Street Talk: Comic relief in these places and faces


Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, is the subject of a new comic book published by Bluewater Productions, a company that specializes in comic books, graphic novels and multimedia.

“Howard Schultz: The Man Behind STARBUCKS,” is available in print for $3.99 and digitally on Nook, Kindle, Google Play and iTunes for $1.99.

The 32-page comic book narrating Schultz’s childhood and rise to Starbucks fame is written by C.W. Cooke and drawn by Angel Bernuy, with a cover by Conan Momchilov.

“I am in awe of Howard Schultz. What he managed to accomplish in such a short period of time with Starbucks made him a legend,” Cooke said. “Reading his book (“Pour Your Heart Into It”) made me desperate to tell his story to the world in comic-book form.”

Schultz’s story is one of many in Bluewater’s line of comic books about real people. Bluewater has published comic books featuring celebrities and political figures but also has branched into the business world with stories of famous professionals. It also publishes a series called “Female Force” highlighting women of power.

Since this week’s Business Journal Focus section is on marketing, we thought we’d let our imaginations wander a bit. Schultz’s life and rise to power got us thinking about who in West Michigan would be worthy of being a comic-book legend.

Here are some nominations: “George Heartwell: The Man Behind the Rapids.” Or maybe “Rich DeVos: The Man Behind Secret Millionaires the World Over.” Or quite possibly: “Rick Breon: “The Man Behind the Most Profitable Nonprofit Ever.” And, just to be fair: “Birgit Klohs: The (Wo)Man Behind German Manufacturing.”

Bluewater has published comics on Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Mikhail Prokhorov and Mark Zuckerberg. Who’s to say the Bluewater team might not find inspiration right here in River City?

For more information on Bluewater comics (and to see if any of our suggestions come to fruition), check out

A safer place

How safe is West Michigan? According to Life EMS Ambulance, it’s getting safer by the day.

Life EMS has announced that its community-focused health awareness programs have experienced record enrollment for a fifth consecutive year, with nearly 7,350 individuals partaking in a variety of health, safety and prevention courses.

Its Education Centre, 1275 Cedar St. NE, Grand Rapids, offers comprehensive health courses ranging from basic first aid to specialty courses for paramedics. Course pricing varies from $50 for CPR training to $1,500 for a six-month emergency medical technician certification program.

“As experts in pre-hospital care and prevention, our goal is to engage and inform the community about the necessary tools to preemptively tackle any health issues,” said John Schupra, the center’s director.

To coincide with the National Heart Association’s heart disease awareness month in February, Life EMS Ambulance’s training facility is placing a special emphasis on its new advanced cardiac life support and Heartsaver CPR courses to promote cardiovascular health.

“Heart disease or heart-related issues account for more than600,000 deaths annually in the United States,” said Schupra. “Through dynamic training programs and community support, we hope to drive that number down.”

With an impressive five-year growth pattern under its belt, Life EMS looks like it’s well on its way to achieving that goal.

A political place?

Twenty-four Michigan Political Leadership Program Fellows will graduate this month from one of the nation’s most prestigious leadership training grounds — and three of them will bring their new-found skills back to West Michigan.

The 2012 Fellows will be honored at MPLP’s 18th Annual Fundraising Dinner Feb. 28, featuring two powerful White House strategists who will share their insights just after a re-elected president has taken office. The celebration will be highlighted by featured speakers Karen Hughes, former counselor to President George W. Bush, and Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

“We congratulate these emerging leaders,” said Douglas B. Roberts, Ph.D., who directs the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research where MPLP makes its home. “They are testimony to the continuing success of MPLP and to the vision of those who founded the program.”

Graduates from West Michigan include Mandy Bolter of Ada, legislative director for state Rep. Peter MacGregor; Sarah Bydalek, Walker city clerk; and Andrew Martin of Grand Rapids, legislative assistant for state House Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas.

During the 10-month program, the Fellows tour key Michigan landmarks, learn from the state’s most-experienced political leaders and take part in hands-on activities from taping television ads to facing down tough editorial boards.

The program’s focus is on practical politics, preparation for leadership from grassroots to statewide visibility while forging relationships destined to outlast the program that began in 1992.

“MPLP has reached new landmarks, said Co-Director Anne Mervenne. “We are on our way to 600 alumni trained and ready to serve. We’ll host our 18th annual dinner on Feb. 28 in Detroit and our 11th annual breakfast on March 1 in Grand Rapids. These are truly lasting accomplishments.”

Mervenne is CEO of Mervenne & Co., a governmental relations consulting firm. She previously served 12 years in the administration of Michigan Gov. John Engler.

“Our Fellows have staked their claim,” said MPLP Co-Director Steve Tobocman. “Fourteen of them were elected this past November to the Michigan House of Representatives. You will find MPLP graduates, past and present, in tribal leadership, in the ranks of county executives, the Michigan Senate, the Detroit City Council, and in scores of city, county and local posts around the state.”

Tobocman is managing partner at New Solutions Group LLC. He served three consecutive, two-year terms in the Michigan House of Representatives where he was elected Majority Floor Leader, the chamber’s second highest post.

MPLP’s 2012 Fellows will graduate at the annual MPLP dinner at Laurel Manor Banquet & Conference Center in Livonia. Thursday night’s dinner will be followed by an MPLP breakfast Friday, March 1, at the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids.

Together, the two represent Michigan’s largest bipartisan events. Tickets are available by calling (517) 353-0891 or online at

A caring place

Teenagers often are accused of not caring about the world at large, but at least one West Michigan group is knocking that perception on its keister.

The Grand Valley Stars hockey team, which is comprised of prep players from throughout West Michigan and based in Hudsonville, will hit the ice Thursday, Feb. 28, as part of a fundraiser for Abby Greer, a 20-month-old from Hudsonville who is suffering from a rare form of brain cancer.

“After hearing about Abby, our players wanted to do something to help her and her parents in addition to raising awareness about Abby’s condition,” said Stars coach Nick Marckini.

“The players decided that, like winning a hockey game, fighting cancer takes a team.”

The two prep teams will square off at 7 p.m. at Georgetown Ice Arena in Hudsonville. The organization hopes to raise at least $2,000 through admission donations, jersey sales and a silent auction and raffle. For more information, visit

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