Grad student goes ‘Numb’ with success

Who would of ever thought that writing a story motivated by an ex-girlfriend would eventually lead to good things?

While working his way through his finals in the fall of 2006, graduate student Joshua Kemble received an acceptance letter from the Xeric Foundation. It was a grant to publish his new comic book, “Numb.”

“It was a good week,” Kemble says. “I always dreamed to be a comic book artist.”

Kemble received a grant of $5,000 by the Xeric Foundation to self-publish “Numb,” scheduled for release on Feb. 28. The 24-page comic book reflects one of his own past relationships while applying some of the experiences of his early twenties.

“This was a story that was on the ‘backburner,'” Kemble says. “It is sprawling from stuff that did happen to me, but I fictionalized it to make it more interesting.” Kemble describes it as 30 percent non-fiction.

Kemble has been trying to refine himself as an artist and felt that it was time to put out something where he would actually try to have some response from people other than just schools.

Kemble had a literary art upbringing. His dad was an artist and mom an English teacher, which he believes is the reason why he was able to bring together and “fuse” the two influences. Everything helped him realize that there was no limit to becoming the artist he is today, he says.

While in college, Kemble started researching the realities of how to become a comic book writer by looking up to artists he admired while learning how they got into the business.

“That’s when I found out about the Xeric Foundation,” he says.

The Xeric Foundation, established by Peter A. Laird, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, offers financial assistance to committed self-publishing comic book creators and qualified charitable and non-profit organizations.

After doing some research, Kemble found a distributor named Alternative Comics, which then decided to distribute “Numb.”

“Joshua is a dedicated student,” said David Hadlock, chairman of the fine arts department. “He took his ideas to a level that usually grad students are able to do.”

Kemble describes himself as a “comic book geek.” When he was a kid, Kemble recalls going to conventions to meet some of his favorite comic book artists and characters.

“I was obsessed with Spiderman,” he says.

However, his comic book perception changed after picking up a comic book by Neil Gaiman called “Death: The High Cost of Leaving.” This changed his opinion about what comic books talked about, because until then he was only exposed to superhero genre.

“The only thing really holding the medium back is the prejudice of a lot of people,” Kemble says. “When they look at comics they are like, ‘Ah, they are for kids.'”

While taking a class called Sequential Imagery, Kimble decided to work on “Numb” for his main class project, said Robin Richesson, an assistant art professor. According to Richesson, though he did not finish, he continued to work on “Numb” even after the semester was over. Kemble enjoyed the attempt to capture a moment in a life that he felt was interesting. He liked the reliability to touch something about the human condition.

Kemble is scheduled for a pre-release signing for “Numb” on Feb. 17 from 1 to 5 p.m. at The Comic Book Guys, located on Fourth and Pine streets in Long Beach.

Kemble is also currently working on his second book, “Jacob’s Apartment,” a story about two people with opposite personalities who can’t be together until they make a change in their lives. The new book implements discussions of theology and philosophy, Kemble says, resembling it to “Romeo and Juliet.”

“It really is where his heart is,” Richesson said. “I think he is going to be into comic books forever.”

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