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Interview: Israel Idonije on ‘The Protectors’

Israel Idonije 1 for webIsrael Idonije grew up reading comics, and in 2007, in the middle of his career in professional football (he was a defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants), he began sketching out some ideas for a comic of his own. Being a pretty smart guy, Idonije didn’t make it a vanity project, and he didn’t try to write or draw it himself—instead, he hired two comics veterans, writer Ron Marz (Silver Surfer, Green Lantern) and artist Bart Sears (X-O Manowar, Justice League Europe), to create the actual comics.

The result of all this is a comics series titled The Protectors, published by Idonije’s own company, Athlitacomics. He launched the comic at C2E2 in 2014, and he has just published a a collected edition of issues #1-5. I had the opportunity to talk to him at this year’s C2E2, where he was promoting the trade and issue #6, which kicks off a new story arc.

Why did you decide to do The Protectors as a comic?

I decided in 2007 I wanted to tell the story, and I wanted to do it on a platform that I loved as a kid. I did not love reading as a child, but our parents made us read almost an hour every day, so what I read was comics. Because a lot of times the images draw you in, you look at the pictures, and it’s “All right, now I gotta read,” so it was great at drawing in this young kid. That was my thing. So I collected my books, I had a paper route so I could go to my local comic shop every day. For those three weeks [in 2007] when I was thinking about the story I wanted to create, what kind of pop culture I wanted to do it in, it was a no-brainer.

The ProtectorsWhat is the story about?

The story of The Protectors is the origin story of the world’s greatest athletes over time. In the story, at the end of the day they were actually created to be more than just athletes. Their ability in sport is a byproduct of a greater gift they were given, in a long time before ours, by one of the ancient ones, to a select few of these humans on earth to battle against the Dissenters. The Dissenters in this story are a dark force that control the politics, media, and religion of the story through a most influential senator, media mogul, and religious leader in this world. So Galek [an alien] takes Isaac [an athlete] and they bring together the other four athletes and say “You guys are not just athletes. There’s more. You’re more than just this—you have multiple gifts, and now you have to come together and we need to fight this dark force that’s looking to subjugate the human race and humanity.”

Is it accessible to children?


Why do you think it will be good for them? What message do you want to give them?

The number one message for me is that ultimately we all have gifts. And not just one gift. As humans, there’s multiple layers to our gifts. Some things we are just naturally better at, some things we have to work at, but every day, with your gifts, you have to make a choice: What will I do with my gifts? What will I do with who I am? The tagline of the story is “Join the fight.” The Protectors make a decision: We will use our gifts to fight your evil. We will use our gifts to fight the things you brought that are bad in our world. Ultimately, you are a protector in your own world, in your circle of friends, in your family—so join the fight!

Be the protector?

Right. And do the right things, fight for good, and make the right choices every day.

Why did you hire professionals to write and draw it?

Winning any game you need the right team, so I looked at bringing on Ron Marz and Bart Sears as pulling together two great captains for our team that would put us in the best position to win this game. Especially not knowing anything about this space—I’ve never created a comic, I was just a kid who loved comics.

What have you learned since 2007, and what would you do differently?

I don’t know that I would do anything differently. Our approach to this second arc will be a little different, but the lessons have been amazing. One, we do this because we enjoy doing it—it’s a lot of fun—so when you are doing something because you enjoy the journey, you enjoy the ride, it’s a very different proposition than if you were chasing something. Story first, we hope to just have a great story and characters that people love, and then I’m thankful to have Ron and Bart and industry partners that have done it a long time. Because of that the mistakes, or the downs, have been very minimal. Now we are just focused on for this next year, what can we do better, how can we be better, and just continue having fun telling a unique story.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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