Frank Johnson is differently-abled! For years Johnson has dreamt of helping other differently abled people overcome their challenges like he has in himself. Johnson, an Irondequoit resident, now takes on a “new dream” come true.
They say that “art imitates life.” Actually, life comes “alive” in art in a brand-new comic book series “DREAMER,” produced by several local residents and based on the life of Johnson, who has turned his “disability” into ability through his inspirational story.
Local artist Ken Wheaton, illustrator of Popeye and the Simpsons comic books, has drawn the new comic book series. Created and written by Rochester comic book writer and novelist, Joe Janowicz, the comic story begins when a 14-year old — comic character — Franklin Johnson suffers serious life-threatening injuries while saving handicapped children from a hospital fire, forcing the doctors to put him in an induced coma to save his life. With damage to his brain and nervous system, Johnson, if he survives, may now be disabled for the rest of his life. In his coma, he awakens in a dream state world and discovers that because he was willing to sacrifice his life to save these disabled children, he can now 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, he begins a journey into their unknown personal worlds helping them each discover the “true hero” within themselves. In the continuing series, he races against time to help as many children as he can, while the doctor’s debate whether to end his coma and possibly end his life.
Janowicz wrote “DREAMER” based on his life-long friendship with Johnson and watching how he has turned his disability into true-life, inspirational events.
Johnson, a former Kodak engineer was trapped in a fire over 40 years ago. He incurred a traumatic brain injury, which has impaired his speech and some hand movements. It changed his life and altered his dreams.
Johnson has shown perseverance and courage throughout his life as he fought his innermost demons to overcome his deficiencies and become a nationally recognized inspirational speaker and friend to not just others like himself, but to anyone who has a challenge. He is the author of the book, “From Flawed to Fantastic, How I Turned my Disability Into an A$$et.” He was also
one of the people written about in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul Book: Recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury.” Johnson continues to be an inspiration to all people. According to writer and friend, Joe Janowicz, “This story is dedicated to Frank, a comic book fan who is a ‘real dreamer,’ not only in his own life, but influencing and helping the dreams of others.”
Each issue of the comic book will explore the lives of different handicapped children and their individual “disability.” Future storylines include bullying, autism, speech and hearing impairment, shyness and suicide. The main character in the comic book will help each person learn how to “flip the hero switch” in themselves, particularly when they are being faced with any bigger than life challenges.
As a freelance illustrator, Wheaton has worked on local and national projects, contributing artwork and designs for a series of television ads for clients, Toyota, McDonald’s and Wegmans. Wheaton teaches popular comic book production workshops each summer, which yield anthologies of student work and prepares young students interested in entering the field. He has 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.” Although a fan of horror and adult stories, Joe created the “DREAMER” story so his two grandchildren, Alexis, 10, and Ella, 8, as well as Schwab and Greece residents would be able to read something geared towards them.
“DREAMER” will be marketed through hospitals, schools and comic book shops. Part of the proceeds from sales of the comic book will be donated to the Strong Children’s Hospital. Artist Wheaton will do an in-person signing of the first issue at local comic shops beginning in September.
Visit to find out more about the comic, where its being sold, the signing dates and how to order online.