From AC to Paradise City

Image Courtesy of Tanner Willis

May 3, 2012

Image Courtesy of Tanner Willis

By ANDREA GODOY | Ranger Web Editor

The night is dark, and the inhabitants all around Paradise City keep quiet against the strict marshal law of Friedrich Koenig-Herr. With near fanatical devotion, Koenig has cowed the people, and those he cannot intimidate, he simply disposes of. Johnny, an up-and-coming musician, rebels at the power Koenig has over the city. His music is his salvation and his downfall. But all Johnny knows changes when one mad man sets in motion the change that will bring the city’s salvation: Volt.

Shaolin Shadow comics is not a household name. Its heroes don’t have multimillion-dollar movies in production with the biggest stars in Hollywood portraying their fictional lives. That hasn’t stopped its CEO and founder, Tanner Willis, from getting his heroes out there. “When I am not at work, I am in my office working on my comic or on design stuff,” Willis said.

The main office for Shaolin Shadow comics is modest. Willis has converted a corner of his bedroom closet into a work space. From there he plans story arcs, battles, plots and backstory for his six superheroes.
Willis, a 2011 Amarillo College graduate, said Shaolin Shadows began as a costume idea. “I was in Chris Perez’s Intro to Graphic Design class my last semester at AC and he gave us this sketch to recreate in Illustrator, and I thought, “Hey, this would make an awesome costume,” he said. The idea grew until it became his first superhero, Volt.

Willis and his illustration team each work on one character. “I give them the character, their backstory and what they should look like,” he said. “After that, it’s up to them.”
Shaolin co-founder Elexi Vasquez said Willis approached her to make his vision a reality. “Tanner has always been very creative and so have I, so when he brought up this idea and explained how we could really make this happen, I had no choice but to tell him that I would love to,” she said.

Willis said he plans to organize his heroes into a Justice League format. “What we want to do is start off with six separate comics that introduce each of our heroes,” he said. “Then we’ll have a crossover comic where all the heroes meet and interact.”

The six heroes, Volt, Ivictica, Perceaus, Sound Wave, Ariel and an unnamed hero, are just the beginning of the Shaolin Shadow family.
While Willis was attending AC, he didn’t know that his life would lead him to Paradise City. “I just hoped to be doing something where I could make a living with my artwork,” he said. The Green Lantern series Blackest Night is what inspired him to see where Shaolin would go.

Blackest Night not only brought Willis deeper into the world of comic books but also introduced him to his inspir­ation, Geoff Johns.

While Shaolin is just in its infancy, readers will get a chance to read the first comic this year. They also will get an opportunity to meet the artists and founders at the inaugural Ama-Con, a steam­punk and cosplay convention, that will take place July 21.

“Tanner and I have very high hopes for our new company,” Vasquez said. “We already have more fans than I had ever imagined, and just knowing that word is spreading about us only fuels me to think that we can actually make it in this business.”

Willis said that for now, Shaolin will produce its comics strictly in a digital medium, but he hopes to begin printing soon.

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