Thursday, July 13, 2017

Artist/Publisher Interview: KELLY GORDON

Interview with artist and publisher KELLY GORDON

We recently met through shock rocker Demon Boy whose upcoming CD you designed the cover for. Tell how this came to be.
Well, I have to start from the beginning. I met the Horror Rock Lord, Demon Boy back in 2014. It was at an event called Eternal Con, located at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Long Island. Before the events of Eternal con, I haven’t heard about Demon Boy nor heard his music and I love hard rock. I’m into Kiss, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Queen, Disturb, and even Metallica. I can give you a long list of music I listened too through my years. But needless to say the first time I seen Demon Boy was a promo post on Eternal Con’s event page on Facebook. I was intrigued but did not think about meeting him at all. I was more focused on selling and promoting my artwork. I am a freelance graphic artist and I draw a lot of fan art from Anime fandom. Mostly all the mainstream Anime characters like Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, Mega Man, you get the point? Plus I self-published my own comic book, “Jus Blaze, Legend of the Fiery Fist!” I was going to promote its second issue which I just finished printing.
So again, I was focused on my artwork. So the first day of the event me and my wife Jennifer who is also an artist arrived and gathered our badges and was told where to find our booth for the weekend event. Amazing how destiny works. Demon Boy was also on the same floor with us. He was right next to the elevator of the floor. When I saw him in person I was very impressed with his ensemble and his entourage. Without an exchange of words with this man, I told my wife, “I guarantee, before the day is over me and this Demon Boy will meet and chat.” And sure enough, we have. He was conducting video interviews with everyone on the floor that he called Demon Boy TV for his YouTube channel. I appreciated him for the compliments for my artwork and assistance he offered promoting my latest comic book during my interview.

What about Demon Boy’s persona and work ethic did you admire?
I liked his style and was fascinated about his background, him being a musician. I thought he was a Cosplayer (laughs). I, who loved Horror fandom and Rock N’ Roll, could not resist knowing more about him. He hooked me up with a CD of his music and I loved his tracks. I Kissed a Dead Girl, This Halloween and my favorite, Ravenous! So I invited him to perform where I work at a local Library on Nassau County Long Island, as a Graphic Artist and Art Director for an event I call EMCon Animefest. It’s a two day convention at the East Meadow Public Library that been running annually for several years now before our shortened summer hours take over. It has all the practical happenings, workshops and celebrity guests you get at any convention and the best part about it, it’s FREE!
We do a Halloween party for teens/patrons each year to help promote the affair for the upcoming event. Demon Boy was truly perfect for such an event. He is truly the Rock N’ Roll Horror Show for our attendees. The light show and the props he brought over, the teens loved it. Demon Boy was even nice enough to make a music video from it as he brought his cameraman to be involved. You can find that on his Youtube channel. It was absolutely brilliant since Demon Boy expressed to me he wanted to reach out to a new broad audience of youths, especially since he is promoting his new comic book. He asked me if I was interested taking over the mantel in becoming his new comic book illustrator. I softly declined since I was way too busy due to other freelance jobs and personal projects. I did a comic book cover for his revamp issues two years ago, but that was the only extent up to now.
This year I had some time to work so when he asked me if I could design his next album cover, and how he wanted it, DEMONIC STYLE with a GRAVE YARD I could not decline. Like I said, I love the Dark arts, Goth and fantasy Hell Bound fashion. It was fun to draw Demon Boy once again. This time I set the level a few notches up compared to the first time I drew him. It was a graveyard atmosphere, with Demon Boy centered with a long slithering tongue, like a snake, holding on to a demonic Goth looking chick. Skully one of his dancers was in the background with ruined tombstones scattered about. Dark clouds and lightening to offer that feel that represents what Demon Boy is all about. It was fun and there will be more artwork of Demon Boy in the near future. Believe it!

When did you begin drawing and designing artwork? Did any artists inspire you around the time you started?
I began drawing at a very young age. I couldn’t even tell you what age I was. But if I had to take a guess, maybe six or eight years old, if not younger. It was introduced to me by my mother. She is not an artist but she did show me how to draw stick figures at the time. Most of my artwork at the time was highly influenced by cartoons mostly. I started designing my own characters and artwork by my preteen to teen years. When I was in middle school I used to get requests from my friends and kids I knew at school on what they wanted drawn. Could have been from an established character on something they wanted personally designed. I also used to draw my own line of comic books. I called it KG Comics with the use of my full name initials. It would mostly be gag humor of cartoon drawing of me and my friends having wacky adventures. They would get a kick out of reading them during lunch period in school. Then I also drew a series of action comic books. Car chases, gun shots with heroes and villains. That was always fun with a little bit of fantasy to go a long way with a lot of imagination.
Back then as a young man I really didn’t look into who were the creators of the cartoons and comic books. I knew what inspired me at the time when I was a young man still drawing and that was the Saturday morning 80’s to 90’s cartoons. I remember getting up as early as 6 a.m. to noon and watch everything from all the local channels before Soul Train came on at noon (laughs). But if I had to give some shout outs, I would mention, Jim Henson first off. His fantastic designs of fantasy of the worlds and creatures he created at such a genius level of puppeteers for that Era. Marvel Comics, like Spiderman, I have to give it up to John V. Romita Sr. and Todd McFarlane for his Spawn series. And of course Kevin Eastman for creating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And a huge, HUGE shout out to Ms. Elaine Goldstein my art teacher in high school who took the time to help me get into Fashion Institute of Technology. She wrote me a brilliant letter of recognition and assisted me on my portfolio. She took a very personal interest in me to support me on reaching my goals to become an artist that I am today.

What aspects of the superheroes you were fascinated by helped influence your drawing?
So many come to mind. But to summarize it all to a small package, it was movies as well as comic books. For example, Robo-Cop, the 1980's version not the reboot. Action Jackson starring Carl Weathers. Rappin' starring Mario Van Peebles who plays a rapping Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The Last Dragon starring Taimak who plays a young black male in New York who knows martial arts and is trying to attain the same fighting skills as the Kung Fu Master known as Bruce Lee. As you can see a lot of the movies I just mentioned stars multicultural characters as the main protagonist and they reside in city landscapes. Just like my comic book, Jus Blaze - Legend of the Fiery Fists also showcase an black male who roam the city streets of Brick City with the abilities to manipulate fire with his fists during street combat. A lot of the stories I write and draw always have an urban feel to them. Growing up, my main characters always were multicultural. I always got enjoyment watching or reading a story that starred a person of another race. It was rare in my days to witness without seeing the thug or underworld criminal cliché black male character. I am happy to see main stream like Marvel and DC take more advancement to introduce more super heroes and protagonists to the audiences.

From what I have read of vampire lore and legends, many of those come from multicultural sources. Goth is also a strongly multicultural lifestyle. Have those ever influenced your work?
When it comes to Vampire Lore and other legends I know they do not originate domestically so I cannot debate on what you mention about it being multicultural or not. But growing up viewing movies, television series as well as illustrations, most characters like vampires were always showcased Caucasian. The Goth style does not define me but I do admire it enough to utilize it as a tool in a few of my designs if needed. Thus reeling back one of my clients, Demon Boy. Even though I am highly influenced by anime, he still hired me and I was still be able to give him those dark horrific traits he loves. From the fangs to the dark classic garments I learn the style through watching a lot of horror movies like Interview With The Vampire with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

An example of this that has gone into comic books and movies (also TV for a brief period) is Blade. Have you seen those movies and caught it while it aired on TV or read any of the comic adaptations?
I know of Blade the character. I never read the comic books, but I did see all the movies and TV series. I was really intrigued with his background story of being a black male Vampire who hunted down other Vampires. Blade being a hybrid or other words "Day Walker" that gave him such an advantage over his enemies.

As another example of what I am referring to, the From Dusk Til Dawn movies and TV series show vampire legend from a Latin/Hispanic point of view, with snake vampires or colebras as they are known on the series. Whether or not you’ve seen it on TV, what do you think of such an idea?
Never seen the TV series but I loved Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Til Dawn movie. It was raw and edgy and I specifically loved the characters and cultural ethnic design of the Latin Vampires. Also the human cast was not bad at all. They had an all-star team of actors. Just to name a few George Clooney, Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, the BAD ASS himself Danny Trejo and Salma Hayek as the Vampire Queen Satanico Pandemonium. That’s not all. The movie was entertaining from start to finish. It’s on my top Vampire movies on my list right next to The Lost Boys and Fright Night, the 1980's version, not the reboot. So yeah, I do love the idea. It give the Vampire lore and story a very refreshing setting. It offers a broader ideal of this mythical creature instead of the cliché slick hair and cape version we all grew up with. I would probably have to say From Dusk Til Dawn may have broken the mold on that one. I would surely tell anyone who have not seen it, to please do. They are missing out.

