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It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a new local comic book publishing company

May 19, 2024

In a sleepy area of St. John's, sprawling with agricultural land and homes dotted in between, Kevin Woolridge is launching his own boutique comic book publishing company to give local artists a platform for their work — something he said is lacking locally.

"We've got a really great community here and I don't think the general public really knows how wonderful all the artists are in that community," Woolridge told CBC News.

Heavy Sweater Comics is turning its gears, but at the moment Woolridge is keeping mum on the four comic titles he'll be releasing this fall, on top of his work.

He did offer hints, however, saying there are two comic collections and a shorter fantasy comic coming down the pipe.

"It's also a big experiment. Who knows that this is going to work, right? I'm kind of pouring a bunch of stuff into it this year just to get it off the ground and we'll see if it takes off," said Woolridge.

"If it does, and it continues to grow, then maybe I can start paying myself and then maybe I can bring some help on board."

Woolridge has a long background in the comic world. He has been making comics since he was a child and several years ago he started self-publishing his own series The Little World, which he would sell at local conventions.

The idea to start his own publishing business started last year, he explained. At the time, the pandemic was having an impact on his career in theatre so he was looking for something to occupy his time.

He also began drawing more and had begun work on his graphic memoir Nothing Super Important.

"I thought, 'I'm really enjoying this again. I should kind of, like, do more comics again,'" he said. "And then it kind of just very quickly went to, 'oh I'm going to start a company.'"

Woolridge had been self-publishing his comics under the name Little Grey Dog Comics and Games but, after realizing there were similar publications, decided to jump off with a new name.

He said his friends started throwing out words they associated with him, and Woolridge added he likes heavy sweaters. The rest is history.

After going public with his plans, Woolridge said he got a lot of interest. He said he's interested in publishing slice-of-life, autobiography, biography history and adventure comics aimed at kids.

He said he wants to also get away from the idea that comics are only about superheroes.

"I don't think they know how deep it can go and how much it can speak to the human condition," he said.

Woolridge said publishing options can be limited for local comic book artists.

While there have been a few locally published comics, he said they tend to be one-offs.

"There isn't a dedicated comic book publisher here. … So going the self-published route, or the Internet or looking off the island are the only options," he said.

He's also trying to help the artists. By keeping costs low he can offer the highest royalty rate.

Besides selling comics through the Heavy Sweater Comics website he wants to get the books into local comic book stores, too.

He hopes his small batch publishing house is the start of something bigger.

"Everything good starts small, right? And hopefully, if it picks up steam, we'll be able to get more people into the fold," he said.

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Elizabeth Whitten is a journalist and editor based in St. John's. When she’s not chasing her next story, she's cuddling with her dog and reading a good book.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador