It’s 2:00 am on the last day of 2013 and i am sitting here at my desk, preparing to unload a ton of things that have been in my head for a while.
First and foremost, dear reader, let me thank you. Let me thank you for being there, and reading the dumb, silly things i create. Thank you for coming here now and then, reading the comic and maybe -MAYBE- telling your friends about it. Thank you for following me on Twitter, and reading the outstanding amount of nonsense and crap i post there.
I mean it: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
With that outta the way, i hope you have had an amazing end to your 2013. To some, it might’ve been a shitty year. To others, it might’ve been an amazing year; the best of their lives, even. To me, it has been a year of tremendous growth -personally, artistically, mentally, professionally, spiritually- and in this last hours ,i would like to elaborate a bit; set down what i have learned for others to use as they will.
It goes without saying that this is going to be a lengthy rant, as end of year rants tend to be. What it will not be, is one of those rants where i state my resolutions for 2014, and tell you i’ll loose weight and eat better -i won’t- and then yada yada yada… nothing.
What I want to do here is tell you about the things i am grateful for and the things i learned. Like i said before, for other to use as they will. See, this year -unbeknownst to them- i have been following the teachings of some quite unique individuals. I have sat down and while it looked like i was wasting my time on the interwebs, i have actually been learning a lot -hence the growing part i talked about earlier.
In a manner of speaking, this rant is my way of paying it forward to those who have taught me. So make of it what you will, dear reader.
To make it easier -both to you and me- to keep on track, i shall divide my ideas into topics; each topic will run it’s course and reach -i hope- a conclusion. Then we will move on to the next, and so and so forth.
So let’s start with the easy one first: THE BUTTERFEST 2013!
For those of you unfamiliar with this “BUTTERFEST”, I have been celebrating my Birthday the same way for the last 10 years or so. What started as a back yard kegger with some musician friends, has grown to be one of -if not the most- expected rock gigs here in Panama City, Panama. Three bands -a new one, an old one and one that “does not exist”- play at a venue, and fun -and beers!- is had by everyone.
This year’s BUTTERFEST was on my ACTUAL birthday and the bands did an amazing job. People enjoyed the gig, they had tons of fun and everyone left with a smile on their faces. If not, you can take a peek at the GALLERY i collected over on Facebook!
After the show, i was on stage taking down the drum set and back line -generously sponsored by DEKA Group, a local music store. I had an epiphany of sorts: the gig in itself cost me around $125. But the fact that all three bands, the sound guy and the lady at the door got paid in full (all in all around $700 in total) made me smile. The gig almost paid itself, as it usually does.
Some people think i make a ton of money outta this yearly shindigs. I don’t. I save up my earnings for a few months, to back up the gig. I do this with no financial sponsoring or backing every year. Hell, this year i moved heaven and earth to get a hold of the person who could at least point me in the right direction to get some small sponsoring with the local brewery… but all my calls, msgs and emails were ignored, as far as i know. I never even got a “sorry, i can’t help you”.
But i’m not complaining. DEKA Group was awesome lending me a full back line for the gig. I am really grateful for that.
The cool thing about all this is that i got to spend some really cool time with some really cool people, listening to awesome music and i got to support my fellow artists on their craft. They performed their art, and got properly compensated for it. And THAT, my dear reader, is what i took away from this year’s Butterfest.
As a small community within a small community itself, we all got together and made this possible.
So once again: Thank you!
Next topic: WORK!
I came back from Vancouver on the night of October 31st, 2012. This was followed by the month of November, when Panama stops functioning due to all the Independence Days (we got 2!) celebrations we have all through the month. That was followed, in turn by the 2012 Holidays. What i’m getting at, is that the main reason i had to come back to Panama was because i could not get a work permit while i was in Canada; my Visa ran out and although i could’ve stayed because i was processing my work permit, i ran outta money and being unable to work while i was up there… well, i ended up having to come down here.