I’ve read a few internet articles about the original creativity and multiculturalism of goth, including some about African American goths. Have you come across any of those while surfing the internet?
I always believed goth was a style of rock music or a style of a person. You know, the black clothing and white pale make up with Frankenstein boots and the smell of lilac incense. I have met a few African Americans who had the traits of being Goth but that is how trends work. Trends do not have gender or race, it just who you are and who you want to be. So looking up or conducting research on such subjects never crossed my mind. I am open to other cultures and styles. Being a black male you would think I would be heavily into rap and reggae. Even though I am into hip hop culture, I am not defined by it. I love rock, I love heavy metal and I even love alternative music. I remember when I was a little kid like thirteen and listened to college radio on my pocket radio. Learned about groups like Guns and Roses, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and so much more. It opened my eyes to a whole new world for me.

Everything becomes a trend when the mainstream can gain from it, so I prefer working on a grassroots level. I like many different genres (goth, celtic, ska, psychobilly etc) but I don’t preach about being open minded. I just listen to what I like.
It’s like with music, people and friends would expect me to love rap and hip hop because I am a black American but that is not the case. I do love the music and trends but only to an extent. Just because I grew up in that culture I am not stuck in a box with it. I had expanded my mind to other things and drank different flavors of Kool-Aid of life and stretched to other fashions and styles. But only to what relates to me and what I like. I do not consider myself as a member of any culture or characteristic 100%. I am more of an 5%’er to be honest. I am a man who loves buffets not just one choice on the menu (laughs).

How often do you make personal appearances in the convention circuit? What is the yearly extent of your travel?
Since I am an Art Director as a profession at the East Meadow Public Library, I do have a 9 to 5 weekly job. So I’m not dependent on conventions to pay the bills. It’s more of a hobby and to have fun with my peers (the fans) and art colleges to be honest. And to make a few extra bucks isn’t bad either (laughs). I know many artists who DO depend on the convention circuit and travel across the states. Me, I don’t do such travelling to promote or sell my work. The extent I would travel would be New York, Upstate New York and Northern New Jersey. I’ve been invited to out of state cons before but I always decline. I always worry I’ll probably spend more money on travel and hotel expenses alone, then have to worry about making my table money too. So my personal appearances at conventions are limited to a local span than most artists. I hope to someday to have the popularity to be invited as a guest at out of state conventions with all travelling expenses paid. But I can only dream. But the conventions I go to really rock! Shout out to New York Comic Con! Eternal Con! Winter Con! Big Apple Con! Those are the BIG wig conventions I attend. The smaller cons are really fun! Small, and personal and fun! It allow you to really get to know your fans without the rush and loud noise that they cannot hear you when you speak. I mostly do a lot of library conventions like Tosho Con at the East Orange Library. Also Min Con at Mineola Library as well among a few others. I also want to state I also conduct my own small convention called EMcon Animefest. E.M. stands for East Meadow for short. I’ve been organizing this event for seven years as this year on Saturday and Sunday, May 20 to the 21st. A two day event that has all the potential of a real convention. Workshops, lectures, performances, celebrity guests, anime concerts and games and artists alley…the works! And did I mention, it’s FREE (laughs)? We serve the need of the pop culture fandom to our patrons and they get to go to a local two day event convention and dress up in cosplay and meet people with the same interests. It’s a lot of work but well worth it when I get such gratitude from everyone.

How many contacts have you made at the larger and more intimate conventions until now?
I've received many contacts among my travels to other conventions. I'm always looking for the new talent to invite to EMcon Animefest. Larger events, for example New York Comic Con, seem to have more celebrities and groups to go after. If you don't mind waiting for an hour or two, which sucks. And you’re not always guaranteed to get any contact info, not even an email. To name a few, voice actors like Kyle Hebert, Vic Mignogna, and Quinton Flynn. Smaller cons are awesome! Especially if they invite celebrity type status. But even if they do not, you can always meet new talented artists or musical groups. Like I mentioned smaller cons go by a different flow. You can actually breathe and talk to people. Especially when I am looking for commissions at my booth. Less competition too (laughs).

Vic Mignogna is appearing in the fan made Star Trek series Star Trek Continues. If you’ve watched it, what is your take on the acting and filming quality? Are fan run series a good thing in your view?
I only heard about his fan made Star Trek vids but sadly never checked it out. I may in the future though. I think fan run series are fun. But only if they’re done right with the quality and respect to other fans to enjoy. Viewing others’ perspectives and highly imaginative stories or style of your favorite characters. I'm not currently watching any fan made series nor remember any at this point so I cannot offer any referrals.

Did you discuss any possible collaborations with Kyle Hebert, Vic Mignogna, and Quinton Flynn or are these actors you crossed paths with this far? Who are some of the local actors you would consider working with?
Unfortunately nothing has come to pass on anything yet, but it would be an honor to work with any of them. I was just luckily enough to work with them for East Meadow Public Libraries' Anime Convention. I really have no special list of people I would love to work with to be honest; there are just so many and I really do not want to leave anyone out just in case they are reading this, thinking I do not want to work with them (laughs). I want to work with everyone and anyone who would love to work with me. I figure if they love my art style and dig it that’s the first step to begin a beautiful friendship. I worked with Lutenist Christopher Morrongiello. He is an awesome guy. I worked on a CD cover a few years back and print work when needed. He travels cross country and across Europe on tour with his group. I did airbrush and touchup work for a model agency called One Step 2 Model. They would create calendars for expos to promote their clients. And mostly local Rappers, like Lu Rock More, Milot, Corparatz Ent and so many others. I would love to get into more character designs and maybe one day card game designing as well. There were people I met at previous conventions who wanted to work with me but those deals never follow suit. So I am concentrating on more on my stories and character designs for future books I plan to self-publish.

What did you have to work with when you started running EMCon Animefest seven years ago?
EMcon Animefest is an event to celebrate the arts of Anime pop culture. Now, I have to admit EMcon today has got a lot bigger than seven years ago. And of course that comes with age and time. But to be honest this was not my original idea. I really had no vision or plan to create an anime con. Where I work, at the East Meadow Public Library, the head of the Young Adult department at the time wanted me to assists her to create this small con day. I gave her a list on what I suggest as programs, like video game tournaments, anime J Pop concerts, drawing workshops conducted by me, anime screenings and animation workshops and so much more. Only suggestions. Well she was very distressed over the idea where it came to the budget cost so it seemed EMcon was not going to happen. Luckily my Program Director, Mrs. Jude Schanzer loved the idea and found a way through grants and sponsorship to make this happen. To stay at a small frame of budget, I, myself conducted a drawing workshop with the teens. I used my wives character as the icon character for EMcon and since she had just finished publishing her second book, Reign Star around that time I invited her as a special guests alongside other artists I know locally. Rebecca Friedman aka Zanny Lane Graphic Anime who I met at the Big Apple con and other conventions to conduct a hands on animation class. Joe Liotta a speaker who is also an artists did a lecture on Ninja's lore and fantasy. My Program Director knew and invited a Taichi Master Jessi Teasely who came by with his students and did a demonstration outside the library. We also had Anime screenings of various anime's. The Young Adult Department held the video game tournaments with equipped consoles. Then end the day with our cosplay contests. We only had three contestants which was okay since we had only three prizes so it worked out. The Friends of the Library, a volunteer organization group helped out with refreshments for the teens. Our first year in 2011 was very successful. We had received over 250 attendees that day. So we decided to keep it going. The next year we extended to two days.

How much have you seen EMCon grow by word of mouth and advertising since the first time you held it?
When we started back in 2011 we had a rough estimate of 250 attendees that day. In 2016 we sky rocketed up to over 4800. Granted the second EMcon we changed it to a two day event but even on that weekend we had over 750 attendees. So it build quite nicely, especially for what few would consider a Library program. Many people love this convention and have a need to come to it every year. Starting two years ago we have a Queens district high school who has an anime club and they talked to the principal to set up a school bus to transfer them and any teen who is interested to come to this event. This year we had another bus from Yonkers. We get people as far as Riverhead on the Island and New York and New Jersey outside of the Island. When it comes to artists for our Artists Alley I get emails from people reside in Canada. So we are looked at as a professional convention in so many eyes. Patrons of all ages stop me during EMcon to thank me for having this event as they come every year. They truly enjoy the event and I am happy to provide such service.

Has EMCon been covered in local and national press during its run? How much word of mouth exposure has it gotten?
EMcon been covered in local newspapers like the East Meadow Herald for several years and Newsday for two years straight. We were mentioned in digital and paperback magazines like Genki Life and Otaku USA e-News. Social media podcasters have been helpful; the Grindhouse Radio Podcast on IHeart Radio starring Brimstone. Also 1210 AM Radio with a segment program called It Came From The Radio. I do not know the extent of word of mouth, but due to it running for over seven years and the same teens who were going from the very beginning have all grown up and still come and new faces walk through the door every year. I am sure people are talking about the wonderful event. I even had schools from Jamaica, Queens and Yonkers set up school buses to make trip arrangements to this free event. They would have Anime clubs who would talk to the principal and school board to set this up to travel to the East Meadow Public Library. I’ve had teens come to me on my ventures to conventions and know me they would always tell me they can’t wait from EMCon and they will tell their friends. So I’m sure word of mouth is absolute.

Do you want EMCon to be a major Long Island event like Haunt Faire and I-CON? And possibly a major New York event like New York Comic Con?
Not to toot my own horn, but I feel after seven years of conducting this event, I feel strongly that we are at the same level of Haunt Faire and I-CON if not larger. I know a lot of people may underestimate us due to the fact we are just in a library. But we are so much more. Not only are we an educational hub site for the community but we offer a service to provide to our patrons the same quality of programming and guests that we know our attendees will enjoy. We have the experience, the years to back us and the followers who look forward to our annual convention. Our slogan is the "The Largest Growing Small Convention on Long Island!" EMcon offers video game tournaments, drawing workshops with local artists, writing workshops with scholar authors, professionals that are heavily in the pop culture community. We have celebs and musical guests like the original Sailor Venus, Susan Roman, Kyle Hebert and Eileen Stevens and Hitomi Hime J Pop Music artists, Nova Drop and Tha Gata Negra. Preparty to open the two day celebration weekend. Then end the weekend with our cosplay contest where comparison to our three contestants on the first year we have over 50 participants. Do I want it to get big as New York Comic Con? It might be nice but then you forget the bone structure of why we conduct this convention then become a commercialized entity that would lose itself. I have to admit the convention has got to big now that we had to rent a tent to addition for more room. The building we utilize EMCon in has overwhelmed the capacity so there were talks about moving EMcon Animefest to Eisenhower Park if it gets too big. So does EMCon have the potential to reach New York Comic Con status? Only time can tell. But I have informed my director and admins that I will stop at our tenth annual event. Figured it'll be better to end at a high note. 

How much work have you done on your fiction and book projects? How soon do you plan to start publishing?
Well so far I have two self-published books already on sale as we speak. Jus Blaze – Legend of the Fiery Fist! Jus Blaze is an Urban street action packed story about a man with no past and memory with the ability to manipulate fire with his fists during street combat. If you love Dragon Ball Z and Street Fighter with an urban feel, you'll love these issues. I get complimented all the time and I get a following asking about the next issue each year. You can find issue one and two at www.comicfleamarket.com. Look under the Comic Book category and click Anime. You should find my books there. I am working on issue #3 and hope to get it out soon. I have the story board and script ready just have to begin production. Due to having a 9 to 5, marriage, real life, other art projects and having a child, things kind a set me back slightly and slow down my steam to create an entire comic book. Remember, I am a one man army (laughs). I do the writing, the illustrations, coloring, editing, and also front and back cover work. It’s hard work. I have other books in mind I would love to start on, but I have to finish my plate with Jus Blaze #3. Hopefully I will have it out for 2018 EMcon Animefest. Just look out for it.

