The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 28th

Chapel Hill Comics showcases work of local artists

Mac Lomax peruses the local artist section of Chapel Hill Comics on West Franklin Street, which includes work by Yana Levy, 8, of Chapel Hill.
Buy Photos Mac Lomax peruses the local artist section of Chapel Hill Comics on West Franklin Street, which includes work by Yana Levy, 8, of Chapel Hill.

Just a few blocks west of Columbia Street, adventure and intrigue lurk.

Chapel Hill Comics, a place where comic book enthusiasts travel to satisfy their creative cravings, is looking to become a beacon of locally-grown artistry.

Andrew Neal, the current owner of the store, said he is working to promote the talents of local comic book artists.

“We used to receive a pretty good amount of comics from people who lived in the local area,” Neal said. “While we currently still have a decent amount of professional comic creators who live in the area, we have consistent request for work by local artists.”

Last month, the store showcased the work of eight local artists.

Among brightly colored stuffed robots and professionally-produced graphic novels in the store, there is now a shelf lined with comics with labels proudly proclaiming their local origin.

The event allowed the artists to meet their fans and get to know each other. It was also a chance to bring in more business for Chapel Hill Comics.

“I thought it was a really good way to show people that there are artists in the community that are creating and publishing their own comics,” Neal said.
The artists on display in the store range from single digits to double digits in age.

Eric Knisley, one of the featured artists, has known Neal for nearly 20 years. He said he appreciates the open, social atmosphere in the store. It’s an environment that has encouraged artists of all ages to show their stuff.

“Andy has put forth enormous efforts to make Chapel Hill Comics an attractive place to be,” said Knisley, 49.

Yana Levy, the youngest artist on display, is an eight-year-old girl from Chapel Hill.

Levy is the creator of “Cheep,” a series about the misadventures of a chick named Cheep. In an array of different hats and costumes, Cheep tries to complete sets of different tasks.

Inspiration for the Cheep series came to Yana when she was holding a sleeping chick during after-school care.

She decided to make a comic about a chick — but with a more lively personality than the sleeping chick.

“I don’t think a good comic would be about a chicken sleeping,” Levy said.

Kevin Dixon, an older featured artist who has been making comics since he was a child, said he was impressed and encouraged by the younger artists creating comic books.

“It was really cool seeing the youngsters doing it and producing stuff,” Dixon said. “It’s easy to start a comic, but not so much to finish one.”

Dixon is currently finishing an adaptation of “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” considered by some to be the oldest story known to man.

As he approaches the finish-line for his latest comic after nearly 10 years of work, Dixon said that he is impressed by the work ethic of his younger peers.

“It makes you appreciate the kids that are knocking the pages out,” he said. “It takes a lot of labor.”

All the artists agree that comic books are for everyone — creators and readers alike.

“The great thing about comics, or the best thing, is that it is truly an egalitarian art form,” Knisley said.

“All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper and an idea.”

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