No one hires on November and/or December. Being unable to score a gig in my field -Illustration, Character Animation- i got a job at a Call Center in order to afford myself. It was an easy job, with a decent enough pay… and tons of downtime. This was perfect for me, because i started working on my webcomic -which had been on hiatus for the whole year i was in School- once again. But all good things come to an end, and some stupid behavior by some of my coworkers spoiled the deal for everyone. Things got ugly and uncomfortable, and i was facing a job that i hated. So i took the decision to quit and make myself a living outta my comics.
This decision was heavily influenced by one of my heroes: Kevin Smith -he’s one of the people i talked about earlier, the ones that taught me things this year. See, he wrote a book called TOUGH SHIT and after reading it, i decided to follow in the advice he gave me:
“There’s a trick to being whatever you want to be in life. It starts with the simple belief that you are what or who you say you are. It starts, like all faiths, with a belief-a belief predicated more on whimsy than reality. And you’ve gotta believe for everybody else, too-until you can show them proof. If you’re lucky, someone starts believing with you-first theoretically, then in practice. And two people believing are the start of a congregation. You build a congregation of believers and eventually you set out to craft a cathedral. Sometimes it’s just a church; sometimes it turns out to be a chapel. Folks who don’t build churches will try to tell you how you’re doing it wrong, even as your steeple breaks the clouds. Never listen.”
This was one part of the whole. The other half came came in from the twisted and demented minds of Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. See they, in turn, put out Strip Search: a Web Reality Show where 12 webcartoonists would compete for a spot within the Penny Arcade machinery.
Two eppies would air online every week, and i would devour them. These 12 strangers would become my teachers, and fuel my desire and determination -already inflamed by Silent Bob’s words (ironic, isn’t it?)- to BE a Webcartoonist. This was taken one step ahead, as i tweeted these webcartoonists and they in turn would tweet back. The fire had been kindled, started and set ablaze.
The cherry on top? -My supervisor at this Call Center led a similar path to mine. The only difference was that for him, it was Wrestling and not comics. He *IS* a wrestler… he just happens to have a shitty call center job.
I had made my choice, i had made my move and now i had to carry it through.
This was a ballsy move on my part, mostly cause i had no real savings. The salary i had at this place was not enough to save up, and well… living as an artist of any kind here is virtually impossible. There is a pervasive attitude that being an artist is not a “real” job, and they want you to do work for free, or really… REALLY shitty pay.
I did a few $20 commissions here and there… but over all i was not making any money. Then one day a friend in Facebook said he needed a Graphic Designer for a big project. I msg him and told him “hey, i am not a Graphic Designer… but i can draw. I’m an animator and Illustrator. Whatcha need?” -He told me to call a number and talk to the lady there. I did and scored an interview on the spot.
Talk about seizing the day, no? -I went in for my interview and it turned out i was being interviewed for a position as part of the Set Dressing and the Props departments for a major motion picture being filmed here in Panama. I aced the audition and started working the next Monday.
The movie features big name talents such as Usher and Robert De Niro, and though i didn’t get to meet or work with them directly, i can boast i worked in a movie with them!
I learned a lot about how a movie is made. We were taught how to create sets in animation at school. With this sets created we could then plan our action to be animated and the camera angles. All this was enhanced by what i learned working on the movie. I visited some of the sets and saw my work being part of these alternate realities that were specifically created for the movie. It was mind blowing and humbling!
I made good friends and good contacts working there. It was hard work: i would start work at 8:30 AM and go on till around 9:00 PM, Sunday through Friday. There was this one time we had this huge set to dress, and we finished almost at 10:00 PM on a Saturday and i had to be back on set on Sunday at 5:45 AM the next day…
Of all the jobs i’ve had, this was the one i worked the hardest and the one i liked the most at the same time; and i would love to work in another production sometime soon.
The only problem was that since i found myself having 13+ hour days, i was too beat up to come home and then work some more on my Webcomic. Therein lies the reason why the last time you saw a strip being updated was about a month ago.
