02 March 2016

Mitch Gerads' Original Comics Art Gives Me Butterflies

Original art by Mitch Gerads
Despite yesterday's dusting of snow, it's beginning to feel like springtime in the American Middle West. That means red bud trees and Easter and Sherpa kids' soccer tournaments are just around the corner. In the meantime, I'm pleased to report on something else that has me giddy and feeling younger than I am: the recent acquisition of a page of original work by a favorite comic book artist.

The page is from issue No. 11 of "The Activity," a 2012-2014 Image Comics series that artist Mitch Gerads' co-created with writer Nathan Edmondson. The series, which tells realistic stories of various military special forces and governmental intelligence teams, is currently under development as a feature film.

Usually, "Activity" stories take place overseas. Published in 2013, Issue No. 11 is a story of terrorism on U.S. soil. In "The Butterfly Effect," Team Omaha is dispatched to Minneapolis, where terrorists threaten to detonate a bomb somewhere in the city. Why Minneapolis? "A city big enough for it to matter, but not a city on the lookout for an attack." Eventually, the team figures out they're searching for someone with a large quantity of C-12 explosive. An expert is called in from Colorado, along with a fragile, experimental cargo.

"So how does it work?," asks a member of Team Dallas.

"You just open the crates. They do the rest. You might say we've programmed them. From day one, they're exposed to a variety of chemical explosive compounds. They won't have any problem with C-12. Just don't lose sight of them."

"This is crazy," says one FBI guy.

Says Team Dallas: "At least it will be pretty."

I love the page that follows—the one I purchased—because it tells a nearly complete story, even without the word balloons: The ground team radios that it's in position. An FBI agent takes a crowbar to a crate. Butterflies begin to escape the box. Ground team looks up, through the windshield, the butterflies reflecting in the glass. Finally, the butterflies continue to disperse across the city. There is skywalk—a fixture of Midwestern urban architecture—visible in the background.

To me, the figures on the page seem hopeful, filled with wonder, despite a crazy world and the threat of terrorism.

To me, it feels like spring.

And I can't wait to frame it and hang it in the office.

After graduating from the the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a fine arts degree in graphic design, Gerads started out illustrating for cereal brands in Minneapolis. From boxes of balanced breakfast product, he jumped into the gritty world of military-themed storytelling. He's got an eye for the perfect shot, an attention to technical detail, and a sensibility that lends itself to stories of shadows, subdued colors, and moral shades of gray. For more on Gerads' career, click here.

"The Activity" is collected into three trade paperbacks volumes, available here and here, and here.

In addition to his work on "The Activity," Gerads drew a 2014-2015 run on "The Punisher," a vigilante character owned by Marvel Comics. That run was also written by Edmundson, Gerads' partner from "The Activity." Those comics have also been collected in three volumes of trade paperbacks here, here, and here.

Make sure to check out his original artwork, including pages and covers from "The Punisher," at his on-line store. There's also a great "process" story here, about how Gerads develops his artwork, panel by panel.

Most recently, Gerads has been the co-creator of "The Sheriff of Babylon," a fictional-but-realistic crime story of post-war Iraq, written by former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer Tom King. For an interview with Gerads about "Sheriff," click here.

Coincidentally, the fourth issue of "Sheriff" is due out from today, Mar. 2, 2016, from DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. The critically acclaimed series has recently been extended to 12 issues. It is a dense, layered, and confusing tale—sort of like the place that inspired it. Call it "Iraq Noir." Be sure to check it out!

You can read a free, multi-page preview of "Sheriff of Babylon" No. 4 here.

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