The Phoenix Theater holds a special place in the heart of punk rocker Dominic Davi, and the Petaluma native is seeking to pay homage to his roots with a graphic novel that celebrates the community that fostered his career as a musician and an artist.
Growing up in the city, Davi was immersed in the burgeoning punk scene at the Washington Street venue, where he spent hours volunteering, discovering new bands and developing as a musician. The graphic artist, clothing designer and photographer also formed “Tsunami Bomb” in Petaluma in 1998, and though his career as a bassist with the female-fronted punk group and other bands took him out of the city, his recently-released zine and an upcoming graphic novel serve as a “love letter to Petaluma.”
Released this June, “Come Find Me,” a 12-page self-published comic set in Petaluma in 2003, tells the story of a paranormal romance that takes place at The Phoenix Theater and Haystack Landing. The comic is a prequel to “GREENTEETH” a four-part series that will be compiled into a graphic novel that illustrates an surreal story set in the city 10 years prior, following a group of a local youth who make a “terrible” discovery in the river, Davi said.
“If you’re from Petaluma, you’re definitely going to recognize a lot,” he said.
Davi, 40, has already chronicled part of the history of his formative years Petaluma in a web-comic series “The Rock n’ Roll Palace of Love,” and the “mostly true” webzine that drew a solid fan base during its run from 2006 to 2010. In both past and present works, he said he seeks to emulate the way that famed horror author Stephen King approached his town of Derry, Maine — adding an embellished element to real-life places and scenarios.
“Petaluma has a quality to it that I didn’t see in other towns,” he said. “There’s a light side and a dark side, and it’s a small town with its own level of folklore. I wanted to create a series of stories that took advantage of both things that really happened and places that were really there and the folklore we really had while mixing in my own spin on things.”
Davi, who also illustrated “Fear of a Punk Planet,” a comic book created in collaboration with Joe Escalante from punk act “The Vandals,” said he’s been interested in comics since his youth in Petaluma.
“My go to destinations in downtown were the Comic Book Box, The Phoenix Theater, and Copperfield’s and coffeehouses, so that’s like where I lived as a kid … I was either reading, going to shows, drawing at a coffee shop or going to a comic book store, and that’s kind of where my interest came in,” the Petaluma High School graduate said.
Davi, who has spent decades touring and performing with a variety of punk bands – including “Tsunami Bomb,” which is signed to Kung Fu Records along with punk acts like “Blink 182” and “The Ataris,” and recently reunited after a multi-year hiatus — said creating comics gives him a heightened sense of artistic freedom.
“I was always loved drawing and I wanted something that was just mine,” he said. “Being in a band is such a collaborative effort, no matter what. There’s so much you gain when you work with someone else, but there are so many limits and you have to constantly try to find a middle ground in a marriage of people. I got to a point where I wanted to make something I had some control over and that was just mine.”