Digest>Archives> June 2004

Comic Books and Capt’n Eli

Add Up To Root Beer

By Timothy Harrison


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Jay Piscopo, the creator of Capt’n Eli’s ...
Photo by: Tami Kennedy

Shipyard Brewing of Portland Maine has always been ahead of its time, but this time they’ve outdone themselves.

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Through their Capt’n Eli Root Beer, which is one of the few root beers bottled in Maine, they have become the only root beer in the nation to launch a daily comic strip and accompanying book, “The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli.” Most notably, the companion Web site, www.captneli.com, is the first daily Web comic to hail from Maine.

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Captneli.com is a Monday-through-Friday daily Web comic that revives the spirit of the daily adventure comic strip — updating classic themes for a new audience. “The stories bring back the feeling of childhood adventure when comics were a nickel, you could buy root beer floats at the corner drug store soda fountain, and your imagination could propel you anywhere,” said Jay Piscopo, the creator and artist of Capt’n Elis adventures. This story is designed to appeal to all ages and the Web comic is free. People can sign up for the daily story page to be emailed directly to them. As word has spread, subscribers have signed up from Maine, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Florida, and California.

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The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli features the adventures of a highly resourceful 11 year-old boy inventor with unique nautical abilities. He builds his own submarine, invents a root beer machine, teaches his dog Barney how to tie maritime knots, and has a 200 year old parrot who speaks 70 languages. Eli and his companions travel the world solving maritime mysteries and meeting new friends along the way, including: The Seasearchers, Mondo the Blue Whale, and the mysterious Commander X.

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“We’ve been brewing Capt’n Eli’s for years,” remarked Fred Forsley, president of The Shipyard Brewing Company. It’s a great root beer that’s just fun to drink. The Web site and comic book are a way to share the fun.” This tried-and-true old-fashioned addition to the Shipyard family is named after Fred Forsley’s father, who loved root beer, and his son who he named after his father.

The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli comic book and Web site feature 2D characters combined with 3D backgrounds using Piscopo’s unique signature style. “The production values are great and the story moves right along,” noted Rick Lowell, owner of Casablanca Comics, the exclusive comic shop carrying this book. “The 3D artwork is crisp and the story is told in a very direct style. It reminds me of Johnny Quest from when I was growing up. The storyline combines science fiction with fantasy in a really cool and engaging way.”

Piscopo teaches cartooning to high school students at the Maine College of Art and was the co-creator of the internationally distributed comic book series, The Scrap City Pack Rats, which he created in partnership with Goodwill Industries. Together, between 1990 and 1993 they published a 6-issue series that received national media attention for its groundbreaking approach and subject matter.

Piscopo finds that root beer and adventure comics are a natural fit. “Coincidently, they were both developed in the United States during the late 1800’s. Root beer is the original American soft drink and the daily comic strip is a uniquely American art form.”

In 1876, America’s first commercial root beer made its debut at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. During this same time, the first cartoon weeklies made their appearance in American magazines and, by the early 1900’s, the daily comic strip was a true American convention.

“Aligning an adventure character with a product is a tie-in that harkens back to the old days of radio advertising,” continued Piscopo. “A good example is the association of Captain Midnight with Ovaltine. With Capt’n Eli, we create a certain amount of fun by having our character create a root beer machine as part of the story line.

By including this fantasy element, I believe we give people the opportunity to use their own imagination. When you drink a root beer you’re in that sub with Eli. It becomes your doorway into that world.”

This story appeared in the June 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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