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Comic art friends featured in online competition during February ask locals to support them with votes

Forest Rhodes had a dream about a brutish barbarian man named Gelgun, a potential comic book character, when he was a child growing up in northern San Diego County.

At the time, he told his best friend Lazarus Berry about the dream. Both loved the concept and kept the idea tucked away in their minds unaware of how Gelgun would later resurface. Both men are now 35 years old.

Rhodes, a Fallbrook resident and award-winning layout artist for several publications in San Diego and Riverside counties, suddenly became inspired and sent Berry an instant message online.

Berry was realizing a newly inspired endeavor himself. Now a resident of Foster City, an area south of San Francisco, Berry had quit his job with a leading company in the gaming industry to pursue his passion for comic art again.

Rhodes told Berry that he was leading a team of 3-D modelers that were revamping an old video game.

They were excited to find they still had a love of art in common.

Rhodes reminded Berry about his Gelgun dream.

“Now, 14 years later, Laz has decided to draw a comic book about Gelgun,” Rhodes said, laughing, in a recent interview. “I think he just liked the name Gelgun. I mean, it’s one of those names.”

With several comic-industry ideas in the works, Berry, a line artist, complained about the colorists he was using on the material.

Rhodes asked Berry to ‘give him a shot’as a colorist.

Berry agreed to let him color a comic based on a wizard’s apprentice. Berry was impressed by his friend’s work. He soon began the “Gelgun” comic and Rhodes started coloring it.

“I’m new to the field of comic coloring,” admitted Rhodes. “I have extensive knowledge in digital art programs.”

Rhodes showed Berry that he could be reliable by committing long hours to the project as well as keeping in constant online communication.

Working as Berry’s colorist, he uses hues and values to set the mood of each panel and page, he said.

“Colors can be treated like a language, with the artist constructing visual sentences out of them,” Rhodes added. “It’s a challenge to master such a language, but fulfilling.”

Berry has given Rhodes leeway to make the pages interesting, but consistent.

About a month ago, Berry entered “Gelgun” into a month-long online competition run by Zuda Comics, a Web imprint published under the DC Universe umbrella.

DC Comics introduced the world to Superman in 1938. It’s the largest and most diverse English language publisher of comic books in the world.

“Gelgun” was accepted into Zuda’s February event.

Readers can currently vote on “Gelgun” or other entries at http://www.zudacomics.com until noon Feb. 28.

If Berry wins, he will earn a publishing contract with Zuda, which asks him to make “Gelgun” into an ongoing series. Rhodes hopes to continue coloring the comic.

Berry calls “Gelgun” standard fantasy fair that goes back to the basics through a character-driven, mainstream adventure.

Rhodes is optimistic about his friend’s Webcomic venture.

“Webcomics can allow the readership to be more interactive with the artist and each other, as forums, blogs, and chat systems develop around the comic,” he said. “Well-known Webcomics form their own online communities of like-minded people. In that sense, it can be a simple and positive way for people to find others that have similar interests.”

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