When the last book in J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was released in 2007, Jason De La Torre was in line ready for his copy.
But once he finished the book, the Wesley Chapel resident realized a troubling fact: There was now a magical void in the world of literature.
So using his own money, De La Torre created “Star Mage,” an enchanting story told in comic book form that takes a young wizard out into space. He wrote the story, hired an artist to ink it. And then shopped it around to all the major comic book publishers.
And De La Torre’s work has paid off. Last week he signed a deal with IDW Publishing in San Diego that will put his story on the shelves of bookstores all over the country next April.
“I grew up reading comics, and I’ve always had a love for them,” De La Torre said. “At one point, in 2011, I just started wondering what goes into being a comic book writer. I knew I couldn’t draw worth a lick, but I knew I could come up with an interesting story.”
“Star Mage” centers around Darien Connors, a 14-year-old boy who discovers he has magical abilities. That discovery, however, pulls him into a war that involves not only his family, but the entire galaxy as well.
“You don’t want to be a cheap rip-off of Harry Potter,” De La Torre said. “You definitely have to be sure the ideas you’re going with are original. That is what I try to do, come up with the most original story I could, but keeping some of the familiarity with what I love and what is successful out there, too.”
Darien’s skills do have a much different explanation. It is part of a practice known as Kishpu, and he’s not the only one that can do it. He quickly teams up with three young friends — Anthaar, Tirwa and Unura — and soon find themselves in battle with a hated enemy, Orasmas Xul Sarrum.
“Star Mage” has all the elements young comic book readers are looking for, while developing a story that will give them something completely new, De La Torre said.
De La Torre was born and raised in Tampa, and moved to Wesley Chapel with his wife Rita in 2007. During the day he’s a tech guy with a healthcare company. His evenings, however, are spent writing the first six issues of “Star Mage,” which IDW will release as a limited series in the spring.
If all goes well, and sales are strong, it could lead to a regular monthly series for “Star Mage” by the end of next year.
Each comic issue takes about 90 days to create from start to finish, with most of that time devoted to the art. Ray Dillon inked the first issue, previously making a name for himself with projects based on Peter Pan and the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” Franco Cespedes takes over after that, continuing a world where science-fiction and magical fantasy collide.
IDW is a newer company, founded in 1999, but it already is the nation’s sixth-largest publisher for many popular franchises like “My Little Pony,” “True Blood,” “Star Trek” and “Transformers.” IDW has even had some of its comics optioned for films by studios like Paramount Pictures and Dimension Films.
With comic book adaptations making billions of dollars at the box office, De La Torre said he can’t help but dream of seeing “Star Mage” on the silver screen.
“If there was a movie, I definitely would want them to respect the original material,” De La Torre said. “But I understand that comics and the actual movie business are two different things, they have to appeal to a much broader audience. That is a part of life.”
And that life could change for De La Torre pretty quickly if “Star Mage” becomes a success. It could mean full-time devotion to writing, and possibly even adapting some of his other independently published novels to the comic form as well.
“I can guarantee you, I will be taking pictures the minute my comic book shows up on the shelf,” De La Torre said. “I have a lot of ideas I’m ready to work on, and I’ll always be focused on things that I would enjoy, and maybe others will enjoy as well.”
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