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Shades of Green: Creating a superhero takes time, talent and a little soap

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Josť Mesarina

Building service worker José Mesarina and The Unbelievable Laundry Detergent Man travel to comic conventions around the country.

“Shades of Green,” a column on environmental issues related to the UIC community, appears monthly in UIC News.

Disguised as a mild-mannered building service worker in the Clinical Sciences North building, José Mesarina spends his days handling recyclable materials to ensure proper sorting and collection.

In his other life, he is an underground hit in the world of comic book conventions.

Mesarina has drawn for the Chicago Journal and Nitty Gritty News, freelanced comic strips and private commissions, and self-published nine issues of his comics. He works for Instant Press Comics and Grubmaster Studio, both indie comic companies in Chicago.

So far, big publishers have not picked up his work, although his son, Nino Angelo, who shares his love of drawing and storytelling, was published in Archie comics.

“When he was 9, he sent a drawing to Fan Art that was published globally!” laughs Mesarina.

His tough-on-crime hero, The Unbelievable Laundry Detergent Man, was first created as a gift for a friend as a spoof on The Amazing Spider Man.

“I enjoyed the original idea so much, I decided not to give it as a gift and self-publish it. I think I gave a wallet instead,” Mesarina recalls.

“Laundry Detergent Man gained super-powers when forced by criminals to drink laundry soap, and can change into any kind of soap, but fabric softener can kill him. So many kids believe that it’s real, I had to put a disclaimer in so I don’t get sued.”

Mesarina’s latest comic convention appearance was at Summit City Comic Con in Fort Wayne, Ind., last month.

“I have a small fan base that follows me from fair to fair,” he says. “They want to get the latest issues.”

Laundry Detergent Man himself sometimes appears at conventions.

Mesarina will be guest of honor at a show organized by the Dil Pickle Club Aug. 7 at the Hideout, a legendary tavern on Chicago’s North Side.

“Actors will play out the story,” he says.

“There are many other people on campus who publish their own books — med students, engineers. If you love doing it, don’t give it up. It will haunt you if you put your dream away,” Mesarina says.

“Take my son, since age 3, he has been drawing. He now makes fold-up books and sells them and his sketches. People see him as a ‘cute factor,’ attracting people to our table at cons. He makes enough to buy his own toys, treats and save some.”

What’s next for Laundry Detergent Man? Issue 5 is ready to go!

Find out more about the books and the Dil Pickle event by contacting Jose Mesarina at jrmesarina@yahoo.com

• Kate Yoshida is program coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.

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