Ryan Brady was volunteering at a local school during his senior year at Rutgers–Camden when he bonded with kids over superheroes. “I asked, ‘Do you guys like Batman or Superman?’ Instantly I had a connection.”
The experience with the students inspired a big idea for Brady, a 2011 graduate who has a lifelong passion for comic books. His vision? “Batman is from Gotham, Superman is from Metropolis—so maybe there needs to be a Camden superhero.”
As a child growing up with two older brothers who were into comic books, Brady wore Batman pajamas and always felt the comic book world was “so much cooler than real life.” With a knack for drawing, Brady started replicating the art he saw in comic books in the fifth grade and passed his work onto friends. Inspired by his love of superheroes, Brady thought about becoming a detective. After high school, he headed to Rutgers–Camden in 2009 to major in criminal justice.
sketching out his ideas. It was there that The Bolt, a superhero who attends Rutgers–Camden and protects the citizens of Camden, was born. Brady initially didn’t publish the comic book, but in 2012 his friend and former classmate Hong Nguyen CCAS’12 needed a favor. Nguyen, who was developing a comic book website where multiple artists would be featured, asked Brady if The Bolt could be posted, and Brady agreed.
On launch day, The Bolt was the only comic posted on Nguyen’s site. Brady was terrified, but then encouraged by the response. “I started to get messages like ‘Hey, I really liked it. You should keep doing it.’ That motivated me to try to do the next one better, and the next one better. And I was hooked.”
In the years since introducing The Bolt, Brady—who manages a GPS systems department at Rosenberger-Toth, a technology manufacturing company in Pennsauken, New Jersey—has developed his own comic line, Camden’s Comics. He has added a new series, Anomaly, that connects to his life after Rutgers–Camden. “I like to think of The Bolt as sort of my Rutgers life, where I was in classes, and Anomaly is more of my work life.”
Brady, who lives in Pennsauken, married three years ago. With less time for sketching, he has begun working with digital devices to make his comics, with the eighth issue of The Bolt being the first to be fully digitally produced. Though Brady likes the convenience of digital, he still prefers print comics. “I always prefer holding it in my hands.”
After eight years, six additional issues of The Bolt, and five issues of Anomaly, Brady is a recurring exhibitor at the Camden Comic Con, the popular annual celebration of comic books held at Rutgers–Camden each spring. Though he sometimes feels anxious at other comic book conventions, he enjoys showing his work on campus. “When it’s at Rutgers, I feel like this is my home and I have the home-field advantage,” he said. “It’s so cool to see something that I made and that people are connecting with it.”
Story originally appeared in Rutgers Camden Magazine