By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
For every Rocky, there are a thousand club fighters out there risking brain damage. And how many garage rockers have left school or quit their jobs with visions of Nirvana dancing in their heads? In the comic book business, the role model for all the independents, the archetypal underdog that defied the odds to become not just a successful comic book but a pop culture phenomenon, is that gallant green band of pizza-loving rogues, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, once upon a time Mirage was a small, independent publisher, making the rounds of conventions and autograph signings.
Rolando Matos knows that Turtle-level success is a long shot, yet he maintains a stoic optimism. "My father thinks I'm crazy," he admits. "He thinks what I'm doing is nonsense. My mother's more understanding, but I wouldn't say she really approves of it. And when I told my grandmother I was being interviewed for this story, she said, 'Are they gonna give you a job?'"
Black Tiger tortoise-steps forward, and Matos plugs away, working full-time as a security guard for FPL, pursuing a fine arts degree at FIU, drawing at night, and signing autographs and attending conventions on the weekends. The workaholic college senior sleeps an average of two hours per night; his idea of fun is attending his thrice-weekly kung fu class.
"I have to call TeleCompanions just to talk to a woman other than my mom," he admits sheepishly. "I have no social life. This book is my life."
Somewhere, crouched in the shadow of a building in the recesses of downtown Miami, a reclusive half-man, half-pit bull understands, and patiently awaits the day when he can come to Rolando Matos's rescue.