Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I’m not really a “I knew him when” kind of person, but in this case, I am.

West Point, Miss., the northern point of East Mississippi’s “Golden Triangle,” claims blues legend Howlin’ Wolf as its favorite son, but the town’s man of the hour should be Art Shirley.

Earlier this week, Art, a fellow Ole Miss grad and artist, announced the debut of his graphic novel, Project Prometheus, a sci-fi action tale starring Deep Space Badass Jack Quasar. I grabbed a copy as soon as I could, but Art asked me to read it before I wrote about it (imagine that!). So I did.

I met Art in college, when we were both NROTC midshipmen in our very early 20s. Art’s dorm room prominently displayed much of his artwork, some of which was decidedly more R-rated than Prometheus (did I mention we were in our 20s in college?). Even then, though, his talent was obvious, especially to a compulsive doodler and wannabe cartoonist like me.

Our story centers on the conflict of three men: Adm. Clayton, Howard Leland and Dr. Chet Walters. The trio were part of the future privatization of the military — sound familiar? — during which time a strange alien device, later dubbed the Prometheus Device, was discovered on an asteroid. The device’s near-magical powers seemingly possessed Dr. Walters and enabled him to create several revolutionary inventions that led to the Neo Renaissance. But the Prometheus Device also had enormous destructive power and was thus hidden away by Adm. Clayton on Delta Station, a Leland Corp.-owned satellite. But when Delta Station sends a distress signal — via Dr. Walters’ son, Ray (following in Dad’s scientific footsteps) — Clayton summons our man Jack Quasar in to secure — or destroy, if necessary — the Prometheus Device.

It’s good stuff. Quasar is a swashbuckling combination of Han Solo, Indiana Jones and James Bond, and the ride is a hang-on-for-dear-life affair. Art throws you right in the middle of a story that clearly has a lot going on (I’m thinking prequel, maybe?); he hits the gas on page 1 and doesn’t let up til the end. And Art’s sense of humor comes out in clever ways — the “Heston” ammunition being an example. Be sure to check out the author’s end notes for more info on his pop culture influences and references.

It’s good to know that the art of the comic book is alive and well, thanks to torch bearers like Art. Check him — and Jack Quasar — out at Art’s Flying Pig Studios. I’m looking forward to more Jack Quasar. In the words of the great Stan Lee, “‘Nuff said!”

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