How much of the storyline of Jus Blaze issues #1 and #2 do you want to discuss before the third issue is out?
I can give you a brief summary of the first two issues. I won’t give out to much so it would be too much of a spoiler for your readers. The story begins at an urban city street of Brick City at night time. We see our main character Jus Blaze standing on top of a project building looking at the city lights in the distance. He would be quiet and surreal as if he was in deep thought. This would be his introduction as he is greeted by gang members who control and run this part of the district. Of course this would be the part Jus Blaze where he would demonstrate his blistering, scorching abilities as he makes waste of his foes with ease. But then he would pass out due to using too much of his powers which takes a toll on him. He would become unconscious and that would give us time for a flash back. You see, the origins of his powers are not explained upfront and will not be as our protagonist does not even know himself why he has these abilities to begin with. What had happened, five years ago was a huge explosion ignited in the middle of downtown that killed hundreds to nearly thousands without any clarification of how or why. Simultaneously it seems our hero has lost his memories and feels for some reason he has his fingerprints all over this travesty as he keeps getting visions of fiery rage and people screaming. So he does not even know if he is a hero or villain at this point of the story. The local government had just played it off as a terrorist act, but we will never know what exactly happened. Huge parts of Brick City are in shambles and still trying to recuperate from the tragic mishap. Poverty and crime rates have grown amazingly high as the people shout out for a hero. Jus Blaze is a lone wolf and would rather have it no other way, but for some reason he is thrown into situations that makes him get noticed and soon the people will have to decide if he is a hero or a menace to society. Also we introduce our female character Wendy who needs rescuing and our main antagonist, Angel “Scar Face” Martinez. Angel is no angel, far from it, as he is known as Psychotic Gangster who is harassing Wendy. One night Wendy is leaving work and is confronted by Angel and his #1 thug Grunt and Jus Blaze accidently runs into the dangerous and sticky situation. So from there Jus Blaze has to decide should he ignore it or become a hero and stop this crime. Of course I leave it with a cliffhanger and you have to see what happens in issue two. Let’s just say it’s sort of resolved in issue two but not exactly. This outburst and confrontation is just round one of many to come. No spoilers but let’s just say, right now he is fighting Gangsters and thugs, but as the adventure continues more imperishable forces will arrive to test our hero’s abilities to the fullest.

How much real life inspiration did you borrow from while developing the storyline of Jus Blaze? Do the characters or settings have any references to reality?
The setting and environment where Jus Blaze roams are urban and ghetto, like scenes from my life when I lived in the South Bronx. Somewhat poverty, graffiti on the walls and brick buildings. I call it Brick City; a few people may get confused that I am talking about Newark. New Jersey. I did not even know they called it Brick City. I found that out through a patron who commented on my book at a convention a few years ago. To me the hardest, most ghetto city in America was the Bronx. I grew up there as a kid to a young adult before I moved to Long Island. I had many trials and challenges as a kid. Bullies, drug dealers and hood folks. There were many homeless people I ran into there. There was a homeless man living under the staircase of the building I lived in. That freaked me the hell out as a six year old boy. Many families including mine that were getting assistance from the government while my mom was going through school to become a registered nurse. I will be making a note of that in my books due to the violent explosion that happened that left many families homeless. I am not stating everyday was a war zone in the Bronx (laughs). Far from it. But I am glad my mother took me and my brother from the city and into the suburbs. All my close friends I grew up with are either dead or in prison. Only a small few who I still keep in contact have moved out. It was a good decision to leave. This explains more of the world I created for Jus Blaze. The characters are another story. Jus Blaze, though he is the main character during this part of the story, is most likely a cookie cut antihero. The loner. The BAD ASS who takes down the bad guy. Some ask if I use any of my personality traits for him and the answer is no. At least not yet as the character has a lot more development that has yet to be done. Too soon to tell, unfortunately. There are some side characters that do. There is a guy named Reiji who is Wendy’s friend and who wears his feeling for her on his sleeve. But of course she does not see him that way. An average black male, pudgy with a good heart. I see myself in him at times and place some sort of similarities appearances wise? The goatee and rings on every finger, the way he dresses, yep, that’s me (laughs). Wendy is a mixture of exes I dated, with my own design. Wendy is being harassed but she is no damsel in distress. She owns the toughest bar in Brick City, welds a sawed off shot gun and is not afraid to use it. She is aggressive but knows how to be a sexy lady when she wants to. Angel was molded from various bad boys I grew up with in the Bronx. Especially this guy I knew in high school who was in a gang called the Latin Kings. He is no longer with us. He was shot and killed before his time. Hispanic, nice long hair and very handsome at times but he would have moments where he would look disgustingly ugly. He had a very small scar by the corner of his right eye. Hence I call my character Scar Face, even though it been overdone so many times. And of course there is a character to set some wisdom and set the tone down a little when need be and that would be Pops! A dirty old black man who hangs out at the bar with Wendy and Reiji. He is more of the comedy relief as he always messes with Reiji on a daily basis. He is based on my father who is an old man now.

