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Trace Adkins Taps the Comic Market as Luke McBain

Posted by Bob Doerschuk on 04/28/2010

© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

There’s something familiar about Luke McBain. You may have seen his image at your local comic book emporium, where one cover in the four-installment series depicts the tall, black-hatted hero wielding an axe handle like a personal sword of justice.

Or maybe you thought you saw McBain onstage at CMA Music Festival, declaiming on the pleasures of “honky tonk badonkadonk” over a snarling, low-down groove.

It’s easy to confuse this righteous avenger, as drawn on each cover by Brian Stelfreeze and on the inside pages by Kody Chamberlain, with Show Dog-Universal Music recording artist Trace Adkins, the multi-Platinum-selling Country giant and co-headliner on the “Sunny D Presents the Shine All Night Tour starring Martina McBride and Trace Adkins.”

That’s been true ever since 2008, when David Tischman produced “Trailer Park of Terror,” a horror film in which Adkins played a character known as The Man who was in fact the Devil. After wrapping the movie, Tischman discussed it with his friend Keven Gardner, publisher of 12 Gauge Comics and, it turns out, a fan of Adkins.

“I said, ‘This guy has such a magnetic personality. We should find something for him,’” Tischman said. “And Keven came up with this ‘Billy Jack’/‘Walking Tall’ revenge idea. From day one, we always had Trace in mind for this: the cowboy hat, the ruggedness, yet always with that wry smile and sense of humor about life.”

They ran the concept past Gardner’s agent, Scott Agostoni, who heads the Graphic Novel and Comic Division at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. Agostoni in turn contacted Rick Shipp, co-head of the agency’s Nashville office. Though WME Entertainment no longer represented Adkins, Shipp forwarded the information to his former client as a gesture of friendship. “We had everybody looking for things for Trace,” he explained. “And this idea was right for him.”

Ken Levitan, Adkins’ manager and Co-President, Vector Management, agreed. “We’re always looking for innovative ways to brand our artists,” he said. “To me, Trace Adkins is a big brand. He’s a big guy. And I love that there are 4,000 comic book stores and Trace is now carried in them all.”

12 Gauge floated the McBain concept at Comic-Con, the annual comic book industry convention, last year. When feedback proved positive, work began. Adkins offered details that enhanced his character’s credibility. That axe handle on the first issue’s cover? It’s there because Adkins really does keep an axe in the back of his pickup. And the scene where McBain comes back to his hometown after a long absence and stumbles into a robbery in progress is drawn from another real-life experience.

Discussion is underway to bind all four issues into book form to further expand readership. 12 Gauge recently released a Luke McBain iPad app. There’s also talk of piloting the project for TV or film. All that is still in progress, but one thing is sure: In terms of impacting the public and getting attention, Adkins is, like the cover says, Luke McBain.

Trace Adkins will be performing on the LP Field Concert Stage on Sunday, June 13, during the 2010 CMA Music Festival, which takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 10-13 in Downtown Nashville.

Artists currently scheduled to appear at LP Field include (in alphabetical order):

Thursday, June 10: Jason Aldean, Danny Gokey, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, and Carrie Underwood.

Friday, June 11:  Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Josh Turner, Keith Urban and more.

Saturday, June 12: Easton Corbin, Billy Currington, Randy Houser, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, and Zac Brown Band.

Sunday, June 13: Trace Adkins, Justin Moore, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Darius Rucker, and Blake Shelton.

Additional artists will be announced soon. Surprise guests have also become a hallmark of the Festival, enriching an already star-packed lineup.

Four-day, upper level general admission tickets are still available for $110. All other levels are SOLD OUT. Single night tickets to the individual Nightly Concerts at LP Field are on sale for $30 for upper level general admission. To order tickets, call 1-800-CMA-FEST (262-3378); visit to buy online or charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000. Tickets are also available at any Ticketmaster outlet. Prices do not include applicable handling fees. Ticket prices are subject to change without notice. All sales are final and non-refundable. Artists appearing subject to change.