By Justin Chandler
Local cartoonist Jason Loo has created Toronto’s first masked vigilante, The Pitiful Human-Lizard.
Loo’s comic book series follows Lucas Barrett, a Parkdale resident who struggles to be a superhero outside of his corporate day job.
“I made [The Pitiful Human Lizard] because I love this city. It’s a great way for me to pay homage to some of my favourite places in Toronto,” said Loo, 32. “I think Toronto is a great enough city [to] deserve to have a comic set in [it].”
Before creating The Pitiful Human-Lizard, Loo – a 2004 Sheridan College interpretive illustration graduate – did freelance artistic work for newspapers, magazines, children’s books and web comics.
However, Loo became inspired to create a Torontonian superhero after reading Marvel comics set in real places. He wanted to create an underdog superhero “experiencing a series of bad days.” Loo eventually created a draft of The Pitiful Human-Lizard and shared it on social media.
“I had some friends and followers who wanted to see more previews of [it],” Loo said.
In March, Loo started a Kickstarter campaign for the comic’s first 52-page issue, providing more preview pages for viewers.
“There was no risk for the backers. They knew a product [would] be out,” Loo said.
About 233 people contributed to the campaign. Loo’s goal to raise $4,500 was met in approximately two weeks, eventually scoring a higher goal of $6,000.
“It was very relieving at that point. I didn’t have to put too much effort into the campaign. I just focused on the production of the comics,” said Loo, who gave a free print to each contributor.
Loo used funds to produce the book and ship to domestic and international backers. He said he could not have funded the book without financial and moral support from fans of the comic.
“After a fan would read an issue they would ask me: ‘When’s the next issue out?’ They’re keeping me busy. Since the Kickstarter, it’s been a huge responsibility to please the fans,” he said.
Loo said he used Kickstarter, as opposed to a publisher, to retain creative control over the series.
He even went to assorted stores himself and met with owners to build business relationships “the old-fashioned way.” Once he’s completed more issues, Loo plans to contact publishers about distributing the series.
Since the initial Kickstarter, more than 1,200 copies of The Pitiful Human-Lizard have been sold. Nine stores sell the comic, two of which are outside Toronto.
Barbara Postema, a comic expert and professor at Ryerson’s English department, said Loo’s project is different from DC or Marvel Comics in stores because it has new, Canadian characters. She said big comic publishers usually print American work featuring characters they already own.
Postema said campaigns such as Loo’s are popular because people like seeing where they live represented in entertainment.
Andrew Lesk, a lecturer from the University of Toronto’s English department, put The Pitiful Human-Lizard in his course syllabus.
Lesk said via email that he included Loo’s comic in his syllabus as a local piece of “excellent and interesting work.” Loo even spoke at one of Lesk’s lectures.
“[For] me to go in and talk about my comics in front of all these university students is just amazing,” Loo said.
During the lecture, Loo mentioned that the Human-Lizard might team up with Canadian superhero Captain Canuck.
Through The Pitiful Human Lizard’s success thus far, Loo said staying focused is the key to making comics.
“Just keep working on it,” he said. “That’s the only way you’ll get better.” A launch party for The Pitiful Human-Lizard’s third issue will be held Feb. 4 at Silver Snail on Yonge Street.