Friday, February 7, 2014

Interview With the Creators of the Comic Book "In The House of Feasts"


I am lucky enough to have a good friend who's friends are writers and artists and had just published a comic book. I did a review on the comic book here about a week ago. If you do not remember or want to look it up, the name of the comic book is In The House of Feasts. This comic was done by Joven Tolentino, Daniel Ramirez, Kwan Wilson, and Kush Wright. I was lucky enough to get them all together, live, for an interview. I would read this.  It was an excellent interview and these gentleman are up and coming and for sure on their way. So sit back and enjoy!


Today I am lucky enough to have with me four very creative men who recently put out the comic book In The House of Feasts. I have all four of the contributors with me here today to discuss this comic and comics in general. We have Joven Tolentino - words and letters, Daniel Ramirez - pencils and inks, Kwan Wilson - colors, and Kush Wright - title design. The name of their company is Hijackpress.

Joven: All of us here at Hijack appreciate your support.(speaking of my review on their comic book) Thanks so much for the kind words, Melissa!

Molly: You got it guys. I am all about the indie. It is funny just a little background on me. In 1991 I was dating a guy who was way into Superman. He took me one day to the comic store and this was when (It may have been a year or two earlier) when the Sandman series was out. He told me if I found something that I liked that he would buy it for me. So that led me into the DC and Image comics. All of my stuff I like dark like Lenore, Sandman, Lady Death, etc. So I really appreciated your comic all around. And I will get to everyone because I loved the coloring and illustration too.

Joven: Haha, no worries Melissa. Always nice to get in touch with people who are dedicated as enthusiastic.

Molly: lol. That's me.

Joven: I came to comic books by way of cartoons when I was younger. Maybe four or five. Like any other kid in the 90's, I was hardwired into Bruce Timm's Batman and Superman animated series. I don't remember if it came with my VHS copy of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, but my first comic book ever was one of those prestige format Batman books. I wish I could remember what it was! But even back then I knew I wanted to make my own comic books.

Molly: That is a good way to start. So you were into comics very early at a young age? I mean, when did you decide that you wanted to actually write a comic book?

Joven: The ideas and characters that came together and became In The House of Feasts have been in disparate journals, sketchbooks, and script drafts since I was in high school. It was a long process to get the book into shape

Molly: So if you don't mind my asking, how old are you now? I am trying to get an idea of how long this has been in the works? And did you know Daniel, Kwan and Kush at the time?

Joven: I'm twenty four. I didn't meet the guys at Hijack until college. We were founding members of the comic book club there.

Molly: So you really did have this set in motion for quite a few years. Tell me about the comic book club I would be very interested to hear about that. I have heard of a book club but never a comic book club.

Joven: It was called INK (Illustration n' Komics) and was founded by our friend and fellow collaborator Damian Rowe. Almost everyone in Hijack was in INK at some point. The club put out an anthology book of illustrations and short comics by members generally once a semester.

Molly: Wow - an anthology book? That is really cool. I would guess you still have those. So you were all already a team before In The House of Feasts?

Joven: Yes, we definitely were. The first comic I ever put out was with Danny. It was a six page affair in the debut issue of the INK anthology. (Joven refers to Green Gecko which is for now, a shelved project).

Ultimately Hijack is less a company and more of a collaboration. Partnership is the operative word, I'd say. Everyone brings different skills to the table and we make it a point to share those skills where our projects are concerned.

Molly: Cool. I am sorry to hear that your one project had to be shelved. The collaboration is definitely something. A lot of people cannot even get that together. And everyone has to start somewhere. When did the idea for In The House of Feasts start specifically?

Joven: In The House of Feasts started off as solely an Eli story. All the elements were roughly the same in that original draft, minus Bonnie and Connor. The character that became Gale Knightley was there in a much flatter capacity. My priorities shifted for the draft that finally became the finished product, and Gale became the focus of the story.

One of my guiding principles to storytelling is race and representation. I write about people of color because, growing up in the Bronx, people of color were the ones who populated my everyday world, yet TV, movies, and especially comic books were otherwise. And I've loved horror stories all my life. How could I not write a story that takes place in a haunted house?

Molly: So you were influenced by your surroundings and it had a big impact on your writing.You are talking to someone who was reading Steven King at age 10. lol! That was a big part about what I loved about your story. It was scary. I do like how you had a broad representation of characters. Are any of the characters based specifically on anyone you know or knew?

Joven: Not any one person in particular. Though bits and pieces of myself made their way into our four protagonists. Loneliness and frustration. A professor I had once said our subconscious mind will fill in the gaps. And the more I think about Bonnie, I find that she's an amalgam of the most confident aspects of several close friends

Molly: Why the name In The House of Feasts?

Joven: For the two kinds of feasting held in that plantation house. The opulent feasting of the wealthy and the darker kind held in secret.

Molly: That makes sense. Did you do all the writing or was that a collaboration? I ask this because you (had) mentioned somebody that I do not see listed on the comic book.

Joven: That was on the other story. Yes, I did all the writing for In The House of Feasts

Molly: That is awesome you did all the writing. The story moved at just the write pace and I was interested right away. Sometimes with comics it takes a few pages to get into it and I personally do not like that.

Did you major or minor in anything in college that helped you with the story writing or did you always have a knack for it?

Joven: I've always been passionate about storytelling, but up until college my focus was on illustration. Then I decided I wanted to focus on my writing and switched gears into my English degree. My minor in Asian American Studies has out me in touch with a lot of work that has influenced the dynamics of my stories.

Molly: That is interesting that you were illustrating first. I did not expect that. So let's talk about that. First of all, if you did do illustrations, why did you not do your own for this story?

Joven: I did character design mostly. Apart from that, a lot of my work was unfocused. I'm slowly getting back to illustrating, but I have to say words are the first thing that come from my putting pen to paper.

Molly: (I asked if some of the other members were joining the interview yet.) I wanted to know what is involved in doing a title design? I am not familiar with this part of making a comic book.

Joven: I think Kwan is ready to field some questions. (Kush would be available shortly).

Molly: Awesome. So Kwan you did the colors on this. I cannot imagine what a job that would be. I mean seriously, I like to color in coloring books (it is good therapy!) and it drives me crazy having all those colors to use. How do you decide, after the illustrations how to add the color and add the right mix of colors at that? By the way the coloring was excellent. Dark but vibrant when needed to be. It was a nice balance.

Kush: I'm here.

Molly: My question was what is involved in doing a title design?

Kush: So the logo was mainly an idea of how we get the work printed and done and just a take over in comics. That was my thought about the logo and the name.

Molly: So the logo was your idea. I do love the logo and the name. That is good it came to you right away. So the title design encompasses doing the logo and getting the work printed. And was this your solo part of the project? I am not diminishing it by any means I am just curious.

Kush Wright: No this wasn't a solo project, I worked with Joven on the logo with some sketch ideas he gave me and just made it work.

Molly: Great. So you will work with him again in the future I assume?

Kush: Yea, I'm working with him on another logo as I speak.

Joven: He did the Hijack Press logo we use across Facebook, tumblr, and Twitter. And he's doing some work on the logo for our upcoming anthology series Coffee@Midnight.

Mollydee: Okay we have Kwan here? I had asked how do you decide, after the illustrations how to add the color and add the right mix of colors at that?

Kwan: Joven provided the color schemes of the characters and environment atmospheres. The best thing he does is relate and refer to actual pictures. That definitely helped with planning.

I tamper around with photoshop's brushes, tools and shortcuts to allow a lot of room for changes. I'm a huge fan of programming and coding, so I aim for an "open-source" approach. So it's many groups and layers, but I also frequent the knobs and switches of Photoshop.

Kush: Well that's about it for me for now.

Molly: Okay Kush thank you for being here.

So Kwan, help me out, I get the sense this is done on the computer. Is that correct? Because I still picture a man with drawing boards putting in the coloring. But I remember when I put up my blog that certain colors just do not go together to be pleasing to the eye. So I love that you allow a lot of room for change. Tell me what an "open source" approach is. And tell me about layering.

Kwan: Danny (Daniel) definitely draws the pages out: pencil, ink then scan. I take the scanned pic and hack and scalpel away until it looks pleasing to the group. "Open-source" is pretty much coding with an open-ended goal, so it's very easy to change and add to. So the layering sets up for that. If there are any changes or ideas that we provide, I would start on a new layer, even if the idea is solid, I just consider the possibility of a last minute subtraction or addition. In short: a few yards south of paranoid.

Molly: Great answer. I think I got it. So unless you have anything to add I think I am good.

(as we waited for Daniel I went back to Joven for a few more questions)

Molly: Who are some of your biggest influences as far as writing?

Joven: Mike Mignola and Neil Gaiman immediately leap to mind. Very moody, dense, and esoteric
that is sure a great description of those writers.

Molly: What are your writing habits? For example where do you write, do you have to have a certain snack you must have while writing, etc.

Luciano Singer: (Luciano is involved in getting the guys together and does some other things for the all of the guys. He is like the social director/manager so to speak) Under wraps with fruit loops and Mountain Dew right Jov, hahaha.

Molly: Don't laugh at me but what do you mean under wraps like no one can know?

Luciano Singer: I don't know I was kidding.

Molly: Oh Luciano. I thought you knew him that well. Too funny

Luciano Singer: No the snacks are straight on.

Molly: HA! Yeah I find that most authors have a certain food or beverage they cannot work without. Back to the questions. At the end of House of Feasts was I can't pull it up now, a mention of another comic, maybe The Cult? Is that the next comic in the series?

Luciano Singer: Ok so it ended with Culthouse and that is in the works.

Molly: So the name is Culthouse? and is that your only project for now? Or can we expect anything additional from you?

Daniel: Hi guys. I was helping out with some buttons for the upcoming MoCCAfest for Kush. AMA (as me anything)

Molly: I promoted MoCCA on my site because I knew you were involved with it.

Joven: I'm in the middle of a Culthouse script on top of the handful I've already completed. Plus I'm editing a new anthology series due out soon called "Coffee@Midnight".

Molly: Awesome! So we have more to expect from you.

