It’s probably the ultimate dream of every comic book fan to someday get to write, draw and have published one of their very own. Most never get the chance, but Daily Journal Creative Team Lead Rob Barnes has made that dream a reality and he couldn’t be happier.
Barnes, who has worked at the newspaper since 2004, began reading comics while in middle school, that is, whenever he could afford to buy an issue or two.
The long-time Farmington resident said, “We’d get money every-once-in-a-while from my mom, but there was a long time in-between. She’d say, ‘All right, here’s this dollar. You can go down to…’ There was this little store in town where you could buy comics or just about anything in there.
“She’d say, ‘Now, don’t buy any comics!’ So, of course, I did. I kind of hid them a little bit. Of course, at that time you could buy about five comics for that dollar because they were about 20 cents apiece. That shows how old I am!”
Barnes, like almost all comic book fans, had his favorites. That didn’t mean you didn’t read any others, but you never missed an issue of the ones you loved the best.
“I think my favorite one at that time was the Fantastic Four,” he said. “It was a Marvel comic — you know, superhero stuff. I got some Captain America comics — mostly just anything that I’d look at the cover or flip through the inside and say, ‘Oh, cool, I like that!’ and go ahead and get it.
“I got a few D.C. comics, but I think it was mostly Marvel comics. And of course, this was a small town before we moved down here. Of course, I would get more once I got a newspaper route where I delivered newspapers on my bicycle. I had to pedal really fast to keep away from the neighborhood dogs.”
During that time, Barnes was also sketching stuff — mostly just drawing little comedic scenes.
“The family would be somewhere, and I’d see something funny happen or I’d just make something up funny — like Dad was barbecuing and it was actually just all flames,” he explained. “Then I started getting into doing my own superhero comics. I had just a regular notebook where I would draw my little squares and try to make up stories. Usually the characters would be named after my brother and sister and I’d just make up my little stories from that.”
When asked if he applied for his job at the newspaper because of his long-time interest in comic books, Rob said, “I’ve always wanted to do comics and I’ve done comic strips, single panels and stuff. The way you put them together — especially now with all the computers — it uses a lot of the same skills and stuff, but mostly I just needed a job.
“All this translated to it. In fact, I think that when I applied for the job, I sent in some of my comic strips that I’d done before. Later, I made a comic panel that ran in the Daily Journal every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for about two-and-a-half years titled ‘Around the Block’ and I also did a comic strip for the Business Ledger, printed by the Daily Journal as well, that was titled ‘Business as Usual.’
Now for the big news — Fair Spark Books in the United Kingdom has recently signed Barnes to publish his Gallant & Amos adventures. It’s the family-friendly escapades of Sir Gallant the knight and his dragon pal, Amos.
“I’ve got a contract for four issues and I’ve been making Gallant & Amos comics on my website since around 2007, he said. “I’d do a page a week or a page every other couple of weeks. As the years went by, I had the stories divided up into close to comic book size anyway — 20-22 pages of story.
“About a year or so back I had enough that I had a story and then I made another five pages, so I could complete one 20-page comic. Then I self-published it. I sent it off to a printer here in the United States and they printed it and sent it back to me.”
Barnes offered some background on his comic book for those who aren’t already familiar with it.
“Gallant & Amos is set back in medieval times,” he said. “Gallant is a knight and Amos is a dragon who thinks he’s better looking and is always hungry. Amos says he has a high metabolism and he’s got to eat a lot. He’ll talk about burritos and other stuff. Although I haven’t had too much in the comics about where he came from, Amos was raised by a wizard who had a reflecting pool where you could see the future.
“Amos watched a lot of Netflix and a lot of other TV, so he’ll say a lot of things that we’ll know about, but the other characters will say, ‘What are you talking about?’ or ignore him and go on. The medieval setting that I’ve got has no basis in reality. A guy had drawn a map for me and put a few little places in there. Of course, I’m adding on as I go. So, that started the world.”
Barnes has already completed most of the work on the first four issues and is moving forward on the next.
“I’m working on the fifth issue right now as I’m cleaning up and working on these first four for the publisher,” he said. “Gallant & Amos get to a town and they want to find a job because they just travel around. They come up on this one post — a big board where people are posting these little bitty notes onto it.
“And every time they post a note on the board, they pull out this little horn — a tweet. Amos knew what it was. Gallant said, ‘What is that? Why are they tweeting that horn every time?’ Amos say, ‘Didn’t you know? That’s a tweeter post!’”
Barnes felt pretty good when he was offered a chance to sign with the new comic book company.
“Somebody wants to read my stuff!” he said. “Whenever you’re doing stuff online, a lot of people don’t even email back or interact in any way, so you don’t know if anybody likes your stuff. I followed a guy from HP Comics on Twitter that is self-publishing his own comics in Florida.
“So, I started following him and posted that this guy in the U.K. had a charity anthology he used to help bring in money to give comic-making kits to kids who are stuck in the hospital and don’t really have anything to do. He has done over 400 or 500 of these kits within the last year.
“This sprang from the guy staying in the hospital a few years back when he was fighting cancer. When he got out he wanted to help the hospital that had helped him during that rough time. He wanted upwards of four pages of story and it had to have a theme. The second one was ‘family,’ so the story had to be about family. I thought, ‘Cool, OK, I can do that.’
Having his work available online turned out to be a big help in Barnes getting signed to do a comic book series.
“The guy knew I had self-published a comic and he was wanting to get a copy of it to look at it, but he had already seen some of the stuff I had done on my website anyway,” he said. “That’s why he accepted my story.
“Once he got it he was wanting more and said, ‘I might be able to help because I’m getting ready to start this company.’ He wanted to start his own comic imprint of family-friendly comics — because there are some comics that are darker and a little bit more violent and stuff.
“All of my stories, especially with Gallant & Amos, I wanted to make sure that, even if they or another character were dealing with an issue, it was still fun, light and comedic.
“You can see that in there, but it’s not too heavy handed. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and I’m getting ready to do something else that isn’t Gallant & Amos but is still comedic and light.”
Anyone wanting to check out Barnes’ comic books can go to the comic company’s website at fairsparkbooks.co.uk. You can also see some of Rob’s other work by visiting his personal website, arghcomics.com.
“All of my stories, especially with Gallant & Amos, I wanted to make sure that, even if they or another character were dealing with an issue, it was still fun, light and comedic.” — Rob Barnes, cartoonist
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org