Seeing this unavoidable pitfall, i called in the reinforcements and had some of my peers help me out. This culminated on a week of Guest Artist on the Strip.
And their work was AWESOME! They delivered work that was way better than what i had in mind! Also, they helped me wrap up the last story arch on the strip…
Leading me to my next topic: THE COMIC.
Borrowing a page from Mike and Jerry’s playbook, i decided i was gonna publish my first book. It would be a compilation of the last few years of the Webcomic, along with some insights and unpublished art. This prompted me to complete all the loose ends out there and organize what is to come in the next year.
There are some stories i have been working on, and i would love to publish them. Both online and in print.
See, all this comes from the things i learned from watching Strip Search -and reading a book called “How to Make Webcomics”. One of the many ways that webcartoonists or comic book artists support themselves through their art, is by selling compilations of their work at comic conventions, events and gatherings.
Not only do they sell books, they also sell sketches, stickers, tshirts, prints and whole lot of paraphernalia. (A good example of what i’m saying here is in this Strip Search Eppie!)
In order to support myself with my art, i need to follow this path as well.
But here’s the catch: Panama does not have Comic Cons. There are some Anime Themed events but they are more geared towards Cosplay and well, anime. Getting a table at this events, and selling my wares there seems like the next logical step in my quest.
This is what i plan to do this next year. Hell, i even started by selling “Handcrafted Limited Edition Stickers” at this year’s Butterfest. For a $1 you got a really cool sticker. I made about $15 outta that. (And if you are interested i still have some. Drop me a line and we can arrange how to get some of them into your hands!)
Now, there’s a thing that worries me. Most comic reading people here are as strapped for money as I am. They really have no disposable income and well, buying comics may seem like a luxury for them. And why would you buy a comicbook, when you can read the comics online for free?
Then there’s the language barrier. I publish my comics online in English, like most webcomics. I have been thinking about translating the strips to Spanish to appeal to the local market, and the readers in Mexico, South America and Spain.
I guess this is more a marketing issue, than a comic issue.
It would be no biggie translating the strips. I am well versed in both languages, Spanish and English. Also, i have a few certified interpreters as my closest friends, who would no doubt help me out with this endeavor, if i wished to pursue it.
The problem would lie in printing the books. This is where i find myself at the moment. I want to print out my book to sell it. Printing books is not cheap. The more books i print, the cheaper it would be for me. But is there a market for me to do a, say, 500 prints run and sell ‘em all here?
I guess that would be the way to go, for the foreseeable future. I would need to start locally, and then branch out. All in all i guess i could do a “Limited Edition” run for the local market, and then if interest is piked, and if there’s demand i could do another few runs in either English or whatever.
This is where i find myself today, at 4:00 AM on the last day of 2013.
There’s this essay by the AMAZING Becky Cloonan, where she explains her experience with self publishing. It is an OUTSTANDING read… and to be honest, it is the reason why i decided to come here and do this extensive rant. I read it and i guess the need to organize my ideas came over me, and here you have me, ranting away. Go and read it, it is well worth your time.
What i want you to take from this topic is this: I wrapped up my story arcs in the Webcomic. I am working on getting a compilation published, and i am working of a few other stories for your enjoyment. I am not in the most propitious place to make a living as a cartoonist, and while i fight this uphill battle i turn to those who inspire me to keep on going.
Yes i am talking about Becky, Silent Bob, Mike & Jerry and the Strip Search 12.
I have some really cool projects lined up for your entertainment. I know you are going to like them! -Also, new comics here and then. At LEAST one comic strip a week, for the next 52 weeks?
Closing off this topic, i leave you with another of Silent Bob’s wise words:
“Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.”
With that in mind, please… buy my book when it comes out?
I guess that’s enough ranting for one night, whether it is the last of the year or any other night in particular.
And may the BEST of your PAST be the WORST of your FUTURE. Go on, think about that one a bit.
Happy New Year everyone!