By Mikala McCurry, Journalist
Calvin Simmons, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, and a lover of comics, graduated from Jefferson Davis High School and attended Savannah College of Art and Design where he majored in Comics and Sequential Art. Directly after graduating, he went into graphic design for a political party.
Over the next 12 years, Simmons worked in graphic design in various places, including Disney and Herff Jones Yearbooks Company. Still, he desired to get back to his first passion: comics.
He ended up working for Montgomery Public Schools, where he currently serves as a Visual Arts teacher. “I love it. It’s an opportunity to be a mentor to kids.” Simmons said. “They’re into it [comics], too. They like the Manga, a Japanese version of comics.” In his free time, Simmons also gets a chance to work on his personal comic books.
Simmons believes that teachers are responsible for more than just teaching. “You’re somebody’s mentor, somebody’s uncle, somebody’s big brother, somebody’s coach,” Simmons said. Simmons prides himself on being able to relate to his art students. He knows what it is like to be treated differently for dressing or thinking a certain way, and he reinforces with his students that it’s okay to be different and to be themselves. He helps students prepare for jobs as graphic designers and artists. He also gives them hands-on experience with clients.
His most recent published work is Shepherd, a 3-page web comic that is published online once a week. “Shepherd is a character that I’ve been working on since my junior year of college and never got the chance to take off the ground,” Simmons said. Without easy access to internet, printing and publishing comics was nearly impossible without working for a mainstream publisher or comic company. It was during that time that Simmons decided that he had to create his own path.
Simmons decided to create a web series for the ease of access for consumers. According to Simmons, Shepherd is about a superhero whose father was a police officer and was unjustly killed. In the comic, Shepherd finds a superhero costume in his attic and takes after his dad, who he saw as a superhero, by going out and fighting crime. “He [Shepherd] is instilled with this great sense of justice and doing the right thing,” Simmons said. “At the same time, he feels like the justice system is a failing. Otherwise, he would have become a police officer himself.”
The Shepherd web comic is available at no cost through Webtoon, Tapas, Instagram, and Facebook. In addition to the comic, Simmons also shares interviews, discussion boards, and drawing tips through these online outlets.
Simmons hopes that people will be able to relate to his comics. “Anytime someone looks at a movie or a comic, they want to see someone that resembles themselves. It could be the way a person looks, their gender, or their worldview,” Simmons commented. As a kid, Simmons desired to see more African American characters. He wants children and adults to look at the Shepherd comic and say “Hey, that’s me!”. He believes that every person should be able to find a character that they relate to. The main message Simmons wants people to get from his comics is this: “You can do something to change your community. You can have a positive impact.”
Aside from teaching and creating comics, Simmons enjoys spending time with his wife and 5-year old son.
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