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Green Brain Signing to Shed Light on Comic Creator's "Identity"

Writer Rashad Woods and artist Jennifer Rose Evans will be signing the first issue of their Detroit-based comic book, "Identity," Wednesday at Green Brain Comics in Dearborn.

will be hosting a signing Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. with Rashad Woods and Jennifer Rose Evans, the writer and artist of the new Detroit-based comic book series Identity: The Chronicles of Abu Darnell.

"It's pure Detroit," said Dan Merritt, owner of Green Brain Comics in Dearborn.  "It's kind of a great depiction of heroism in a city without heroes."

Woods said the decision to make it Detroit-based was simple.

"I read a lot, I'm into fiction, and I realized there weren't a lot of characters based in the Detroit area and I kinda wanted to get my spin on it," Woods said. 

Currently employed in logistics with a retail management degree from Michigan State, the 28-year-old writer from Riverview said that Identity is his first major project, which he introduced at the Motor City Comic Con in May.

Of his title character, Abu Darnell, Woods said, "He's one of those guys that until he got personally affected he didn't exactly step up to the plate because it always happened to someone else."

He likens his young hero to a "PG-13 version of The Punisher." 

Following the murder of a friend, Darnell is hesitant to trust police and takes matters into his own hands as a vigilante crime fighter. Trained in martial arts and aided by a rouge homicide detective, he becomes embroiled in a plan to take down a violent crime syndicate.

The book's first issue sets up a story thread clearly inspired by the scandals of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and deals with the murder of a stripper following a rowdy party at the mayoral mansion.

The goal for Woods was to keep his story rooted in reality and to acknowledge Detroit's ongoing tribulations with the embattled politician without being exploitative.

"I'm not going to dwell on it to the extent that suddenly people are revisiting history over and over again," he said. "I think, to a large extent, that people are actually looking … to put that behind them. It's been an embarrassment for the last two and half, three years."

"I'm definitely not into sensationalism," Woods added. "I wanted people to be like, 'Oh, this really took place here.' But it's a different spin on it, it shows the evolution of the (title) character."

A self-published venture, with print copies available through IndyPlanet and local comic shops such as Green Brain, Identity is a limited-series expected to run six issues, according to Evans. Woods added that the book could tackle different characters with additional chapters that expand the Identity universe.

Evans, 31, is a self-trained artist who moved from the Seattle area to Michigan four years ago and spent several years working as a freelance illustrator. Now working for Fucini Productions, a PR firm in Farmington Hills, she specializes in digital art and web design.

"My biggest influences were Disney movies from the '90s and, more recently, anime and manga," she said. "I read some comics as a kid, but I wasn't terribly involved, honestly, until I became an adult and now I love all of it."

Evans is a regular participant in Green Brain's monthly Comic Jams, where groups of artists collaborate on creating a comic book page, and a contributor to the store's art galleries. The next Jam is set for Sept. 14 from 7 to 10 p.m.

"It's a break from the norm," Woods said of his own participation in the jams. "It's like a subculture you never knew existed, in a way.  It's a breath of fresh air to meet people there who are just appreciative of comics … it's almost therapeutic." 

For Merritt, the Identity signing is the perfect opportunity to showcase the work of local creators.

"This is an important book for them and will really help motivate them to further their career and further their exploration of the character," he said. "It's also important to the public because they get an early look at the beginnings of potentially great careers."

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