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Fitch grad built career on comics

January 20, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

What started with a haircut, ended with a career that Chris Yambar is very pleased with. He not only gets to read the comics, but is writing them as well.

Yambar grew up in Austintown, the son of steel worker David Yambar. At a young age, his father would take him to G.C. in the Mahoning Plaza for haircuts.

"He told me if I sat still for the barber, he would buy me a comic book," Yambar said.

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Always willing to show his artistic nature in real life is comic book legend Chris Yambar.

He still recalls the first one that introduced him to the world of comic books. It was a Casper the Friendly Ghost comic that he still has in his collection today. He said that started it all. He moved from Casper into more adventurous characters like Batman, Tarzan, and Hot Stuff comics.

When Yambar moved into middle school at AMS, he began looking at the comics from a different perspective. He began to question how the comics were made. When he entered sixth grade, he formed his first comic book company he named Yambar Comics. Yambar would write the stories and a classmate drew the panels. Another classmate helped assemble the comics and they were sold at lunch time. Yambar and his associations took all the money they earned at the end of the school year and bought ice cream. The summer brought an end to the middle school entrepreneur's first endeavor. Recently, Yambar said he saw one of those comic books titled, "Mad Bomber's Comic Fair" on eBay that sold for nearly $300.

As he continued his career into high school, he enrolled in the MCCTC commercial art classes so he could refine his artistic skills. He also continued the quest of how the comic book market worked.

"In life, everyone is a phone call away," Yambar said. "I was calling people in the industry just to find the answers to my questions."

After graduating from Fitch in 1979, his goal was to go on to an art school. Unfortunately, the money wasn't there to cover the costs, so he continued doing what he loved and turned into a pop artist in 1987. He sold his work in galleries and had buyers from 13 different countries showing an interest in his talent. That move was paying the bills, but was getting tiring.

"After my first 1,500 paintings, I decided to take a break," Yambar said.

He turned back to his original passion and came up with a a comic character named Mr. Beat. Based on a beatnik, the comic took off and before Yambar knew it, he was traveling the country promoting it.

"Mr. Beat was my Mickey Mouse," he said. "Once you find the mouse, you're in the house."

Yambar sent Mr. Beat coffee mugs to key players in the art world and managed to draw the attention of the publisher of The Simpsons. Yambar got a phone call from Bongo Comics, asking him to write for the The Simpsons comic books.

"The company said they were looking for writers," Yambar said. "When they asked me, I thought they were pulling my leg. I have now been writing for them for 12 years."

To Yambar it has been a fun ride, from that first comic book after the haircut, to living his dream. It even changed the one person in life he wanted to make proud, his father.

He said his dad was the old-style steel mill worker who was in the mindset that one got a job in the mill, got married, bought a home, and raised a family. Afterwards came retirement with a good pension and enjoying what time you have left.

Yambar said when he was younger, his father often would act disappointed that his son did not want to follow in his footsteps. It wasn't until Yambar had put in several years and started bringing in decent money that his father accepted the fact that his son was chasing a dream. Although Yambar's father passed away about 10 years ago, he said he did leave this world with a sense of pride in what his son had accomplished.

"He told me once than when you stand before the world as successful in life, you honor me," Yambar said, "My biggest payoff in all of this was that he was proud of what I did."

Yambar said his next challenge is being on the front line of comics entering the digital age. He said in the next few years he expects to see big advancements on this path and he plans to be a pioneer.

He still does have a collection of around 5,000 paper comics dating back to those haircut years. He said that was whittled down from around 30,000 total throughout his life.



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