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Published: Thursday, 3/3/2005

Charging up the 'Power Pack'

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sumerak Sumerak
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In his line of work, Marc Sumerak has to make tough decisions.

Like: Would he rather be able to fly or become invisible?

OK, that was an easy one.

"Totally invisibility," said the comic book writer and Bowling Green State University graduate. "I think it could be a lot more useful in life - to get out of uncomfortable situations. Flying would be great, but you're not going to fly terribly fast probably."

That's because - duh! - the human body likely wouldn't hold up well to high-speed air travel.

"Invisibility is one of those things ... it doesn't chafe nearly as much," he said.

Mr. Sumerak, 26, has spent the last few years wrestling with these kinds of issues as the writer behind several Marvel Comics books, including Guardians and a Fantastic Four version for younger readers.

Power Pack, a Marvel Comics series about a group of brothers and sisters with superpowers, is one of the comic books written by Marc Sumerak scheduled to go on sale soon. Power Pack, a Marvel Comics series about a group of brothers and sisters with superpowers, is one of the comic books written by Marc Sumerak scheduled to go on sale soon.
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He'll be visiting BGSU creative writing students and the public at 7:30 tonight in Room 207 of the university's Bowen-Thompson Student Union. He will share some of his experiences and encourage aspiring writers to be persistent and use their skills for whatever kind of writing they want.

As a youngster reading Transformers and G.I. Joe comics and later The New Mutants, Mr. Sumerak said he never would have guessed he could have made a living writing comic books. His studies at BGSU, where he received a bachelor's degree in creative writing in 2000, focused on fiction and poetry.

But then as a junior he won an internship with Marvel and moved to New York City for a semester. They maintained contact and upon graduation, he started working as an assistant editor for the company.

As a comic book writer, Mr. Sumerak comes up with the story being told - not the illustrations - and he tries to make the characters as realistic as possible. Which you might think is a tough task when one of the characters is named the Human Torch.

"I think first and foremost that they have to be somebody that the reader can relate to," he said. "I tend to write my characters as real people before I even tack on the superpowers."

That's what he's always loved about comic books, how the young characters in many of the stories had the same problems that he had - doing homework, paying the rent - on top of the responsibility of being a hero.

Lawrence Coates, director of BGSU's creative writing program, said he hopes the visit will inspire students to think about different career paths available.

"[Mr. Sumerak] took the lessons that he learned here about narrative structure and plot and character and conflict and closure, and he took them in a really unique direction and found a very interesting career path for himself," he said.

It may sound like a great job - and Mr. Sumerak's not denying it - but it's a serious business, too, and not always as fun as sitting around wondering who would win in a fight between the Incredible Hulk and Aquaman. (Another easy one: The Hulk.)

"At the end of the day, it's still a job and there are a lot of tough deadlines and it's a job that relies very heavily on a constant flow of creativity," he said.

These days Mr. Sumerak works from the Cleveland area, where he grew up, as a free-lance writer who continues to work for Marvel as well as American Greetings. He has two comic books coming out soon: Power Pack, about a group of brothers and sisters who encounter an alien and end up getting superpowers, and a new one that he created himself, Machine Teen.

"It's about a perfect boy finding out that he's not real at all. He's actually a robot," he said. "It's going to be a neat mix of teen drama, corporate conspiracy, and robot butt-kicking action."

Robot butt-kicking action indeed!

The character is just a little different from the superheroes Mr. Sumerak used to think up for fun during his school days when he focused on heroes with less exciting powers.

Guys like Cheesewheel, who could curdle any dairy product with a touch - "which is not terribly useful on the battlefield, but great for hors d'oeuvres" - and Strobe, who couldn't control his power of invisibility.

"For every Spider-Man who's out there, there's got to be a guy who ... gets the amazing ability of the dung beetle," Mr. Sumerak said. "We don't see as much of them, but they're probably out there."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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