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Southern Arkansas University comic artist gets kudos for 'FantomeStein' creation

Southern Arkansas University

Southern Arkansas University student Beka Duke is garnering national praise for her artwork.

She was named runner-up recently for “Best New Webcomic of 2015” by Comic Alliance, an comic book fan critique site. Duke, 23, is an aspiring story artist and imagined the character “FantomeStein,” a play on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, while studying for finals last year and listening to musicals she loved as a child.

“I started drawing Frankenstein’s monster as the Phantom of the Opera and I posted it online jokingly – like, ha what if? -- and it started to get hundreds of comments, and people were asking me if I was making it into a comic,” Duke said.

Duke allowed herself one week to draft a storyline. It came to her. She continues to work on FantomeStein and has developed a following on social media sites with backing from the artist crowdfunding platform Patreon.

Credit Beka Duke
A riff on "The Breakfast Club" with FantomeStein in the mix.

SAU art and design professor Scotland Stout recognized her gift. He’s working with Duke to refine the FantomeStein story as a student in his graphic novels class.

“She is an exceptional jest ‘drawist.’ She draws so fast so the line that she has on there is very fluid. Characters have a lot of depth to them -- this three-dimensionality -- which comes through in her sketching and also compositionally,” Stout said.

Duke, the oldest of seven children, grew up mostly in Israel. Although she was very young, she remembers car bombs going off on her street in Jerusalem during the violent Second Intifada. Today, she lives with her grandparents in Magnolia. She says life in Israel and the Deep South informed her art.

“As a military kid, you’re constantly being put into a new place and having to adapt. That’s gone straight into my art where I love to just sit and watch people. It’s opened my eyes to seeing how many different types of people there are in the world,” Duke said.

Duke says FantomeStein is inspired by Israeli and Middle Eastern culture. Her goal is to one day find a publisher for her graphic novel.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.