It's been a year since an Orange County jury acquitted two ex-cops in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, but the tragic memory remains stained like the pool of blood left behind at the Fullerton transit center that night. Whether an exhibit at the Magoski Arts Colony, an Adolescents album cover depicting former policeman Manuel Ramos as a piñata head or "The Death of Kelly Thomas," a new comic book out by Trabajo Press, art is keeping the story alive.
"I wanted to make a comic about something that was relevant to me and my community," says comic book artist Felipe Flores. "I spend just about all of my time in Fullerton, so I was able to see the impact that the Kelly Thomas murder had made."
Flores heads Trabajo Press, the La Mirada-based indie cassette tape label turned DIY zine. It released "The Death of Kelly Thomas" this month. The comic book is striking in how evocative the strips retell the story of what happened that fateful encounter on July 5, 2011 from the Slidebar call to the Fullerton police to the brutal beating Thomas suffered by them afterward.
"I tried reading every article I could find on the murder," Flores says of his research. "OC Weekly was especially valuable." The comic book is based, in part, on trial transcripts. And then, of course, there's the surveillance footage that horrified the world.
"I watched the video of the beating way too many times and all it really did was make me hate humanity," Flores adds. He also took a trip to the Fullerton transit center to get a deeper sense of the scene itself.
"The Death of Kelly Thomas" is the first comic book by Flores. He was drawn to the story as he works with the developmentally challenged during his day job. "Kelly Thomas was clearly a schizophrenic man who was misunderstood," he says. Flores hopes to create more comics like his first that mark a departure from the fanzines Trabajo Press put out much of last year.
"It's a short non-fiction story about a violent murder and people who are supposed to be the good guys are the bad guys," Flores says. "Even though we lost, I think the event is going to continue to loom over the city and it shouldn't be diminished."
See another sample page from the comic below: