Hub Comics owner sees social change in local books

S.H. Bagley

When it comes to superheroes, you’re going to find that local comes first at Hub Comics.

At Hub Comics on Bow Street in Union Square, owner James Welborn has Somerville-based comic artists in the front of the store, and mainstream books in the back.

As soon as you walk in, self-published books catch your eyes on a shelf marked “Local.” This is where Welborn, a transplant from Las Vegas, puts the comic books written, drawn and published by city artists, among them “Kincaid,” a story published by local artists Curtis Lawson, Mariano Laclaustra and Pedro Sancho.

Welborn says locally produced comics paint a picture of the city by allowing artists to express themselves.

“When I walk into a comic shop, what makes me remember it is if they have local artists,” Welborn said.

“I’ve always been a local business person,” Welborn said while patting his dog, freshly shorn for the summer at Somerville Avenue’s Dogma.

“I try to spend all my money locally,” Welborn said. Candy bars rest on racks at the front of the store include Taza Chocolate, which is produced on Windsor Street.

But Welborn is not only connected to Somerville commercially. He also sees comics as a way to address social issues.

Comics allow artists to express their creators’ perspectives, Welborn said, in a public forum. “The people who put them out are younger people, more artistic people. It comes from a certain kind of perspective,” Welborn said.

“Kincaid,” a comic about gang life published by Somerville residents calling themselves Broken Soul Press, mixes stories about drugs, crime and the occult. Welborn said darker comics like “Kincaid” confront the city’s problems.

Comic creator and Somerville resident Curtis Lawson, who also serves as publisher of Broken Soul Press, said the idea of Kincaid came from people he knew growing up in the punk music scene. “I’ve seen people throw away their lives,” he said.

The character Kincaid, a tattooed, drug-addicted gang member, is attacked by members of a gang Lawson compared to the Illuminati, a legendary secret society. After the attack, Kincaid’s tattoos disappear and drugs don’t affect him. “I wanted to write something about someone who had wasted his whole life, and was given a second chance,” Lawson said.

And they can play this role in public, Welborn said. After reading some of the local publications, he contacted Teen Empowerment to see if at next year’s Youth Peace Conference organizers could feature comic art. He said allowing teens to express themselves publicly through comic books is just as important as expression through music and performance art. 

“I want people to express their issues,” Welborn said. “When it comes to local comics, if someone publishes something, and somebody reads something, it can start a discussion, get something going.”