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This 1996 theatre alum turns business and motivational bestsellers into comic books.

Comic effect

Despite a successful career acting in commercials, television and films, Corey Michael Blake became disgruntled with the Hollywood scene and began searching for a new creative outlet.

The 1996 theatre alum eventually returned to Illinois, married and began the next stage of his professional development. In 2006, Blake founded Writers of the Round Table Inc., a literary development and publishing organization, to solve a problem he perceived in the business world: most writers weren’t great business people and businesses didn’t know how to communicate their needs to writers.

“I stayed with the company because I knew that I was good at pairing up talent with professionals,” Blake explains. “I was finding business people that needed artists but didn’t know how to communicate with them and writers who wanted to write and didn’t want to worry about the business at all. They couldn’t stand it and so many were terribly unprofessional.”

Blake found his niche working as the liaison between the business world and the creative professionals they needed to complete their projects.

“I started being the conduit,” Blake says. “I would find the work, then find the talent to match it, manage the process and make sure that we were exceeding the clients’ expectations.”

As Blake’s business grew, he found himself branching out beyond technical writing and marketing materials to assisting with screenplays and books.

In 2006, Robert Renteria contacted Blake and together, they developed “From the Barrio to the Boardroom,” a book that draws on Renteria’s personal experiences and seeks to promote education, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and self-esteem among young people.

Then, in 2009, Blake met a former investment banker with a fresh idea. Franco Arda, founder and CEO of SmarterComics, approached Blake with the idea of turning business bestsellers into comic books.

“We hired the artists and managed the process, building three prototype books together,” Blake says. “We did ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad,’ ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ and ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ just to prove or disprove the concept.”

SmarterComics eventually negotiated a deal with Blake’s company to publish the first six books in the series. 

Released this spring were comic versions of “Overachievement,” by Dr. John Eliot (see cover at right); “The Long Tail,” by Chris Anderson; “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu; “How to Master the Art of Selling,” by Tom Hopkins; “Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life,” by Larry Winget and “Mi Barrio,” by Robert Renteria.

Because SmarterComics is only producing comics based on business books, Blake’s company is free to develop comic book versions of other types of non-fiction. That has led to the upcoming October 2011 release of the Round Table Comic version of Alesia Shute’s “Everything’s Okay,” detailing her struggle through childhood cancer. A Round Table Comic version of Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” will also be released in the fall.

“We’ve recently negotiated a deal with Hachette to adapt the bestselling ‘Delivering Happiness’ by CEO, Tony Hsieh,” Blake says. 

Excerpted from an article by Seth Kravitz and adapted with permission from Technori, an online publication focused on Chicago entrepreneurs.


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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL