Everyone has a story to tell and, in the case of Garrett Cole, it comes in the form of a graphic novel.
Cole, who can be found on Renderosity as Garrettc211, started work on his story 16 years ago when he was a senior in high school in Texas.
"When it comes to comics, I've wanted to make this my life since I could put pen to paper," he said.
After his father introduced him to the medium, Cole started writing comics in elementary school with his cousin.
Now after a military career as a photographer, videographer, and graphic artist, he has taken up pen and paper again and published the first issue of Mantai at the beginning of April.
"The first original comic I've ever written was Mantai, which I wrote when I was a senior in high school. I've written countless other stories since then, but Mantai always holds a special place in my heart," he said.
Cole said he isn't an artist in the traditional sense of the word, but he learned much about storytelling through a visual medium in the military. He's taken those lessons and ones he's learned from the Renderosity community to make his dream a reality.
"The Renderosity community has provided me with the tools to take the universe swirling around in my head and share it with others," he said.
As for his most recent work, Cole said he is just laying the groundwork for the series, which "takes place in 2004 and follows a 21-year-old drifter who has pretty much hit rock bottom and has been bouncing around from location to location, avoiding any real meaningful contact due to his dark past," he explained.
The introduction to the series is inspired by the Buddhist mantra “Let go of who you were to become who you’re meant to be," said Cole, who has been a member of the Renderosity community since he picked up Poser in 2009.
The reader gets dropped into his story at the end and as he is dealing with "a lot of psychological turmoil" and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"So he’s not thinking clearly," Cole said. "He travels to his dad's hometown with the idea that he might be able to 'exist' in the place of some of his fondest memories. Upon arrival, he realizes that it has changed for the worse and, as the story continues, he has to decide whether or not he should tend to himself or get involved."
The setting of the story is somewhat autobiographical as Cole drew inspiration from his own relationship with his father's hometown.
"It’s one of those small towns where everyone knows everyone (which can be good or bad) and it’s hard to be an outsider," he said.
Cole said his biggest influences for the plot are directors Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, along with master graphic novelist Frank Miller.
"I’m a huge fan of stories with interwoven plotlines. … I felt what better way to interweave stories than in a small town where everyone is in everyone’s business," Cole said.
The protagonist is inspired by several things, like the desire to run away and start over again, he said.
"One of the things my grandmother always told me was 'wherever you go, there you are,' which I took to have two meanings: one you never outrun your problems and two, make an impact where you are," Cole said.
"Over the past 16 years, since I first scripted out the first issue, I feel like the I've been able to refine the story. My time in the military also played a heavy role in how I wrote some of it," he said.
But really the hero is the guy he wanted to be when he grew up.
"I began writing the story when I was 18 (that time when you're trying to find yourself)," he said.
The one thing that he didn't draw from personal experience is the character's struggle with PTSD, but it is very real to Cole given his military experience.
"I've never experienced PTSD in the way most of my friends and colleagues have. I've worked with a lot of vets who still deal with it," he said.
"Guys that go down range and see horrors that people back home can even imagine and there’s no band-aid for that. It’s something people can only accept and cope with for the rest of their lives. There’s no restart button for life," he said.
It's an issue he tackled in his first installment and wants to approach in future graphic novels.
Michelle Willard, Editor of Renderosity Magazine | Former newspaper reporter. Recovering archaeologist. Political nerd. True crime junkie. Read her articles here.