Greece residents Joe Janowicz and Ken Wheaton collaborated to create “Dreamer,” a comic book based on the life of Rochesterian Frank Johnson and how he turned his disability into a motivational story.
The story opens with 14-year-old Franklin Johnson suffering serious injuries while saving children from a hospital fire, forcing doctors to put him in an induced coma. The damage to his brain and nervous system means Franklin, if he survives, would be disabled for the rest of his life.
In his coma, Franklin wakes in a dream-state world. He discovers that, because he sacrificed his life to save children, he can travel into other handicapped children’s dreams to help them overcome their fears in their daily struggles by tapping into their inner strengths.
Through his encouragement and devotion to help make their lives more meaningful, Franklin begins a journey into their unknown personal worlds, helping them discover the true hero within themselves. In the series, he races against time to help as many children as he can while doctors debate whether to end his coma, and possibly end his life.
“Dreamer” is based on the true-life events of Johnson, a former Kodak engineer who was injured in a fire. For over 40 years, Johnson overcame this experience to become an inspirational speaker. He authored “From Flawed to Fantastic: How I Turned My Disability Into an A$$et” and was featured in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury.”
Each issue will explore the lives of different children and their individual disability. Future storylines include bullying, autism, speech and hearing impairment, shyness, and suicide.
As a freelance illustrator, Wheaton contributed artwork and designs for a series of TV ads for Toyota, McDonald’s and Wegmans. He teaches summer comic book production workshops that yield anthologies of student work and prepare young students interested in entering the field. He also worked with the Strong National Museum of Play as a teaching artist.
Janowicz created and wrote the mystery horror comic “Black Man White Man” and completed his first novel, “Bang-Bang You’re Dead.” He created the “Dreamer” story so his grandchildren, Alexis and Ella, could read something geared toward them.
“Dreamer” will be marketed through hospitals, schools and comic book shops. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Wheaton will sign copies of the first issue on Sept. 21 at Rhino’s Comics and Collectibles in Greece. Call (585) 730-4334 or visit rhinoscomics.com for details on the event.
Visit dreamercomicbook.com for information on the “Dreamer” series.