October 7, 2010 at 8:54 a.m.
A recent experience, however, briefly "turned that dream into a nightmare," he says. He shares his story to alert others of what's out there and not to blind yourself with your eyes only on the prize.
Peterson spent six months last spring and summer eating, sleeping and breathing what he was led to believe would be a new commercial comic book series. He'd been recruited to draw for "Project 13" with a start-up company called Underdog Comics that he'd become associated with through the Internet.
Peterson would put in a day's work as office manager for the family excavating and contracting business, and then work on art for the comics; checking e mails on his computer at 3 a.m. as the 24/7 electronic collaboration with others on the team took place.
Peterson threw himself totally into the superhero characters, making them come alive in his drawings. He was taking serious time away from his family and his other interests to make this comic book thing a reality. Co-workers were extremely supportive and let him carve time away from the office when needed, for which he is very grateful. He was focused on the future success of the comic series to better provide for his family.
Peterson submitted artwork electronically to a website that he wishes now he'd never stumbled across.
The comic company's founder assigned him to give life to a "group character book" (versus drawing a single superhero book.)
Over the months of book development Peterson took direction from the "writer," who was based in Zimmerman, Minn. and also the so-called book company founder.
Peterson was coached on visual background for each page, and steered to find the right visual mood to support the storyline. Everything seemed legitimate.
He worked electronically with several other artists who were also developing their assigned characters in the initial six-book release.
Meeting with a reporter two days after "Underdog Comics" held its launch party, Peterson was still emotionally pumped.
He described the event, selling comics at a large Twin Cities comic book retailer, signing autographs, being at the center of the attention. He was thrilled to actually sell comics he had drawn.
Within a matter of weeks, though, Peterson came to realize the comic book company was a scam. The ads in the books "were bogus." He said he came to find out none of the artistic team members were being paid.
The launch almost didn't happen and maybe that should have been a warning sign.
Peterson was told by the boss right before launch that a big name printshop had backed out.
Peterson knew people who had a print shop, he said. He laid the last minute comic book project at the feet of Printing Express and they stepped up.
He explained, "Printing Express did what the big box guys couldn't do." Working all night before the launch party, hundreds of comics came off the printer to be sold at the launch.
Peterson regrets that now. Printing Express has so far, been stuck with the bill.
He also doesn't expect the raffle tickets sold at the launch will ever yield any actual prizes.
"I loved X men and Spawn when I a kid and was really into comics," he explains. "I liked art that's kind of out there and gritty," recalls Peterson.
He has this vision of youngsters spending time reading comics, letting their imagination create other universes. His son is a key motivation, whenever he sees him deep into reading one of Peterson's comics it's magical, he says.
Peterson wants kids to set down their handheld video game controllers and draw their own action-superheroes instead.
His facebook page "over night empire" tells all about this.
He encourages people to check it out to see what he's up to.
He's taken this nasty life disappointment and is using it as a "springboard," he adds. Peterson hopes to have his own books available sometime in early winter 2011.
The characters Peterson is developing into a series are based on a reluctant criminal, under the working title "Stone and a Hard Place, "and one he calls "Starship Valor" which is an old-fashioned science fiction space adventure.
He also has time again to paint in oil and do drawings and spend time with his blended family; Nicole Johnson, Dillon Azure and Azure's mom Greta, who have supported him through all this. He hopes to make up for time they lost this summer.
Also, Peterson thanks his brainstorming buddy Travis Yotter for keeping his creative juices flowing.
Peterson is even more intent on his dream of art being central in his life. "I like to see people enjoy my art," he continued.
After the full scope of the scam unfolded, he said he stayed in bed for about two days, and was depressed, which for the peppy out-going Peterson is hard to picture.
Of the Internet "boss," Peterson said, "He just built these circles of lies. He'd tell me one thing, then talking to the other artists he'd blame somebody else. He had excuses for everything.
"When I confronted him, he'd undermine me and tell me I was the weakest of the artists."
Peterson can chuckle now, describing being fired for alleged "breach of contract" after he told the boss he would not be drawing Book #2.
He asks, "Would you do another project for a guy who hasn't paid you for the first one?"
High school art teacher Dorothy Chrun, who Peterson credits with "keeping me doing my art" and who even kept the art room open after-school, might be saddened to hear of all this. But, as the narrator voice bubble on the comic book page reads-- To Be Continued. Because Peterson is taking charge now.
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