Petaluma’s Gio Benedetti helps kids create their own comics

Young Sonoma County artists create their own comics for book, exhibit|

Sonoma County musician Gio Benedetti made a local name for himself as a former member of the bands Toast Machine and The Brothers Comatose, but he still had a unfulfilled dream.

He really wanted to create his own comic book.

“I’ve been making comics ever since a friend of mine made a comic book and sold it when we were in the fourth grade,” said Benedetti, 41, who lives in Petaluma.

The trouble was that he could start a comic book project but he couldn’t finish one.

“I could do a couple of pages at most. Then I realized that I probably wasn’t alone in my inability to finish a full comic,” he said.

His solution was to initiate a free weekly online comic book making class for artists age 10 to 18 through the Petaluma branch of the Sonoma County Library, with supplies provided by the library.

“I got to make my longest comic ever as part of the class and help others along the way,” Benedetti explained.

The result was a 170-page, black-and-white, pen-and-ink anthology titled “For the Love of Comics,” published by the Sonoma County regional libraries and priced at $19.99. It’s available online through giobenedetti.com/store and at the Petaluma Tea & Coffee Co. and Brian’s Comics in Petaluma.

The money raised from sales of the book will go to support the annual LumaCon comic book festival, sponsored by the Petaluma branch of the county library and Casa Grande High School and Petaluma High School libraries, Benedetti said.

LumaCon is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2022, in Petaluma (See lumacon.net for information).

But before the festival, a free exhibit of original pages from the book will go on display Monday, Nov. 8, at Petaluma Tea & Coffee Co.

Benedetti held the comic book class online last March through May, then worked on putting together the book from June through September.

“Class size was capped at 25, and we started with a full class. Five students dropped out, which brought it to 20, and then only 16 finished their comics for the book,” Benedetti said.

“I like this because it’s a testament to how hard it is to make a comic,” he said.

One of the students who completed the project is Zander Cunningham, 12, whose entry in the book, “Through the Wormhole,” is a science fiction tale of interdimensional travel.

“The class with Gio Benedetti was very fun,” Zander said. “We brainstormed our story first, then we started creating the comic. All throughout the six-week class, Gio helped us through the creative process using his experience to teach us many things about making cartoons.”

Zander has been making comics since he was 3 years old, and he plans to continue.

“Some of my biggest cartooning inspirations are Stephan Pastis (of “Pearls Before Swine”) and Charles Schulz. I love making comics because I like making people laugh,” he said.

Anja Spaulding, 13, contributed “The Island,” a story about a girl and dragon, to the book. Her sister, Maija Roberts, 11, created “The Stone,” a space adventure.

“My overall experience was very welcoming. I never felt like I wasn’t skilled enough to do it, since there were people of many different ages and skill sets,” Anja said. “It was an awesome experience and gave me a fun activity to work on over (the COVID-19) quarantine.”

Her sister Maija added, “We didn’t have to draw our characters a certain style. We could draw them however we want. I have never made a comic before, but it turned out great. It was never stressful and it was always really fun.”

As a musician, Benedetti partnered with Paige Warner, who works in special effects at Industrial Light and Magic in Marin County, from 2000 to 2010. From 2010 to 2018, Benedetti played full time with The Brothers Comatose, a popular North Bay five-piece bluegrass band, which is still going strong.

“I’m still a musician, but all of the stuff I’ve been doing has been recreational, really,” Benedetti said. “Right now, I am concentrating on comics. I am continuing the cartooning and comics classes on my own.”

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