Ever since he was a junior high school student who discovered Tim’s Corner, a longtime comic book store in Rock Island, Todd Allen has been hooked.
The Grand Mound, Iowa, native has an affinity for comic books that has led him to a grad school internship with Marvel Comics, a semi-regular column on comics that runs in Publishers Weekly and a thesis that eventually became a textbook about comics.
Now, Allen, 37, has taken his interest online.
With illustrator Scott Beaderstadt, he’s the creator of “Division and Rush,” a Web-only continuing graphic novel that’s a part of ChicagoNow.com, a blogging Web site created by the Chicago Tribune.
The first book, “The Murder Professor,” loosely based on real-life Chicago-area cop Drew Peterson — whose wife remains missing while he’s accused in the death of a previous wife — continues through next month.
The next book may involve someone very similar to a certain Chicago-based TV talk-show host who recently announced her program will be ending.
With five installments of a chapter per week, an 80-page graphic novel will be completed online in 16 weeks.
“It’s a slightly experimental format,” Allen said from his Chicago office. “Graphic novels are catching on, but in terms of daily exposure, this picture’s still a little more common.”
Allen said he likes to tap into satire and the “cult of personality — the media crime thing that (comic) strips weren’t into.”
It’s a preferable format for him as a creator, added Allen, a 1990 graduate of Central High School in DeWitt.
“Instead of doing a gag a day, this is actually a series of chapters in a larger story,” he said.
Allen does the writing and lettering of the graphic novel, which he calls “Dick Tracy meets Doonesbury.”
“I tend to be a little dry and deadpan in my sense of humor,” he explained.
Allen said he sees the future of graphic novels, perhaps, in applications for the iPhone, where customers would pay for the daily saga.
While technically a blog, Henry Jenkins, a professor of communication, journalism and cinematic arts at the University of Southern California, said endeavors such as “Division and Rush” are examples of how newspapers are reaching out to new audiences.
“It is surprising that the (Tribune) is ready to go as far out as (Allen is) taking it,” Jenkins said, “but that’s a sign that newspapers may be open, someday, to more innovative comics.”