Hero Napkins

When you Hulksmash together unique, nerdy and lunch, you get our attention. That’s why we just knew we’d have to eventually feature a buddy of ours – Jimmy Ettele – on 8BitDad. Jimmy is a father to two daughters and during the school year, packs their lunched with classic comic book covers recreated on napkins with a ballpoint pen.

Who doesn’t love a good surprise in their lunch? Over the years, we’ve talked to two dads who have put Post-its into their kids’ lunches as well as one who just used the bag as his canvas. But this is the first time we’ve seen a napkin. We even snuck back to breakfast and talked to a dad making nerdy pancakes. Now, all we need is a dude that carves baby carrots into superheroes and we’re set.

(Spoiler alert, we know a dude that does that sort of thing, so stay tuned.)

Heronapkins Avengers Comparison

The original West Coast Avengers #14 on the left, and Jimmy’s rendition on the right.

Anyway, it’s summer and we wanted to make sure that Jimmy Ettele was feeling the love so he’d make more “Hero Napkins” this fall, so we snagged him for a Q&A:

8BD: How old are your kids?
JE: Hannah is 11 and Emma is 8.

8BD: Do they read comics? What are their favorites?
JE: I have tried since they were old enough to sit up on their own to get them in to comics. Emma has a much bigger interest in them. Spider-Man is her favorite. She likes Captain America too but I think that’s just because he’s my favorite.

Hannah wasn’t much in to them (and believe me I tried every genre/character I could think of) until The Walking Dead came out. She loves the show so I told her she needs to read the books. She just started reading the collection of the first 100 books.

8BD: What’s your current favorite comic?
JE: I’ve abandoned current continuity as of late. I was really enjoying Superior Spider-Man before Peter came back. I’m working on John Byrne‘s run on Captain America and Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil‘s Batman. Right now I’m going through my Marvel Essentials and my DC Showcases. I am enjoying the collected volumes more than the new stuff right now. I have about 10 Marvel Essentials to go through and 5 Showcases from DC. I’m one of those fanboys who like to talk about the past and how much better it was. Like your grandfather talking about how Willie Mays could outplay anyone in baseball today.

8BD: What’s a past comic that you loved?
JE: Alpha Flight. Hands down my favorite team book of all time. Those first 2 years with John Byrne were fantastic. After issue 100, I dropped out of it but Vol. 1 was awesome. Issue 12, Guardian‘s death, blew my mind.

8BD: If you had to choose between DC or Marvel, which would you choose?
JE: Marvel. I have read more Marvel and enjoy their characters more as a whole but I have a great affinity for the history DC carries with their characters. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern. I may not follow them as closely but have a great appreciation for them.

8BD: How do you decide which comics to recreate on a napkin? Is it just whatever’s lying around?
JE: I started with picking out characters. Iron Man #95 was my first one. I love Iron Man and Jack Kirby art? Awesome. I plucked characters from comic covers at first. Sometimes my kids requested them, Silver Surfer was Hannah’s request. Captain America was Emma’s. But I wanted to challenge myself more so I started doing the entire cover and that’s when I started going through the memory banks thinking of the covers that drew me in as a kid. Covers that are considered classics. Covers by artists I respect and spent most of my childhood trying to emulate. So I guess there is no rhyme or reason other than what strikes me (most of the ones I have done I have either read or own or both)

I would love to have some of the covers I have done lying around the house but I defer to the computer. I’ll figure out a book or character I might want to do and then go to Cover Browser. That is a great site to check out covers.

8BD: I’ve tried writing on napkins. It doesn’t work. How the hell do you recreate comic book covers on napkins? What’s your technique? What do you use?
JE: I don’t know! It’s my trade secret. I don’t think I should share? Kidding.

First you need a good napkin. Too thin and you’re finished. I use a blue Bic pen. The rounded tip is perfect. Anything too pointed will tear the paper. And anything too thick and you’ll lose the detail. Always short lines. Anything line too long and you risk tearing. Also, I like to find one focal point to start and outline the whole thing. Then I go back in with detail.
The cover will dictate what I have to do too. Marc Silvestri, Todd MacFarlane, Brian Bolland all use quick straight lines in their art. I can’t do those on a napkin bc it will tear. I have to go very slowly or very lightly and stretch the napkin out. If I’m coloring in huge sections, a la Dave Mazzuchelli on Batman Year One, I fill in little bits at a time. No huge sweeping fill ins. Plus the napkin absorbs the ink and will shrink up so I fill in the edges of the napkin last so it doesn’t curl too much.

Other than that, steady hands, don’t press too hard, pray a whole lot, and if I tear it, then try to hide it so no one sees (I tore the Hellboy napkin but I dare you to find it!) or throw it away and start again…after I curse the Gods.

8BD: Do your daughters have requests?
JE: They don’t request the covers but definitely the characters. Hannah wants all Walking Dead stuff or Wolverine. Emma loves Spidey, Cap and Batman. Emma also wants me to leave her a note on them so on each of hers I leave a little message which sort of coincides with the theme of the cover.

8BD: How do Emma and Hannah like the napkins? Do they save them?
JE: They do like them. At first I wasn’t sure but I took a few nights off and they were all over my sh*t about it. They wanted their napkins in their lunch. So that was my cue that I should keep doing them. Now I alternate who gets them.

We had thrown a lot of them away in the beginning but now I have all of them (I make them bring those things home).

8BD: Do they say that anyone else in their classes has noticed them?
JE: For sure. I think Hannah likes Walking Dead and Wolverine because the boys in her class like them, which is making me consider doing an Amethyst cover just so she won’t talk to boys (for the record, I used to own issue 1 of the 12-issue Amethyst mini-series from 1983…don’t judge). Emma has shared them with her class too.

8BD: Which is YOUR favorite napkin? Do you still have it?
JE: Wow. Good question. I don’t know if I have a favorite? As I do one it sort of becomes my favorite. Spawn #1 turned out pretty awesome. And Deathlok was really good because I was able to scale it down really well. Killing Joke turned out good. But if I had to pick…maybe Daredevil #217. Barry Windsor Smith cover. Thing took me 3+ hours to do.

Hopefully once school kicks in, we’ll see a lot more #HeroNapkins out of Jimmy, but in the meantime, be sure to check out Jimmy Ettele’s Instagram account for his past creations and movie posters he’s been doing lately (dude, Indiana Jones!), and visit his site Founding A Father to follow him on all of the other social channels!9