2014-01-17 / Family

Bedtime tale inspires graphic novel

Men seek funding for kids’ comic book
By Stephanie Sumell


CREATIVE WORK—Screenwriter Geert Heetebrij, left, and illustrator Jonathan Larev—both of Moorpark—have collaborated to create “The Undergrounds,” a graphic novel for children. The two are using Kickstarter to raise money for the project. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers CREATIVE WORK—Screenwriter Geert Heetebrij, left, and illustrator Jonathan Larev—both of Moorpark—have collaborated to create “The Undergrounds,” a graphic novel for children. The two are using Kickstarter to raise money for the project. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers For Geert Heetebrij, putting his kids to bed is more than just tucking them in and giving them a kiss goodnight. Bedtime is story time, and Heetebrij does his best to keep his four little ones hanging on to every word.

“Telling a bedtime story is kind of like doing standup,” Heetebrij said. “Whenever the kids’ eyes glaze over, you have to think of something to get their attention back.”

But there’s one story—in its many versions—that has withstood the test of time and has become a favorite of the Heetebrij children.

Inspired by the 45-year-old’s childhood in Holland, the story follows a family of five on a series of adventures after their dog discovers a massive hole in their backyard.

“I grew up on the edge of a forest,” said Heetebrij, who now lives in Moorpark with his wife, Suzanne; son, 10; and three daughters, 8, 13 and 17. “My friends and I found a hole that was too deep to go into without a flashlight. I think people were probably hidden there during World War II.”

In the bedtime tale, the hole contains doors to a collection of imaginary worlds inhabited by troll fairies, giant lumberjacks, knights and pirates.

“My children think it’s fantastic,” said Heetebrij, who compiled his stories in a screenplay last year. “I’d love to share this story with as many children as possible.”

To do so, Heetebrij partnered with freelance illustrator Jonathan Lareva to bring his story to life.

The men, both members of Cornerstone Community Church in Moorpark, are in the process of adapting Heetebrij’s script for a children’s comic book series.

Titled “The Undergrounds,” the series will eventually be compiled into a 250-page graphic novel.

Lareva, 23, said the story seemed ideal for the medium.

“It’s not your typical comic,” said the Moorpark resident, who studied art at California State University Channel Islands. “At one point, there’s a possibility (the family) might get trapped in these worlds forever. They come to understand the importance of family.”

The men are using the website Kickstarter.com to raise $5,000 for the project.

The website links artists, students and entrepreneurs like Heetebrij and Lareva with potential backers.

More than 55,000 creative projects have been funded through Kickstarter since its launch in 2009.

Lareva said they will put the $5,000 toward printing costs and booth fees at comic conventions. Thus far, 85 backers have donated $3,517 to the project.

“A lot of comics are promoted through conventions,” Lareva said. “We want to get the story out there.”

Heetebrij and Lareva are well on their way.

Lareva, also a behavioral therapist for children with autism, spends between 10 and 20 hours a week drawing scenes on his computer.

“I try to get better all the time,” he said. “I’ve been inspired by American and Japanese comics and try to incorporate those influences into my own style.”

The men meet once a week to review Lareva’s illustrations.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Heetebrij, a student at UCLA’s School of Theater Film and Television. “Seeing the pages Jonathan has completed is like unwrapping a Christmas present.”

The family man said he looks forward to sharing his story with the masses.

“If the story stays a graphic novel, that’s great,” he said. “If it becomes popular enough to become a movie, that’s great too.”

Those interested in contributing to the project can go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1975180484/the-undergrounds-a-family-fantasy-adventure-series?ref=live

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