Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The "SolForce" Retrospective

Fun facts: June 21st is the first day of summer here in the States. It's also the birthdate of my incomparable first mascot, RaiStar Twinkle!
And for the last fact that brings us to this blog post: People, it is the one year anniversary for the release of SolForce Vol. 1: Wave One!!

Speaking with a few parents about the development of these characters since my preschool days, this was the main takeaway: If Strawberry Dough was the establishment of my graphic novel style and publishing, SolForce was the upstart. While I could spend an entire blog post chronicling the creation of ALL OF THESE TOONS, I'll start at spring 2013 when I began the true development of the graphic novel! Let's start with this image.

In the image above is what many followers grew accustomed to between 2013 and 2014 as the main cast -or as I called them since high school, the Originals- of SolForce. The reason I bring this image to your viewing attention is because many of you who have seen or read Wave One will notice a big difference in one thing:

Before the ink-on-watercolor rendering style was acquired in October 2013, I painted everything on the computer! These character designs where drawn and painted between February and April of that year and if there was anything that was going to define my fate when it came to my work on SolForce and my burgeoning art career at the time, it was this:
"It seems that you already have a style set in place with what you're trying accomplish! I'd say... just keep drawing. Go to model workshops so you can polish up your designs. Try mixing other mediums, too. You really don't need the college courses." -Anonymous Grad School Director
Hearing that from an already accomplished Visual Development director blew my mind. There I was, some wide- eyed, cold-as-ice New Yorker over in San Francisco wondering what was I doing wrong the whole time. In retrospect, nothing.
Need proof of the polished designs? Look below:

Past 2013, watercolor pencils became my best friend! It was portable, easy to use & challenging to master. When I was slowly devising my plan to create the first Strawberry Dough book that fabled New Year's Eve, I decided on using watercolor since I wanted to ease into printing a 40- page book. Fast forward a year later, I took advantage of SolForce: Wave One's covers utilizing my mix of watercolor and digital painting.
Cover for "Episode 1: Taste the Sunshine"

Cover for "Episode 2: The Witty Kitty"

Cover to "Episode 3: Psi- Wave"

Looking back at how this all played out at the various book fairs, it was clear to me that I made the right choice by switching up my mediums tenfold! Had my characters ONLY been rendered on Photoshop, the appeal wouldn't have leapt off of the comic pages onto the audiences' eyes. With pages like these being some of the highlights to many of my readers:

The first episode, Taste the Sunshine, was perhaps the most difficult story to pin down, because I was on the verge of slowly introducing readers to a new world of fiction and the characters of Sunshine City. I lost a good amount of sleep over this story more than the next two, but one thing I DID know: the Detectives John Clue, Robert Miles, Geraldine Archer and Martha Clue were going to have some fun fighting off a giant monster of slime!


To quote a few of my Cartooning students: "The Witty Kitty's my favorite to read 'cause Revenda's a kitten girl, and she's a geek! I quote her to my friends, sometimes." With that said, The Witty Kitty was definitely a lot of fun to write and read through since this second episode branches the path between seasoned hotshot detectives and a new teenaged recruit. Revenda also talks most like me, only second to another SolForce character.


The book was rounded up with Episode 3: Psi- Wave. For those who read all through it, they were able to tell me that this one seemed to be the most personal, yet action packed story of the three. I couldn't agree more. With the Psychics of SolForce being the most loved yet feared toons of the land, it's easy for any one who feels simultaneously ridiculed and special to relate to them. In the beginning pages, I made sure to have the seasoned and grizzled astronomer Walden "Waldoo" Doolittle summarize the backstories of the company mascot and tough-as-a-cookie wishing star RaiStar Twinkle, the never- aging Golden Age Animation actor Manny Q., and SolForce intern and graphic designer Ceasar "A.C." Southermire. It gave readers of all types enough context to what was then and what may come in the future!

With a year passed, I think it's safe to say that SolForce has a pretty promising future ahead! To reiterate from the intro, Strawberry Dough was the establishment while SolForce was the upstart. It helped me prove to many parent, teacher, librarian and book fair organizer that my original independent cartooning can have an assured place on their all-ages graphic novel shelves in the future!
Oh... and speaking of the future...
All the while, during a short wait for my Cartooning students to show up one day in May, I was armed with a piece of tracing paper and a trusty ink pen. This was the result:
Tune in for many a preview blog post over the summer! And stay sol-ful!!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ausora; the Kickstarter

Taken from the official Kickstarter page! Ausora

It all started on the last day of my prior Wednesday Cartooning class. Empty sketchbooks, coloring books & a Pokémon manga were given out as farewell gifts. Later in the class, this was asked:

“Aaron Man, I have a quick question. Do you know of any publishing companies that'll, like, take kids work & print them?!”

“You’re looking at one,” I responded, smirking.

This is where I come in! In the summer of 2014, I dived feet-first into the realm of independent book publishing with my first book “Strawberry Dough.” It follows the main character, Squishy the Sugar Glider, a curious marsupial creature who takes his species name way too seriously and travels with a loyal doughnut on his wrist. He also has an intense sweet tooth. In the autumn of 2015, a new 4- book series “Strawberry Dough: Season’s Sweetings” began with the “Autumn” book and is ending with “Summer” in June 2016.

And once the summer of 2015 hit, I completed the first book of “SolForce!” This series is based on the dozens of characters I’ve created dating back to pre-school. The stories are pure detective action comedy, following an ever-growing team of hotshot crime fighters from all across the globe (and beyond), as they band together to safeguard all of toonkind in the tropical mecca of Sunshine City USA from mad bio-engineers and/or their shadowy creations.

