— “Apama: The Undiscovered Animal” is a comic book series wholly unique from traditional superhero comics. First off, it centers around IIlyia Jarsky, an ice cream truck driver in Cleveland who awakens a savage creature within. Now, local filmmaker Ted Sikora and co-creator Milo Miller have introduced a new roster of characters who are tied to a dark musical, marking at least the second time this comic has crossed formats.
The new “Apama” cast stems from an actual horror show musical from the early 90s titled “Nothing Like Vaudeville,” for which Sikora wrote the story, principal music and lyrics. He explains, “When I was an aspiring composer I was also a comic book nut, so the characters in the show were creepy, vaudeville, comic-book-like villains.”
Volume 1 of the “Apama” comic series has gained traction internationally, with rave reviews and a steady national Comicon tour. Sikora and Miller have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help create Volume 2, which will include new issues and three villains from the musical, including the mob boss, Sir Terror; the creepy wax museum curator, Fletcher; and the mob’s star assassin, Tap Dance Killer.
And of this new lineup, the Tap Dance Killer seemed to stand out from the others. “For whatever reason, in the comic book industry, there are a low percentage of female African-American comic book heroes and villains,” says Sikora. “Being married to an African-American woman and the father of a young girl gave me extra motivation to do something about that.” The spinoff “Tap Dance Killer” comic series is set to debut in the first half of 2017.
Sikora describes the Tap Dance Killer as “a mega-talented performer who is cast in a horror show musical, and then something happens that makes her permanently lock into her role.”
Adds Sikora: “In 2014, I had been doing some film work at a local community theatre and Milo Miller and I started discussing the idea of Apama’s alter ego, Ilyia Zjarsky, joining that theatre troupe for a story. We started kicking around what show the troupe would be staging, and realized we probably couldn’t legally use a show like ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ It soon dawned on me that ‘Nothing Like Vaudeville’ was ripe with potential supervillains.”
To add to the story’s authenticity, a “Nothing Like Vaudeville Horror Show” cast album also is being produced in tandem with the new comics, and excerpts of the music can be found on the project’s Kickstarter page.
Sikora has long made a habit of crossing over different types of media for his storytelling. The “Apama” comic was originally featured in a movie Sikora created in 2007 called “Hero Tomorrow.” Sikora and Miller created the origin issue of the comic as a promotional tool to get people to buy the movie. “We had so much fun making the book, we thought let’s just do issue 2,” Sikora recalls.
And unlike a movie, which has about 100 minutes to tell a story and can oftentimes fall into storytelling cliches, comics enable the storyteller to weave a much more complex narrative that’s ongoing.
“The comics at this point are the nucleus of everything,” says Sikora. “If we keep making comics, it forces us to keep making new characters.”
Aside from transcending media, “Apama” also stands out from other comics, especially its Cleveland-based everyman main character. “The thing we take pride in with Ilyia, is Peter Parker is not really an everyman in the same way our Ilyia is. Ilyia would hang out with you and go bowling. If you hang out with Peter Parker, he would be so distracted.”
The upcoming series will again feature the work of noted artist Benito Gallego, who lives and works in Spain.
The Kickstarter campaign ends Oct. 31 and can be found at www.kickstarter.com/projects/185033634/apama-the-undiscovered-animal-volume-2.
To learn more, visit www.apamanation.com.