Last updated: August 27. 2013 5:45PM - 244 Views

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What started as “a typical hack ‘lawyer in hell’ joke, done a million times,” has turned a fledgling comic strip artist into a published author.

Keith Brown, of Marshall, today will celebrate the debut of “The Wages of Sin! Genesis — The Birth of a Cartoon Strip,” a compilation book of the first 100 entries of his comic featuring the Devil and the netherworld’s workplace frustrations. The strip got its start when Brown was providing weekly local editorial cartoons for the Democrat a couple of years ago. A gag about a record heat wave — and the Devil contemplating a lawsuit for trademark infringement — slowly evolved into a concept for a comic strip.

“The Wages of Sin!”

features the Devil, who’s an overbearing boss; Jinx, his right-hand man; and a skull, a snake and a spider, among other characters. It typically centers on workplace issues, but everything is fair game.

Brown came up with 10 strips and entered them in an online contest, and while he didn’t win the prize of a syndication contract, “I did better than I thought I would,” he said.

He continued drawing strips, and eventually created a Facebook page to share them. That page was shared with William “Brimstone” Kucmierowski, a former professional wrestler who now is president and CEO of Hound Comics.

Kucmierowski’s company publishes a graphic novel, “Brimstone and The Borderhounds,” based on his wrestling persona; the lead character resides in hell to keep demons from escaping to Earth. Brown said his strip “fit into (Kucmierowski’s) whole persona, only the light side of it.”

Kucmierowski called Brown at the beginning of October, when Brown actually was considering retiring the strip because syndication companies consistently told him they liked it, but didn’t think they could sell a comic centered on the Devil. Hound Comics was willing to take the plunge.

Beginning today, the book will be available online only through hound

comics.com, amazon.com and bn.com. It has about 50 pages and will retail for about $15, Brown said, adding that while he handled all the layout and design work, he has yet to see the final product.

The book includes the back story of how the comic originated and evolved; it also carries a message to people of faith.

“My own family has nothing to do with (the strip), because it is a horrible sacrilege to them,” Brown said. “So I provide a brief overview to calm people of faith, to tell them to relax, ‘It’s a cartoon.’ ”

The Devil has been used in various forms of entertainment “from Day 1,” Brown said, and he frequently makes the Devil the foil.

“A lot of people of faith follow it, they like it, they enjoy it,” he said. “They like the fact that it’s out there. ... I’m not making a statement one way or the other, it’s just a cartoon.”

From the start, Brown has focused on keeping the themes and humor light. He hadn’t seen many story lines involving hell “and if there was, it was generally dark, and I didn’t want to do that. ... I just wanted it to be a simple chuckle.”

He also is grateful for the opportunity to share his work.

“It is a publishing deal. It’s not like they are running 50,000 (copies) and they are going to be sitting in every bookstore. It’s not going to work that way — at least not right now,” he said. “But it’s always nice when somebody else wants to put your work out. We can all dump our stuff on Facebook and that’s great, but it’s not the same as when somebody comes up and says, ‘We like that.’ ”

He now has about 140 strips completed, “and I’m still cranking them out, in case they come back next year and want Volume 2,” he said.

“I doubt it will mean fortune or riches, but it’s kind of a hoot.”

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