Under cover of night…

Comic artist Evan Quiring toils in the shadows to bring his dark anti-hero to the page

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By day, he works an unassuming — some might say humdrum — job as a logistics co-ordinator for a transport broker, tracking the paths of trucks making deliveries, and occasionally seeking out the reasons why those trucks may be late.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/12/2021 (226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

By day, he works an unassuming — some might say humdrum — job as a logistics co-ordinator for a transport broker, tracking the paths of trucks making deliveries, and occasionally seeking out the reasons why those trucks may be late.

The gig may have a touch of heroism in it these days, given the urgency of keeping supply chains open in a stubbornly persistent pandemic.

But Evan Quiring doesn’t see it that way. So by night, he takes on a different identity, six floors up in the suburban environs of an apartment building in St. James overlooking Assiniboine Park. In the main living area, he gathers his tools and enters an alternate universe, an inky-dark place where evil holds sway and costumed vigilantes fight an unending battle to keep it at bay.

Murder City Devil features a demonic warrior anti-hero.

Quiring (pronounced Kwy-ring) is an indie comic-book artist. At 45, he’s been at this game for going on two decades. Possessed of no small persistence himself, Quiring has created a new hero, or rather anti-hero, to enter the pantheon of crime fighters dedicated to rooting out the evil that men do. The title says it all: Murder City Devil, a 21st-century version of the mythic Spring Heeled Jack. He’s a bounding, flame-blasting warrior of demonic countenance who literally fights fire with fire from within an urban hellscape.

The book is the second title Quiring has out there, alongside the more droll Lucha Mystery, which pits superpowered masked wrestlers against more outré villains, such as the buxom extraterrestrial-zombie dominatrix Queen Rockdora.

Both of Quiring’s books betray his North End Winnipeg roots. Lucha libre hero Rey Diablo of Lucha Mystery may look like a Mexican wrestler, but Quiring says otherwise.

A scene from Murder City Devil features the downtown Towne Cinema 8 in Winnipeg.

“I had Rey Diablo as an Indigenous person from the North End, because I’m from the North End and I have a lot of Indigenous friends. So I had him as a kid scouted away by wrestlers and taken to San Diego.”

As the “Murder City” of the title suggests, Murder City Devil also has a Winnipeg flavour — note the panel in which Spring Heeled Jack faces off against the police from atop the Towne Cinema 8 — although the specific geography is kept vague for the purposes of audience appeal.

“It’s like Winnipeg but everything is amped up to 11,” Quiring says. “The city in the story is called River City and it’s in the U.S. It’s basically Winnipeg as if it was the size of Chicago.”

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Evan Quiring in front of pages of illustrations from his first comic series, Lucha Mystery

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Murder City Devil shows a few of Quiring’s influences, especially Matt Wagner’s Grendel series, which likewise features a devilish protagonist, but also Frank Miller’s classic Dark Knight comics. Looking at the Lucha Mystery series, with its more broadly campy pop culture figures, one detects a creative nudge from local comics legend Darren Merinuk, whose own influences vary from Ed (Big Daddy) Roth to underground artist Spain Rodriguez, and maybe the great gods of Golden Age pulp such as Virgil Finlay and Basil Wolverton.

It’s no coincidence: Quiring and Merinuk have collaborated in the past.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg artist Evan Quiring, 42, has been working on comic books for 20 years.

“We worked on a horror book, a Tales from the Crypt kind of book called Mortal Coils back in 2003,” Quiring says. “He had a lot of input for Lucha Mystery.”

Merinuk, celebrated for his extensive gallery of rock posters and also his own hellbilly comic book series Rockin’ Bones, knows first-hand the life of an indie comic artist is a long game in terms of creating and selling your work.

“I think Evan has come a very long way as an artist since I first met him,” says Merinuk, 57. “I can identify with the inner drive to get good at one’s craft, which I assume is pushing him to improve his skills.

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Evan Quiring works on a sketch in his home studio for the second issue of his comic series, Murder City Devil, which he hopes to release in spring of next year.

“In the cartooning business, it’s best when you can follow your own interests as an artist, as he has been doing with the Lucha Mystery title, and his new book.”

Curiously, though both titles show his Winnipeg roots, the local comic business is slow to stock Quiring. In town, his work is only available at Galaxy Comics on Henderson Highway and 204 Comics on St. Mary’s Road. That means, technically, it would be easier to buy Quiring’s work in Sacramento, Calif. (the home base of the comic’s indie distributor, Scattered Comics) than it is in Winnipeg.

“People in the U.S. seem more receptive to my books,” Quiring says. “Or maybe it’s just that Winnipeg is a strange city.”

Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Quiring shows off a page of a book of urban legends he’s had since he was a child. Spring Heeled Jack was an major inspiration in creating the main character in his comic, Murder City Devil.

Likewise, it’s still difficult for a Canadian comic artist to find a publisher to support their work.

“Distribution is like the main thing, it’s the bane of my indie comics-producing existence,” Quiring says. “I’ve pitched Murder City Devil to various publishers that take creator-owned properties. I sent to three of them, and for one of them they said they liked it, but they just couldn’t take it at this time.

“I’m trying to get with a publisher that has really good distribution so that I don’t have to do it. Because I hate doing it.”

Quiring would like nothing better than to concentrate on writing and drawing his comics full-time.

“I would just like to wake up and go: Oh, I’ve got to finish this issue today. I’d like to sell enough copies to go: Oh wow, I just paid rent with this. Oh wow, I paid my bills. Oh, and I can eat something now.

“I’m not really looking for fame and fortune,” Quiring says. “I just want to have that as my full-time job.”

randall.king.arts@gmail.com

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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