And now for a story that's totally random

Austintown native Justin Raimey has released his first graphic novel, “Fiji Random,” and it’s rather ... random.

The Fitch High and Youngstown State University grad wrote and drew the manga-style comic, which utilizes a group of characters he created.

The story centers around Fiji, a video-game-obsessed high-school girl who encounters a series of random events while walking to school.

It’s at turns funny, bizarre and ... random.

Perverted sidewalk pirate children and an exchange student from a crime-ridden island who comes to live with her family are just two of the characters she deals with on this fateful day.

The 26-year-old Raimey got into Japanese anime cartoons when he was a child and moved on to manga comics in high school.

Raimey said he likes the chaotic structure of manga, but he does it one better in his own book. “Fiji Random” employs a nonlinear storytelling structure. Think “Pulp Fiction,” the Tarantino film that begins at the end of the story.

Raimey also pauses the story every now and then to insert some four-panel strips that add insight into the characters, provide story background, or do nothing at all except maybe add a smile.

“Fiji Random, Vol. 1” is available from online eBook stores and at

Volume 2 will be released as a series of digital chapters, and then as a paperback when it’s complete, probably in 2015.


Cleveland-based filmmaker Vitaliy Versace’s next movie is about Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, the POW who was freed by his Taliban captors in a controversial prisoner exchange last month. Filmed in Warren, the release date is Oct. 25.

Versace is known for making very low-budget films in the Mahoning Valley, often basing them on current events.

hBWR director Stas Kmiec, Lepore Hagan in musical

Stas Kmiec, artistic director of Ballet Western Reserve, is the choreographer for “The Mapmaker’s Opera,” a new musical that opened this week off-Broadway at the Pearl Theater in New York. The musical is part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).

Natalia Lepore Hagan, a Youngstown native and an alumnus of BWR, is the lead female dancer and plays the role of Lola.

“The Mapmaker’s Opera” is based on a novel written by Bea Gonzalez. Set on the eve of the Mexican Revolution, it revolves around Diego Clemente, who arrives on the Yucatan Peninsula to help create a guide to the region’s wild birds. He falls in love with Sofia in a story of star-crossed passion.

The NYMF is the largest and most prestigious festival of its type in the world. It provides a unique opportunity for writers to have their shows seen by the leading Broadway and professional regional theater producers.

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