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Former Albuquerque Comic Book Artist Makes His Mark in Filmmaking

Leonard Roberts, second from left, stars in "Black Star Warrior."
Leonard Roberts, second from left, stars in "Black Star Warrior."
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He’s worked for Marvel, DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics – yet it all started by chance.

Matt Haley, a 1988 graduate of Sandia High School, was taking classes at Eastern New Mexico University when he got a call to work on a “Star Trek” comic.

“I was studying graphic design in Portales,” he says during a recent phone interview. “When I got the call to do the ‘Trek’ gig, I bolted school.”

‘Black Star Warrior’
WHEN: 3 p.m. today
WHERE: Albuquerque Convention Center, 401 Second NW
HOW MUCH: Free with admission to Comic Expo

Since his “lucky” gig, Haley has drawn hundreds of covers.

“I did most of my output for DC Comics,” he says. “Then I was Dark Horse’s artist-in-residence.”

Haley has worked with Stan Lee on his TV series “Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be a Superhero?” by drawing the comic book panels for the show’s two seasons. He’s again worked with Lee on “Timejumper” for Disney and illustrated “The Guardian Project,” created by Lee for the National Hockey League.

He’s also drawn the comic book that was based on 2006′s “Superman Returns.”

Yet, with all of his success as a comic book artist, Haley says there was something missing.

He admits to not being the fastest artist and often running into the same story line.

“It got very repetitive and wasn’t fun,” he says. “That’s when I moved on to something new and challenging.”

Leaving his successful gig, Haley decided he wanted to try his hand at filmmaking.

He will screen his movie, “Black Star Warrior,” at 3 p.m. today at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

The screening is part of the inaugural Albuquerque Comic Expo that runs today through Sunday, June 26.

Haley says the film took about six months of planning. It was shot over a three-day period and the budget was just under $40,000.

“It’s been very popular,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

“Black Star Warrior” pays homage to “The Empire Strikes Back,” with the movie being set in space and has been called a “lost Blaxploitation version” of the movie.

It follows star Lando Calrissian, played by “Heroes’ ” Leonard Roberts, as he deals with sexy Stormtroopers – and it’s all set to a funky soundtrack.

Haley co-wrote and directed the movie and had it done before the economy went bust.

“I felt like doing something original and I approached Lucasfilm about it,” he says. “After that, I threw it up on the Web and it’s been doing well there.”

The yearning for something new has allowed Haley to become a writer. He says there is a new challenge now and hopes to make more films in the future.

“The movie has helped me secure representation, and I’m pursuing this avenue now,” he says. “I’m excited to have my film screen in my hometown.”

Haley says he is proud of the work the cast and crew did on such a low budget.

“We basically did this for nothing and there is quality work here,” he says. “It’s a movie that pokes fun at ‘Star Wars,’ but we were mindful of keeping the integrity.”

Cutline – Leonard Roberts, second from left, stars in “Black Star Warrior.”

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