By Marissa Carney
Tabitha Restauri will be the first to admit that her love of superheroes is intense. “I am into everything and anything that has to do with superheroes. I’m like an encyclopedia, I can rattle off information about any character.” When she talks about them her eyes sparkle, her face breaks into a wide smile, and it’s obvious the superhero culture brings her a lot of joy. “I think it just has to do with the characters being so relatable. Like Spiderman. He’s the most adorable, nerdy character ever, and then he becomes a superhero. It makes you believe you can be a superhero, too.”
Restauri, from Cape Coral, Florida, first became interested in superheroes at a young age and credits watching a lot of television featuring comic book characters for the intrigue. Super Man was her first love, then she discovered Spiderman and Stan Lee, then Deadpool, who is now her very favorite. “It’s funny, because all of the characters in his universe hate him, but he’s such a loveable guy. He’s very slapstick and to the point and just a great character.”
Restauri is able to combine her love of superheroes with her talent for drawing, which she’s been doing for as long as she can remember. Drawing wasn’t just a passing fancy or hobby she turned to once in a while, but rather a talent that grew into a passion. Now, a junior at Penn State Altoona, Restauri hopes to one day become an animator.
Aside from school work, she spends most of her time drawing characters from a wide range of fandom: anime, Disney, and super heroes mostly. She does this by hand or through computer programs. Restauri cultivates her own happiness from her work, but she takes distinct pleasure when others like her work. “When I see how people react to it, when their faces light up, it makes me feel good. These characters that I draw, they have emotions, feelings, and people can really relate to them because of that, and so it’s like they are relating to me, as well. When I put so much effort into a project and someone admires or relates to it, it’s incredible.”
Restauri’s imagination, talent, and passion have guided her in creating her own characters, as well, some based on Disney World’s Haunted Mansion ride. “I grew up going to Disney World often, and the Haunted Mansion is my favorite ride. I did a lot of research on it, and there’s this whole mystery behind the ride that most people don’t know about, so I created characters who reveal those secrets.” For example, Restauri’s main character Mr. Skully, a skeleton with a Jersey accent and a fascination with hats, has lost the memories of his past life. Through a series of mischievous, classical cartoon-like antics, he makes friends with a haunted suit of armor named Sir Robert Esquire III, or Sir Bob, who convinces him to try and recover those memories. This leads them both on an epic adventure in search of the truth behind the mysteries of Skully and the entire habitants of the mansion.
Restauri has taken her work to a few comic conventions in the area. Her first was the Sci Fi Valley Con, here in Altoona last year. “I was really nervous, and I didn’t think I would sell anything. At first, a couple of people walked by. But then this little girl came up to my booth, and she was freaking out over my work. I was about to cry because it made me so happy.” Restauri earned about $300 at that convention and felt like it was a big turning point for her. Even though she only made as much as what she put into preparing for the event, she saw that people liked her work and would pay her for it. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘wow! I did this!’”
Restauri also attended Zombie Con USA in August and Nittany Con held in State College in September. She hopes to continue showing at conventions and eventually do better than just break even. She’s also thinking of creating a short animated video of her Haunted Mansion characters to accompany her work. Restauri thinks her biggest hurdle to overcome right now is confidence. “I have really low self-esteem, but my artwork has helped with that. I used to think my stuff was trash, but now I see that people like it. I’m at a place where I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m good, but am I good enough?’”
Restauri plans to finish her degree at Penn State Altoona, learning as much as she can through her classes and supplementing them with online tutorials. She’d like to get an internship at Disney World and is toying with the idea of going for another degree such as art therapy. She could go into animation or draw characters for clothing brands or billboard displays. She could also do commercials. Her biggest dreams are to one day work on a Deadpool comic, a Marvel or DC comic, and to make a comic with her own characters. There are many options, but nothing solid just yet. “I guess that’s kind of the risk of being an artist. Everything’s up in the air until somebody picks you out and notices your work.”
Restauri says she’s excited about the possibilities her future holds and knows this is what she’s meant to do. “I totally geek out anytime I talk about it,” she says with a shy smile. “But it’s important to me. I put all of me into it. It’s my life.”