Trace Adkins steps into boots of comic book hero
By John Geddes, USA TODAY
The legend of Trace Adkins continues to grow.
Already a hugely successful country music recording artist, Adkins recently grabbed the spotlight while earning the respect of Donald Trump as the runner-up on NBC's 2008 Celebrity Apprentice. Now, Adkins — he of the intimidating voice, towering stature and country superstar status — finds his life and likeness the basis for a new comic book series.
Luke McBain— published by 12-Gauge Comics — is a four-issue comic book series based, at least partially, on the popular singer. The physical features and personality traits of McBain are intended to mirror those of Adkins. They should: He helped in the writing process.
So, how did Adkins find himself in the pages of a comic book?
"The writer and publisher approached me with the idea for this series. I wasn't sure just what they were looking for, whether they wanted my blessing to move ahead with it or just how they thought I might be involved. I was taken aback by the whole thing, to be perfectly honest."
After getting over his original doubts about the project, the singer found himself warming to the idea. "As they walked through the story, I could tell they really wanted my input. They wanted to hear my opinions on the character and the story development. It just grew from there."
Luke McBain publisher Keven Gardner and writer David Tischman wanted to create a story in the vein of the Walking Tall and Billy Jack movies, a tale with a strong, Southern, male protagonist. Gardner relates how Adkins came to be involved: "Once we had agreed on a general direction, David called and asked what I thought about pitching a story to Trace Adkins. It was a great idea on his part, because once Trace came on board it made the story completely click into place."
The series follows the story of Luke McBain, a man who has just been released from prison after serving a 14-year sentence for a crime he didn't commit. He returns to his Louisiana hometown only to find that crime and corruption are threatening to destroy the way of life he once remembered. As Tischman puts it, "It's a classic tale of a single American hero taking on the establishment to do the right thing."
Tischman liked the idea of expanding on the perceived image of Trace Adkins. "We talked a lot about the Luke McBain character with Trace. Although you see Trace's likeness on every page, we all agreed that Luke McBain and Trace Adkins are different people — as if Luke McBain is a part Trace would play in a movie. At the same time, that dynamic and explosive Trace Adkins persona has to come through for the story to feel authentic."
That authenticity had to come through in the image of McBain, as well. Adkins also had some involvement in the art process. Series artist Kody Chamberlain recalls being invited backstage at an Adkins show to share some of the early sketches of McBain.
"Trace showed a lot of interest. We talked a bit about the various stages of pencils, inks and colors, and he pulled a few of his guys in to show off the pages. He asked the type of questions an artist would normally ask. I came out of the meeting thinking he really did like where we were headed."
So, will this mark the start of a trend among country stars and comic books? Gardner doubts it. "No, I really think we might have trapped lightning in a bottle with Luke McBain. We love the character and we love Trace and would love nothing more than to do more of these stories."
For his part, Adkins wouldn't mind seeing at least one of his fellow country singers translated into comic book form. "I'd like to see a Faith Hill comic book. I can already see that one drawn," he laughs. Adkins then jokingly adds, "Her husband (Tim McGraw) could play her little sidekick."
Luke McBain will be available beginning Nov. 11. To find a comic shop near you, go to www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK.