FoPo cartoonist creates books with global appeal

Find how stories about a monster-battling, 11-year-old, Orthodox Jewish girl are gaining a growing audience …

Instead of using paper and pencil, cartoonist Barry Deutsch uses a high-tech easel to create his comics and illustrations.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While pausing for inspiration, artist Barry Deutsch glances up, and looks out at Laurelhurst Park from inside his Foster-Powell neighborhood studio.

An idea pops into his mind, and Deutsch goes back to work, as he stands drawing on a Wacom Cintiq – a combination of a high-resolution computer monitor and digitizing tablet.

Although his work shows he’s a gifted artist and brilliant illustrator, Deutsch says he doesn’t consider himself an artist, illustrator, or graphic designer. “I am a cartoonist,” he tells East Portland News.

He wanted to be a veterinarian in high school, Deutsch recalls. “But then, I took my first biology class when they had us dissect things. It turns out, the insides of a frog are really gross. Disgusting, in fact!  That was pretty much the end of my becoming a veterinarian.”

However, he’s always been a big fan of comic books, he explains. “It was natural for me to switch over to creating comics.

“I started drawing at school, and in my free time. My teachers were okay with it. In fact, I was very lucky, in that I had a good drawing instructor in high school. I learned a lot of basic principles of drawing. Even though I skipped a bunch of my other classes so I could go to drawing class more often, things worked out okay.”

For several years, Deutsch says he worked as a wedding coordinator and assistant manager at the Old Church downtown. “It was a fun job, actually. There were very nice people there, and it helped pay the bills while I continued working on my drawings.

“I’ve been making a full-time living of this for the last five years or so, since my work on ‘Hereville’ began.”

Hereville is a series of two illustrated hardcover comic books, explains Deutsch. “I’ve had other things in print. But, two Hereville books are in print, and I’m currently working on the third book.”

The heroine is Mirka, an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, who wants to fight monsters.

In his Foster-Powell studio, Barry Deutsch works on a page from his third book in the Hereville series.

“She came about because I wanted to do something that would be a fun adventure comic; something that I would like to read. I’m kind of sick of all these ‘action comics’ about muscular 30-year-old white guys in New York City who punch each other a lot.

“And, I’m Jewish. This is a topic that enabled me to do a lot of research about Judaism. It all came together in Hereville. I don’t think anyone in the world but me would have come up with the idea to make this comic book.”

It’s similar to Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he says. “What made them special wasn’t the fact that they had what some considered to be silly idea. They saw that they could actually tell appealing stories with these characters. Perhaps Hereville will never sell that well, but it is appealing to people.”

He’s both somewhat astonished, and pleased, Deutsch smiles, that a publisher picked it up, then the second book – and is now waiting to publish the third in the Hereville series.

What surprises him, he adds, is that Hereville, that what started out as a web comic, appeal to all ages.

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy my comics,” says cartoonist Barry Deutsch, showing off two of his books in the Hereville series.

“It’s no secret that I write and draw for myself,” Deutsch muses, “It wasn’t until I got an agent that I found out I have been creating a kids’ book. So it could be that I’m brilliantly creative – or that I’m very immature!”

His modestly-priced books were a hit during the Hanukkah and Christmas seasons, we’re told; and make a great gift for birthdays or other events, Deutsch suggests. It’s available at many local booksellers, or online at http://www.amazon.com/.

And, to see much more of his work, visit his website: CLICK HERE to open it.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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