Portland cop writes comic inspired by nightmares growing up in war-torn country

Google the name “Andjelko Napijalo.” Go ahead — do it now. I’ll wait.

That’s right, he’s such a nice guy that he’s the Getty Images stock photo of a police officer helping a little old lady. First thing that comes up.

(Hat tip to Tristan Gallagher of Coast City Comics for pointing that out, as well as to the Portland Press Herald for being the source of the Getty Images picture.)

Napijalo is a Portland police officer who’s such a nice guy it’s maybe hard to imagine how terrifying his childhood must’ve been.

He’s now raising money in an online Kickstarter campaign to launch a comic book series inspired by the sleepless nights of his youth. The story follows a young boy who, after the death of his parents, must journey into a mystical world of dreams to calm the nightmares tormenting other children and — ultimately — bring his parents back.

Here’s how Napijalo, the creator and writer of the series, describes it:

“This story was created from my personal experiences. I experienced nightmares as a kid growing up in a war-torn country. A lot of love and passion went into creating this story to make it fun, memorable and meaningful. Every detail in this book was created for a reason and every single detail has a purpose. I also hid clues throughout the comic so people can discover them if they wish. This was done to get people more involved in the story and if they are willing, to learn something new.”

According to the downtown Portland store The Green Hand, Napijalo’s childhood was spent in Croatia, which in the early-to-mid-1990s was embroiled in violent warfare as a result of the tumultuous breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

The comic story, which is written as one large graphic novel or a series of 10 smaller books, was featured in the fourth annual exhibition of the Serbian Society of Comic Artists in December, according to its Facebook page.

By transforming the child from a scared orphan to a Nightmare Warrior, Napijalo is creating an empowering and imaginative narrative for today’s young readers to take back control of their scary thoughts.

Comic book hero Gage Hunter is joined on his adventures by a sleepy ninja koala bear and know-it-all owl knight named Hugo. He battles a range of colorful villains, like the Tool Master and Clodvic the Clown.

Like most Kickstarter campaigns, Napijalo and his artist team are offering prizes for different levels of donations, with some of the goodies being signed copies of the comic, fridge magnets, T-shirts and hats.

He’s seeking to raise $5,000 by the afternoon of March 28, and as of this writing, donors have pledged about $1,000 to the cause.

Napijalo’s story is inspiring on a number of fronts in the real-world as well, growing up to become a community leader and police officer after a rough start and all the trials and tribulations that come from moving to a new country — it’s a story that resonates in Portland, which has a population of nearly 10,000 immigrants and is by far the most internationally diverse of any municipality in Maine.

As we’ve noted in past posts, immigrants make up more than 40 percent of the student population in Portland Public Schools. Maybe “Nightmare Warriors” would be a good thing to stock in the libraries.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.