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    Thursday, May 30, 2024

    Bozrah native publishes action comic book series

    Artist Tim Barber’s second issue of his “SHREDMAN” comic book. Photo by Tim Barber
    Artist Tim Barber’s first issue of his “SHREDMAN” comic book. Photo by Tim Barber
    Tim Barber does a “Front-Shove” out of a 50-50 grind at a skatepark in Allston, Massacusetts. Photo by Ben Kremer
    Tim Barber and his girlfriend, Lillian Sandberg, at the “SHREDSHOW” at the Gallery at the Wauregan in Downtown Norwich in March, which featured enlarged pieces of artwork from Barber’s comic books, “SHREDMAN” and a life-sized cutout. Photo by Matt Maydoney

    A good-versus-evil adventure comes to life in Tim Barber’s “SHREDMAN,” an action comic book.

    Discover the City of Gnarlborough where a group of robotic humanoid henchmen terrorize its citizens with firearms and explosives. Utilizing his wits, skateboard and the sword he carries on his back, Hector, nicknamed “Shredman,” fights Hydranthead and his masked marauders – with some help from his old and new friends.

    Underlying themes in the story are about “holding onto the things that keep us human,” including “the things you love to do,” that only humans care about, which keep us from losing our minds, said Tim Barber during a March Zoom interview. Facets of his own life that help him “hold it together” include skateboarding, drawing, friends, family and his girlfriend, Lillian Sandberg, the Bozrah native said.

    “SHREDMAN” is Barber’s brainchild. He writes the story line and creates the art. Once completed, he sends it out to be printed.

    The comic book series offers “people a way to submerge themselves in the culture of skateboarding, as well as the culture of comics,” said Barber, a 2014 Norwich Free Academy graduate who has been skateboarding since he was 5. After taking two classes in graphic design at NFA, the now 27-year-old went on to major in art and studied drawing, printmaking and illustration at Emmanuel College in Boston. In 2018, Barber graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Massachusetts educator's license.

    He first began working on “SHREDMAN” while sitting home with nothing to do during the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Barber is a visual arts teacher for children in kindergarten through eighth grade at St. John's School in Boston's historic “Little Italy” district.

    His first issue was 36 pages and took him two years to create, because of a learning curve. Now in the “groove,” Barber said, “The second book, which is about 60 pages long, took me less than one year.”

    He is selling each individual 6.14 x 9.21-inch comic book for $15 and an “Action-Packed-Deal” with the first and second issues for $20, which is accessible on his website.

    Currently, Barber is working on the third stand-alone issue of “SHREDMAN,” which he hopes to complete by the fall of 2023. In the future, he plans to create a compilation book.

    Length of each issue depends on the story. However, he said he always ends with a cliffhanger with the story line continuing in the next issue. “As much as the words move the story along, so too do the pictures.”

    Even though you don’t need to be a skateboarder to enjoy the comic book, he said there are certain things you’ll pick up on if you are. For example, “SHREDMAN” refers to what skateboarders do. “We shred. We go on the ramps and we tear it up.”

    Also, Gnarlborough is a reference to “gnarly,” another skateboarding term for an awesome takeoff or trick.

    Barber said his inspiration comes from everywhere, including his own skateboarding life. Growing up, he said he loved comic books about super heroes, including Spiderman, and hearing stories that aren’t in the news and probably could never really happen.

    Additionally, as a way to give his characters more depth, they are all based on a mashup of people he knows well.

    He said he is glad his first professional exhibition was held at the Gallery at the Wauregan in March, because he loves Norwich and has many deep ties to the city and great memories socializing with his friends, driving around town, hiking at Mohegan Park, and skateboarding at the Norwich Skate Park (The Donald L. Alfiero Skateboard Park), which he affectionately calls “Gnarwich.”

    "It was like a cool, full circle thing that happened."

    Describing Tim Barber’s “SHREDMAN” as positive and uplifting, Wauregan Gallery Curator/Artist Dan (Dano) Topalis believes the comic book’s message is that "skateboarding is fun."

    "People love it, because it's so colorful and so full of life. It's just really cool stuff,” he said during a telephone interview.

    Barber promotes his comic book through his website, Instagram, visiting skate shops,word of mouth, hanging up posters and talking to people sometimes wearing his “SHREDMAN” sweatshirt. In the future, he also plans to sell “SHREDMAN” apparel, as well as make comic books available digitally.

    Barber said he also wants to do his part to help preserve physical media. “I love having a physical object in my hand that is a representation of a work of art, whether that is a comic book, movie on DVD, video game cartridge that's 20 years old that you need the machine still to play it. I love physical media because it can't disappear…If the internet goes down, you can't read the webcomics.”

    Hive Skate Shop Owner Charlie King of New London said during a telephone interview that his customers like“SHREDMAN”; it’s a fun read, well produced and has beautiful artwork.

    Already, “SHREDMAN” is being sold in Connecticut and across the country, Barber said.

    “Genuinely, the first one was great; the second one was amazing.The third one's gonna knock your socks off. It's serious. It's getting real. The stakes are increasing and they’re only going to get higher,” he said, adding many more issues are planned, because he has so many ideas.

    “SHREDMAN” comic books can be purchased at the Gallery at the Wauregan, 200 Main St., Norwich and Hive Skate Shop, 139 Shaw St. in New London.

    For more information, go to Instagram: @shredmancomic or shredmancomic.com (where you can also purchase “SHREDMAN” comic books).

    Skateboarding gives you different perspective on environment

    Tim Barber said he loves skating in the street because it forces you as a skateboarder to look at your environment in a new way.

    “If I'm walking down the street and I see a piece of the sidewalk that's just been lifted up a little bit because the roots are growing under it or something, I go: ‘That's a ramp.’ Most people go by that.”

    He agreed that skateboarding keeps you young at heart. “I'm always thinking about tricks.”

    “All of my friends love skateboarding and we love going skating together and skating the streets and in the parks. I love skateboarding so much. It's like my favorite thing,” said Barber, who goes through a board every couple of months.

    “I've already just kind of assumed at this point that when I get old I'm still going to basically ride this thing (skateboard) till the wheels fall off,” he said, adding he will never look at his environment the same way again.

    Jan Tormay, a longtime Norwich resident, now lives in Westerly.

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