Hey everyone! Your faithful heroine, The Indie Huntress, is back once again to rescue you from the stagnant mainstream comics. This path shall lead you to enlightenment of the captivating world of independent comics.
Joining me today is the illustrious Victor Dandridge Jr. He is an American comic creator from Columbus, OH, best known for his 8bit/pixel artwork, as well as being a new voice for innovation and production within the self-publishing market. Launching his own publishing imprint, Vantage: In house Productions. Victor continues to create exciting properties for readers of all ages and tastes.
How did you get your start in comics? What was your inspiration?
My first foray into reading comics came with the evening news broadcast that Superman was gonna die! In terms of love for the art form, I was a bit of a late bloomer, already past single digits before I became consciously aware of the world of superheroes. Now my inspiration for CREATING comics, well, that will always be my late uncle, Mark Dandridge. One of the first of my family to encourage my interest in comic art and one of my earliest teachers. It is in honor of him that I've set out to make a career in comics.
Why did you choose 8-bit?
For the longest time, I wasn't very confident in my art skills. However, when I decided to step out on my own, away from the comfort zone of being a part of buzzing clique of creators, I knew I had to have something new and interesting to bring to the table. My first show as a solo exhibitor, was Champion City Comic Con. It was billed as a comics and gaming show. After racking my brain for what I could possible have that would stand out (particularly from my highly skilled friends) I decided it would be a combination of the show's themes. I was trying my hand at pixelated renditions of around eight comic book characters. Something clicked, and in three days, I had completed about a 100 designs: covering 42 different characters! Now, the 8 Bit Challenge...that's a whole 'nother funny story!
When did you launch U-Cre8 comics and what is your mission with this campaign?
U Cre-8 Comics really came into being after I heard Jeff Smith speak at the Wexner Arts Museum in the fall of 2008. It's a project that had been floating around in my head for a while, but something he said during that talk just made it all make sense. I went home, hopped up on all kinds of inspiration, and a drew out the roughs for what would become the Character Crafter workbook. And then I sat on it. I sat on it for almost a year, because I hadn't realized that I had all the tools I needed to actually build it. But when I did -- whoa nelly! It got its first public exposure in late 2010, when I pitched it as part of the Columbus Metropolitan Library's summer reading club, and was picked up for 27 branches for the 2011 season.
I see you frequently attend younger aged classrooms. What are your goals with teaching the children?
With U Cre-8 Comics, my goal has been to first encourage comics as an alternative to general classroom literature. I wasn't a fan of it growing up and I can't imagine I'm the only one. So, that's first and foremost. Secondly, I want to inspire new, younger creators to get into comics at a far earlier age than even I did, especially urban youth. The whims of imagination are hardly cultivated in those environments and as a semi-product of one, I feel its no less my responsibility!
Overall, I try to get younger readers into comics because they'll ensure that comics stick around. I know plenty of people torpedo the notion of print comics lasting, and maybe they're not wrong for it, but there's something special about having that monthly book release. I want kids to know that experience, as well as what it feels like to create something of their own. There's magic in that.
What is next for The Samaritan? How did this comic come into play?
As of right now, The Samaritan series is over. That was essentially the story I had envisioned for the series and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out! Now, that's not to say that Smith won't turn up some where, but until a story that really makes sense reveals itself, I'm comfortable letting that world rest a bit, at least in comic book form. We are actively pursuing a transition into other media, specifically with a short pilot episode currently being adapted for filming. I'm very excited about that.
Where The Samaritan came from...that one is a little silly. I was taking the trash out one day and it kind of came to me then, in a fashion. My first idea was about the anonymity of a superhero's identity and whose identity is more anonymous than the homeless. That's right: my first inklings about Smith were he was a homeless man, who's super-powers had almost become a curse for him. Thus crippling his ability to live a normal life in society. As ideas often do, it evolved and stretched, taking on inspirations (Road House, starring Patrick Swayze was a HUGE one!) and blammo -- The Samaritan, as you know it, was born!
You are launching a Kickstarter campaign, what are your goals for this and what are some rewards we can expect to see?
YES! We launched #FromBitsToBooks on April 30th and with the help of some AMAZING people, we're already over 700% of our goal! Funding isn't the goal of this Kickstarter. It's all about the marketing! I've spent the last four years self-funding the projects I've produced, but because of the success of my pixel art, it's far from what I'm known for. Using Kickstarter as a base, I'm able to market the books to a worldwide audience in one fell swoop! With that in mind, our rewards are simple: books. The entire roster of V:IP books currently in publication! We've got a little something for everyone and I think it shows. From all-ages to mature, from print to digital, we've got it covered. We're going to be announcing a new stretch goal soon, so hopefully that'll inspire even more people to participate!
You can check out the Kickstarter here: From Bits to Books
You've been a mentor and inspiration to many. In your opinion, what are some of the most important points you can drive home for those looking to create comics?
Think things through. There's so much possible in the world of creating comics, and lots of people are doing it right. However, some are just following a crowd. More than anything, this is a time for innovation and inspiration! We can do far more on our own than even the creators first emerging 10 years ago. It doesn't do us any good if we're still running the rat race the same old way. If you think it through, you'll come off original, not only in what you create, but how you create as well.
What are some of the panels you've participated in?
I've been a part of some amazing panels, but I have to admit, my most memorable one was the Indie Creators Panel at Champion City Comic Con back in 2009. I think there's video of it archived on the ComicRelated.com website -- for me, it was the first time I had a platform to really share my thoughts about comic book making! And being so vocal about it made me feel like a rock star! I'll NEVER forget that for as long as I live!
Here is a link to a podcast covering that con over on the Comics Related website: Recap on Champion City Comic Con
Are you looking to expand your publishing company?
Vantage:Inhouse is maintaining it's self-publishing credentials, meaning, I'm not interested in publishing anyone else's material. BUT, you best believe we're expanding our own run of titles. In fact, we're slated to launch FOUR new titles this year alone, including: Ol' Crazy & 40oz of Death, The Fection, SPECTRUM, and Never Too Late (the follow up to our hit one-shot, The Trouble w/Love).
What are your plans for the next year? What do you hope to accomplish?
Next year, I want my name to carry even more weight. I've gained the respect of a lot of people, but 2015 is all about securing that readership fanbase. Next year, will be all about giving them more to love. I want to impress EVERYONE by how much we're able to do, while still being an small, intimate operation! I LOVE being the little guy who plays BIG!
Where will you be at in the coming months for appearances?
I'm pretty locked in on the Wizard World circuit -- they've given me a number of opportunities as a self-publisher that have been invaluable in my growth and outreach, so you can DEFINITELY find me at most of those. Otherwise, I'll be hitting what regional shows I can throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. You can check my website for my current convention schedule!
As for my bit on Victor, I truly appreciated his work on The Samaritan. I met Victor via Facebook, (like so many others) but it was different this time. This wasn't someone that I had just struck up a conversation with. Nope. We met through some shenanigans of a few mutual friends, and I played up those antics as well. When I finally met Victor in person at Gem City Comic Con in Ohio at the end of March, it was almost surreal. He and one of his illustrators, Ren Mckinzie, were unbeatable. These gentlemen were both extremely kind to me. They took time to converse and show me their work, and still managed to cover everyone's needs. There was literally a flock of people at their table that was large enough to block the aisle! Look for these gentlemen at some shows: you will not be disapointed.
You can find more on Victor at his website here: Vantage In House Productions
As always, you can find me here on Facebook: The Indie Huntress