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College Student by Day, Superhero by Night

How one Ohio U creative brought his favorite story to life.

Every superhero has an origin story, and just as interesting, if not more, than the hero itself, is the mastermind behind the character and the world they defend. Ohio University has its very own Stan Lee: Marc Anthony Brown, creator of his published independent comic, its stars, and its world (loosely based on a college we are all pretty familiar with), The Outrider.

Brown, a senior studying English creative writing with a minor in journalism, has been developing The Outrider and its characters since he was in grade school, inspired by the different movies and cartoons he enjoyed growing up. “My fourth-grade teacher, she would encourage me to draw my comic books, and then she would help me use the school copier to copy the pages. I actually had my own drawer in the classroom because [my teacher] was like, ‘they’re filling up your desk,’” Brown said. “From the rest of grade school and through high school, every day I would do something new: add something new to the character, to the world. And then eventually, once I got to college, I was like, ‘OK, I want to really focus on The Outrider in a true, fluid story. So I restarted everything and that’s where we are today.’”

Brown assembled his own heroic team of comic-making superheroes, starting with longtime internet friend-turned-editor of The Outrider, Thomas Retake. From there, Brown enlisted the help of letterer Drew Denis, letterer and main artist Giusi “Giù” Lo Piccolo, and cover artist Roos Plattje. Leading the team through this new venture, and through his responsibilities as a student, has been a great and good challenge for Brown, who is currently working on crowdfunding The Outrider’s second issue, called “Charlatans.” “I have come to realize that every issue is a different learning experience,” Brown said. “So whereas issue one was, ‘OK, we’re making all this money, but now we have an artist who is not [adhering] to the schedule. What are the challenges that come with that now?’ Now I’ve got to find new artists [Lo Piccolo].”

Without giving too much away, The Outrider stars 19-year-old Marcel Lozada, a half African American, half Puerto Rican college student who is also the first superhuman to ever exist, and Andrea “Andi” Negrón, an undergraduate student from Puerto Rico who is the granddaughter of an ex-assassin. The two attend Alden State University, which has a familiar, beautiful cherry blossom-filled campus, in the city of Horizon Bay, where they balance their unique circumstances, responsibilities, and … enemies with everyday college life. 

It is the unique set of challenges Marcel and Andi face in The Outrider that sets it apart from any other comic. “It’s a story about, basically, [Marcel and Andi] trying to figure out how to become young adult[s] in a modern society and facing realistic challenges that plague a lot of college campuses,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of romanticization of college and a lot of things that are not told … from late-night studying to the depression that hits during the winter, or sexual assault cases that plague campuses, or racism, or just classwork or feeling like you can’t afford anything and you don’t want to look poor in front of your friends. All those challenges are introduced in the series on top of, obviously, action, adventure, and detective mystery stories sprinkled in.”

The Outrider’s storyline, characters, and themes are incredibly familiar and important to Brown, as he sees parts of himself in them. “The story is a very personal story, per se, because obviously, I have my own racial ties and ethnic ties to the characters, so it’s a lot easier for me to write situations or customs that they would experience that I’ve experienced,” Brown said. “But, it’s also a story about showing the readers it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to, like, have mental health challenges. It’s OK to feel like an outsider in college.”

Brown pours his heart and soul into these comics, as he is finally publishing the stories he’s wanted to tell all his life. “I’m a very observant person, a very quiet person. So as writing and being a writer, it allowed me to have the typical escapism fantasy that everyone wants in their daily life. I used to have an old saying, ‘I want to tell the stories in my head,’ or say ‘I want the world experience the same world that I experience.’” Brown said. Now, with The Outrider coming to life, his dreams are a reality.To get your hands on a copy or two of The Outrider, follow @the.kfsmab on Instagram to keep up with Brown and his projects, and click the Indiegogo link in his bio to buy or contribute to The Outrider.