Now let me turn my attention to Daniel now that he is here. Daniel you did the pencils and the inks. I know nothing about this so tell me what is involved in that?

Daniel: To answer your question, I use quite the multi-step process from pencils to ink for the comic. When we are pressed for time, the process can be shortened to skip a step or two to speed up.

Molly: How can I put this. That is a fine answer but is there anyway to explain to someone that does not know what is actually involved and how long your part takes? Actually I have another question too. How do you all work together? Does the story get written first, then the penciling, then the colors, etc. Or do you do it in pieces? Sorry I know that is a few questions.

Joven: I'll let Danny answer the art question first.

Daniel: And if you find enough people to do all of that on one project you are fortunate.

The writer can already have his script ready to go or make one up, but it like 90% of it should be completed before approaching anyone. Joven should clear up how long it takes for him to knock out a script. but it goes by fast usually within the week.

Molly: That's fast

Daniel: The other 10% is usually little details of the characters, dialogue, and just finalizing things.

Molly: Just to be clear we are talking a week for you? After you get it from Joven?

Daniel: And the scripts we deal with are around 16-24 pages -ish. Joven usually has a script ready to go so the wait time is really nothing. The man is full of stories.

Joven: Haha, I think she's asking how long do pencils and inks take you.

Daniel: Ah, my mistake. I usually spend the first week after getting the scripts to draw up characters and the rough pages. Once they get approved or go into further details the pencils of the pages start coming in. That usually takes 1-2 weeks. Once Joven approves the character designs and pencils, inking a single page takes around a day each. So for In The House of Feasts, it was a 32 page comic so it took around a month to ink all of it. Give or take a couple of days.

Molly: Wow. And thanks Joven - that is what I was asking. So have you and Joven not seen eye to eye on anything? Does he more describe the characters to you or is it all you taking the dialogue and then making the characters?

Luciano Singer: There are weekly meetings. Sometimes 2-3 times a week. It is very involved.

Molly: I didn't mean to sound stupid. I guess I never really thought about all the work that goes into it.

Luciano Singer: Joven breaks it down to type of shoes, gloves, accessories, etc.

Molly: I was reading back over the transcripts for the interview so far and was thinking the same thing. It is amazing that with all that need to get done that so many comics get put out!

Joven: From time to time I'll also sketch rough character designs as well.

Molly: Wow, I never thought of the accessories. So much to do and think about! Yes Joven I do remember you telling me you sketched as well from last time.

Daniel was this something that you always wanted to do and had the talent for?

Daniel: I make the best out of all those little sketches that Joven does to fully flesh them out. Thankfully he is the kind of guy that allows for serendipity that creates the little things some of the more major characters have.

Daniel: I remember I started to draw seriously around the senior year of high school, but I attended college to study communication arts/graphic design. I drew plenty into sketchbooks since then.

Molly: Okay that is what I was wondering. What you just said. Are you working on any solo projects? I know one of the other guys was working on something. And this is something that you want to keep doing? And one last thing, who is your favorite illustrator(s)?

Daniel: Solo projects? Yes, I am. I;m compiling another character design book book based on all these little sketches I used to do during college. the first book was a monster 160 pages of drawings I did for senior project. And I also plan on doing a book based on the 30 days of monsters inks i did way back in October.

I can never seem to name JUST ONE artist off the top of my head. Currently its Adam Hughes, Rafa Sandoval, Alex Ross, Drew Struzan, and Boris Vallejo. I usually pick up new artists to look after, but its always them that I go back to. Also in February, I plan to do another 30 day ink a monster a day challenge. It's very much in my interests of ladies, monsters and animals. Should I publish a sketchbook one day, that's what you will find inside.

At the moment, making comics is what brings me joy. For the forseable future, I'm happy and fortunate to be doing comics featuring things I very much enjoy - ladies, monsters and beasts.

Molly: Awesome stuff! I would love to see your sketchbooks. I want to draw but cant lol! I used to date this guy who was an amazing artist. He went for a year to art school and dropped out. Now he wears a suit and does something boring. He used to play wicked drums too. Anyway I hope you get to publish your sketchbooks.

(I mentioned to the guys that I now have enough information and I will be posting the interview soon)

Daniel: Sweet! Thank you for bearing with me and have a good night.

Molly: No problem thanks to you too. You gave great answers.

Luciano Singer: This was great. Many thanks to all.

Molly: Thank you all. I really loved doing this live interview with you. We don't have to tell the readers all the silliness we cut out (shhh!). No seriously all five guys were wonderful and very specific in their answers and funny and very nice to me. I would love to work with them again.

You can find some excellent information and sketches and other things in the following places:

Daniel's blog: http://imadaniel.wordpress.com/

Daniel's blog: http://damianism.tumblr.com/

Kwan's blog: http://herbalteawilson.tumblr.com/

Joven's Blog: http://jovenistheworst.tumblr.com/

Kush's Store Page: http://society6.com/search?product=prints&q=anatomy+brand&submit=Search

Check out the comic at gumroad.com/hijackpress, It would be great if you can donate, but if you cannot, just put in 0 dollars and you will still get to download the comic book.