When she was in fifth grade, “which was only a year ago,” Shelbi Webb was getting bullied.
“I didn’t feel like I had anybody to help me,” said Webb, a 12-year-old living in Vernal. “I don’t want people to feel like that, because it really sucks.”
What Shelbi needed was a superhero. So she created one.
Shelbi and her father, Jason Webb, have written the independent comic book “Sugar Glider,” about a teen who uses her newly acquired superpowers to help classmates in trouble.
The comic will have two launch parties: a free book signing Saturday, April 28, at the Uintah County Library in Vernal, and a ticketed event on Saturday, May 12, at Club 50 West in downtown Salt Lake City.
“Sugar Glider,” a planned four-volume comic, tells the story of Jordyn McKenzie, a track star and extreme-sports enthusiast at her high school in the fictional seaside town of Blackbirch, Calif. One night, a meteor shower hits outside the town, and Jordyn gets too close to one of the fragments. The encounter, she soon learns, has given her superpowers.
Jordyn has super speed, Shelbi Webb said, and “she can glide if she moves fast enough. … She also has heightened metabolism, and her heart got bigger and her emotions heightened as well.”
Shelbi was inspired by mashing up two of her favorite comic characters: DC’s The Flash and Marvel’s Squirrel Girl. At first, Jordyn’s alter ego was going to be “Flying Squirrel,” until her father discovered the copyright for that name was held by the folks who own the classic Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon.
Jason Webb pitched the idea to a friend who was starting a comic book company, who encouraged the Webbs to develop it into a full story.
“The more we got developing the story,” he said, “we realized we could make it about the kids and adolescence and the struggles they face.”
The meteor shower that gave Jordyn her powers also affected other teens around Blackbirch, but “they’re not going to be able to handle it,” Shelbi said. “Their powers are based off the issues. Like, Prism has self-image problems. A lot of people in this school struggle with their own problems in life.”
Jason Webb, whose day job is as a sales representative at the Frito-Lay distribution center in Vernal, said he started talking to a lawyer in Canada with experience in intellectual property. “He told my friend, ‘Drop everything you’re doing and focus on Sugar Glider,’” Jason Webb said. The friend with the comic-book company eventually dropped out of the project, but the lawyer found investors to get it in motion.
Once the Webbs fleshed out a story line and created an outline for the four-episode arc, an artist was commissioned to draw the first issue. Daughter and father are writing the script for the second issue now and hope to have a finished comic book out in three months.
The Webbs even got a celebrity tie-in for the series: the rock trio X Ambassadors, who appear as themselves in the comic.
“My dad is amazing,” Shelbi Webb gushed, describing how Jason tracked down the band’s manager via Facebook to pitch them on being part of the comic. “It’s like the old ‘Scooby Doo’ cartoons that would bring on other bands and stuff to help solve the mystery,” Shelbi said.
When X Ambassadors signed on, Jason Webb said, “that’s when hit it us that this could be a big thing.”
Shelbi is excited to meet X Ambassadors in person when their tour comes to Salt Lake City’s The Depot on May 4. Jason Webb said they will be delivering 500 copies of the first issue of “Sugar Glider,” with a variant cover tied to the band’s tour, for the band to sell at its shows.
Between the comic’s launch, a media blitz to promote it and meeting a rock band, Shelbi is enjoying “a real fun journey.”
“I’m getting very excited, and I’m really nervous,” Shelbi said. “My friends are going around saying, ‘My friend is famous!’”
Meet Sugar Glider
The new comic book “Sugar Glider” will debut in the next few weeks with two events:
Vernal • A free book signing, Saturday, April 28, 3 to 5 p.m., Uintah County Library, 204 E. 100 North, Vernal.
Salt Lake City • A launch party, Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m., at Club 50 West, 50 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City. Tickets are $5 for individuals, $7 for couples and $10 for families (up to six people), and include raffle tickets.
Go to glidercomix.com for details.