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Not All Comics Have Capes

Oftentimes the things that scare us the most are what is left unsaid—that unsettling fear of the unknown or intangible. It is those moments of uncertainty that toy with our imagination, ushering in that irksome moment when we are left alone with our thoughts and insecurities. It is this notion that makes husband and wife [...]
Danny Hamen



Oftentimes the things that scare us the most are what is left unsaid—that unsettling fear of the unknown or intangible. It is those moments of uncertainty that toy with our imagination, ushering in that irksome moment when we are left alone with our thoughts and insecurities.

It is this notion that makes husband and wife duo, Lisa Sterle and Matthew Erman’s, horror comic series, “Long Lost,” so thrilling. Sure, they use evocative imagery, like twisting viscera creeping past the gutters of the panels, but it is their aptitude at slowly building tension that creates a unique and unsettling kind of drama.

“It is so much about what is not said, and what is left up to the reader’s imagination,” said Erman, who wrote the 12-issue series, leaving Sterle to illustrate. “It is about trying to build a feeling through tone and imagery. [Sterle] is as much of a writer of this as I am, because I rely on her ability to create tension through space and time. Without that, you can’t have horror. You have to build that moment before something happens.”

Scout Comics, an indie comic publisher out of New York, picked up their 12-part series last October, giving them a little more than a year to bust out a final product. Even before its initial release, “Long Lost” has already garnered national press for its engaging storytelling and unique style.

Sterle’s imagery combines viscerally charged elements from American known indie artists such as Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes with styles of Japanese manga, particulary in the use of exaggerated facial expression and lack of color. The comic lives in a sepia tone with the occasional addition of color to intensify a moment.

“It just feels right to me—having a horror comic without color,” said Sterle. “It is where all my inspiration comes from. As the issues go on, there is more exploration that happens with color.”

Each chapter—or entry—is titled after a song that they believe evokes the precise emotion of the release, nudging the reader to put it on while reading. The artists chosen range from Dirty Three, Blonde Redhead, Fleet Foxes, and Fleetwood Mac. The first issue, “The Exact Color of Doubt,” mirrors the cathartic and spacious aesthetic of The Liar’s recording, adding an additional, almost Easter-Egg-like layer to the series.

“A lot of the cultural references we plucked helped cement the tone,” said Erman. “Comics don’t have the benefit of film in that you can rely on sound to create atmosphere, so this is my way of circumventing that. I can name a chapter after a song that I think most emulates the feel of that chapter, or lyrics that speak to specific themes.”

At its core, “Long Lost” tells the story of two separated sisters, Piper and Frances, who must travel back to their small hometown to see their mother. The sisters, while sharing similar mannerisms, are polar opposites—Piper being the guarded worrywart while Frances is the bubbly optimist—in a way, symbolizing the two sides of a perfect human consciousness.

“There is a little bit of both of them in both of us,” said Erman. “Piper is an introverted person that is at odds with the world and her place in it, and Frances is this person that is settled, and OK with her place and embraces life as it comes at her. I have really grown to identify with these characters and how they navigate the world.”

Erman masterfully brings these characters to life through conflict, whether that means exploring the nuances of sisterhood or putting them in danger. Although there are strange and often frightening creatures within the series, they seem to serve as an abstract connection to the psychological conflict of the day to day.

“The themes of ‘Long Lost’ are purpose and trauma—feeling misplaced in the world—home, feeling, and belonging,” Erman said. “Sometimes you need the visceral, psychical nature of—whatever it is, a monster or a ghost—to [talk] about those real life fears.

Another unique element of the series is that there are, not including Piper’s puppy Pockets, no male characters, a conscious decision made by Erman and Sterle when creating the series.

“Originally, Piper and Frances were supposed to be brother and sister,” said Erman. “The problem with that is it really limits the roles they can play in your story—the reader is going to have an expectation. We thought really hard about why that particular character needed to be a man. And there was no good reason. And then, once we started writing the characters and their relationship with their mother, we kind of realized that is really a story about women.”

This is a refreshing change to what many has called a male-dominated media—a comic that favors emotions and subtlety over senseless action—an intelligent and witty shift in the conversation of what comics are actually supposed to be.

The first chapter of Long Lost will be released later this month. Copies will be available at your local comic shop or through their social media page, 


Lisa Sterle and Matt Erman spread the love on the local comic scene:

Cartoon Crossroads

This was our first year attending and it was so wonderful. With Tom Spurgeon running the thing, it’s putting a big spotlight on Columbus for creators.

CCAD’s Comic Major 

We’re so jealous of the kids going through this major because it is an absolutely unheard of experience. The work these students will end up producing is going to be stellar.

The Laughing Ogre 

Gib Bickel is a treasure in the city and his shop is nationally revered for a reason. He has seen it all. The staff there is so knowledgeable about comics—it’s the reason we’re semi-regulars.

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library 

An incredible place to have here in Columbus for every aspiring creator or fan of comics/cartooning.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist





Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.


And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas



If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.


With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion





As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”


Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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