If you need a refresher from comics depicting morally upright superheroes for a change, consider checking out Fullerton-based indie publisher Trabajo Press. It’s currently two issues deep into its True Stories of OC series, in which controversial events in our county’s recent history are immortalized in comic form. Illustrated by Felipe Flores, the first issue covered the killing of Kelly Thomas; the second deals with police corruption in an issue fittingly titled The Great Santa Ana Drug Bust. That tale recounts the infamous May 2015 pot raid during which a team of SAPD officers busted into Sky High Holistic dispensary to shut it down for—according to cops—operating without a permit. Secret cameras revealed law enforcement eating up cookies and candy bars, laughing about “feeling high,” and cracking jokes at the expense of wheelchair-bound volunteer Marla James. The event made national news, and three of the cops are now facing criminal charges.
Flores captures the surveillance video’s contents in a gritty, noirish, black-and-white illustrative style reminiscent of Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes and Raymond Pettibon. But the 31-year-old says his immediate influences are more mainstream—Jack Kirby, Dave Gibbons and George Perez—with a “clean” and documentary-like style placing his genre as creative nonfiction. “I want these stories to be remembered, so that’s why I chose [to make] them,” Flores says. “Although, it’s not journalism; you should actually read the articles they came from.”
He memorializes these events in comics form to keep them in the public consciousness. “I want to draw things that are important to me and relevant to where I live and my community,” Flores says. “I chose these true-crimes stories where justice was somehow not served in one way or another.”
Trabajo Press will celebrate the debut of The Great Santa Ana Drug Bust with a gallery show at Hibbleton Gallery’s Bookmachine zine library. People can buy an issue and observe Flores’ hand-drawn pages. See you there!
The Great Santa Ana Drug Bust debuts at Bookmachine inside Hibbleton Gallery, 223 W. Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton. Fri., 6 pm. Check out more art by Flores at www.facebook.com/trabajopress.