Artist in transit

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Full of ideas and the drive to make them happen, Astoria native and former Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee Clif Militello has just published his first book, “Murder at Transit.”

Militello, 56, wrote the adult murder mystery after being let go by the MTA last fall, following nearly 25 years of service there. But rather than succumbing to defeat, Militello started his own company, Madfog: Media, Entertainment and Stuff.

“I’d rather bet on myself than on someone else,” Militello said. “I think I have something different.”

Having overcome physical handicaps and the inability to obtain formal art training, Militello has made his own way in life.

Although now a self-published author, Militello is a cartoonist at heart.

He started drawing cartoons as a high schooler at La Salle Academy in Manhattan and studied art history at Queensborough Community College, but illness forced him to drop out of school.

When Militello recovered, he did not return to school but kept refining his art skills, which landed him a job as an art director at MTA New York City Transit. As art director, Militello designed brochures for the transit museum and created artwork for subways including projects such as Poetry in Motion.

“My brother is a very interesting, creative person that definitely thinks outside the box,” said his brother Tom, a manager of city transit engineering.

Creativity combined with lack of formal training have both helped and hindered Militello.

“I may be contrary, complicated [and] demanding, but almost always with my eye on a goal,” he said. “I didn’t go down the normal path.”

Now with his own company, Militello plans to release an array of books, graphic novels and games based on ideas he has had for several years.

His first book, “Murder at Transit,” is a mystery centered on tracking down a serial killer who intends to murder a transit worker on Sept. 17, 2011, exactly a year after Militello and many others were let go from the MTA.

Although the book, which will be part of a trilogy, has many parallels with the MTA, Militello never names the company or any of his colleagues in the book.

Militello also plans to publish a compilation of humorous subway stories called “Submerged.” He’s currently working on a graphic novel called “Gloria Astoria” about a British pop punk girl in Astoria.

“I’d like to have a comic book character for every location — one for Flushing, Bayside,” Militello said.

Militello has plans to release an online magazine, “Madfog zine,” which will be based on a short-lived, but successful, cartooning magazine, “Artsy,” that he had created in 1988.

For all his accomplishments, Militello has never forgotten the people and events that have made him who he is today.

“I would like [Madfog] to succeed… so that I could continue that charitable effort,” he said. “When I was handicapped some people were incredibly kind to me and they didn’t have to be.”

In addition to several doctors and institutions, Militello wants to give back to the Fresh Air Fund, a New York City program that gives underprivileged children the opportunity to attend summer camp. As a grade-schooler in a wheelchair and later a brace, Militello was sent to one of the fund’s camps for handicapped children. The perseverance of the other children at the camp, many far more disabled than himself, inspired Militello to make the most of his life.

“That’s what has driven me my entire life — an indomitable spirit that would never say no,” Militello said.

From this persevering attitude, family and friends see success in Militello.

“He’s got so many fires burning that eventually something’s going to catch on,” said Rick Catania, Militello’s longtime colleague at NYC Transit.

Militello lives with his daughter, Kristine Rose, in Astoria.

“Murder at Transit” is available for purchase at most online booksellers, including and

Updated 11:59 am, October 12, 2011
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