How many issues of Jus Blaze are you planning to release as a full story? Is anyone working on the dialogue or artwork with you?
I haven’t really placed any thought on it. The way I’m directing it, it would seem like an ongoing series until the ratings went down (laughs). But if I had to make a logical guess I would have to say maybe the first ten issues would be a FULL chapter. But of course there will be a HUGE cliff hanger that will cause the story to continue as we learn more about Jus Blaze’s origins. I do all the illustrations, writing, coloring, text work, front and back cover art. My wife helps me at times with the writing aspect. This is why it takes so long for production. My apologies to the fans. I still get patrons asking me when the next issue is coming out at conventions. The third issue will be out early 2018.

If Jus Blaze was made into a miniseries, who are the actors you would want to see cast?
For a live action miniseries, I gave thought about it and I would love to choose Idris Elba as Jus Blaze if he was in his prime. I loved his mannerism and body build when he was on the HBO original series The Wire. Even though Jus Blaze is the main protagonist he is sort of a bad ass and Idris Elba played a role of an intellectual business driven drug lord in the series that would have played well. For a current choice, I’d choose Mike Colter as Jus Blaze, due to the fact he is playing a similar character in the Netflix series Luke Cage. Urban settings, wearing a hoodie and jeans fighting gangsters and hoodlum folk. It would make sense but it’ll be like watching the same show. Lance Gross from House of Payne is another choice. He was in that movie Last Fall back in 2012. But it’ll be solely on his body build. My headliner choice is Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther from Marvel Cinema Universe, Captain America: Civil War. He is perfect. Plus the name since he is so popular due to Marvel, he would bring in the ratings (laughs).
As for the female support character and possible love interest (SPOILER, haga) Zoë Kravitz from Mad Max: Fury Road. Not sure of her acting skills to but she resembles Wendy from my comic book. Also as a second choice, Demetria McKinney from the TV show Tyler Perry, House of Payne. Not only does she have that attitude but she can offer that comedy aspect I would need to make the series fun. As for the first season antagonist, John Leguizamo as Angel Scar Face Martinez. That guy who voices for that Sloth on Ice Age (laughs)? He has played other series roles and when he gets into character he can be very animated. For a quick reference, he played Tybalt in that 1996 Romeo + Juliet movie. The way he played that character would be perfect. If you don’t know it or seen that movie, I suggest you do. They play out the film with the original Shakespeare script in a modern world. Another good choice would be Rick Gonzalez. I love him as Mad Dog in the CW Defy series, Arrow as a vigilante. He still in his prime so it’ll make sense. He would be this hot headed young gangster with a chip on his shoulder. I can literally see that crisscross scar over his right eye and cheek. Last but not least, who I think would be a great candidate to play the role as Reiji would be me! Just joking… Kevin Heart, Marlon Wayne or Mike Epps. For obvious reasons, they’re funny and would offer some classic comedy relief.

I remember John Leguizamo from Casualties Of War, Moulin Rouge and George Romero’s Land Of The Dead, so I know he is a capable actor who can handle different roles. How well do you think he would fill the role acting wise?
I almost forgot about those other roles he played. He was fantastic in Moulin Rouge and Land of the Dead. I remember Casualties Of War with Michael J Fox. Leguizamo didn’t have such a role in that film that he had in the other two films, or nothing I could remember. But to answer your question, I think he could fill the role very nicely because he is animated at times and knows how to be serious and grim when the time is right. Angel Scar Face Jr. Martinez is the main antagonist of the first segment of the story, but not really the cliché gangster villain that wants to show how badass he can be. There are many layers and shades of Angel that are ingredients to make a good cocktail that should have the reader wanting more. He is a man with many demons and had daddy issues while he grew up in single parenting with his mother, and is shunned of his existence by his father who is the original Scar Face Martinez. So all his life he knew of this powerful man who ruled the crime world while he watched his mother struggling and being ridiculed by his father’s followers. To make it worse his mother is a stripper and drug user with horrible parenting skills. He lived in his father’s shadow in poverty all his life. And if that is not the worst of it all, his father is married to another woman, has a son who is younger and is gaining all the devotion he seeks for. So you have to take all this into consideration of his background. Something like this could traumatize his youth mentally and cause Angel to have emotional issues that could sometime cause him to have no cares in the world about any of his actions. John Leguizamo seems to have very youthful facial features that if you looked at him he seems to be a very charming fellow, but the crisscross scars of Angel’s features would of course offer another tale of his characteristics. I mentioned the 1990’s film Romeo and Juliet’ he plays Tybalt who is the cousin of Juliet and rival family of Romeo. As Tybalt he displays the traits that would fit as Angel. Sadistic, brutal, with a keen eye of villainous behavior. In the movie he has an all-out confrontation with Romeo that, spoiler alert, ended with his death. But if you see the movie again you’ll see what I am talking about. Land of the Dead is another prime example of what I would be looking for. In that movie he plays a character named Cholo DeMora and another perfect moment is the conversation he is having with Dennis Hopper who I believe was some sort of Boss or bad guy business man. I am not completely sure, they have a discussion about becoming partners and Dennis Hopper’s character rejects him. That scene is perfect for the confrontation between Angel and his father. I suggest any of your readers to watch these films to get some clarity.

