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Five questions with comic artist Tom Rasch

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Tom Rasch has come a long way from doodling in his notebook at Central High School. A Rapid City native born on Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rasch, 50, has risen from comic book fan to respected artist within the industry. He has worked for Marvel Comics, the top comic book studio in the world, on "The Punisher 2099" series, which ran from 1993 to 1995, and is the creator of the comic "Black Alpha," the story of a young man from a faraway planet who sets on a mission to right wrongs against him and his family, finding a spaceship and superhero suit along the way.

The comic, which mixes influences of "Star Wars," "Batman," "Spider-Man" and "Star Trek," was first published in USA Today in 2013, has had merchandise featured on the popular Emmy-winning CBS series "The Big Bang Theory," and will be published through Action Lab Entertainment and sold in comic shops and book stores all over the country this year. In addition, it was recently acquired to be developed as a TV series. Rasch, who will appear at SoDak Con at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, spoke to the Rapid City Journal about his history.

Where did the idea of "Black Alpha" come from?

I always tell people that the first thing I was exposed to when I was 5 was "Star Trek," "Batman" and "Spider-Man," and I've had a love for superheroes since I was about that age. I've been drawing since when I was 5, and my mom was a great artist, and I took a lot from her. As I got a little bit older, around 5th grade, I started doodling my own characters, and I'd always wanted to do a superhero that combined "Batman" and "Star Trek."

Other than creating "Black Alpha," what is your proudest accomplishment?

Working for Marvel, which had been a dream of mine from childhood. When I was a kid I knew I wanted to either write and direct films or comic books, and since I'm a shy art nerd, comics were closer to my personality. When I got the call to work at Marvel ... that's like an actor getting a lead on a TV show. Working on "Punisher 2099" was great, because it gave me validation for not giving up on my hopes and dreams. The things I do now are what I've daydreamed about since I was a kid.

"Black Alpha" is being developed as a TV show. What's going on in the early stages?

I've developed tons of material over the last five years and had meetings with pitch packages, and about three months ago I signed a deal with Global Genesis Group. It's still in its infancy, but we're having meetings with Cartoon Network along with streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. I'm really excited about the whole thing.

How is the comic book world and industry different from what you imagined as a kid?

It was much more niche back then. Modern media has changed things, where people are more easily exposed to this stuff. When I was a kid, it was seen as kids' entertainment and a boys' medium. The combination of technology, social media and greater graphics in games and movies introduced whole generations among men and women to how cool and fun these stories can be. I'm not one of those people who doesn't like it when everybody embraces what I'm into. I celebrate it as people getting on board with something that I thought was awesome for most of my life.

What's the best thing about comic book conventions?

I see just how far the convention culture goes. It's really mainstream now, and it's fun to see people from all walks of life come out in droves, whether they're big anime or comics people who are passionate about it or they're new people who wanted to check it out. You get feedback on your project, you talk story, and it's a good way to get the word out in a grassroots way. It boils down to how fun it is to see all of this become part of everyday culture now.

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