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Drawing a crowd

By B. Adam Burke
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– What do a slice of pizza, a floating bunny head, a dinosaur piñata and an armless bear have in common? They are all characters that star in a new comic book created by North Liberty artist Jonathan Sims.
Slicey, Armless Bear, Raptoro and Floating Bunny Head (FBH), are members of a team of super-heroes who must battle robot cowboys in the irreverent and fun first installment of “Floating Bunny Head.”
Sims’ book debuted at an opening at Iowa City’s Raygun store. The book is also on sale at Daydreams in Iowa City and Alter Ego in Marion. On-line orders can be placed through his website, www.skelenaut.com.
Sims has planned four more comics in the series and hopes to have the collection bound together in book form when completed.
It took him two years to write and draw each page of FBH No. 1. He said he was running about a page per week near the completion of his first book and hopes to crank out the remaining installments, one per year, while he continues to work at Read Photography in Cedar Rapids as a digital artist.
Sims, 29, grew up in Amana and Cedar Rapids and graduated from Coe College. His wife, Chelsea, is a librarian at West High School and supports the dream of the young thinker– this digital pen-and-inker– to draw his dreams.
Sims said his brainchild, Floating Bunny Head, came to him while he was doodling in a history class.
Later, Armless Bear was born and Sims thought the mangled bear hilarious. He knew he was onto something and ran a comic strip version in the school newspaper for two years.
“It wasn’t a story,” Sims admitted but he later conjured an adventure for his cartoon crew.
In FBH No. 1, the three roommates, Slicey (the pizza slice), Raptoro and the title character, with their neighbor Armless Bear, visit a Wild West theme park and encounter some dangerous animatronic cowboys. The quirky comrades are led by the hovering hare with the “prehensile ears” and the psychic ability to “summon a hail of pennies,” Sims said. The author promised the source of the rabbit’s bizarre powers will be revealed in a later episode.
If this hasn’t piqued your interest, readers will find, nested within the comic book, another comic book about the adventures of “The Savage Karak.”
Jon Sims makes a cameo, a la Alfred Hitchcock, on the pages of his book. The details add up to great fun for readers and Sims’ artwork is high quality, colorful and innovative. The subject matter might merit a PG rating, as there is one short bloody scene and some use of alcohol.
Copies of the book are going fast, selling on-line through Sims’ website at www.skelenaut.com, where fans can also purchase prints, digital copies of the comic and T-shirts from FBH.
Raygun in Iowa City hosted a Floating Bunny Head release party on April 20 with Sims’ paintings and prints on display at the downtown Iowa City shop. Sims appreciated the store’s willingness to exhibit local artists’ work.
After outlining the plot and storylines, Sims writes out the entire comic book with character dialogue and then draws and paints each page with a digital Wacom tablet and in Photoshop. Most of his drawings are well-executed in the contemporary style of action and illustrated comics like Wolverine or Wonder Woman, but some, like a full-page Impressionist portrait of his supreme pizza character, Slicey, push the artistic envelope with cheese and toppings that seem to float off the page. The final pages are uploaded to Kablam.com, where small runs of comics can be printed.
Sims said he has no plans for a scratch-and-sniff version of his books, but would consider it for future editions if he can find the right pizza aroma.
While he identifies with his main character, Floating Bunny Head, the telekinetic hare’s head doesn’t speak for him. However, Sims has begun to think about the voices for an animated version of FBH.
Sims mentioned several popular television shows with similar ensemble casts (think “Aqua-Teen Hunger Force”) as his inspirations.
Scans of drawings from his 2003 FBH comic are archived at his website, www.skelenaut.com.