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Comic book writer bolsters Ford City Library's collection

| Saturday, May 9, 2015, 2:16 a.m.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
Comic book writer Vito Delsante, formerly from Ford City, holds two of the editions of 'Stray,' which he wrote, inside New Dimensions Comics at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
Comic book writer Vito Delsante, formerly from Ford City, holds one of the editions of 'Stray,' which he wrote, inside New Dimensions Comics at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
Comic book writer Vito Delsante, formerly from Ford City, shows two of the editions of 'Stray,' which he wrote, while discussing the comic book business inside New Dimensions Comics at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
Comic book writer Vito Delsante, formerly from Ford City, shows two of the editions of 'Stray,' which he wrote, inside New Dimensions Comics at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
Eric Felack | Trib Total Media
Comic book writer Vito Delsante, formerly from Ford City, shows two of the editions of 'Stray,' which he wrote, while discussing the comic book business inside New Dimensions Comics at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

A former Ford City resident is sharing his love of comic books with the borough's library patrons while creating his own stories with a Pittsburgh publisher.

Vito Delsante, 41, a comic book writer from Pittsburgh who graduated from Armstrong Central High School after attending classes in Ford City through 11th grade, has donated “hundreds of books” to the library's comic and graphic novel section.

“Comics have really impacted my life,” he said. “I want to make sure others have the chance to feel that same feeling. Maybe there's another future comic book creator in Ford City or Kittanning right now. Hopefully, the books I donated will inspire them and bring out their creativity.”

Delsante started donating comic books after he became friends with library assistant Tiffany Harkleroad on Facebook. He wanted to showcase his work at the library, and he donated several of the titles he had written, such as “Stray” and “FCHS,” a semi-autobiographical story about life in a small town high school.

“I thought it would be nice for some of the people I knew to get to see what I was doing,” Delsante said.

Harkleroad said the comic book section has become a popular feature in the library.

“There are no comic book stores in Armstrong County,” Harkleroad said. “The closest ones are in Tarentum or Butler. We wanted to fill that void, and Vito came to us — he's a great supporter of this library.”

Delsante's love of comic books began in grade school when he would watch reruns of the “Batman” television show from the 1960s. Since he only got to see the caped crusader for less than 30 minutes a day, Delsante decided to pick up “Batman” comic books to keep the adventures going.

“I was just hooked and became a dedicated comic book fan,” Delsante said. “Now I get to see my book up on the shelves next to some of my favorite comics — it's surreal.”

Comic book writing wasn't Delsante's first choice. He planned to be an actor, but after several failed auditions, Delsante began writing screenplays. One night, while reading comic books, he made the connection between the movies and comic book stories.

“I started helping other people work on scripts and realized a comic book is actually like a movie, but without the budget, so you can literally do anything,” Delsante said. “I just fell in love with the format.”

Delsante started writing comic books in 1996, but did not have any work published until 2003 when he wrote issue nine of “Batman Adventures.”

Later that year, Delsante self-published his first full-length graphic novel, “FCHS.” Action in the book is modeled after Ford City High School — though the fictional work is set in Forest City. The book chronicles how Delsante met his wife, Michelle, during his senior year.

“The main character is actually a much cooler version of who I am,” Delsante said. “I wish it were a little more successful, but in the scope of my career, that book helped me prove to myself that I could do this.”

While “FCHS” didn't sell a lot of copies, it opened the door for Delsante to work on several mainstream titles, including “Superman,” “Savage Dragon,” “Scooby Doo” and “Savage Tales.”

Delsante is currently working with Action Lab Comics in Pittsburgh to publish “Stray,” a four-part miniseries he started writing in 2014. The final book in the series is set to be released on May 27.

“My career is weird, because it looks impressive on paper, but I've worked primarily on short stories for the larger publishers,” Delsante said. “But for me, “Stray” is more important than “Superman” because it's setting up my legacy in this industry – something I'll be leaving behind for my kids. I just want them to be just as proud of “Stray” as I am.”

He is working on a second “Stray” miniseries and two titles for Action Lab Comics, including a book about Harry Houdini.

Comic book fan Roger Humphrey, 31, of Sharpsburg said he has been reading “Stray” for the last three months and is a big fan of Delsante's work. Humphrey's enthusiasm for the author clearly showed when he learned that Delsante was going to be at the New Dimensions Comics in the Pittsburgh Mills mall while he was shopping.

“His work is really good and has an old-school feel to it,” Humphrey said. “They are like comic books I used to read when I was a kid — and that's awesome. It's a superhero book that isn't like all the others because the characters are more human and relatable because they're dealing with real-life situations.”

Humphrey said he first heard about Delsante's work during a an earlier visit to New Dimensions when the author was doing a book signing.

“Most of the time, you have to go to conventions, wait in long lines, and pay to get comic book writers to sign anything. But he came in and did it all for free,” Humphrey said. “He's just a really nice guy who is a talented writer.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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