Learning from the Best

Jan. 15-21, 2004
Learning from the Best
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Teacher at St. Joseph’s School brings something extra to the classroom

Endicott –– Jonathan Myers’ students will soon see that their teacher really knows what he is talking about. Myers, an art teacher at St. Joseph’s School and a professional illustrator and cartoonist, is the creator of the Swamp Fox comic. The first volume of his graphic novel series, “Swamp Fox: Birth of a Legend” will be released by Ambition Studios in February.

The 150-page “Birth of a Legend” tells the story of Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion and follows the series of adventures that lead him to become the legendary Swamp Fox. But it is not just another rousing tale. Myers said that his motivation for creating the character was to entertain and educate children. “If I was going to put a story together, it had to be something worth telling,” Myers explained. “There is so much out there for children. A lot of it is great entertainment but doesn’t give them anything.” Myers, who is one quarter Native American, said that he has always been fascinated by the colonial time period. While delving into American history, he came across stories that he wanted to share about the nation’s forefathers. “I found all these great stories that needed to be told and that people wanted to hear,” Myers said.

He believes there are valuable lessons that everyone, including adults, teachers and children, can learn from the hair-raising adventures of Swamp Fox and friends. “I want Swamp Fox to be a window into the sacrifice our forefathers made. They loved their people and believed in the values and liberties that we have today,” Myers said. To make the tales “as accurate as possible,” Myers said that he spoke with history professors and did plenty of research.

Developing the first book and putting it together was a two-year project for Myers and his wife, Lola, who is the writing force behind the Swamp Fox creation. “This isn’t the typical Batman comic book,” said Myers. “Swamp Fox is the equivalent of four to five comic books. It took a lot of work to get it together and get it out there.” According to principal Sister Denise Marie Fallat, SSCM, Myers has brought something special to St. Joseph’s School –– and not just his gift for drawing. “I am very impressed with his work,” said Sister Denise Marie. “He is a talented man and the students love him. He has done something wonderful for our school.”

She believes that art is an important part of St. Joseph’s School, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade. The love that some students have for art must be cultivated, she said. “Art is one of the aesthetics,” she said. “Not every child is involved in sports. There are children who need something else.” The interest students at St. Joseph’s have shown in art drove Myers to offer after-school art lessons to students. His two classes, An Introduction to Cartooning and An Introduction to Drawing are a hit with students, said Sister Denise Marie. “It’s fun learning from Mr. Myers,” said sixth grader Giordano DeAngelo. “He makes it so that when you draw you don’t have to worry about messing up because he is always there to help you.”

Myers knows how significant it is to have a teacher who gets students enthusiastic about art. While he remembers loving to draw since he was a child, Myers said that it was his high school art teacher who helped him develop his skills. “She is an excellent teacher,” said Myer. “She encouraged me to draw.” He has auspiciously studied under other great teachers as well. While attending Pensacola Christian College, Myers was taught by a professor who studied under famed painter Norman Rockwell. “I guess you could say that my students at St. Joseph’s are fourth generation Norman Rockwell students,” said Myers. As a teacher, Myers is hoping to give back to the students. “I am very appreciative of the opportunity God gave me to teach at St. Joseph’s,” he said. “I tell my students that they should use their talents for God’s purposes. When you use it for Him it goes further. If you use it for your own purposes, it goes stale.”

Myers’ students will be some of the first to get an autographed copy of the book when it comes out. This won’t be the first time they have seen his creation; he has given them plenty of sneak previews of Swamp Fox in class. Seventh grader Chelsie Kupst is inspired by Myers’ work. “This is what we can do if we work very hard,” she said of Swamp Fox.

Some of his students have even imitated Swamp Fox in their drawings. But he’d better be careful about the aspiring young artists. “They might put me out a job drawing Swamp Fox,” joked Myers. For more information on Myers, or Swamp Fox, visit swampfoxcomic.com.

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