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Sean O'Reilly, Founder and CEO. of Arcana, in his Burnaby studio. (Laura Leyshon for The Globe and Mail/Laura Leyshon for The Globe and Mail)
Sean O'Reilly, Founder and CEO. of Arcana, in his Burnaby studio. (Laura Leyshon for The Globe and Mail/Laura Leyshon for The Globe and Mail)

Top 40 Under 40

Sean O'Reilly, 36: tells stories through comics and film Add to ...

Each year, Caldwell Partners International chooses 40 Canadians who were under 40 in the past year to honour for their outstanding achievements. Click here to learn more about the program, and find more winners in the list below.

Sean O'Reilly credits a "misspent youth" with propelling him to where he is today.

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"I've always loved comic books," says the 36-year-old owner and operator of Arcana, Canada's largest comic book company. "My mom would give me money and say, 'Don't spend it all on comic books.'"

He mostly did anyway, parlaying his guilty pleasure into becoming one of Canada's most prolific comic book writers, a publisher, a feature film producer and co-owner of Luximation, a 3-D animation studio.

He started out by producing one 22-page comic book - Kade - in 2004 for $3,500. The Arcana library now boasts 150 graphic novels and 750 comic books, distributed in numerous countries and languages around the world.

"I've always loved genre material, whether it's science fiction, horror, action-thriller, the hero stories, that's kind of been my inspiration," he says.

Mr. O'Reilly also acquired two publishing houses, although he says diversity will be the key to Arcana's continued success.

"Over the past couple of years publishing has become a very difficult objective, with margins literally paper thin," he jokes. "We haven't painted ourselves into a corner with just printing. The company focuses on creating original ideas, known as intellectual properties, telling the stories and branding them."

He is now frequently invited to give guest lectures at North American universities, such as Harvard and the University of British Columbia, on the creative process behind these "branded story worlds."

Mr. O'Reilly has also produced five feature films, writing the stories for three of those. Luximation's first feature film is the stereoscopic 3-D animated feature film, The Clockwork Girl, a character co-created by Kevin Hanna, written, published and being produced by Mr. O'Reilly.

"My daughter thinks she created Clockwork Girl. Back when she was 3, we had Issue 2 coming out and I asked her if she wanted to have published art work. She drew a picture of Clockwork Girl, it made it inside the comic book and she was very, very proud of herself."

Mr. O'Reilly now has four children, with his wife Michelle, who owns a design and advertising company. They live in Coquitlam, B.C. He credits his kids with changing his motivation and inspiration.

"My focus has shifted from the muscle-bound, buxom women into more of an all-ages … entertainment vehicle. ... They appeal to the young, the old, the male, the female."

Mr. O'Reilly says his goal is to continue producing stereoscopic, 3-D animated feature films, driven by original story telling.

"The passion, the ambition ultimately comes from doing our own work and being creative."

More winners:

  • Karen Bakker, 39
  • Keith Bilous, 39
  • Leonard Brody, 39
  • Naman Budhdeo, 38
  • Michael Burns, 39
  • Craig Campbell, 34
  • Norie Campbell, 39
  • Jody Campeau, 39
  • Cody Church, 39
  • Brian Coombes, 36
  • Matthew Corrin, 29
  • Frederick Dryden, 39
  • Dominic Giroux, 35
  • Deirdre Horgan, 38
  • Kyle Jeworski, 36
  • Nicholas Johnson, 38
  • Dr. Kirsten Johnson, 39
  • Kevin Li, 39
  • Stewart Lyons, 37
  • Muhammad Mamdani, 39
  • Andy McCreath, 35, and Christian Darbyshire, 35
  • Calvin McDonald, 39
  • Duke McKenzie, 35
  • Glori Meldrum, 37
  • Michele Mosca, 39
  • Suresh Narine, 39
  • Sean O'Reilly, 36
  • John Poulos, 36
  • Andrew Reid, 34
  • Gregory Roberts, 38
  • Angela Santiago, 39
  • Bradley Schwartz, 39
  • Leerom Segal, 31
  • Som Seif, 34
  • Natasha Sharpe, 39
  • Andrew Smith, 38
  • Steve Sousa, 39
  • Marie-Pier St-Hilaire, 33
  • David Vocadlo, 37
  • Nolan Watson, 31

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