching a point of burnout as a result of the 15-hour days he was working in order to meet the publisher’s deadlines.

After some post-DC work on “The Tick” comic book series, he called it quits.

“The dream got a little old, so I went back to teaching when I got asked and put cartooning to the side,” he said.

A couple years ago, after selling an original painting for The Brandon Sun’s charity art auction Canvas for a Cause, Shoultz bonded with Goerzen over their shared love of newspaper comic strips.

Shoultz pitched the idea of drawing a full-page colour comic such as what newspapers carried in decades past, and Goerzen found himself intrigued.

Recognizing his interest, Shoultz initiated the same process he’d found successful with DC, submitting ideas to Goerzen every few months until he landed on something that would work.

Titled “Brandoon Stack Cats,” the weekly comic will find its characters protecting stacks of Brandoon Moon newspapers from mice, travelling through time as they jump in and out of the newspapers’ comics pages.

By featuring cats instead of humans and Brandoon instead of Brandon, Shoultz said that he’ll be better able to keep things playful and fun.

During their time-warping adventures, Shoultz’s art style will take on the form of whatever comic strip the characters have entered, with the second week of their adventure finding themselves in the world of Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes.”

The comics will follow an ongoing narrative, with every strip capping off with a cliffhanger, such as the ones Shoultz said that he loved reading as a kid in the classic “Dick Tracy” comics.

True to form in his paying homage to classic comic strip artists, Shoultz draws everything by hand in the art studio of his Brandon home. The strips are made up of ink on paper, with colourization done on his computer.

Although Shoultz doesn’t count the number hours it takes him to create each comic, he said he’s trying to pare it down to 20.

Having Shoultz come on board with an original comic series is a “great gift to have,” Goerzen said, adding that it’s a project he has been eager to see come to fruition ever since Shoultz made his initial pitch.

As Watterson wrote in an introduction to his “Lazy Sunday Book” collection of “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strips, newspaper comic strips have been in a process of “retrograde evolution” for the past several decades from the days in which weekend comics were printed the size of an entire newspaper page.

“Not surprisingly, with all that space to fill, cartoonists produced work of incredible beauty and power that we just don’t see anymore, now that strips are a third or a quarter of their former size,” Watterson wrote. “Cartoons can be much more than we’ve been seeing lately. How much more will depend on what newspaper readers will demand.”

Shoultz said the “Brandoon Stack Cats” adventures would continue for as long as the project remains fun and readers are interested.

Although his latest creation has yet to reach the public, Shoultz said that settling back into the studio with his latest passion project has already allowed him to put a checkmark next to the “fun” requirement.


» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB

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