Cancer survivor draws on real-life battle for superhero comic

We've seen superheroes face all sorts of obstacles, and one man is showing how comics can face down a real-world threat: cancer. Writer/artist Joe Martino has been creating comics since at least 1996, when he launched his independent series Shadowflame. But when he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma cancer, it became an uphill battle to keep doing what he loved. And now he's using those events as the basis for a superhero series called The Mighty Titan.

“It was a tough decision to take some of my personal experiences and put them to paper in order to entertain and possibly allow people a glimpse of what some of us go through while battling this potentially deadly disease,” Martino said in a press release.

"[The Mighty Titan] essentially takes my cancer (and other experiences) and wraps them in a superhero shell," Martino wrote on his Kickstarter page for Issue 2. "This isn't autobiographical. I have researched and talked with other cancer survivors to try and get the feeling of what other people have experienced."

These experiences are the basis for the titular hero Titan, whom Martino describes as essentially invulnerable. However, the story finds his alter ego doesn't have such protection. The idea of an undefeatable superhero being brought down by a deadly disease isn't new to comics, but Martino's use of his real-life experiences adds an extra touch of authenticity and hopefulness to this heartfelt story.

"How we deal with [cancer] defines us. How we live with this strengthens us. What we lose is innocence and the loss of a clear mind," Martino's Kickstarter reads. "[The Mighty Titan] is my epitaph. This is my way of dealing. This is my way of helping others understand what it feels like to be invunerable... And then, one conversation, one sentence later ... never feeling that way again."

After raising funds to publish the first issue earlier this year, Martino is back with a second issue -- and a second Kickstarter to pay for it. To date he's raised $5,633 (double his original target), with stretch goals including original prints, extra comics and other features relating to Martino and his book. He has many people behind his cause, both in terms of donors and artistic contributors: Bryan Hitch has just revealed the cover he's done for the second issue, joining the likes Jerry Ordway, John Byrne and Bob McLeod for the project.

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