Alter Ego: Reserve Citizen Airman is making his mark as a comic book writer
By Master Sgt. Mark Olsen
/ Published April 10, 2018
By day, he is a mild-mannered Reserve Citizen Airman wing executive officer.
By night, he is the mastermind behind “The Consultant” and “My Way.”
At first glance, Maj. Jason A. Sterr does not appear to be a comic book writer. His job as the executive officer for the Air Force Reserve’s 514th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, is certainly not one associated with the comic book and graphic novel industry.
That is until you get to his origin story. Spoiler alert: No parents shot, not the sole survivor of a doomed planet.
But we do get the crisis.
It started in 2011, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, where Sterr was the aircraft maintenance unit officer-in-charge of a KC-10 Extender maintenance team during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“We had just finished launching this major exercise. Our commander had come out and said there was no way you could do this,” said Sterr. “We did it. Everyone was laughing, clapping, patting themselves on the back.”
And then reality hits.
“You take that one moment to turn around and look at the absolute devastation that you left behind in order to get things done. You realize you aren’t done and you ask, ‘How much money do I have in my account? Who can I pay to clean this thing up?’”
It is that thought of whom Sterr could call that would become the basis for “The Consultant.”
“Growing up on superhero comic books, that was the one thing I wondered about: ‘Who does Superman pay to clean up after his messes?’” said Sterr. “So we finished cleaning up, slept for like 24 hours and then I immediately started writing.”
But we are getting ahead of ourselves; where does Sterr come by his writing talents?
If this was a comic book, the secret identity, as well as the big city tropes, would be subtly woven in to the story. By the way, tropes are common themes used as storytelling building blocks in comic books.
This, however, is reality. No secret identity here, but there is the big city trope. It turns out Sterr received his bachelor of arts degree in investigative journalism from Columbia College in Chicago. Combined with a year and a half of screenwriting in Hollywood for Warner Brothers and the mystery around Sterr’s writing skills is explained. No loose ends.
After Sterr completed “The Consultant” it sat and, with the exception of a tweak here and there, the story remained the same – a script, but no pictures to tell the tale.
Then in 2014 Sterr started working with former 514th wing member Charles D. Chenet who created and runs the non-profit Dare2Draw. D2D’s purpose is to get comic book and graphic novel artists, inkers, pencillers, letterers and writers into the industry. Sterr showed the D2D staff his script for “The Consultant” and they found it “darkly hysterical.” That gave him the motivation to get it published.
“I started shipping it around, found an artist I liked, paired up with an editor from Dark Horse and ran,” said Sterr. “It’s been released by Action Lab Entertainment through their Danger Zone imprint.”
The first issue came out in December 2017, and with issues two and three of the four-issue series out, “The Consultant” is a success. Sterr is currently writing the sequel.
“My dad taught me how to read with comic books. To see my own comic book show up on the newsstands is a lot of fun,” said Sterr.
“The story is about Marcus Greenberg. He is the Mr. Wolfe from Pulp Fiction (“I solve problems”) for a team of superheroes called the Guardians,” said Sterr. “This guy’s sole function is to keep these superheroes off the electric chair, off of death row.
“I took advantage of all the fan-boy tropes: How can anybody in a police force actually be okay with a man dressed up as a flying rodent with a teenage sidekick running around attacking the bad guys? How is it not child endangerment? Why isn’t the entire police force dedicated to bring this one guy down?”
This is where The Consultant comes in and cleans up the devastation and makes pesky little issues like dead sidekicks go away.
So is The Consultant Sterr’s alter ego? Not even close.
Despite the twists and turns of his career after graduating from Columbia, it was inevitable that Sterr would join the military.
“I come from a military family,” said Sterr.
Sterr earned his commission in 2008 through the Air Force Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He served on active duty from 2008 until 2013 when he transferred to the 514th and served as the operations officer with the 514th Maintenance Group, and later as the maintenance operations officer for the 514th Maintenance Squadron.
As the wing commander’s executive officer for the 514th AMW, Sterr is responsible for all wing programs and the execution of Air Force Reserve Command priorities.
And while his job keeps him busy, it hasn’t slowed down his writing.
Sterr’s next project is a story about the Chairman of the Board.
“‘My Way’ is a fictional retelling of Frank Sinatra’s time as a CIA assassin,” said Sterr. “What’s the best way to hide a hit man? In plain sight. You can’t get any more plain sight than Frank Sinatra in the 1950s, 1960s. The man owned the world.”
The story takes place beginning in the late ’50s through President John F. Kennedy’s administration and includes all the Rat Pack members.
Sterr has two other projects, but spoiler alert, can’t talk about them.
But with “The Consultant” out, Sterr’s alter ego is definitely a star to watch for in the comic book industry.
(Olsen is assigned to the 514th AMW public affairs office)