By the time “Strawberry Dough” and “SolForce” began making the rounds with me to numerous schools and book expos in New York City and the Bay Area, one thing became clear to me: The kids I met were deprived of art. To make matters even more endearing to me, so many of them have untapped potential as cartoon and comic creators in their own right. And much like me when I was a shy, skinny-as-a-twig elementary student, they simply want the adults in charge and even their own peers to take them seriously as growing artists!

This, folks, is the reason behind the campaign for Ausora! Ausora aims to serve as a workshop and small publishing outlet for the graphic novel projects my students and I create. What led me to believe that this idea can indeed work was simply viewing what a couple of groups were able to produce under my wing.

The first project at bat was “The Muji Story,” a 24- page black and white comic created by two of my highly dedicated (and wacky) fourth grade students Alice and Jenna.

Starting in the fall of 2016, I aim to work with students as both private and group lessons depending on the comic project they’d like to take on. Season to season, these projects will be collected into a compilation called “The Ausora Blender,” with winter being the first release. A temporary cover will be created for a campaign update. Inspired by the many creations of my 15 students from my Spring 2016 Cartooning class alongside Cartoon Network’s What-A-Cartoon! program from the 1990s, the reason for these compilations is to also view which comic projects would you, the reading audience and backers, would love to see a fully- made graphic novel project completed alongside the “Strawberry Dough,” “SolForce,” and “Muji” books! As you’ll see in the reward tiers, those with elementary and middle school students will have a chance to pitch their own comic ideas to me. This is an attempt to get as many fun and creative ideas into the “Blender” compilations and who knows, their ideas may turn into a small graphic novel too!

Then, of course, comes the use of funds. Simply put, the private classes and production and distribution of the books are key. The first 50% of the funding will contribute to the numerous classes I plan to teach starting in autumn. Classes will range from 4- 12 students. The next 25% will hit the points of printing, shipping and handling for each package. Thanks to my relationship with the following outlets, the well-to-do folks of Blurb and the Book Patch will handle all of the book printing, while Redbubble and Vistaprint will handle the posters, stickers, postcards and bookmarks respectively. The good news is that the completed graphic novels won’t take much time to print, since the PDF’s are all done! 15% will cover additional shipping costs covered through the various reward tiers, with 10% allocated for Kickstarter fees.

With Ausora, my students and I strive to provide a unique brand of entertainment for all ages for years to come. And all the while, we hope to empower artful youth who can’t wait to solidify all of the ideas in their big and brainy heads on paper with that new book smell. Thank you for considering backing and supporting this Kickstarter! I need you to help me and my students make this project a reality.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Strawberry Dough Season's Sweetings: Summer Bliss

Since this artist and this song has been buzzing around my head and iPod for months, allow me to share it with you. Play it while reading this post:
Paul Hardcastle, a multi- instrumentalist jazz musician from Britain, provided me with one of the many sounds I've used as a sugar glider drawing playlist for the past few months. The hotly awaited season of summer is about to arrive here in the states, and what perfect way to ring it in but with the release of Strawberry Dough Season's Sweetings: Summer!! It is now available for purchase on my shop.

I remember sharing this cover art for the final season for this series a month ago as a penciled sketch on my Instagram page once Spring was completed. From the very start of my character choices for the first Strawberry Dough, many readers were shocked at the omission of certain obvious animals native to the Australian and New Zealand lands. At the time, they didn't fit the comics I drew out, so I left it to the Winds of Fate -again- to remind me when was the perfect time to unleash the two new characters onto the Alpine Outback
Let's start this preview with a bright first page, shall we?!
I have to give a ton of credit to the Aussie Instagrammers out there for providing me with such vast landscapes and wonderful native birds to draw for this latest comic's intro! Of course, such dazzling décor would be disrupted by-

FIRECRACKERS!! Set off by a mischievous... Platypus... 
Before I continue, I must state the context of this page. Being an animal lover since age five, I've done my best to educate others on what exactly ticks certain creatures off. I felt that it was necessary to warn others of the use of certain objects that can cause damage. In this case, fireworks and firecrackers frighten the living daylights out of many animals. While this was used for comedic effect for a plot point, make no mistake: the way those birds reacted is VERY similar to how your dog, cat, guinea pig or rabbit would react if you took them out for a 4th of July celebration. They are safe indoors!
Now, onto why Platypus exists.
With the summer season hitting the Alpine Outback, the ever- so mythical Northeast region begins to bloom in popularity the way Kiwi and Dingo shared with the others during Spring. Platypus acts as the herald for the region, carrying out acts of naughtiness to fend other animals off until his -gulps- leader says to let them in.
He was a character long in development to appear in a book! Thanks to the platypus being an unusual creature to zoological standards -duck- billed, beaver- tailed, otter- bodied-, his overall design will make for a great sticker to add to the series collection! As seen above, his leader I'll speak of at the end. 

One joy I had while finishing this book was reuniting Squishy and the Alpine crew with Kiwi and her kiwifruit to see the side effects and wonder of their full journey unfolding!  

Note to self: Bandicoot can't avoid thunderstorms easier than trees.

Since this IS the ending book to the current Strawberry Dough series, there has to be cap- offs to things that have happened in the previous seasons. Case in point: Goanna still exists-

And Bilby arrives with Dingo! Once a month passes, I'll have a blogpost detailing exactly what I was going through at the time I started this book and finished it. In a weird philosophical way, Summer is the encapsulation of my latest transition in the Bay Area for the past two months. Much like I've described in Brooklyn By The Bay, it's a change I saw coming.

Much like how Kangaroo makes her grand entrance in the book!


Thank you all for reading, sharing and supporting my books! I'll be back to talk about something more key to my career... on Monday.