In 2019 I was given the opportunity to illustrate once again for best-selling author, Bryan Davis. Instead of a complete graphic novel like Raising Dragons or a children's bedtime story like Beelzebed, I was tasked with providing black and white illustrations to enhance the reading experience for his new children's chapter book series called Wanted: Superheroes.
It wasn't Bryan's original intention to include illustrations for this series but with some feedback from his early access readers it became clear that younger audiences would appreciate having drawings sprinkled throughout the story, giving readers compelling visuals to accompany the words. Some of the most famous children's series, including the Chronicles of Narnia, included black and white illustrations. It's a tried and true formula that works well for children's chapter books.
Although Mr. Davis and I had a prior working relationship with several other of his books, I wanted to prove that I was the artist for the job. He held an audition of sorts, of which I participated by providing a preliminary illustration to show how my style could be a good match for the first book, Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World. Here's the sketch that cemented my role as illustrator for the series.
This new take on the superhero genre isn't as flashy and over-the-top as some popular comic books of today. The main hero, Eddie Hertz, is a normal kid who happens to be really creative and technologically adept. You could say his intellect and his good spirited nature are his real superpowers. As the story continues, he does invent a machine that gives the user superhero powers, but it was his younger sister who was on the receiving end. Who will end up saving who?
The relationship between Eddie and his sister, Samantha, is really what drives all three stories. Common themes weaved throughout the series include dealing with loss, reconciliation, and self sacrifice for the sake of those you love. There's even more to the villains than meets the eye and a lot of common tropes and conventions get re-hauled to create a fresh tale that will call out the hero in all of us, no matter the age of the reader.
The illustrations found in the books are all back and white with greyscale shading. It's a very simple style, fitting for a western superhero story for children. I have read the first book to my children and they were all invested in the characters, clamoring to discover what happens next. It's no surprise they are eager to discover the fates of Eddie and Samantha Hertz in the next book, Hertz to be a Hero.
As the illustrator, this was a very meaningful series to be a part of. I recall what I was like at the age of ten, daydreaming to have superpowers and saving the world. Making the art for these books was paying homage to my own childhood. It reinvigorated me to look back at some of my own superhero stories I wrote in my pre-adolescence years and consider bringing new life to those old stories.
The last book of the series, Antigravity Heroes, was released in December of 2019, marking the end of the trilogy. Bryan Davis has gone down to confirm that while Eddie and Sam could have many more adventures ahead of them, he wanted to stop at book three. The end of Antigravity Heroes does bring a lot of closure, yet there is always room in the imagination of the reader to come up with new villains for our heroes to thwart. More adventures await!
Superheros will always fascinate young readers with their tales of epic battles, amazing abilities, and iconic costumes. The Wanted: Superheroes series doesn't necessarily reinvent the genre, but it doesn't recycle old tropes and cliche story lines either. Young readers will appreciate how the story isn't told to them, but rather, shown through smart writing techniques and deductive reasoning. Even adults will appreciate the humor, witty writing, and cleaver plot twists.
I highly encourage you to consider picking up a copy of the first book (or all three) to add to your library or give away to a special younger reader in your life. Supporting the author, Bryan Davis, also supports me as it would encourage future collaborations. I have the three books linked throughout this article for your consideration. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you very much!