Drawn to comics
Local graphic design student creates comic book as exploration of art, storytelling
A.J. Urbina has been drawing comics for as long as he can remember.
“Maybe since I was 6 years old,” he said.
Urbina, 24, is releasing the last issue of “Red No. 95,” his three-part comic book series, on Saturday at Top 5 Comics. The comic is about a robot named No. 95 who is relegated to construction in some future city where humanity has walled itself off from the rest of the world.
After a head injury, No. 95 starts to “stand out” and long for a more fulfilling life, Urbina said.
No. 95 encounters a red bird — “for him, the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen,” Urbina said — and is driven to chase after it, eventually following it past the city walls and into the wild world beyond.
The adventures, discovery, challenges and growth that result form the arc of the comic series, drawn, colored and sent to print by Urbina entirely from donations collected through the online entrepreneurial platform Kickstarter.
Urbina grew up in Grand Junction and is a senior in graphic design at Colorado Mesa University, but digital design is a practical professional outlet for him, not his true dream.
“I love drawing,” Urbina said. “It just brings me endless happiness.”
He said “Red No. 95” is secretly a story about himself trying to follow his joy and “break into comics,” and also is about anyone else who has felt the call to “go do something wonderful,” whatever that is to each person.
Urbina was doodling, bored, in one of his college classes when he drew a robot with a red bird on its shoulder.
“The image was very striking for me,” he said. He felt there was a story there that needed to be told, and he began fleshing out his comic.
The part of what draws him to comics as an avenue for storytelling is the way a reader can “experience space.”
“You can see a character literally running across the page,” said Urbina, who published the first issue of “Red No. 95” in the spring of 2016 and the second this past February.
The production of each of the issues, which are his first book-length works, has been an intensive learning process.
He drew each page several times at many different scales as he went through the creation process: first a tiny version for a storyboard with all the surrounding pages, and then larger and larger versions.
He personally colored “Red No. 95” with watercolors because he enjoys how the medium comes across as “fun” and “stylized.
He used color sparsely throughout the pages of his comic to highlight important moments and themes, such as the compelling red bird and the graffiti heart someone places on No. 95’s chest after realizing the robot is more than merely a machine.
In the future, Urbina hopes to collaborate with diverse artists on color and other aspects of production in order to speed up his publishing rate to the fast-paced industry standards.
The next project Urbina intends to work on is a 1980s-themed comic about a retired stunt driver who helps Ronald Reagan fight the war on drugs.
It’s meant to criticize the way money was thrown at the drug problem, Urbina said, adding that political messages are a big part of his work.
“In 2017, political facets of our society are very important, very relevant,” said Urbina, adding that ideas enrich his stories with relevance, making them matter.
Urbina will be at Top 5 Comics, 1938 N. First St., from 2–6 p.m. Saturday for a book release celebration for his latest issue of “Red No. 95.”
He’ll have all the issues of “Red No. 95” for sale as well as special issues, prints and T-shirts.
He also plans to be at Grand Junction’s Comic Con event on Oct. 7 at the Two Rivers Convention Center.
Issues of “Red No. 95” can be bought at Etsy.com or at Top 5 comics.