GCC student James Compton, now 20 years old, started at GCC when he was 16. Though English 101 was his first class, little did he know writing might become his future vocation.
Now working toward an associate degree in general studies, Compton just joined the certificate program for creative writing at the invitation of Professor John Ventola.
Compton says his experience at GCC has been awesome. But while classes are going just fine, it’s his creative writing that holds the most meaning for him. Though he has been writing for a long time, his first book was published in October 2010. He has been writing professionally ever since, and now has a series of published books, under the pen name of Michael Morgan.
The focus of Compton’s opus is a fantasy character called “Cat-Boy.” Created while Compton was still a child, the heroic Cat-Boy battles a succession of dysfunctional villains, including an escaped video-game avatar, a rogue superhero named Tiger-Man, the former superhero Joshua (who evolved into a super villain) and Curtis Cortes, The Mafia King, with his headquarters “somewhere” in Glendale, though no one knows where. A top-secret military base located in Glendale also figures into the plot.
Not surprisingly, Compton comes from an animal-loving household that currently includes six cats and a fish. He got his first cat when he was seven; Cat-Boy evolved from there. He also cites his mother, Beth Compton, also a writer, as an influence. Among her books is a police book, “Did you say an alligator? And other true stories from 911.” She also ghost-wrote Doli Sadger Redner’s holocaust book, “1938.”
Compton also enjoys the work of others. When he was much younger, he followed Brian Jacques (“Mossflower,” from the Redwall adventure series), Erin Hunter (“Warriors” series) and Bill Wallace (“Upchuck and the Rotten Willy,” a humorous story of a friendship between a cat and a Rottweiler, told from the cat’s point of view). Later, he discovered Rick Riordan, and, more recently, Stephen King (“The Shining”).
Conversely, Compton has developed a modest but enthusiastic following for his own work. Though created for children ages 8 to 14, the series attracts adult readers as well. One notorious fan is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Compton was three years old when the sheriff saw Compton’s mother’s police book and contacted her for a copy.
As Compton developed the “Cat-Boy” series, Arpaio became one of his biggest supporters. On his social-media sites, Arpaio posted a picture of himself, Compton and Compton’s book. “Sales have really been booming since then,” said Compton.
He has finished four books in the Cat-Boy series, and is now working on the fifth. His success in publishing has boosted Compton’s self-confidence. He also credits the positive feedback and encouragement he has received from GCC professors, including Ventola and Johnnie May.
Compton recalled a classroom incident in which Ventola assigned a fiction-writing project. Ventola urged his students to avoid zombie stories, calling them “a cliché.” That was all Compton needed to take up the challenge. He promptly wrote a story about Cat-Boy invading Ventola’s classroom, and writing a zombie story as a protest. “It was kind of a story within a story, in which professor Ventola himself created a zombie,” said Compton. Antics ensued, including an appearance by Herman Munster and a call to police, placed by none other than Ventola, who in the story was ultimately taken in by the cops.
Despite having warned his students against featuring zombies as subject matter, professor Ventola came around, awarding Compton with an A+ grade and conceding that he was happy to make a cameo appearance in the Cat-Boy adventures. Ventola also suggested to Compton that he submit another story he wrote in class, “My Real Santa Claus,” to an anthology. The result? A $50 prize and a free copy of the published book, “The Santa Claus Project.”
Along with his own classes at GCC, Compton enjoys participating in some of the special events, like the monthly poetry readings in the student union. There, he occasionally has read some of his own poetry, mainly pieces that originated as college assignments in Johnnie May’s poetry class. “Jimmy has a great sense of humor and is a pleasure to have in class,” said May.
With six or seven classes to go before earning his associate degree, Compton is looking forward to finishing at GCC next spring or summer. He hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree after that, most likely at Arizona State University. He’s considering Journalism as a field, though he’s not aiming at a specific career yet. His main goal is to get a job that pays enough that he can continue his publishing ventures.
Regardless of where he ends up working in the future, he sees Cat-Boy remaining an integral part of his life. “Cat-Boy is my passion,” he said. Compton says he has given free copies of the Cat-Boy books to some kids just to see their faces, and he hears from parents who themselves have become “hooked” by the stories and love it when their kids ask, “Can we read more Cat-Boy tonight?”
Though the series is going pretty well, Compton would like to see it take off. “I’ve already got story lines for seven more books; I don’t see the series ending,” he said. “I see it going on and on, kind of like The Simpsons.”