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Comic artists in Morris for the Prairie Gate Literary Festival

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MORRIS, Minn. - Minneapolis-based comic writers and artists Brittney Sabo and Anna Bratton wouldn't have been able to publish their first book without the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

After years of working on their first full-length comic, the story of an overly-imaginative young boy growing up in the Great Depression, they received a grant to self-publish the book in 2010 from the Xeric Foundation, a private, nonprofit established by the co-creator of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comics, Peter A. Laird.

Sabo and Bratton will be in Morris next weekend as part of the Prairie Gate Literary Festival, March 29 - 31. They will be doing a public reading of their first comic, "Francis Sharp in the Grip of the Uncanny!", at the Morris Public Library on Saturday, March 31 from 1:30 - 3 p.m.

Other featured presenters at the Prairie Gate Literary Festival include comic nonfiction writer Michael Perry, novelist Susan Power, poet and visual artist Michael Dekel and poets Ilya Kaminsky and Simone Muench.

Sabo and Bratton met as students at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design - Sabo has a BFA in illustration and Bratton graduated with a BFA in comic art - but didn't start collaborating on comics together until after they graduated.

Their partnership started when Sabo developed a story idea for a comic, but said she didn't have confidence in her ability to write the story. She approached Bratton, who also works as a writer and essayist, to partner on the project.

The process of writing, illustrating and self-publishing their first graphic novel, "Francis Sharp in the Grip of the Uncanny!" took four years, Sabo said, because it was usually a side project to their regular work. The first draft of the story was finished in 2006, but the book wasn't finished and published until 2010.

Francis Sharp, the title character of the comic, is an imaginative kid growing up in rural New Jersey in the 1930s. When his over-active imagination gets the better of him, Francis finds himself lost in a world even stranger than the science fiction serials he loves to listen to on the radio.

Although the comic is geared towards young and "tween" readers, Bratton said adults tend to enjoy Sabo's illustrations, making the book a good fit for all ages. At their reading at the library next Saturday, Sabo and Bratton will have a slideshow of pages from the book to share.

Sabo and Bratton will also be giving an artist talk at UMM on Friday from 4:30 - 6 p.m. in Humanities Fine Arts 6 where they plan to talk about what it's like to work as a comic artist today. In addition to her work on "Francis Sharp," Sabo works as a background artist for "The Unwritten," a Vertigo comic.