Kickstarter campaign under way to publish hardcover edition
— By day, Ted Sikora is a filmmaker for hire.
His video work reveals a distinct cinematic style, and working from a studio on Furnace Street under the Y-bridge, he has created notable videos for events like Cleveland Art Prize and groups like Downtown Akron Partnership, among a host of corporate clients.
But by night, Sikora is writer and creator of indie comic book series “Apama,” a twisted superhero tale with a local backdrop.
“I’ve spent my whole life collecting comics,” he says. “I haven’t missed “Amazing Spider Man” probably since I was 7 years old.”
And collecting wasn’t all he was interested in.
“I was always trying to make my own comic books,” he said.
But being told there was no money in comic books, Sikora spent two years at the University of Akron with the more stable track of accounting. He soon realized it wasn’t for him, and decided to go after a more creative career. Sikora switched his major to media and advertising, pursuing a variety of creative jobs after graduating.
After opening a home audio recording studio and writing a couple of original musicals with his brother, Sikora turned to filmmaking. In 2007, he directed the indie film “Hero Tomorrow,” co-written with friend Milo Miller, about a comic book artist who harbors delusions of grandeur about becoming a real superhero like the ones he draws.
In the film, main character David is writing a comic — “Apama,” the same comic that Sikora now publishes.
“After the movie was done, we thought, how cool would it be to actually make the comic book he was trying to publish?” Sikora adds. “So that’s what Apama is.”
Set in Sikora’s native Cleveland, “Apama” follows ice-cream truck driver Ilyia Jarsky, who unlocks the secret powers of long forgotten animal Apama and becomes a crime fighter. Unlike other superheroes, Ilyia is an average guy in a down-to-earth city.
“We thought it’d be fun to base ‘Apama’ on a more of an everyday kind of person,” Sikora says. “I wanted him to be the kind of guy who bowls on the weekend. He’s a really nice guy, but he makes choices that (make you) scratch your head.”
Cleveland’s real life landmarks and neighborhoods show up in the comics: Ilyia lives in Gordon Square Arts District, real buildings and bridges get destroyed by villains, and when Ilyia rips his costume, actual Cleveland resident Valerie Mayen of Project Runway is the one who repairs it in the story.
“Cleveland to me was sort of an untapped resource for this kind of story,” he says. “We see all these superhero movies coming to Cleveland, but Cleveland has to be New York or Washington D.C. [We thought], let’s let Cleveland be Cleveland in this series.”
“Apama”’s first issue was released online in December 2013, and four digital issues have been published so far. Sikora and Miller recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish a hardcover edition, an anthology of issues 1 through 5, with bonus features such as pinups and essays. The campaign has far exceeded its $5,750 goal and the project was selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick.
The comic also has spawned a spin-off screenplay called “Bloom,” with a storyline based on the local Cleveland urban legend of the Helltown cult.
“We’re into this for about eight issues so far,” he adds, “and we just love it, and we’re not thinking about stopping at all.”
Long distance creative help
The creation of “Apama” is a little tricky: Sikora and Miller live in Ohio, but the series’ artist Benito Gallego lives and works in Spain. Sikora and Miller start an issue by bouncing ideas back and forth. After they have a finalized script, they e-mail it to Gallego, who then sends back the rough draft of the panels. It gets passed between them over and over until the draft becomes a finished project, with Sikora applying the color and Sikora and Miller doing the lettering.
And to make sure that Cleveland is portrayed to the fullest, Sikora takes photographs of the city and its inhabitants for Gallego so that the city can be authentically represented, even by an artist who’s never been to Cleveland.
“If I was hired to write [a series like] Spiderman, there’s so much backstory and history,” Sikora says. “You can’t just jump in and tell the creation of a universe like we can with this character, his villains, his supporting cast, in this blank canvas that has no other superheroes of Cleveland — Howard the Duck notwithstanding,” he adds with a chuckle.
Film and comics are similar visual mediums for storytelling, but Sikora finds creating comic books to be a unique experience.
“Going from a feature film to a comic book has been really liberating as a writer, because anything we dream up goes onto the page,” he says. “Comics are a much purer medium.”
Having worked in many mediums, it seems like Sikora has found one that allows him to work at his freest.