Boy's hero bursts from sketchbook into publication

Electric Man: A creation by a Manchester 6-year-old lands with a mighty presence on the back of a coloring book.

June 20, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

In the summer-wonderful world of a 6-year-old Manchester artist, sketchbooks are made to draw bad guys and good guys and create superheroes to keep the universe safe.

Noah Boyle flashed an infectious, impish smile and explained to a visitor recently how "Electric Man," his superhero creation, came to adorn a children's easy-peel sticker and coloring book published in April by Tennessee-based Dalmatian Press.

"It's fun to pretend and invent superheroes," he said, paging through dozens of his creations carefully crafted with multicolored Crayola washable markers.

Sitting at his desk, Noah held a children's activity book, showing where he had clipped a contest entry blank, inviting would-be artists to submit drawings for future Dalmatian Press publications.

When word came last month of Noah's winning entry, he was understandably proud, but not surprised, he said.

The choice of which drawing Noah would submit was easy, he said.

Electric Man is his favorite superhero, a smiling, slime-green hulk of a creature dressed in orange and red garb and featuring, by Noah's account, "electric volts" that flash from the superhero's hands and "shock the bad guys."

Noah's signature artwork, dated Feb. 8, 1999, is reproduced on the book's back cover, along with a quotation: "I think there should be lots of space super heroes." -- Noah B., age 6, Manchester, Md.

Fostering creativity

How it got there is a story that began "long, long ago, when I was 4 and liked to draw," he said.

That was about the same time that his parents, Maribeth and Chris, and his grandmother began encouraging a budding artist.

Chris, a civil engineer, supplied loads of scrap paper from work. Grandma Ann, an artist, sent art supplies from New Mexico, and Maribeth began preparing to home-school Noah, now the eldest of four sons. Simeon is 4; Josiah is 3; and Joel is 4 months.

Noah's workplace, a sloped designer's desk with lift-up top to store his supplies, was placed next to the family's personal computer in the corner of the dining room, which has been converted to a combination office and classroom.

Photo and art displays created by three generations adorn the walls, and the refrigerator in the adjacent eat-in kitchen seemingly has enough alphabet magnets on its door to fashion a short story.

Saving the day

But Electric Man is clearly the focus of this day in Noah's life.

"He just goes out and sees who needs help," Noah said, explaining how a superhero spends his days in the universe.

The good guys Electric Man helps, and the bad guys he shocks, are all there in Noah's sketchbook, including Electronics Man, Centipede Man, Skeleton Man, Icicle Man, and Invisible Man, who can be seen only when he wears his human disguise.

If nothing else, Noah's logic is impeccable.

Judging from Noah's sketch, Icicle Man looks vaguely like a refrigerator and bad guys get frozen by his frosty breath when he lectures them that good always triumphs over evil.

Testing his creations

Noah said he likes to field-test superhero creations on his brothers and neighborhood friends.

Brothers and friends can be good or bad, but "sometimes they don't play along," he said, nodding toward Josiah, his rambunctious sibling.

When Noah experiences the equivalent of writer's block, he said he scribbles until an idea "pops in my head."

Those scribbling moments seemed rare, judging from Noah's boundless creations: Dr. Madman, Snake Man, Dirt Man, and Slime Man, to name a few.

Colors, animals, and mixing and matching have produced Black and Blue Man, who makes the whole world black and blue, Rhino Man, who charges into bad guys, and Mouse Bat.

He's half mouse and half bat, as Noah's rendition clearly demonstrates.

Real-life benefits

Noah's pretend world is fun and practical, too.

"After having some bad dreams," said Maribeth, "Noah asked if he could put one of his superheroes on his bedroom ceiling."

Sure enough, suspended above his red bunk bed, is Electric Man, because "he is the strongest and toughest one of all," Noah said.

"Noah felt safe and the bad dreams stopped," Maribeth said.

Drawing can be lucrative, too.

"Noah has sold some of his drawings at a yard sale," Maribeth said. "I didn't think anyone would buy them, but some sold for $1."

"I'm saving up $30 and I have $20 so far," Noah added, but he hasn't yet decided what he will buy for $30.

As for the future of his favorite superhero, one headlined page in Noah's sketchbook lets the secret out: "Coming Soon! The Movie of Electric Man."

Pub Date: 6/20/99

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