What if Spider-Man had lived in medieval times?
The answer can be found in a new book that was self-published by 2021 Calhoun High School graduate Sebastian Otalora. The 19-year-old Merrick native has been working on a book since he was in middle school, and in January he finished “A Champion’s Odyssey.”
Otalora is a first-generation Colombian immigrant with a passion for the arts, including drawing, writing and graphic design. He was drawn to animation in middle school, and his love of comics led him to start the book.
“As a kid, I used to draw comics because, to me, it is the easiest form of storytelling from a childhood perspective,” said Otalora, who is now taking computer science courses at Farmingdale State College and working part-time. “And then as I grew up, I would just want to create these stories.”
He has studied color theory, and recently he has gotten involved in photography and video making. “A combination of all that just kind of made me want to make my own story,” he said.
“A Champion’s Odyssey” is the first of 12 books Otalora is planning. It is an adventure-fantasy that takes place in medieval times, whose main character is named Esmond. Otalora was inspired to write it by two childhood favorites — Spider-Man, the Marvel superhero, and the video game series “The Legend of Zelda.”
“The whole idea is that Esmond stumbled upon this ancient godlike power from an ancient hero,” Otalora said. “He wrestles with the coming-of-age and the responsibility of trying to be a heroic presence in his community.”
His target audience, Otalora said, is teenagers and young adults. “In the first book, I introduced the main characters,” he said. “Alex, who is a good friend of Esmond; Zurk, a vigilante; and there’s Gizmo, who’s the first villain of the series.”
Otalora hasn’t mapped out all 12 books yet, but he plans for each book to play off the last to form a complete saga. He has many more characters planned, and said that his close friends inspired the main characters.
“Alex is based on a good friend that I used to have a while ago,” he explained. “Zurk is based on a current friend I have right now, who I think is kind of wild. Almost all the stories are based on the theme of growing up, and on people that I have met in my life.”
Otalora is currently working on the second book. Taking classes, working and spending time with his girlfriend while also working on a short film, he has a lot on his plate, and is still figuring out how to manage it all, but he believes it helps his writing. “It’s a fine balance that I have yet to find,” he said. “I think, personally, that gives me more ideas for stories.”
His book has been a passion for a long time, and can take a lot of time away from other parts of his life, but he has a tremendous support system around him. “My parents are in love with it,” he said of the project. “They got our personal family friend group to buy all the books and to support me. They really wanted to spread the word between their own friend groups.”
While Otalora does much of the writing and illustration himself, his friends copy edit for him, and help him form ideas. “I have my friend Zachary Kramer, and he mostly edits and looks over the material …,” Otalora said. “But besides that, I do the writing, I do the drawing and sketching. I do get my lovely friends, who I’ve dedicated the book to — my girlfriend and Zach — to bounce my ideas off of.”
Otalora describes his art as a unique style that doesn’t resemble most other comics. “A lot of my test readers have very much enjoyed the book,” he said, “which I’m so glad for.”
Information on the book can be found on his website, sebanimates.com.