Olathe artists use graphic novels for story telling

They call it a "graphic novel experience."

Out of a studio in Olathe, James Rider, Mike Valverde and Chuck Smith created Lil'guy Productions. Lil'guy is the unique hero they created to be the center of their comic books. In each book, illustrations shift from photographs to abstract drawings. There are no panels or word bubbles. Those traditional comic-book elements would have distracted from the content, they said.

"It conveys emotion we wouldn't have gotten any other way," Rider said.

Rider and Smith met at the Kansas City Art Institute and took more than a year to develop their artistic style.

"I don't know any to compare us to," Smith said.

While teen angst is a common theme with most superhero tales, the battles Lil'guy fights are more often within himself than with an external villain. The main character, Rodney, is a man dealing with the lasting effects of an abusive childhood. The content requires at least a "PG-13 rating for the kiddos," Smith said. The subject matter is adult, but above all Smith said he wanted to make this "superhero" believable.

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