Larry Jarrell was so captivated when he learned of Stephanie Sorensen’s story that he created a web comic heroine based on the Wesley Chapel woman’s life.
This isn’t the first time that Sorensen has attracted attention.
The volunteer at Fire Station 28 in Land O’ Lakes, placed second in a national campaign to raise awareness of the need for volunteer firefighters.
Besides volunteering at the fire station, she also is a teacher, mother and actress.
Sorensen’s distinct daily life left an impression on Jarrell, president of Crushed Ego Studios, an Orlando-based comic development company.
Jarrell was particularly “moved” by Sorensen’s background as both a female firefighter and an elementary teacher to autistic children.
That sparked an idea for a web comic heroine, aptly named Firegirl.
“It’s just an amplification and just an inspiration for what (Sorensen’s) already doing, but just making it kind of more of a superhero kind of thing,” said Jarrell, who has worked in the comic industry for more than 20 years.
Though Sorensen acknowledged she’s never been a comic buff, she was intrigued by the proposition.
“I had never really thought about it from a comic book standpoint, but when (Jarrell) presented the idea…to take an everyday woman and turn her into a hero, I just thought that was an amazing idea,” Sorensen said.
For her, the project creates an opportunity to teach life lessons, in an exciting, positive manner: “I feel like it’s another avenue for me to be an inspiration to people, and help them; it’s not just for entertainment.”
In real life, Sorensen remains a busy woman.
Typically, she undergoes Wednesday night fire training sessions, and often picks up weekend shifts, as her schedule permits, at the fire station, which is located at 21709 Hale Road.
She’s also a full-time Autism Spectrum Disorder teacher at Clark Elementary in New Tampa.
Sorensen balances her volunteer firefighter schedule with her primary responsibilities as a teacher and a mother to an autistic son.
Plus, she’s an actress on the side. She was cast in the 2015 film “The Inevitable,” and she has made an uncredited appearance in Netflix’s “Bloodline.”
Last year, Sorensen competed in “Step Up and Stand Out,” a national campaign sponsored by Kidde — a leading manufacturer of residential fire safety product— to increase awareness of the ongoing need for volunteer firefighters. The national contest was launched to recognize volunteers who have “gone above and beyond in their community.”
Sorensen was one of five finalists (and the lone female) selected from video nominations for volunteers “who represent the best of the fire service.” She placed second in the contest, which ended in September.
Though she didn’t win, she said it was a gratifying experience.
“I couldn’t believe how many people, especially young girls, were inspired by me coming in second,” Sorensen said. “I ended up with a lot of followers on Instagram, just for being a teacher and a firefighter.”
Meanwhile, Sorensen worked closely with the comic studio, over a period of several weeks, to help develop Firegirl’s image and primary qualities.
“I wanted it to be more of like an athletic character and a strong female character,” Sorensen said.
One distinguishing feature is the superhero’s hair, which resembles a blaze of flames.
“We worked back and forth with her in development, to come up with a different image,” Jarrell said. “We also wanted to make sure it wasn’t overly racy-looking or anything; we kept it more modest.
He added: “The build of the character is…not exaggerating like a lot of comic book characters are — they’re always bigger and badder and more giant; it’s just not very realistic of what you see.”
As the project moves forward, Sorensen will have input on the comic’s plot development.
“There will be portions where it’s out of the firehouse or out of the schoolhouse,” Sorensen said. “The idea is that it’s something I can be proud of my students reading, but also still appeals to everybody, that everyone could enjoy reading it.
“Ultimately, it’s important for me that the storyline does have teachable moments.”
While a story arc is still being hashed out, Jarrell did offer a sneak preview, of sorts.
He said Firegirl will initially square off against three terroristic villains — Vapor, Volt and Pyroclast.
“There’s a storyline that deals with…a villain starting a fire, and other issues going on with the school where she teaches,” Jarrell explained. “The villain has no idea Firegirl is there…and it just winds up that it works out, in a roundabout way.”
“The story itself,” he added, “is she gains these abilities and actually uses them to kind of put the smackdown on…fear and terror.”
The web comic likely will be released online (FiregirlWebComic.com) sometime in April. It may later be published in print form, too.
Once released, Sorensen said she hopes to share the comic with her students either on Club Days or during the Great American Teach-In.
Published February 22, 2017