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Drawn from life — and fantasy — in Park Slope

for The Brooklyn Paper
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A doorway here. A building there. Around every corner in the new graphic novel “Foiled,” Park Slope artist Mike Cavallaro has penciled in glimpses of his neighborhood into the story.

“In general, all the brownstones and sidewalks and street shots are inspired by the neighborho­od,” said Cavallaro, 40. “I don’t trace photos or anything, it’s all just bits and pieces.”

“Foiled” combines the teenage angst of “Twilight” with the whimsy of “The Wizard of Oz” in one of the most ambitious projects for Cavallaro, who has lived in Park Slope for three years.

Written by noted children’s author Jane Yolen, “Foiled” is the story of Aliera, a 15-year-old Brooklynite who becomes the high school’s star fencer. While on her first date, the story takes a fantastical left turn, and she discovers she is the Last Defender of Faerie. Chaos — and a battle between good and evil sprites and gnomes — ensues.

“I based Aliera’s home on my brownstone in Park Slope,” said Cavallaro. “Her school building is an actual school building near Vanderbilt Avenue, not far from Grand Army Plaza. It’s been converted into apartments now.

“Now that I think of it, the subway stop Aliera gets off at toward the end of the book is the B/Q Seventh Avenue Stop, right down the street from my apartment.”

Cavallaro grew up in New Jersey and honed his craft at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, but has found a home in Park Slope. He is the co-founder of Deep 6 Studios in which he and 11 other artists share a studio just a few blocks from his apartment.

Cavallaro tends to choose projects with wildly diverse subject matters, and he‘s able to alter the style of his artwork accordingly.

In 2008, he was nominated for an Eisner Award — the comic industry’s most prestigious honor— for “Parade (with fireworks),” a story he wrote and penciled about his grandfather set during the rise of Fascism in Italy.

Last year, he penciled “The Life and Times of Savior 28,” which deconstructs the capes-and-tights archetype a la “Watchmen” and offers a rumination on the not-so-light subject of violence in our culture.

With “Foiled,” Cavallaro found it challenging to draw a book that is geared mostly toward young adult readers.

“I think kids are more open-minded in some ways,” said Cavallaro, who has already started working on the sequel. “I think they have a knack for picking out authentic depictions of characters like themselves.

“If you’re writing about a teenager, and your audience is made up of teenagers, your character had better be authentic, or the kids will know. I also tried to infuse the drawings with a lot of energy because I think younger readers respond to that.”

For info about Mike Cavallaro and “Foiled,” visit www.firstsecondbooks.com.

“Foiled” is available at Bergen Street Comics [470 Bergen St, near Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, (718) 230-5600], Barnes & Noble in Park Slope [267 Seventh Ave. at Sixth Street, (718) 832-9066] and Downtown [106 Court St. near Schermerhorn Street, (718) 246-4996], and Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. at S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200]. For info,visit www.firstsecondbooks.com.

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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