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Hastings used as inspiration for upcoming comic book

H. Thomas Altman poses for a photo with his comic book "Strong Box: The Big Bad Book of Boon" which features several Hastings buildings and landmarks. David Clarey / Rivertown Multimedia1 / 3
Several preliminary editions of Altman's comic books. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
The comic features the former spiral bridge, the Riviera Theatre and other landmarks. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Minnesotan actor and comic book writer Harwan Thomas Altman and his friend and fellow actor Landyn Banx were walking in downtown Hastings when they stopped at the aged Riviera Theatre.

Altman, to some effect, said "this is where Frank will live." He was referencing detective Frank Boon, the main character of his forthcoming comic book "The Big Bad Book of Boon," a murder-action-thriller story.

"I wanted him to have a definitive base of adventures like the batcave for Batman or the fortress of solitude for Superman," Altman said. "Frank's got the Riviera Theatre."

The comic is set in 1980 and includes several Hastings landmarks. The plot centers around an investigation into a mysterious murder that takes Boon into different dimensions. It is set to be physically sold in August through Texas-based Antarctic Press, an independent comic book publisher.

Altman originally planned to set the comic in today's digital era, but he wanted a more difficult, pre-internet era for the main character.

"I wanted it be in the '80s, '80s nostalgia books are hot books," he said.

Altman worked with Argentinian illustrator Sebastian Sala on the comic book art. Sala described over email the comic as "a detective story, with a serial killer, noir and such, but with a strong supernatural element on it."

The two connected over online image-sharing website Deviant Art and despite the long-distance working relationship, Sala said it went smoothly.

"The distance and language is a difficulty at first but not too much," Sala wrote in an email. "All of us grew up watching the same movies or reading the same comic books ... so the comic book language ends to be common even if we live in different countries."

Altman sent Sala several pictures of Hastings landmarks to help him accurately portray some of the buildings he wanted to inhabit the comic book world, he said. Other landmarks include the Spiral Bridge, the Hastings courthouse and Spiral Pizza.

Altman's friend Banx helped him edit the comic in its early stages and said it's a "fresh and original" story.

"I think that's the feel he likes, the small-town middle America locale," Banx said. "I think he kind of fell in love with it, he kind of had an idea in his mind, where Frank would live."

Altman, who is also an actor and has been part of numerous Minnesota-based films, said he initially planned to make it into a screenplay, but didn't have the funds to make the film.

After shelving the story for awhile, he ended up writing several future parts to it and decided to pursue the comic book medium for it.

"For me it was a natural progression to go from a screenplay to a comic book," Altman said.

After several failed attempts to pitch the comic book to various publishers, he reached out to Antarctic Press, a long-running independent comic book publisher. Antarctic liked it and the two officially signed a contract in January.

"Having these seasoned veterans behind me is amazing and they have a loyal readership," he said.

The comic will be available for solicitation starting in June and set to hit stores in August. He said he plans to build off of this release with more, unrelated comics in the future, though he has yet to explore official publishing deals for those.