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Curtis paying homage to superheroes

Photo by Rachelle Klemme. Doug Curtis pencils an encounter between Flying Ferret and his brother Ross Curtis's character, Rabid Rabbit.1 / 2
Art by Doug Curtis. The cover for a recent issue of "Flying Ferret" is one of the many webcomic pages Doug Curtis has posted on the internet.2 / 2

By day, Doug Curtis is a graphic designer, family man and caricature artist well known in the Wadena area.

On the side, he draws out the story of a caped superhero in homage to the comics that inspired him as a kid - and eventually publishes them on the internet.

Webcomics have received more exposure in recent years with the advent of social media, but Curtis has been posting "The Flying Ferret" on and off since the days of dialup in 1996. The comic became more established in 2004.

He is also working on a print Flying Ferret comic and hoping to publish that by June.

"It's a parody of superhero comics - all the greats that I grew up with," Curtis said.

Aimed for "the geek and nerd crowd," it is a humor comic but has its own universe as a source for jokes rather than breaking the fourth wall.

Curtis draws the comics and then uses a scanner, Adobe Photoshop and CorelDraw to finish them.

For almost 10 years, Curtis also did the "True North" strip for the KSKK newsletter before discontinuing it in December 2011.

The archives of "True North" dating back to 2004 are on Curtis's website.

Curtis said "True North" started out as a crude editorial comic for a newspaper in Shakopee, and the characters of the mosquito and the loon were symbols of Minnesota before they were recurring characters in the KSKK newsletter.

He said he felt bad for ending the comic and people were disappointed, but he was switching his time and energy toward the printed "Flying Ferret" and might try to syndicate "True North."

Another of Curtis's archived webcomics is "Battle For the Galaxy," based on the early drafts for Star Wars.

"I've always been a Star Wars nut," he said. "That was fun too - just don't have the time for it. Especially with raising four girls."

The Flying Ferret webcomic is a hobby, and Curtis makes no money from it - very few webcomic artists do - but he said he hopes to earn some from the upcoming printed comic.

When he first started posting "Flying Ferret" in the mid-1990s, internet speeds were slower than nowadays and pictures did not load instantly.

"That was kind of a terrible time for webcomics," Curtis said. "I can't say I'm one of the first but it certainly caught my imagination to be able to get it out there."

He was determined to do it and taught himself enough HTML to create a crude website.

Curtis also did gaming illustrations for Kenzer and Company out of Illinois, and had a three-issue comic "SpaceHack"for them.

He said webcomics are more and more sophisticated nowadays, with some comic creators selling T-shirts, art and even music based on their work.

He likes fantasy comics and follows the independent comic "Goblins." Its creator is one of the few who do make a living off the comic through advertising.

When he was a kid, it was toward the end of what is called the Silver Age of comics.

"I used to get bags and bags of comics from my cousins - just the standards like Batman, Superman, the Hulk, just every comic that was printed at that time," he said.

They didn't have a whole lot for television, and print media was much more accessible, which gave him and his brother Ross Curtis an inspiration for comics.

To this day the two brothers, originally from New York Mills, collaborate on webcomics. Ross has worked on the most recent storyline of Flying Ferret, and their characters are in the same fictional universe.

Curtis taught himself comic art and also has a degree in graphic design from Bemidji State University.

The comics can be found on Curtis's website