South Side filmmaker aims to inspire locals with fan-made project

Last Wednesday evening, Hyde Park’s First Aid Comics, 1617 E. 55th St., hosted the cast of the short fan-made movie “Night Thrasher: RAVE” for a public meet and greet. Participants included the director Lawrence Lee Wallace and actors Eric Lane, Mildred Marie Langford and Jared Lucas.

Inspired by the Marvel Entertainment character Night Thrasher, Wallace wrote, directed and produced the 20-minute movie over the course of the past year, though his interest in creating the film began earlier.

“Night Thrasher was like a neighborhood favorite of ours,” Wallace said. “My friends and I would talk about how cool it would be to have a Night Thrasher movie. As I started learning how to do film, that was something that I had wanted to tackle.”

Wallace adapted different Night Thrasher comic book story arcs, creating his own plotline. “Night Thrasher: RAVE” follows Night Thrasher, played by Eric Lane, as he takes down a drug operation. The drug, rave, is a fictional drug found in Marvel Entertainment’s primary universe.

In the original comic books, Night Thrasher’s story begins in New York City, before moving to Chicago, according to Wallace. However, Wallace chose to focus the movie entirely in Chicago, setting the movie on the South Side and casting actors local to Illinois.

A Grand Crossing resident, Wallace hopes the movie resonates with the nearby community.

“Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, we didn’t have a lot of people to look up to,” Wallace said. “You had your athletes of course, and musicians, hip-hop artists, which was good if you were into that type of thing. But if you weren’t athletically-inclined or weren’t a musician, there wasn’t a lot for you as a young black person on the South Side of Chicago.”

Lane, another South Side resident, from Englewood, also noted the importance of comic books on his childhood.

“The streets of Chicago had been pretty dangerous,” Lane said. “People are always trying to find an escape, reading a book or something positive and recreational, just to get away from all the violence that’s going on. Comic books were our way of getting away.”

Night Thrasher’s position as a black superhero also contributed to Wallace’s interest in the character.

“That was just a good feeling, of seeing characters like that who looked like us,” Wallace said, explaining how he and his childhood friends became interested in comic book superheroes like Night Thrasher, Black Panther and Blade. “And they were positive, they were successful, they were brave, they were honest. They always won against whatever obstacles they were facing. That was important to us.”

With this in mind, Wallace, who saved his own money for a year prior to producing the film, chose to post the movie on YouTube for free.

“I didn’t really do this so much for the money, I did it to show that there are African American heroes out there and that we can be heroes, too, despite our circumstances” Wallace said. “Night Thrasher is a true product of that. He grew up without his parents and he survived, and he became a ‘good guy,’ and he’s fighting for good.”

The movie has garnered just over 2,000 views online. Given its status as an independent short, viewers have been impressed with its production.

“I dig it. It was really good, and I don’t have anything bad to say about it,” said Michael Bradley, Hyde Park resident and attendee at the First Aid Comics event. “It’s not just the fight scenes, which are great, but also the costumes and the effects.”

Watch the movie here: “Night Thrasher: RAVE.”

Night Thrasher

Eric Lane as Night Thrasher.