Verdis Webb IV was a soon-to-be first-year student at Dougherty Family College when he started his first day of orientation in 2018. His excitement soon turned to dread as he began to feel like he was back in elementary school, eating lunch alone and not fitting in. He channeled those emotions into his favorite outlet, comic strip writing, and created “The Loner.” Webb is now a senior English major at the University of St. Thomas. He published his first story, “The Loner,” in November.
What brought you to DFC?
When I was a senior back in high school, we had a couple of people from DFC come in and talk to us. I still remember that day because they were talking about how easy it is to apply. After the presentation I ran out the room, grabbed a laptop from a different room and ran all the way back. I logged in and submitted my application then and there.
Why do you want to tell stories?
It’s always been a way to not only express myself, but to inspire other people.
When did your passion for writing first start?
In my last year of middle school, I participated in a writing competition and I won. I took my story that I wrote and went to the Minnesota Capitol and read it out loud. From that moment on, I knew that I liked writing and storytelling. I just didn’t know what stories I wanted to write.
Once I was in high school, I had an English teacher give me motivation and push me to go into comics. At the same time, I had a different English teacher, Ms. Erikson, push me toward writing because she saw how creative I was. Those experiences led me to say to myself, ‘Why not just combine both?’
What sparked your interest in comics?
Growing up, I loved Spider-Man. He’s my favorite fictional comic book character. I was first exposed to Spider-Man when I was 7. After that, I would go to the library in my elementary school and read Spider-Man comics. I would bring a notebook with me and write down other characters who showed up that I didn’t know, so that I could go read their comics next. The No. 1 thing about fiction that I love is that writers had to sit down and come up with these out-of-the-box ideas.
Tell us about your writing style.
When I’m writing, I like to bring in more aspects. If I am writing a superhero comic, I might go watch a reality TV show and a rom-com so that I can bring all of those aspects into the comic. At DFC I met all different types of people. I may want to use the personality of a guy I met in physics class for this type of character or a professor who talks mean would be a good villain. I am taking in the experiences I see around me to take pieces of, ‘OK, that could work here, that can work there’ and try to figure it out like a puzzle.
Could you tell us about “The Loner”?
During orientation at DFC, I felt lonely. I was feeling in a mood and I started writing my comic strip, ‘The Loner.’ For me, comic books and writing are my way of expressing myself. The message of the whole story is that everyone has their own way of expressing themselves.
What made you decide to continue at St. Thomas after your two years of DFC?
After I went to DFC, I wanted to continue at St. Thomas and I am currently a senior majoring in English, but specifically creative writing.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I just hope that I’m working somewhere that I’m able to tell stories and inspire people. I hope that one day my stories inspire someone else to do something that they may not have been able to do or accomplish otherwise.
A note about the author: Fatima Abdurahman, a student at Rosemount High School, and Allison Brodin, a student at Mounds View High School, are participants in the ThreeSixty Journalism program. A version of this article was first published by ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas that uses the principles of strong writing and reporting to help diverse Minnesota youth tell the stories of their lives and communities.