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Ahern: Chicago men hope to take comic book series global

Chicagoans David Grub(standing) Rene Castellano go over some their work for Òtheir Tales WolfmanÓ comic book series. They are seeking

Chicagoans David Gruba (standing) and Rene Castellano go over some of their work for Òtheir Tales of the WolfmanÓ comic book series. They are seeking to raise $5,000 to produce an anthology series with a variety of writers and artists. | Submitted photo

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Updated: September 26, 2014 12:49PM



What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf became friends? What if they married?

David Gruba and Rene Castellano not only asked these questions, they created a comic book series where that happens. Their series, “Tales of the Wolfman,” details the life of Red and her marriage to the Wolf.

They’re working to distribute and sell the comic book worldwide. They’ve looked to funding platforms such as Kickstarter, an Internet site where people can post information about their creative projects in the worlds of art, comics, crafts, design, photography, publishing and more.

Through Kickstarter, people in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Netherlands can start a project and try to get backers to finance it and help see it through to completion. For Gruba and Castellano, the goal is to raise $5,000 to produce an anthology of Red and Wolf tales with a variety of writers and artists.

Gruba, who lives in the Beverly community of Chicago, said he was interested in writing from an early age.

“When I was younger, I used to make up stories, and I also illustrated them, but writing came easier so I focused on that,” he said. “In the early 90s, I thought I would try and write comics. I used to collect comics and thought it would be neat to break into that type of writing.”

Along the way, Gruba, who frequented Independence Comics in Old Irving Park, met Castellano and the two became friends. They kept in touch over several years but pursued other interests as well.

Gruba went on to marry and work in a law firm, while Castellano pursued art in college. In 2001, Castellano started Instant Press Comics, which publishes independent comics, and the success of that business encouraged the two to join forces to publish some of their creative ideas.

They soon released a single-issue anthology of short comics they created, and even though the book was successful at comic book shows, ultimately, it was not a lucrative venture. Both went “back to the drawing board,” and along the way Gruba, who was working on a book about a werewolf, was inspired with a new idea.

“I was originally thinking about the Universal monster movie, ‘The Wolfman,’ when something more comical came to mind. I decided to do a mashup of Little Red Riding Hood, a fairy tale character, and the Wolfman,” Gruba said. “It is one of our top-selling books.

“We put out three issues of the Wolfman books, and we met a lot of writers and artists over the years,” he said. “We had guest artists do the back cover for our books, and we wondered ‘what if we got these people together to see what spin they would give our characters?’”

The new idea of letting others create story lines for the Wolfman series became the basis of their Kickstarter campaign, which they will start in the near future. If they raise $5,000, they can make their book a reality, and the next step would be to sell the book to a wider-ranging audience.

“I wish this were my full-time work,” Castellano, who lives on the North Side of Chicago, said. “I work at Office Depot, and even though one year for our business was phenomenal, the year after that was the worst so we just keep working hard at it.

“We have to separate our lives from our passion (for the project),” he said. “We always need jobs and Dave has a family, so this is a hobby for us, but we’d still like it to be a full-blown company. Having the bad year follow the really good year was humbling, but we try to take things in stride and we will work harder to keep our momentum.”

Gruba agreed, saying “Kickstarter lets us reach a wider audience and may help us get this book out and make people more aware of our product.”

If the money is raised, the two plan to have their book published by KrakenPrint, a printer in Chicago. Jacob Way, the founder and chief executive of KrakenPrint, is supportive of their business.

“Dave and Rene truly have a passion for what they are doing,” Way said. “This is evident in the books they produce and the artists they choose to collaborate with. We are honored to work with them to bring their latest book to fruition.”

The two hope their upcoming Kickstarter campaign will let them go through with their anthology plans.

For more information about the Wolfman books or other publications, visit www.instantpresscomics.com or visit their Facebook page or Twitter account @NstantPress.



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