Visions Comic Art Group: workers by day, storytellers by night


In the warmer months of each year, a group of fledgling and established comic book artists gather to present, consider and hone its newest creations.

Students and workers by day, storytellers by night, they come together in a place that looks like it was ripped from the very pages of one of their productions to piece together their own worlds, characters and plotlines.

What is now known as the Visions Comic Art Group started in 1981 as a group consisting of Emil Novak, Sr., the owner of Queen City Bookstore on Main Street, and a few friends who did fanzines. The latest incarnation started in 2012, when artist Aaron O’Brian mentioned to Novak that he was hoping to start a local comic book creators’ club. Novak offered his store as the meeting place.

“Two people showed up,” O’Brian said via email. “It was a small start, but it was a beginning.”

After discussions with Novak, the pair decided to bring back the original Visions group. It started a Facebook page, got a following started, and began planning an anthology in November 2012.

Visions’ current incarnation held its first meeting in January 2013, collecting scripts from writers and pairing them with artists to begin work on short stories.

The product of that labor was the first Visions anthology, released last October at Buffalo Comicon. It ranges in genre from horror and suspense to “slice-of-life” stories, and even a story involving inventor and mechanical engineer Nikola Tesla.

“Our first anthology is amazing,” O’Brian said. “I’m so proud of it.”

The group also meets once a month to help out younger, aspiring artists with their drawing and storytelling. Novak broke down the concept of composing illustrations, describing it as a scene-by-scene process.

Novak can tell those who simply like doing poses from those who know how to put together a good comic.

“Comics are really sequentially illustrated, because they work hand in hand with the script, the art, the coloring, the word balloons if they’re real exotic and everything, but they still have to tell the basic story,” he said.

“There was an old little tale I heard once that said, ‘If you look at a comic book storyline, if you can understand rudimentarily what is going on, that person is telling a good story.’”

Novak enjoys being a mentor to younger artists, having drawn for more than 40 years. He has also helped out one of his own who is not an artist in his own right, but has a strong tie to the group.

Alec Frazier, the group’s public relations officer, published (with Novak’s help) a pamphlet called “Without Fear: The First Autistic Superhero.” The paper focuses on Tim Urich, the boy Daredevil chooses to take over for him once he is killed. Tim is regarded as the first successful mention of an autistic superhero.

Frazier wrote the paper as a literary review of “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear,” and approached his adviser to publish it, but was told an academic publication likely would not be the right venue for it. He sought other platforms, which is where Novak and Visions came in. Now, “Without Fear” is being sold at Queen City and has been sold at three comic book conventions, including Cripping the Comic Con, a convention showcasing disability in pop culture.

Frazier was grateful for the opportunity to reach an audience.

“This is my life’s work, disability advocacy,” he said of the pamphlet’s significance. “It was very important that I approached it from the point of view of someone who has a similar disability to Tim’s.”

The group is now working on its second anthology, which is based on a selection of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories.  O’Brian says it will contain most of the same talent from the first anthology.

The Visions group will also be speaking about how to make a graphic novel at Superhero Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 26 at the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library downtown.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @A_Rodriguez39

EDIT: An earlier version of this story had incorrectly printed the name of Cripping the Comic Con.