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Army of 'Moped' fans await award announcements

May 8, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A science fiction-based graphic novel created by Paul Sizer, production manager in the Western Michigan University School of Art's Design Center, is in the running for national awards in both the literary and independent comics worlds.

Sizer's "Moped Army" has been nominated for 2007 American Library Association honors in the categories of "Best Books for Young Adults" and "Great Graphic Novels for Teens." Both awards will be presented at the association's annual meeting in January 2007.

"Moped Army" also has been nominated for a 2006 Glyph Award in the categories of "Story of the Year," "Best Writer" and "Best Female Character." The Glyphs, which will be announced May 19, are an online national awards program that recognizes outstanding achievement in black comics and comics with black themes.

"I'm very honored to be recognized by such a diverse and committed group of peers and library professionals," Sizer says about the five nominations. "Each of these awards represents the reasons why I got into comics and self-publishing. As a medium, comics can be a great way to tell stories that have an impact on people's lives and they can have a powerful impact on readers--young and old."

Sizer describes "graphic novels" as a long-form story presented through a comic book format. Some graphic novels are collections of previously published serial comic books. Others, such as "Moped Army," tell a never-before-published story and are released as a single, long work.

"Moped Army" took two years to create and is rated for ages 16 and up. Sizer self-published the novel through his own publishing company, Cafe Digital Studios. He launched the company in 2005 so all of his future comic work could be released under one publishers' imprint. International sales of "Moped Army" are being handled through Diamond Comic Distribution.

The 144-page novel's title is taken from a real-life group of vintage moped enthusiasts founded in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1997. Since then, the Moped Army has grown into a nationwide organization with branches across the county and its own Web site (www.mopedarmy.com).

Sizer approached the group's originators with the idea of doing a graphic novel based on their organization. They not only approved of the "Moped Army" book, they also provided technical information to enhance its futuristic story line.

The novel is set in the year 2277, when gasoline is an illegal substance and new cities are built over existing ones. Those who live below must pave their own future, or decay like the environment around them.

"The Moped Army in my novel is the epitome of the vision that William Gibson had for the future in his writings about the cyberpunk culture," Sizer says. "These guys ride around on old, reclaimed machines, yet communicate with cell phones and PDAs, and make digital movies by taping Web cams to their handlebars and running them from PowerBooks crammed into their sidebags. They take what's considered a liability and turn it into an advantage."

Sizer is a graphic designer, artist and writer. He produces his own comics as well as conducts workshops for kids and adults across the country that focus on the comic art form as a powerful and versatile medium for creative expression and storytelling.

The recipient of a bachelor of fine arts degree from WMU in 1988, Sizer was well known on campus as the creator of the popular "Bill the Rabbit" comic strip. The strip ran for four years in the Western Herald, the University's student newspaper, and won four national college cartooning awards, including two national first place awards.

Sizer started his own design and illustration firm in 1992, and joined WMU's staff in 1993 half time as the Design Center's production manager. The center gives students hands-on graphic design experience by taking on commercial projects for both on- and off-campus clients.

But Sizer also keeps one foot in the comic art world. After graduating from WMU, he joined forces with other Kalamazoo cartoonists and contributed to "Bulk Comics," an early 1990's comic anthology. Next, he teamed up with fellow artist Mark Paulik to create "Q-Loc," a science fiction comic that helped Sizer learn the ropes of professionally producing a comic.

In 1997, Sizer began a solo sci fi-based comic book called "Little White Mouse," which has been collected into four graphic novels. The popular series was picked up for publishing by Caliber Comics and later Blue Line Pro Comics, and has appeared on several reviewer's and critics top 10 lists as well as on Comic International's list of "Notable Comics of the '90's."

Sizer produced 17 issues of "Little White Mouse" before putting the series on hiatus to tackle "Moped Army" in 2004.

"I needed to recharge my creative batteries and work on something different," Sizer says. "Given the direction the market was taking, I'd become more interested in doing a complete, long-form story."

But Sizer hasn't forgotten "Little White Mouse." He's wrapping up a project to include the entire series in a 448-page "Omnibus Edition" that will be published by Cafe Digital Studio next month. The edition will feature a new four-page framing story "prequel" by Sizer, plus artistic contributions from numerous legendary comic artists.

For purchasing and other information about Sizer's comic works, visit paulsizer.com. "Moped Army" is available through amazon.com and other major online booksellers.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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