It all began with Comics Utah, the nearby shop where Chris Hoffman would ride his bike on summer breaks.
When he was old enough, Hoffman worked there, meeting Josh Butterfield and other comic enthusiasts. Hoffman lived comics, gravitating toward the Marvel universe, a land of flawed heroes whose greatest weaknesses were often within themselves.
While Comics Utah has since closed its doors, Hoffman’s love of the genre remains. The Westminster College alum and artist, earlier this month, released the first issue of Salt City Strangers, a series focused on the lives of Latter-Day superheroes.
“Marvel Comics had a story line where the Avengers wanted to have a team in every state that protected the state from the supernatural,” Hoffman said. “They mentioned the Mormon team in passing, but never showed it. I was laughing, wondering what kind of state-themes the characters would have.”
The heroes run the full gamut of the experience of those of the LDS faith in Utah, from those who still have questions about scripture to Son of Bigfoot, a teenage sasquatch who plans to go on a mission.
The other heroes in the comics also rely heavily on the ethos of Utah culture, with names like Golden Spike, The Gull, Den Mother and Deputy Deseret. Hoffman first came up with the idea after reading a review by the late Roger Ebert proclaiming that it always seemed to be Catholics who are fighting demons and vampires, as if the Vatican has a hidden bunker of crosses and holy water.
The first issue explored the urban legend of Emo’s Grave, with teenagers summoning the supernatural at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Hoffman said there is no lack of mysticism around Utah to draw from for future issues, including Devil’s Highway and the Summum Pyramid.
Butterfield, the writer of Salt City Strangers, hopes the comic helps Hoffman get the recognition he deserves.
“Chris is an incredibly talented, multi-faceted, artistic person,” Butterfield said. “I’d love to see a comic like this put us on the map and highlight the uniqueness of Utah culture.”
The first issue was given away at Black Cat Comics on May 4, an annual event called Free Comics Day. Both Hoffman and Butterfield said they were happy with the reception. While there were concerns that the heroes were meant to parody the LDS Church, Hoffman feels the attitude to the LDS faith in the comic is neutral, while Butterfield feels his writing portrays the heroes in a positive light.
“It really focuses on the spirit of teamwork, the family feeling and the ideals of the religion,” Butterfield said. “It’s not going to be about going out of the way to bash any element of the church.”
This is the second collaboration between Hoffman and Butterfield, the first being the underground Banana Panic! Hoffman hopes to gain support from fans down the road, considering funding future comics through Kickstarter.
At a glance
Hoffman earned his MBA at Westminster College in 2012, and currently works as a technology manager at the college
Along with his work on the comic, Josh Butterfield co-created Touch Paper Press, a company that designs and sells high-end board games.
The comic can be picked up in store at Black Cat Comics for $4.99 or by mail for $7.99