Federal Way teacher pens third issue of indie comic series

‘Nightstik’ is a superhero story decades in the making

It started around three decades ago with a garage sale and a box of comics — and now a Federal Way teacher and hobbyist comic-writer has published the third issue of his independent comic series “Nightstik.”

The launch party last month earned a visit from a modest crowd of fans at Midgard Comics, Games & More on South 336th Street in Federal Way, where author Toby Dycus shared the history of his crime-fighting character and reflected on the road that had brought “Nightstik” to life.

Dycus, who is also an English and drama teacher at Decatur High School, signed copies of the newly-released third issue for some of his current and former students along with the general public. Attendees also met and got signatures from the issue’s co-author and co-illustrator Stephen Prescott. The comic also enlists the creative talents of colorist Amy Mitchell.

“Nightstik” is the realization of a dream for Dycus, who doesn’t claim to have made the perfect comic. Instead, he’s done something most people never accomplish — publish a creative story, even just one, at all.


Tim Truman — aka Nightstik — is a rough-and-tumble, spit-and-blood superhero, and the comic is more suitable for young adults and grownups. Or as Dycus joked at Midgard during the signing: “It’s got swears.”

Like DC Comics’ “Shazam,” Nightstik is an immature, down-on-his-luck kid whose powers turn into a powerful adult form.

But unlike Shazam, “he can’t switch back,” Dycus said. Nightstik is thrown from the age 15 to 25 — essentially losing 10 years of his life — by the onset of his superpowers.

The seeds of the character were planted when Dycus, age 10 or 11, got a box of comics his mom bought at a garage sale.

Spider-Man, Frank Miller’s Daredevil, especially issue 181, and the G.I. Joe cartoon proved inspirational for a young Dycus, who spun those influences into the ninja-like, billy club-wielding Nightstick. However, that was until he learned a few other pop culture characters, including a Transformer, already bore the name “Nightstick.” So he dropped the C and “Nightstik” was born.

For years, Dycus made slow progress on the series in fits and starts. He’d remember it, draw a bit, re-draw it, and then forget about it for a while.

But it took major life events like the birth of his son in 2009 for Dycus to realize Nightstik’s story.

“Parents understand this: Your children teach you how to be an adult,” Dycus said. “So I thought, that’s the story. Here’s this guy who’s a superhero, but he’s a really bad superhero. He’s terrible at it. And a kid is going to show him how to be a hero, much the way my son was showing me how to be a father. That’s when the story clicked.”

Still, progress on the comic was slow. That’s where Dycus’ friend and Nightstik co-writer Stephen Prescott came in.

Prescott said he’s used to hearing people say, “I used to draw when I was younger, but then I quit. … and didn’t have the time for it.”

So he and other store regulars started hosting a draw club at Midgard, which Dycus began to visit around 2011.

“He brings up this character (Nightstik) he’s been working on since high school,” Prescott said. “He’s got about four pages done. I’m looking at it, and he keeps talking about it, and I’m like ‘Dude. You need to finish this. It doesn’t matter if it’s a masterpiece. You just gotta get it done.’”

Those draw club meetings proved an opportunity to run ideas by and get constructive criticism from other artists, like Prescott, and Dycus published the first issue the next year.

Issues 1 through 3, have all been stream-of-conscious, cobbled together storylines, Dycus said. Issue four, on which he and Prescott are now working, is the first in the series in which Dycus sat down and wrote out a plot. Issues five and six will be written by Josh Nelson, a former attendee of the draw club.

Dycus hopes to wrap up Nightstik’s story by Issue 10 and eventually collect the series into an omnibus volume. After that, Dycus said he’ll branch out to his next project with Prescott.


The path to publishing an independent comic isn’t easy, but Dycus and Prescott said it’s now a great time for those who care more about telling a story than they do striking it rich.

“The reason why I’m able to do this, is I don’t have to make it,” Dycus said. “I’ve been a teacher for 20 years. I have a living. … One of the reasons I can do all this is I have a very good day job, and I’m very lucky … to have the resources to afford nice gear, and print stuff. … For me it’s just fun. It’s a hobby. My only goal, financially, is that I pay for the printing.”

And modern technology, like art tablets and software that streamlines parts of the design process and makes mistakes easier to correct, have lowered the barrier to entry even more, the two said. Prescott can sketch pages during a flight, send them back and forth to Dycus, and the two can have a rough idea for the next few pages all before Prescott’s flight has landed — something that would have been mind-blowing 20 years ago.

For the dynamic duo, Dycus said, much of their creative process boils down to making each other laugh — “What if we did that?” or “Wouldn’t this be cool?” or “What’s the most infantile thing we can do?”

“‘What if?’ is a great way to go forward,” Prescott said. “Or go off the rails. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Sometimes, Prescott will pitch an idea or draw a few panels that put Dycus’ characters in absurd situations purely as a joke. Then, to his horror and delight, Dycus will call his bluff and find a way to weave it into Nightstik’s story.

“(He said) ‘I need a bunch of nasty, tough looking thugs at a bar,’ ” Prescott recalled. “I threw in a monkey, with a hat and a cigar. The son of a gun takes it and runs with it.”

Prescott also hopes to introduce a more serious character to the series through which he can explore “gender identity, corporate slavery” and other complex real-world issues.

It might sound like a tall order to fit a cigar-crunching, talking monkey in the same comic — but the artists said that’s just part of the fun.

For young artists dreaming of creating their own comics — or any piece of art — Dycus’ and Prescott’s advice was simple and timeless.

“Do it,” Dycus said. “Just go for it. Don’t listen to the little voice in your head that says ‘Mine doesn’t look like the one on the shelf.’ That’s the best part. Yours doesn’t look like the one on the shelf, and that’s the point. … If you’re waiting for it to be good enough, it never will be. As I tell my theater students, we don’t do theater when we’re ready. We do theater when it’s time.”

“You can’t do something so many times and not get better,” Prescott said. “You’re just going to get better. … Find someone you trust a lot, show it to them … they’re going to rip your stuff apart, but they’re going to show you what you got right. You’ll either redo it, or stick to your guns ‘cause you like what you did. And you’ll go on to the next story.”

You can buy a copy of Issues 1 through 3 of Nightstik — or join fellow artists for draw club — at Midgard comics.

Toby Dycus holds up the oldest sketch of his character “Nightstik” next to a recent rendition. Alex Bruell / The Mirror

Toby Dycus holds up the oldest sketch of his character “Nightstik” next to a recent rendition. Alex Bruell / The Mirror