Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Spiralmind


Daniel Mendez, Staff Reporter

Spiralmind may not be known to much of America, but the comic book hero is a legend in the Southwest and in his hometown. Spiralmind, also known as Ben Landry, is an engineer by day and a Jewish, werewolf/demon-fighting, high tech superhero by night.

Spiralmind’s story began on the eve of Landry’s bar mitzvah, when he witnessed the demonic possession and loss of his mother, leaving him orphaned.

After being raised by religious figures with a heavy focus on academics, Landry joined the CIA’s Special Operations Group, and after a few close calls he was given a job by Conrad Industries, a large military-manufacturing conglomerate.

With some of his experimental crime-fighting devices and his ability to witness past and future events, Landry sets out to investigate the higher rate of exorcisms and higher crime rate, giving birth to Spiralmind.

Breaking the fourth wall, Spiralmid has a reputation in El Paso. The creators behind the superhero are actually two UTEP alumni—Benito Perez, 48, and Matthew Rothblatt, 45, who are both engineers working for the government.  The Jewish superhero was born as a stress relieving side project after Perez and Rothblatt got some horrible grades once during their college years.

At first, the two engineers ran into trouble because at the time the comic book scene wasn’t as popular as it is today before superhero films started getting distributed and commercially acclaimed and before the rise of comic book stores in El Paso.

Instead of actual comic book stores and clubs, it was little groups of people who treated their events like art exhibits. When they had the idea for Spiralmind, they resorted to research on how old school, independent comic books got their start.

“They (influences) really weren’t active when we first started because we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Rothblatt said. “We wanted to model after somebody and just copy it–or help us, show us, share the wealth.”

In the same vein as how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started out, Perez and Rothblatt went to different stores around the area and attempted to sell ads within the pages of their first issue. After Spiralmind was introduced in a successful eight-page premier, the first issue released during the winter of 2008.

“You have to basically go out and sell yourself,” Perez said.

The now defunct Black Market bar, formerly located on Robinson Street, backed the duo from the beginning. They identified the former owner Austin Allan as a mentor, whose words of encouragement always served as a bastion of encouragement. Allan was influential to the point where issue No. 3 was named after the bar.

“He gave us the confidence early on. Just supporting the idea to go into issue two. (We) would go and hang out there come up with ideas there. We have a lot of cool history with that bar. It was nice to name issue three after them,” Rothblatt said. “Words of encouragement go a long way when you’re trying to start something like this.”

Even now the duo’s biggest hurdle is distribution. They both have government jobs that eat into the time needed to successfully grow their company, Phi3 Comics. However, the engineers make the best of it seeking different comic cons to attend across the Southwest.

“The way we’ve been doing it is going to comic cons whenever we can, El Paso, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Austin, Denver, Phoenix and San Diego,” Rothblatt said. “We haven’t had a table, but I take a bunch of books and sell them in line. I’ll be promoting it, I’ll have a shirt and my backpack has a Spiralmind sticker and a little thing hanging out. People stop and ask, ‘hey what’s that’ and I’ll be like ‘hey it’s my comic book.’ Pitch it to them right there and that’s how I’ve sold several sets in line. In crowds of thousands, someone shouts ‘hey Spiralmind dude.’”

Not being able to secure a booth at any of the conventions has not been a deterrent for Rothblatt and the marketing of the Spiralmind character.

“I prefer it because I feel like I’m a mobile comic con booth. Everyone else is stuck in their booth waiting for people to walk by and maybe get ignored because of the celebrities next to them,” Rothblatt said.

Although the current era of comic books and superheroes have evolved into Netflix series and movie franchises as well as comics, Perez and Rothblatt see those same aspirations with their character in mind.

The duo has actively shopped around a screenplay that they hope they will get to see the light of day soon, although Spiralmind has already made his television debut on three separate occasions. The first appearance was in “Goats,” a film starring Vera Farmiga. The second appearance happened in the Syfy TV movie “Lavalantula”—where both creators make an appearance as well—and the anthology film “Tales of Halloween.” 

Rothblatt and Perez have had a specific vision for the kosher crusader’s feature debut since the early stages of the character.

“As soon as we started getting deep into writing and getting creative, next thing you know Nolan’s Batman comes out,” Rothblatt said.  “And we saw it at different times and we said, yeah this is the direction where we’re heading. It wasn’t like a superhero film, how it feels more grounded in real-world stuff, but it was exciting to see everything grow from there.”

They also have aspirations of creating a motion comic and releasing it by the time the Las Cruces International Film Festival rolls around. They commissioned Christian Shehan—the illustrator of their next issue, Spiralmind Mezmeriza—to work on the animation.

In addition, to other graphic mediums for their character, they are also partnering up with local company Green Octo for the distribution of Spiralmind Sapphire, a beard oil to go along with the release of the newest issue.

For more information about Phi3 Comics, visit http://phi3comics.com/.

Follow Daniel Mendez on Twitter @dmendez24