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SPRINGFIELD – Keshawn Dodds’ next steps as a writer and educator are publishing his first comic book and producing his first animated production, continuing the story of his Menzuo series.

Dodds is the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club Family Center in Springfield. He recently officially released his last two writing endeavors at an event at the club.

The author is a Springfield native who has served as Mayor’s Assistant to Mayor Charles Ryan and for 10 years as Director of Diversity and Community Engagement at American International College. In 2018 he received the Ubora Award.

He explained to Reminder Publishing that after writing four books in his sci-fi series Menzuo – which first started in 2003 – he hit a barrier: writer’s block. He decided to do two different projects to continue the story, a comic Menzuo: War at Home and an animated film Menzuo: Ground Zero.

Dodds said the half-hour film was the result of a year’s effort in teaching himself an animation program and directing the film himself. He laughed as he recalled that the effort had a large learning curve, saying that his characters might initially take the wrong path until he fully understood what he was doing.

Grants from the Springfield Cultural Council and the Community Foundation helped him fund the project.

The film can be seen online and Dodds used a number of locals for the voices, including publisher and spoken word artist Darryl Moss. Dodds provided two of the voices himself. Watch the half-hour production for free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKYlmus_z18.

Both the film and comic book advance the story and are a “bridge” to the story in his fifth book, he said.

He said “it was really fun” to work with an artist on the comic book. This experience was new to him, as he said he had to “teach myself” to write a screenplay for the artist, who breaks up the story into four to six panels per page for 22 pages. He used a Kickstarter campaign to make this project a reality.

Dodds said at the film’s premiere that he “always wanted to do a comic book.” He donates the sale of the comic to St. Jude’s Hospital.

His book series tells the story of an 11-year-old superhero who draws his powers from the sun. His intention was to create “a great tool” to encourage reading.

Inspired by friends and family to achieve his goals, Dodds said, “The only obstacle is you.”

His novels and comics are available on his website https://www.newageofheroes.com/.

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