MADISON, Wis. -

Madison College professor Jeff Butler might be one of Madison’s best kept secrets. The local artist has helped to bring Captain America, Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk to life.

Now, students are learning comic book art from Butler, who will show off his own work in Middleton on Sept. 12.

Butler’s work has been displayed in comic books over the past 30 years. From the Green Hornet to the mainstays of Marvel, Butler said with each illustration, his goal has always been to build characters.

The Madison native’s career even paid homage to his hometown.

"That was from the first issue of the Badger which was published in Madison, but it was a nationwide comic," said Butler. " I think it went on for about 75, 80 issues."

Butler, who always wondered why no one was teaching comic art in Madison but never had time to do it himself, has now moved to the head of the class. His Intro to Comic Book Art at Madison College gives students the opportunity to learn from a professional.

Dan Otten, who used to deliver liquor, was laid off in November. Twenty years later, he returned to his childhood dream.

“I originally wanted to get into drawing comics, and went to a fine arts school where I kind of learned how to ink and to draw," said Otten.

"It takes a long time to do," said Louis Ely, another of Butler's students. "It takes a lot of concentration."

Ely, a mild-mannered middle school teacher with an affinity for Superman, found an idea he could fly with.

"I wanted to take this class so I could teach an after-school art club, a comic book club for kids after school," Ely said. 

"All you have to think about is the drawing," said fellow student Marguerite Carrithers. "You don't have to think about like, 'Oh, there's a test tomorrow' or 'Oh, you need to clean your room.' You just are drawing."

Twelve-year-old Marguerite Carrithers is technically too young to take the class, but she begged the school to make an exception.

"I would have crawled over broken glass to take a class like this when I was that age," said Butler, who took one look at Marguerite's work and said yes.

"She has a style at 12," said Butler. "Most people don't develop a style until they're well into their careers. And she already has a feel for what she wants to do."

Since entering the classroom, Butler’s greatest characters might no longer be found in the pages of his comic books. Some of the greatest heroes are the ones his students find in themselves.

"When you think about artists who create characters who make you cry, cartoon characters who make you laugh and cry – that's a skill," said Butler.

Butler’s work will be on display at Middleton High School’s Gallery 2000 from Sept. 12 to Oct. 5. A reception highlighting his achievements is will be Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.

For more information about Butler’s comic book art courses at Madison College, visit www.madisoncollege.edu/courses