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Briefy >> POW! KA-BAM! SWOOSH!

Charlotte Observer illustrator Jason Whitley, left, and reporter Peter St. Onge wowed readers by telling a story in comic-book style. Online components included an animated version.
Illustration by Jason Whitley

What better way to tell the story of the owner of a tiny comic-book store fighting off a behemoth conglomerate than in cartoon format? Charlotte Observer enterprise reporter Peter St. Onge and illustrator Jason Whitley gave it a try in Clash of the Conventions.

“The story was about a comics store in Charlotte that has run a small convention since 1975,” St. Onge said. “When Wizard Entertainment, a comic-book giant, decided to have its own convention in 2006, they picked the same dates as the smaller one.” The decision was no accident, says St. Onge. Store-owner Shelton Drum had e-mailed Wizard Entertainment with the dates of his event to avoid any conflict.

What happened next? You’ll have to read the comic to find out, which you can see by clicking here, but let’s just say that the name of Drum’s store – Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find – is particularly apt.

Creativity can be hard to find in a daily newspaper, but St. Onge is trying to change that. “The more often you surprise readers, the more they’ll come to you to be surprised,” he said.

The nearly full-page comic in the Sunday Carolina Living section was coupled with online bonuses as well. The Web version of the cartoon was animated with some of the real-life characters reading their lines – all Whitley’s idea.

“Generally, when you come up with things like this, they’re better in the idea phase than in the execution,” St. Onge acknowledged. “But Jason took this to a whole other level.”

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