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Local entrepreneur turns lifelong passion for comics into new business

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 18:41:01-04

TWINSBURG, Ohio — An entrepreneur in Northeast Ohio has fused his can-do attitude with his lifelong passion for comic books in a new and unique adventure. FutureGen Comics, the brainchild of Twinsburg resident Keith Harris, now features more than 100 characters that have been brought to life through nearly a dozen artists scattered across the area.

Harris, 55, started FutureGen Comics a few years ago after his successful start-up, Kero International, ran its course. The company that Harris built from the ground up specialized in acquiring and providing hard-to-find parts for nuclear power plants, including those operated by First Energy. The business’ success supported his family and helped to put his kids through college. However, while it certainly provided a career, it never fully captured Harris’ true passion: comic books.

“It was something that I did in the sense that I fell into it,” Harris said. “It wasn’t something I enjoyed per se. I just enjoyed being an entrepreneur. When I stepped away from that, I thought I was just going to retire. I thought I was going to retire early. I had no clue that life was so boring when you don’t have anything in particular to do.”

After playing about a month’s worth of golf, Harris knew he had to find a new project to work on. At the suggestion of his wife, Harris began exploring the business side of the comic book industry by setting up meetings with executives from independent and corporate comic publishers as well as attending conventions like Comic Cons. Harris’ passion — which borders on obsession — with comic books dates back to his childhood, he said. An afternoon spent with friends going around to various comic book stores in East Cleveland were a common occurrence.

“I just enjoyed them so much. The artwork, I loved looking at the artwork. The stories were so different from what I was living in my daily life,” Harris said. “I grew up as a kid in East Cleveland growing up buying comic books. I never had a comic book with a character anywhere in the area that I knew of. I wanted a super hero for kids who grew up like I grew up, in the inner city. You’d see characters in New York, DC, LA and stuff like that but I never saw a character from Cleveland.”

Harris, who still boasts a collection of about 1,500 comic books, decided upon a unique business model following a conversation with a Nigeria-based comic book publisher. Instead of printing physical comic books, which can be prohibitively expensive, FutureGen Comics would develop characters and storylines for other publishers and companies to use. A subscription model is also being explored.

FutureGen is effectively a marketing and advertising firm based around comics, Harris said. “That’s how I structured the company so we could be a marketing and advertising arm for corporate or independent people who just had this dream since they were a kid,” Harris said. “Maybe they had a character in their mind that they created. We can turn that character into a comic book for them.”

One of FutureGen’s first and most notable clients was the LeBron James Family Foundation. FutureGen developed superheroes based around the foundation’s key members with bracelets that provide super powers. The bracelets were a key fundraising initiative for the foundation.

In the FutureGen universe, the main protagonist is a character named Big Bruh, which is Harris’ family nickname. Big Bruh, whose real name is Tyreese Washington, works as a top leader at a fictional Cleveland-based biotech firm when he is exposed to dark matter in an explosion during a government-sanctioned experiment. The pandemic permitting, Harris plans on holding an in-person launch for FutureGen on August 12 in downtown Cleveland.