If necessity is the mother of invention, I like to think of boredom as invention’s sketchy uncle or chaotic aunt. Born of having too much time on one’s hands, boredom is a motivator for one to act out in various ways, and these behaviors are loosely organized along a spectrum between the poles of creation and destruction. This is a long way of saying that another interesting reality caused by the pandemic was what people did with their days stuck at home. Apparently, many people baked bread instead of braining their partner with a frying pan, and all that loaf production was directly related to a sudden influx of heretofore unconsidered leisure time. Like all those bread bakers, Fort Worth musicians Taylor Shelton King and Ben Napier needed a project to occupy the sudden onset of idle hours, but instead of figuring out the art of sourdough starters, they learned how to make a comic book. What started as a matter of seeing if they could even pull off scripting one has now resulted in two published issues and even a retail store.
At the start of the pandemic, King was furloughed from his job as a gallery restoration artist. He occupied his day with a lot of gardening and reading. He and Napier live near each other on the East Side, and King would walk over to Napier’s house to hang out.
“We were just sitting on his porch smoking, and [Ben] was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking about making comics,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, really? Because I have lots of story ideas.’ And we just kicked [ideas] around, and Gl’urk and Bo is basically a real simple sci-fi short story idea I had.”
Gl’urk and Bo are the titular characters in an ongoing comic book set in a spacefaring future dominated by greedy corporations, a pair of space truckers who kill the time between destinations smoking space weed until that blissful occupation is interrupted by some cosmic horror. If you’ve seen Heavy Metal (or the low-budget 1996 Dennis Hopper sci-fi comedy literally called Space Truckers), you’ll be familiar with this story. Referencing the [space truckers on space-dope trope from Heavy Metal was by design.
“I thought it was really funny that they were trusted to be the pilots of that giant ship and land in that spaceship and then crash-land,” King said. “They cause, like, trillions of dollars in damage, and I loved how bleak it was. The evils of late-late-late-stage capitalism. And that’s sort of what Gl’urk and Bo is about. We borrowed the social setting.”
King and Napier dived into the world of comic book production how-to, poring over Reddit and other forums for advice and spending hours listening to podcasts from creators. Eventually, the duo used Reddit to audition artists, finding the right fit in an Australian freelancer named Tom Hoskisson and a colorist named Jimmy G, who worked with King’s scripts and Napier’s edits. King and Napier paid for all artists’ work out of their own pockets, and then, when their first issue’s story, art, and layout were completed, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the issue’s print run.
“Ben learned a lot about running a Kickstarter campaign,” King said. “He learned a lot about being a producer as well as an editor, and he figured out how to maximize the Kickstarter, so when we did the second one, we were able to get more funding.”
Since Gl’urk & Bo’s debut, King and Napier have been partners in their own imprint called BG Comics.
“When we were looking at publishing it,” King said, “there are a lot of indie creators who make their own imprint, like a band starting their own record label.”
Producing the comic also drew upon Napier’s prior experience working at a comic book shop, which led to his opening a store of his own.
“It’s a big leap between wanting to make comics to wanting to sell them,” Napier said. “When I worked at that shop, I was curious and listening to a lot of industry podcasts, where people talk about working for Image now but they started in comics retail, so I learned that side of the industry, so there seemed to be a lot of value in cross-training, understanding that side of thing.”
He was also already spending $50-100 a week on comics, so it made even more sense to open his own business.
“With the employee discount, I almost broke even,” Napier joked. “I basically hung in there at the shop in Keller and wanted to learn as much as I could about running a shop, and I was there a week and thought, Well, I should totally open one of these and figure out a place that doesn’t have a store like this.”
Napier opened Mansfield Comics & Manga on June 1, 2021, as a “mini-shop” in a consignment space within a business called the Local Farmer in downtown Mansfield, but he’s done well enough that he has been able to lease a bigger, better, more permanent location on FM 157, just north of 287. He is in the process of finishing the remodel and aims to open on March 1.
As for the Gl’urk and Bo, their fate is being determined by King, Napier, and Hoskisson, who are currently finishing the production of the comic’s third issue. Like the previous two issues, BG Comics will launch a Kickstarter to cover the printing, and like their flagship title’s heroes, King and Napier’s adventure in the world of comics is wide open. Not bad for a couple of guys killing time.
Keep up with the plot at BGComics.com.