David Penner still recalls the excitement he experienced when he received his first comic book – a prestige format book, “Ghost Rider, Wolverine, Punisher: Hearts of Darkness.”
But that excitement pales against the thrill of writing and creating his own comic book, along with Unity Village co-workers and friends Kyle Stephan and Mark Szymanski.
“I was 10 and I got that comic for Christmas, and it just opened a new world for me,” said Penner, a 2001 graduate of Truman High School who has joined with Stephan and Szymasnki to create, “BioTech,” which will debut this month and be featured at Kansas City’s Planet Comicon, March 29-31.
Penner is the writer and co-creator, Stephan the artist and co-creator and Szymanski the cover artist for the tale that is set in the year 2149 A.D.
“BioTech” is the story of Dr. Juanita Mae Cruz, a scientist who changes the world by making it easier for humans to augment their bodies with technology, making their day-to-day lives easier.
But there is an unwanted side effect: The technology has taken over every aspect of humanity. People are able to directly access the digital world via biological interface without having to use an external device. These devices lead to a complete societal revolution, causing humanity to act as one collective hive mind, and people lose their individuality.
Piqued your interest?
Penner and Co., hope so.
“This is the culmination of a dream I’ve had since I was a child,” Penner said, as Stephan and Szymanski nod in agreement. “And it all kind of started after I walked into Kyle’s cubicle here at Unity and saw this cool piece of art.”
They began talking about the art, and the possibility of creating a comic book about a dystopian world in need of a moral compass.
“The more we talked, the more I began to think, ‘We can pull this off,’” Penner said. “And we’re all waiting and counting the hours, and minutes, until the first copy is off the press sometime in March.”
Penner said he is trying to grow his character’s moral compass without taking away from the frenetic pace of the action sequences and overall story that are portrayed throughout the book by Stephan’s digital mastery.
“We’re making a book set in a dystopian future,” Penner said. “This isn’t a preachy book that is trying to shove religious tropes down the public’s throat. This is a story about struggle, overcoming said struggle and trying to bring humanity back to a society that has lost it, while also adding heavy doses of sci-fi, action, mystery and political intrigue.”
Penner enlisted the help of Szymanski to create visually vibrant and eye-catching cover art.
“His work has influenced my visual concept,” said Szymanski, who works with pen and ink, while Stephan creates the world of 2149 through a digital process.
“I saw Kyle’s digital work and read David’s story and fell in love with it.”
Penner politely interrupts the conversation by adding, “It’s insane! I love the contrast between Kyle’s digital work and Mark’s more traditional comic book art style. It’s just amazing to see it.”
Szymanski has been influenced by Todd McFarlane, who is best known for his work on “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Spawn.” But his technique and style go back to when he was a youngster who spent five days traveling in a car with his father.
“My dad bought me a Detective Comic and a sketch book, and by the time the trip was over, I had basically sketched the entire comic,” Szymanski said. “Art is a very emotional thing with me. I love to draw, but there are guys out there who can write, draw, color and publish.”
“That’s why I’m so excited about this collaboration with David and Kyle. We work together and have created something that we hope will be very special.”
In his wildest dreams, Stephan never imagined being part of the creative force behind the creation of a new comic book series.
“Never,” Stephan said, smiling. “I’m just geeking out, having the time of my life! It’s chaotic and fun and creative and to think, this all kind of started when I was kid drawing and doodling and having fun.”
This trio has the backing and support of Unity Village, where Penner is a copy editor, Stephan is a graphic artist and Szymanski is a multimedia artist.
“Unity is thrilled with the creativity of David and his artistic cohorts, Kyle and Mark,” Ellen Debenport, vice president of Unity Content and Media Strategy, said. “These guys have found a way to reach an audience that might not call itself spiritual, but that understands deeply the power of the human spirit and the need to expand our highest and best inner qualities – even in a world humming with technology.”
The more Penner discusses the project, the more excited he gets.
“To think that I am able to work with two of my friends, who work about six feet apart from where I work, and to create something that we are all proud of is just unbelievable,” Penner said. “I’m a writer and I can’t find the words to describe it.”
Issues one and two of BioTech are slated for release in March and will follow a monthly schedule until the series wraps up with its 12th issue in 2020.
For more information about BioTech and its creative team, plus updates about the book and creative process, follow the process on Facebook at facebook.com/biotechcomic1, and on Instagram and Twitter @biotechcomic.