“Our dreams make us large.” – Jack Kirby
Adam Wallenta writes,
I started reading and collecting comics when I was six years old. That was thirty-seven years ago come February 19th. Comic books and the characters that occupy their amazing worlds saved my life. Comics helped me deal with the trauma of being a latch key child growing up in a divorced home. They inspired a shy, insecure child to be my own person. As I got older, comics taught me not give into the temptations of my surroundings and kept me out of trouble. They opened my mind to language, culture and ideas that I had no other exposure to at the time. They gave me motivation to pursue an education and expand my world in ways I never imagined and ultimately gave me opportunities for a career that has helped put a roof over my head and put food on the table since my first professional work for Marvel back in 1994.
So when I became a father for the first time I was so excited to share these stories and characters with my son. I wanted to expose him to the heroic characters, inspiring stories and the creative geniuses behind them all. I hoped (and still do) that reading comics (along with books of all kinds) would spark his imagination and creativity. His middle name is “Kirby” after the great Jack Kirby.
I started reading to him right away, before he could understand a single word. He would just lay there all swaddled up in his rocker and I would read to him until he fell asleep. I read him collections of Spiderman, Elfquest, PowerPack, Teen Titans and more. As I re-read these stories I grew up with, I realized that not all of them were really “kid-friendly.” There were a lot of mature themes and situations, violence and graphic material I wanted to avoid having him exposed to until I knew he could process it properly.
As he grew and became aware of what I was reading I had to be more cognizant of the material I introduced him to. I had to seek out more kid friendly material. My local comic shop had the usual suspects from the big two but I knew there had to be more. When my son and I started going to the library together for “story-time” I discovered a wealth of new books, creators and publishers releasing amazing work I never would have found at a local comic shop. There were so many titles, and they featured a diverse cast of characters, amazing new adventures and stunning artwork. It was very inspiring. My son loves being read to. We’ve read entire graphic novels in one sitting with no desire to stop. He begs me to keep reading. On any given day he spend hours with his books and loves looking at the art and discussing them. Now he is learning to read on his own and his curiosity continues to evolve. Every parent knows what an amazing experience it is when your child starts to figure it all out. I want to continue to inspire him in every way possible. The truly amazing thing is he is now inspiring me.
I no longer find interest in post apocalyptic, dystopian future stories or marvel at hardened anti-hero characters in hyper-realistic settings. I’ve read those stories many times. I know there are still great creators making great stories like this but they just don’t inspire or entertain me personally. I want to feel a sense of awe and wonder. I want to be inspired by heroics and the thrill of unimaginable, fantastical adventures not of this world. Every day I read the news I get enough “reality”. I need an uplifting escape. My son craves adventures that bring hope and stories that make him laugh and think. There are a lot of great stories out there but not many from a kid’s perspective.
So about a year ago my son and I were in the playroom, surrounded by books, Lego and toys of every kind and I mentioned this character that had been bouncing around in my head for over ten years. The character’s name was Punk Taco but beyond that I never had any time to really develop him. The name actually originated from a joke between my young nephews and I when we lived together all that time ago. It made us all laugh uncontrollably for some reason and it had always stuck with me. Now here I was laughing with my then four-year-old about this name and all of a sudden he starts describing who he is and what he’s all about. It was a completely off the top: freestyle. I just sat there in awe as my son created this world and acted out this story before my eyes. The whole time I was taking notes and trying to capture bits on my phone without distracting him or making him self-conscious. I wanted him to feel free to create and be completely silly. It was hysterical and absolutely beautiful to watch at the exact same time.
The story was silly and whimsical and at times made no sense, but it was fun and honest and came from his heart. I mean really, it’s a story about an alien PUNK TACO and his inter-galactic band of misfits, rocking out across the galaxy spreading peace and love though their music and art. Just to give you an idea- PUNK TACO meets a young alien refugee that has escaped from Galactic Border Agents and is on the run. The two become friends and PUNK TACO vows to reunite the young alien with his lost family. Along the way, PUNK TACO is kidnapped for his inter-galactic famous nacho recipe and thrust into an inter-dimensional war with an evil tyrant hell-bent on domination. Together with the help of his friends, PUNK TACO has to use his brains, heart, music, and the power of love to defeat the evil and hatred of this vile villain. All this from the mind of a four-year-old.
Now it was up to me to try to take his original thoughts and format them in the way that could be presented in a book with limited pages. If you are a parent you know how fast time seems to fly by and I knew I couldn’t handle the art alone so I hired my friend Gabriel Mayorga to help and paid him myself. The art is beautiful and I am in the process of inking, coloring and lettering it. Now we are trying to raise money to pay an editor and pay for printing. We are going to print Punk Taco as a hardcover graphic novel/children’s book on heavy stock paper so it’s durable and can withstand the wear of library abuse. I love my local comic book shops but the goal is to have Punk Taco be available to kids in every library for free across the country. This is where many are exposed to sequential art for the very first time and we want to inspire a new generation of young readers and old alike. As a father of now two young ones, I know how important this is.
We are working to raise a minimum of $4,000.00 to pay for an editor and printing. In just 4 days we reached 49% of our goal and raised $1,979.00. We would love to get funded quickly so we can reveal our stretch goals to add more pages and make the book bigger and better. Besides getting the book, supporters can receive rewards of sketches, individualized commissions or an original page of the penciled and inked art.
As a special thank you to the awesome Bleeding Cool readers who checked out this article I have created a Bleeding Cool Kickstarter Bonus Reward. If you pledge at least $18 to support this project, I will include a copy of my trade paperback collection of the official PUBLIC ENEMY comic book series (Issues 0-5) that I co-wrote with Chuck D and illustrated. I will also include copies of my educational science comics for kids “The Adventures of Geo” books 1 and 2 that I co-wrote with my wife. This is on top of the rest of the rewards!
Now it’s time for me to get back to work on Punk Taco. Thank you for allowing me to share this adventure with all of you and thank you to all who support our project.
About Adam Wallenta:
Adam Wallenta is a professional illustrator and emcee. He has worked as a colorist for both Marvel and DC Comics and has illustrated dozens of children’s books and novels. He is the owner of American Mule Entertainment and has written and illustrated the official Public Enemy comic book series with Chuck D, The True Adventures of Adam and Bryon and The Adventures of Geo among many others. Adam is also the creator of the original HipHop and Comic Books panel that started at New York Comic Con that continues to travel to conventions across the country. Adam is also a world-famous underground emcee who performs under the stage name ILLUS and has released 16 musical projects featuring some of HipHop’s greatest emcees and producers.
Support Punk Taco and find Adam online.