Envision a place in which the souped-up domain of superheroes is intertwined with the dread realm of zombies. The result would be something like “Phoenix Run,” a comic book world in which the undead are gifted with abilities that exceed the limitations of ordinary humanity.
The story takes place in a gritty metropolis called New Seattle, a place where superheroes and zombies exist and everyone is infected with the deadly Z-strain – something that resulted from the government creation of a drug called “Z Nano” that was meant to enhance the human body in order to create a race of “superhuman” peace keepers. The enterprise, however, does not go according to plan and the result is more of a hell than a utopia.
The creative force behind this world of the imagination is Andy “TJ” Walker, a home-grown Tacoman who grew up steeped in the fantastical territories of the mind conjured up by comic books. While in junior high and high school, Walker first started to create his own comic books. He recounts how he and his friends would be at Kinko’s Copy Centers late into the night printing out DIY comic books that they would sell to school friends.
Noticing a change in direction in the music and film industries, Walker enrolled in Bates Technical College and turned his focus toward digital media and filmmaking. Bolstered by new skills, Walker turned his nascent enterprise, called JWalk Entertainment, in a new direction and now creates “augmented reality” comic books.
“Phoenix Run” is one such project. Not simply a comic book, it has evolved into a web series, made with live actors using high quality film making techniques. The print version of the comic book can be super charged by use of a free a phone app (look up “Phoenix Run Series App” on your phone’s App Store). The app allows a reader of the comic book to hold a smart phone up to the page and watch the pictures in the comic book come to life.
The web series of films of “Phoenix Run” (visit http://www.facebook.com/PhoenixRunShow/ to get more information) was created by Walker and directed by Rick Walters, who is part of the creative team behind the overall, multi-platform project. All three platforms – film, print and phone app – are interwoven in order to generate and enhance one’s experience of the grim and edgy world inhabited by super zombies. New media technologies are used in service of more effective story-telling. By approaching the story from a variety of angles, the creators have greater potential to root the reader/user more deeply within the story, inducing an immersive experience of the stories.
Walker is a man with a plan, a media mogul, a mover and a shaker, a multi-talented, multifaceted man using a multitude of media platforms to weave a whole universe into being. There he can tell his stories. In this undertaking, he was inspired by media conjurers like George Lucas, whose Star Wars Universe has become an imaginary place visited by millions around the globe.
On the Comic Con and film fest circuit, “Phoenix Run” has chalked up an impressive array of nominations and awards including a nomination for best international web series at the 2015 Raindance film festival in London; winner of the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 Seattle Web Fest, an Honorable Mention at the 2015 Geekie Awards; an award for Best Drama at the 2014 New Orleans Wizardworld Comic-Con and a Best Song award (for “Imperium,” under the category of protest music) at the 2015 Global Music Awards. It also won a GeekFest Film Festival gold medal at Stan Lee’s 2017 Los Angeles Comic Con.
On behalf of his media company, JWalk Entertainment, Walker has also pitched project ideas and story ideas to high profile production companies like Lionsgate (makers of the “Twilight Saga” and “The Hunger Games”) Dreamworks (makers of “Antz” and “Gladiator”) and Denver and Delilah (makers of “Monster” and “Atomic Blonde”). JWalk Entertainment also makes music, virtual reality productions and video games.
In addition to all of his work on projects like “Phoenix Run,” Walker and JWalk Entertainment have partnered with Home Life, Tacoma, a group home for boys. Walker shares his experience, knowledge and skills to help youth create and bring forward their own ideas via use of digital technology. Home Life youth have created promotional posters for “Phoenix Run” and the group hosted a special screening of “Phoenix Run” at a local theater during opening week of the cinematic block buster “The Force Awakens.”
Walker is doing his part to put Tacoma on the map of the entertainment industry.
For more on Walker and his many projects, visit facebook.com/JwalkEntertainment.