POWELL — In 2017, “The Owl from Powell” cartoon began making the rounds on Facebook, providing laughs while also bringing awareness to issues facing the local community. Now, the owl has become published as creator John Marefka announced a book featuring the owl and addressing all things related to the COVID-19 pandemic is currently being printed.
Pre-orders for “Caring COVID-19 Comics” are currently being accepted, with the book expected to ship in early August. The book includes more than 45 original comics, which Marefka began compiling in March through June as the outbreak swept across the country. Topics ranging from social distancing to wearing masks, and plenty more pertaining to the virus, are covered in the comics.
“My cartoon, ‘The Owl from Powell,’ was the perfect vehicle to reach Ohioans during the initial months of the pandemic,” Marefka states in a press release for the book. “The owl is a droll one, a real wiseacre. He always gets the laughs. And he wanted to provide smiles and laughs to relieve a bit of stress during this crisis.”
In addition to the owl, Marefka said there are four little buckeyes that appear throughout the comics and any other types of animals needed to get the point across.
The owl comics originally began as a fun way to address environmental concerns and the amount of development happening in the city of Powell, Marefka told The Gazette. From there, he began doing the cartoon on various human observations from the owl’s point of view. When the pandemic began, Marefka saw an opportunity to use the cartoon to “bring a little bit of joy to everyone,” as well as a way to thank Dr. Amy Acton, the former Ohio health director, and Gov. Mike DeWine for their leadership.
Having spent time as an advertising art director, graphic designer, and an illustrator, Marefka said the “Owl from Powell” comics were a way to still maintain a creative outlet.
“It’s time-consuming, each comic takes around four hours,” Marefka said. “But the thing I like the most about doing it is it’s a really good way to get a point of view across and still be creative since I’m not employed as a creative person anymore.”
Marefka said he got the idea for publishing a book from Rachel DiMaggio, a fellow member of a popular Amy Acton Facebook page, who suggested he put the comics into a book to be given to Acton as an expression of thanks for her work during the pandemic.
“I thought they were doing a great job, and they had addressed the issue with such compassion and really seemed to care what was best for Ohio,” Marefka said. While there is no shortage of support for Acton or DeWine in the comics, Marefka said he makes it a point to avoid being political in the comics.
Asked what he hopes people will draw from the book, Marefka said it was important to him not to make light of the seriousness of the virus, but also to generate some smiles to accompany awareness and education throughout the comics.
“It’s not really a funny subject; we have lost a lot of people,” Marefka said. “I want to be really supportive and dignified about that, that it’s not funny. It’s a serious thing, yet I hope people take away that they can be educated on how we should be reacting to this (pandemic) while bringing a little smile to their faces. Because everything is just so whacked right now.”
To learn more about “The Owl from Powell” or to place a book order, visit www.theowlfrompowell.com.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.