Local artist hopes new book “chops” to the top

Published 7:07 pm Monday, April 13, 2015

Clanton resident Don Castillo has recently released a new book of "karatoons" about The Karate Whisperer, pictured here.

Clanton resident Don Castillo has recently released a new book of “karatoons” about The Karate Whisperer, pictured here.

One local artist is hoping his latest creation can provide fun for the whole family.

Don Castillo of Clanton has recently put together a book that combines cartoons and stories in a way that looks to appeal to fans of all ages.

“It’s fun for the whole family,” Castillo said. “It gives morals and philosophies. It has animals that talk.”

Castillo said the idea for the stories came from a friend he met who runs the National Sport Karate Museum in Houston, Texas.

“A couple of years ago, I started doing work for Gary Lee,” Castillo said. “I’ve always done martial arts related cartoons, (and he) came up with a lot of ideas. That meeting with Gary, that was a great experience, and I met a lot of martial artists, some real legends of the sport.”

Castillo said Lee began bouncing around ideas, including coming up with cartoon versions of some of Lee’s friends—who happen to be some of the more prominent people in the world of martial arts.

“They’re acquaintances of his,” Castillo said. “He wanted me to make characters, so I’d get photos of them and stylize them.”

Castillo said the characters based on friends of Lee’s serve to help out the title character, who has a penchant for getting in a little over his head.

“Mainly, the Karate Whisperer gets in trouble and takes the brunt of the jokes,” he said. “The other characters play the straight man.”

While the books present a well-rounded cast of characters, Castillo said the Karate Whisperer that readers will become familiar with through the book has evolved over time.

“I worked on the character two years ago, but it didn’t really go anywhere,” he said. “The Karate Whisperer wasn’t conceptually complete. They didn’t look very polished. Over time, I started drawing digitally, and they came out cleaner.”

Castillo said the opportunity to put a book of “karatoons” was great, but said he and Lee felt the character could go even farther.

“(We’re) hoping to get someone to step up and do animation to pitch it as a TV series,” he said. “The character’s fun, and no one’s done anything like (this). The only thing you can reference is Hong-Kong Phooey. I think it’s a good time for (the character), and I’d definitely be interested in taking it further.”

For more information on the book, such as how to order, www.amazon.com/Karate-Whisperer-Karatoons-Collectors-Edition/dp/1508837600