BY PAUL BICKLEY
When Donald Griffin Jr. and Tim Ballard began Off Campus Housing Agency (OCHA), they focused their marketing efforts on developing a campaign that would appeal to college students. They felt they had a winner with the slogan “OCHA’s Gotcha!” and noir detective Agent Ocha, who’s made it his mission to find the best rentals and look out for tenants’ rights. What they needed was an experienced comic book writer and letterer to turn their idea into actual marketing materials.
Enter Jim “Kep” Keplinger, co-owner of That’s the Rub Massage Therapy Center & Body Boutique, located in the same building as OCHA, at 205 N. College. Having written and lettered the noir web comic Interplanetary Grift and comic books such as Shadowhawk, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and Genie, Keplinger brings game to OCHA’s project.
So far, Keplinger and OCHA have distributed a postcard-size comic about Agent Ocha at Indiana University housing fairs. The card depicts a black-and-white photo of a man in a trench coat and fedora standing on a rooftop holding a Bloomington map while looking out over the IU campus and the city. Text bubbles include “You came here to get an education, not to get schooled by the unscrupulous. Lucky for you, this is my town. I know where the best rentals are. I’m Agent Ocha … I’ve gotcha!” Keplinger thinks the style will appeal to its intended audience. “College students should glom onto this,” says Keplinger, who will soon complete an 8–12 page Agent Ocha comic book.
For Keplinger, Agent Ocha continues 10 years of comic book work. “What ties it all together is character, conflict, plot, setting, art, and purpose,” he says. “I wanted people to enjoy my comics and get something from them.” His character Genie, for example, sacrifices her humanity to become a genie who helps children work through issues such as bullying. Agent Ocha helps students find suitable housing, says Ballard, but also “educates them about tenant rights and responsibilities.”
Though Keplinger tinkers with Genie and wants to return to it in earnest, he spends much of his time running That’s the Rub. He says the center recently booked its 5,000th session and will soon open the Keplinger Institute of Massage Therapy. In addition, Keplinger is a graduate student studying information science at IU. Like Agent Ocha, he transforms information into useable knowledge.
For more about Keplinger’s comic book work, visit magbloom.com/keplinger.