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Oldham Co. native’s passion for comic books leads to successful side gig as a letterer

By Wesley Robinson
News intern, The Oldham Era

Jonathan Swinney had the imagination and passion for comics but not the artistic skills.

So, the Oldham County native took his love for the art in a different direction: lettering.

“I’ve always wanted to do something with comics since I was a kid,” Swinney said. “Unfortunately, my artwork sucks.”

As a letterer, Swinney receives the script and artwork from the creative team and, using Adobe Illustrator, he sizes the art to fit into panels.

He then adds word balloons, caption boxes and sound effects to each page.

“You’ve really got to be cautious about not overshadowing the [other artists’] work,” Swinney said. “That’s always the big thing for me: trying not to cover up the detail and important stuff.”

Swinney has been lettering for nearly five years. He started with the comic “Playing God,” which he said paved the way for his current project.

“Man of God” is a series that follows a man who wakes up after an accident with no memory and a mysterious supernatural power.

Swinney said despite the title, the book isn’t inherently religious but does have religious undertones as the main character is a bad man seeking redemption.

“It’s got good qualities to it,” Swinney said. “It shows you that somebody that’s really bad in life can end up doing good things. There’s nothing blasphemous in it, because if there was, I wouldn’t be working on it.”

The first six issues of the comic will be completed by December and will conclude the first story arc, Swinney said.

He said readers will have a better idea of who the main character is and his purpose – but the comic will continue to expand on the story in future issues.

“We know where we want to take the story lines, but it takes time to flesh a lot of that out,” he explained.

Daniel Thompson, owner of The Zone Comic Shop in Louisville, said he talks to Swinney regularly about comics, including a project he is developing.

Thompson said he enjoyed the first “Man of God” issues and hopes Swinney and the comic find success.

“I think he’s great at lettering.” Thompson said. “I’ve invited him to work on my project. I applaud anybody who can get something like that started.”

In addition to working as a project manager, Swinney said he finds time to work on “Man of God.” He said he puts in about 20 hours a week on the comic, usually after his family has gone to bed.

“If anything, I’ll stay up late to try to get it done,” Swinney said. “It’s all about time management. Anything that’s worth doing, you’ve got to put time and effort into it.”

Swinney also is part owner of Pinwheel Press, which publishes “Man of God.”

He said he’s been working on the series for about three years, with the first two years consisting of background work and fundraising through a Kickstarter campaign.

Employing his project management skills, Swinney also schedules deadlines to make sure the comic team publishes on time.

“It’s just finding what motivates people and what de-motivates them and finding what buttons to push,” he said.

At the upcoming Derby City Comic Con in Louisville June 29, Swinney said the entire “Man of God” team will finally meet face to face. The other members – writer Craig Partin, penciler Yvel Guichet and inker Stu Berryhill – all live outside of Kentucky.

Thompson, who sells “Man of God” at his store, said he believes comic books have something to offer everyone and hopes more people pay attention to them.

“Comics are a unique American art form,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your [demographic], there is some type of commonality and a good feeling there. It’s a great thing that bridges gaps.”

Email us about this story at: intern@oldhamera.com.