Former combat photographer Jose Torres can't tell you exactly what special forces unit he served with after joining the Army in 2009. Oh, and don't ask him to show you the photos he took while stationed in Afghanistan.
"Out of 12,000 photos I took [in combat], only four were released to the general public," the Nanty Glo resident says today.
No, Torres can't tell you a lot about his years in the military.
This page from comic book artist Josh Hood show interior art from the comic book series “Tilt/Shift,” which Hood is creating with Nanty Glo-based writer Jose Torres.
But he really wants to show you.
Torres and artist Josh Hood are the creators of "Tilt/Shift," a comic series which tells the story of a fictionalized combat photographer during a six-month tour in Afghanistan. ("Tilt/Shift" refers to a type of photographic lens that allows for extremely selective focus.)
"When I'd originally gone into the military, I had always thought that I might write about it," Torres, 31, said. "When I was over there ... the craziness, the thought of the work that we were doing. I got this weird impression that people didn't know what we were actually doing."
Kickstart the art
If you'd like to donate funds to the Kickstarter account for "Tilt/Shift," go to www.kickstarter.com and search for "Tilt/Shift." Backers can donate any amount, from $1 and higher.
Torres and Hood of Savannah, Ga., are attempting to finance their book through Kickstarter, a website which lets people pitch their ideas to the public and gain funds through donations. The pair are trying to raise $10,000 for full funding for the 12-issue series. The project went up on Kickstarter on July 1 and has already raised nearly $7,000. The Kickstarter drive ends on Sept. 28. Kickstarter projects must be fully funded by the end of the donation period or no money is transfered.
"We've got a good pace, and if we keep that pace, we should get fully funded," Torres said. "We've talked to some comics companies and we've talked to some literary companies, and we've had good [reactions].
"It's not that we can't get it published; it's that to do it the way we want to do it, and to tell it the way we want to tell it... [the companies] are used to doing things one way - the Superman, the Batman way."
Both men have previous experience in the industry, though both were out of the business when the idea of "Tilt/Shift" came up.
Shortly after his senior year of high school, Torres and a friend wrote and illustrated a comic book called "Heirs of Eternity" that was published by Image Comics, one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. After that, he says, "I spent my 20s writing comic books."
But Torres says that after his 26th birthday, he decided to join the Army. According to his bio on Kickstarter, he attended the Defense Information School, where he was named the Distinguished Honor Graduate of his Combat Photography Course, then was handpicked for the Special Missions platoon of the 55th Signal Company. He deployed to Afghanistan with a classified unit, under the Special Operations Command task force.
As a combat photographer, Torres was sent to some of the worst fighting in Afghanistan - "where things were particularly bad," he explained - armed with both his weapon and his camera.
"You take pictures of everything ... then the intel people get it," he said. "You have to be capable of managing in combat, but once everything is [done], you have to [document the scene]."
Torres served from January 2009 to February 2012.
When he got back and started thinking about a comic about his experiences, he contacted his friend Hood, an artist who had worked for both Marvel and DC Comics on such books as "The Spectacular Spider-Man," "Ghost Rider," "Superman: The Man of Steel," "The Flash" and "The Justice League." At the time, Hood was out of comics and making a good living doing commercial illustration.
"I sent it to him and said, 'You have a lot of professional experience, what do you think of this script?'" Torres said. "And he hit me back and said, 'Don't get an artist because I want to draw this.'
"I was really taken aback, because if you look at his resume, he's worked for everybody and with everybody."
Hood was blown away by the script for "Tilt/Shift."
"Within the first couple of pages, I knew I wanted to work on it," he said in a phone interview. "And I had only read the first issue. ... I was sketching within the first hour of getting the script.
"Most of the comics I'd done before were just silly, superhero stuff. There was nothing with real impact. ... Jose's work, the story he wanted to tell seemed like it actually had value. It felt like there was something important about it."
In drawing the story - he has the first book done already - Hood has many frames of reference, provided by the declassified photos of Torres and his former unit.
"He's got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them," the 39-year-old said. "Some of the stuff is just amazing. It's amazing imagery because you've got these guys just decked out in all this high-tech hardware, but they're moving through an area that is in the Stone Age. ... If I didn't know it was real, I'd think it was some kind of science fiction."
Walking the line between fiction and the highly classified reality can be difficult for Torres, who sends his scripts to his old platoon leaders and to a master sergeant in the Army Public Affairs office to have them cleared.
"When I got back, I talked to Josh and I said, 'I can't get into details, but there's a way of telling this to show what people are doing.'" Torres said.
"The blanket of saying it's fictionalized gives me some leeway."
With the Kickstarter funding looking promising, Torres says he's hoping to get the planned 12-issue series out by November.
"We're going for 12 24-page issues," he said. "We go [into combat] for about six months and I think that should cover that period of time."
Once it's in the public's hands, Hood thinks "Tilt/Shift" will be a hit with anyone who reads it.
"I think it's going to be received well, especially outside of normal comic book readership," he said.
"I think this is going to be one of those books that when people talk about comic books as literature, this is one of the things they're going to point to. ... This isn't his exact story, but this absolutely could have happened."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.