Husband and Wife Comic Book Creators Talk ‘Shadowbinders’; a Steampunk Young Adult Graphic Novel Series

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Pennsylvania-based comic book creators Kambrea and Thomas Pratt are the creative duo behind Clownfish Studios, LLC’s popular YA steampunk fantasy webcomic ‘Shadowbinders’ and the upcoming prequel -- a middle grade graphic novel titled ‘Crimson Rhen of the True North.’

The webcomic format has been a great way to get Shadowbinders out to the public.

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania has long been known as the home of Punxsutawney Phil – the groundhog who is said to predict the weather with his shadow. However, Punxsutawney is home to another well-known shadow… Shadowbinders, that is. It’s a popular young adult comic series by Kambrea and Thomas Pratt.

Shadowbinders quietly appeared online in 2010 and since become one of the most popular fantasy comics on the internet. The story centers on an ordinary teenaged girl named Mia White, and a magic ring she inherits from her recently deceased grandfather. The ring transports Mia to another world, where she meets airship captain Crimson Rhen, a mage, and his motley crew.

“We had an idea for a story that was fun and exciting. The webcomic format has been a great way to get Shadowbinders out to the public,” says Kambrea Pratt, a certified art teacher turned comic book author. “So far the response has been excellent and we are reaching a lot of readers all over the world.”

In addition to the fantasy elements, the comic features an aesthetic known as “steampunk.” That is, it features themes and design elements one would expect to see in the Victorian era -- the "age of steam."

“The steampunk community has been very supportive of Shadowbinders, even though it’s what we would call ‘steampunk lite’,” says Pratt.

Last year the couple turned to Kickstarter to self-publish an omnibus graphic novel collection of Shadowbinders through their own company, Clownfish Studios LLC.

The Pratts say they work very closely together on the comic, and at times pull their children into the creative process by running story ideas past them and even taking them to comic conventions.

“The kids grew up around us making comics. Before Shadowbinders, we worked on a number of other comics including Disney books,” says husband Thom Pratt, who handles the art chores for both titles. “Watching Mom and Dad make comic books is normal to them.”

The success of Shadowbinders has led the couple to create a spinoff project: a middle grade graphic novel called Crimson Rhen of the True North. The Pratts say that story is intended for younger readers and also serves as a prequel to the Shadowbinders series.

“It’s an adventurous romp in the vein of classic children’s literature like Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island, as well as films such as The Goonies and Indiana Jones,” explains Mr. Pratt.

While a preview of ‘Crimson Rhen’ has recently appeared online on the Shadowbinders website, the Pratts say that they haven’t settled on a publishing plan yet.

“We really feel that the ‘Rhen’ story belongs in schools and libraries,” he continues. “We’re weighing our publishing options carefully to get it there.”

The graphic novel collection Shadowbinders: Book One (ISBN 978-1622093861) is available through many retailers including Amazon, as well as comic shops nationwide. Published by Clownfish Studios LLC, the book features the first six chapters of the webcomic, as well as previously unreleased bonus material.

On the web: http://www.shadowbinders.com

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Thomas Pratt
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