New Chattanooga resident Richard Starkings has been working in the field of comics for his entire adult life.
From working for publications such as Marvel and DC Comics, to owning his own company, to writing his own comics, Starkings has had his hand in every piece of the industry over the past 35 years.
His latest comic, "The Beef," just published its fifth edition and he is releasing a graphic novel that contains all five editions this month.
Starkings will be present for a book signing of the new graphic novel Saturday, July 28 at local comic book shop Infinity Flux in Hixson.
The storyline, described by Starkings as a "very strange comic," follows the life of a man who works for the local slaughterhouse and turns into beef from eating too much fast food, essentially becoming a GMO Hulk. The theme of "you are what you eat" is entangled with the pitfalls of the meat and dairy industries.
Starkings' love for comics began as a child. Growing up in Leeds, England, he recalls that his older brother owned a massive comic book collection with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked full of iconic titles.
Starkings quickly became entrenched in the Marvel universe, some of his favorites being Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. He admitted with a chuckle that the reason he was so interested in Marvel superheroes was simply because he wasn't tall enough to reach the shelves with DC comics on them.
"I'm the product of growing up reading comics and loving to tell stories," Starkings said.
After graduating from the University of Southamptonwith a degree in English and media studies, he worked for Marvel UK comics in the mid-1980s. As a graphic designer for the company, he worked on titles such as "Transformers," "ThunderCats," "Dr. Who" and "The Real Ghostbusters," designing and even writing a few of the comic strips himself.
In 1989, Starkings left the UK for America. He lived in New York working on freelance lettering - inscribing the dialogue and captions onto the artwork and creating the balloons and sound effects in the comics - for both Marvel and DC. Eventually, he headed west to California where he opened his own lettering and design company, Comicraft.
"It changed the way the global industry of comic books does lettering," Starkings said with pride.
Lettering was typically done with pen and ink. His company pioneered digital lettering using the program Fontographer. Digital lettering is now used in most comic book companies worldwide.
While making strides with his startup company, Starkings began writing his own comics as well. "Elephantmen," which has been running for 15 years, is one of his best-known works. The sci-fi story features animal-human hybrids that are former super-soldiers but now live among us.
"My inspiration comes from looking out the window. I would have never written 'The Beef' if I hadn't driven through California, passing all the massive cow farms. It's a very sad looking gathering of hundreds of cattle," he mused. "My parents used to visit Africa and bring back paintings and sculptures of elephants. I realized after I wrote it that that's where 'Elephantmen' came from."
Starkings moved to Chattanooga less than a year ago with his fiancee to be near her family. He has since gotten involved in the comic book community here in the Scenic City, speaking to the Chatt Comix Co-Op group about the ins and outs of the industry and what it takes to write and design comic books.
Following his upcoming book signing, Starkings will participate in a Q&A session that gives members of the general community a chance to ask him questions about the industry and his career. Light snacks will be served.
The event takes place from 1-3 p.m. July 28.
Infinity Flux is located at 3643 Hixson Pike.
Email Carley Olejniczak at firstname.lastname@example.org.