The letter arrived at the office in late December, on one of those hushed mornings between Christmas and New Years, when it seems like everyone else on the planet has time off.
It was addressed to the editor of the Cloverdale Reporter. The printing on the enveloped looked a little unsteady – like that of an elderly person, or someone unused to writing by hand.
Inside was a folded up sheet of paper that had been torn from a small spiral notebook.
It was a letter.
It was from someone hoping for a job at the paper, which wasn’t unusual, although handwritten script in pencil certainly was. So were the drawings.
“Dear Cloverdale Reporter,” it began.
“Hi my name is Jasper and I’m 10 years old. And I was wondering if you could let me draw a weekly comic. I would really like it. I right (sic) comics all the time. I’ll give you a sample.”
He’d included a three-paneled example of a comic strip titled “Clay Boy”. It was drawn directly on the page.
“And so our hero is fallowing the badguys,” the intro read. Below it, an arrow pointed to Clay Boy, a character who was following a man in a fedora. “They’re going into Doctor Vanderplog’s office,” the narration continued in panel two, a close-up of Clay Boy.
“I’m going in,” said Clay Boy in the third and final panel, setting up a bit of a cliff-hanger. (“What happens next?” I wondered.)
The letter proposed submitting the comic strip by email, and it would run in the Reporter. “Oh, it would be the best Christmas present” Jasper wrote.
He’d included small drawings of 11 more comic characters – Rick Rasen, Batman, Dick Tracy, Fishman… “and more!”
“But these comics are not funnies. They’re a story comic,” he warned in closing. “So please please let me!”
I turned the letter over, looking for an email address, or even a phone number.
Nothing. I consulted the envelope again.
There was a mailing address.
Obviously, the only way to deal with this was the old-fashioned way. Write back to arrange a meeting in person.
“But please call or email,” I replied, aware that the rest of our conversation would be faster that way.
Last month, Jasper and his dad were finally able to come to the Reporter office, so I could meet Jasper in person and look at more of his drawings.
Here’s what I found out:
At 10, Jasper Jubenvill has already decided he likes old things.
Especially Dick Tracy comics and other classics of the comic strip genre.
Clay Boy, it turns out, is a superhero crime fighter with special powers like the ability to change into things or transform – like modeling clay. (Handy when you’re battling villains like the crafty Dr. Vanderplog. In one installment, Clay Boy melts into a puddle to slip through the floor and escape.)
He likes to draw other comic characters, too.
“I’ve invented lots of superheroes,” says Jasper, a Grade 5 student at Colebrook. “I don’t want to keep making them look the same.”
He’s built up a thick portfolio of drawings – lots of them are elaborate, multi-panel comic strips filled with scenes of action and adventure. Episodic rather than amusing, the comics feature a vast universe of colourful characters who are fond of punchy dialogue and sticky situations, from fires to armed robbery.
He’s also fond of drawing large puzzles. The test is to find a set of images cleverly hidden within the larger illustration.
Jasper, who has a younger brother, Levi, 8, and a little sister, Chloe, 2, says ideas can come from anywhere.
His love of drawing comics started when his dad, Paul, showed him his own hand-made comics. Turns out his graphic artist dad shares a love of drawing comics, too.
Jasper has drawn all the characters in the Dick Tracy series, each with his own unique flair and creative interpretation.
Chester Gould began drawing Dick Tracy for the newspaper comics page in 1931. (Nowadays it’s done by Dick Locher).
“It’s all the things I really like, put together,” he says. He’s particularly inspired by the look of the 1930s. “I like old things. I try to make my comics look old. I try to use old paper.”
Sadly, the Cloverdale Reporter doesn’t have a newspaper comics page. So we offered instead to feature Jasper’s comic creations on our Facebook Page, where they’ve become a hit with readers.
To view Jasper’s comics, visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Cloverdale-Reporter/208009899720.) Look for the photo album called The Comic Book Kid. We’ll be uploading new ones as he submits them.