The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, August 12, 2021 1:00 am

Friends pair on all-female comic book

BLAKE SEBRING | For The Journal Gazette

About 20 years ago, Jessica Petelle heard a story from a friend as they were both starting careers as assistants at a production company in Los Angeles. The story stuck with Petelle, and she told her friend, someday, we need to make this happen.

The Churubusco native eventually became a television and film producer, working on such shows as “24,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Shannara Chronicles” and “V Wars,” and movies like “Trigger Point.” Recently, she's directed award-winning short films “All Good” and “Age of Dysphoria” and completed an HBOAccess directing fellowship.

During this time, her friend Alyson Shelton kept reworking her story idea and two years ago told Petelle how the story was evolving. Petelle suggested they turn it into a comic book, noting that comic book explosions and special effects are considerably cheaper than they are on film.

The friends had completed five pages to pitch to a publisher when COVID-19 hit and they had to adjust again. With time on their hands and an uncertain future, the women decided to produce the book themselves with artist Elise McCall. They started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money.

“She was thinking of what (to do) to make it happen from the first reading of this iteration,” Shelton said. “Now we're co-publishers, but she was really the gas behind the first issue. She was the one who said let's do this and found a way forward.”

The first issue of “Reburn” recently published after more than $22,000 was raised on Kickstarter, fulfilling the friends' goal within 24 hours. Work is almost complete on the second issue and a third is planned to complete the first story arc. The comic's website is www.reburncomic.com.

The story follows a woman named May in the future after catastrophic floods have hit and the world is a different place. May can shoot fire from her hands, but in the first issue, her powers have been taken away and she's being held in a hideaway.

Not only is the story about a powerful woman, but the entire creative team is female.

“We didn't mean to make it a statement but was something we thought would be really great, and personally was of interest to us,” Petelle said. “As it started to come together in that way, it was amazing the fellowship it created. As we found getting further into this space, it is more rare than it should be.”

Petelle is listed as producer and editor on the project, but her role is more than that. From working on comic book-related projects previously, she had contacts who could answer the group's questions and help them avoid problems. In some ways, she made sure the process kept moving forward.

“This never would have happened without her because she was the one who said, 'Let's do this,'” Shelton said. “I will always love this idea and I'm proud of it, I'm not as comfortable saying 'Yes, let's do this.' I needed someone to believe in me. She has always been a great leader and supporter of so many independent writers and is always looking for material.

“I think our relationship is a miracle because it has lasted as long as it has and it has evolved. We've grown and evolved and become better people and we're better people when we're together. I'm truly grateful.”

Now there are hopes of being able to expand the story and the universe, possibly into future related stories. Petelle and Shelton hope to be creating material for a long time. The first goal is to complete the first three issues and turn them into a trade paperback.

Petelle is currently working on a television series in Halifax with her husband, Brad Turner. Their primary home is in Toronto though they also own a home in Indianapolis. She still has family who live in Churubusco.

“Churubusco was a good place to grow up,” Petelle said. “I feel very lucky to have come from a small town and have such a great work ethic, and it is something I carry with me everywhere I go. I love coming home and it still means a lot to me. We had really great arts and music programs when I was growing up and I don't know what I would have done without that.”

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