While image has its place, how important do you consider talent and ability when it comes to fulfilling a role? Many movies with actors and actresses cast just for their looks become laughingstock while others with good storylines are remembered.
I kind a feel both has equal importance. You can never satisfy everyone, believe me. No matter how good they look or how well the story is done, there will always be that one who will write a long blog or rant in social media about it. It’ll become an ongoing battle with the fans and critics to be honest. There are few who choose to change the look and story and make an original reboot. Like for example, Death Note, a cult classic that originated in Japan; written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. It has a very long manga and anime series plus several live action movie adaptations. Netflix has created their own series based on the manga. If you do not know Death Note, I suggest checking it out. It is about a high school student that is a prodigy of his time who finds the Grim Reaper’s notebook. If you write a person’s name in this book they die. He decides to kill off all the bad people on the planet in hopes to create a new world order. But others in law enforcement just look at this teenager as a serial killer. Of course his identity is mysterious for the detectives, especially one named L who is another young prodigy and attempts to seek him out. So most of the story just becomes a game of chess between these two. The original cast is supposed to be in Tokyo if I’m not mistaken. But the reboot series on Netflix place the cast in America; I think Nebraska. I haven’t seen the series as it is brand new and I do not have Netflix (laughs) The main protagonist who finds the Death Note is named Light Yagami. In this reboot he is named Light Turner. You get the idea. I do not know if this will become a success; we’ll have to wait and see what the critics say.

Do you have ideas in mind for future projects you want to mention to close this interview? Any acknowledgements for people you have worked and collaborated with?
There are several art colleagues I would love to work with but unfortunately schedule conflicts are making it difficult to work with others. But I will say I am happy to announce I will be working on a reboot graphic novel with my wife, Jennifer Scrimenti aka JScribble. She has four books under her belt named Reign Star. It is about a Galactic Princess who had to leave her planet as an infant while her people were annihilated by a Tyrant King named King Scythe. She is a Rubian who has a gem embedded on to her forehead, the standard attribute of her people and the source of her power. The reason the Tyrant is slaughtering them like sheep is he wants these gems as his own. The story mainly follows the Rubian Princess Rainy; every time she is sad or cries it creates a rain shower. Eventually Rainy figures out who she is and attempts to discover her purpose in this new life after the loss of her people. Of course she will seek vengeance upon King Scythe, but before she reaches the “BIG BOSS” of this game she has to go through many trials in life to succeed. The book was self-published in 2007, full colored with over 50 pages. There was supposed to be a fifth book that was never produced. She is unhappy with the art since her skills have much improved since then. She asked for my help doing most of the illustrations as we will collaborate on the book. We do not know when it will be out. We are thinking about creating a Kick Starter page once production has been half way complete. But if your readers want to check out the original tales of Rainy the Rubian Princess they should go to Comic Book Flea Market online, look under comic books and anime to find Reign Star. It’s action packed with a badass chick with a huge sword slashing bad guys. In the first four books she is a child, but the changes we are going to make is having Rainy be in her early twenties with flashbacks of her youth, like Arrow on the CW. It’ll be more epic with a lot of conflict and romance. It’ll be fun to get started. The latest once we begin production would probably be around Halloween or after the New Year. In the meantime character designs and promotional posters are being made to sell or give away with purchases at conventions. Right now it’s all about promoting to get the word out and we hope to get enough backers to invest in this awesome story.

-Dave Wolff

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