I had the opportunity to meet Juan Suarez way before we both got on this path of comics. It was awesome to run into him at Creator After Con one year. We talked about comics and just played catch up. Since its NYCC week coming up, I thought it would be awesome to interview Juan and introduce him to our readers.
First thing first, tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in The Bronx. I grew up to become a Clinical Psychologist certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). When I’m not offering support and guidance via therapy, I’m trying to capture resonating mythologies via my writing. I want to create comic books that inspire others. It’s my way of giving back to the field and acknowledging how many comic books inspired me.
What inspired you to get into comics and become a writer?
I grew up reading comics and being positively influenced by them. Even stories that involved the hero experiencing a crushing defeat resolved themselves with a triumphant return. That was a powerful message for a boy growing up in the Bronx during the Reagan administration. For me, comic books became a respite from the harsh realities of the world while simultaneously inspiring me to change it.
I decided to become a writer after reading Daredevil # 282, written by Ann Nocenti.
The words “You tested me in your realm, on your turf. And I won. Your underworld is impotent” still resonate with me today.
Any tips for those aspiring writers who are looking to get into the business or writing in general?
- Read as much as you can and familiarize yourself with different writing styles.
- Familiarize yourself with different types of story structures
- WRITE! A Lot! Revise your work, and then write some more.
- Don’t be discouraged when you look back at your work and realize all the things you should have done differently. Being able to spot past errors is usually a sign that one is improving.
- Write what you know. Some of the best stories come from personal experiences.
- Be prepared to face criticism, and don’t take it personally.
- Be flexible with your artist.
- Always meet deadlines. Sometimes books may be late. Make sure that’s not your fault.
Now let’s get to the meat of things, tell us about Conviction comics. What are the origins of your comic company?
CONVICTION COMICS is an independent comic book company dedicated to providing quality entertainment, without the restrictions that permeate mainstream comics. Founded in 2017, Conviction Comics aspires to exceptionally evolve to match the desire and devotion of its readers. In terms of providing you with quality work, we will never lack Conviction! As for the origin…
In November of 2015, I returned to New York City. Having spent years in the Midwest, I had lost touch with my roots. I no longer hung out in basement martial arts schools, shopping at bodegas felt like a distant memory, and it had been years since I visited a comic book store. The subway seemed like a series of claustrophobic tunnels hollowed out by enormous steel worms.
I would soon begin work at a community clinic but how could I do my best work if I was no longer in touch with the city that I loved? I decided to get reacquainted with my beloved NYC by visiting the different comic book stores that adorn her landscape, starting with an old favorite.
I put away my business suit and donned my NYC armor, blue jeans, a black t-shirt, sneakers, and a hooded coat. Shades and my favorite superhero cap finished off the look. I rode the 6-train to 51st street and hopped on the M-train. A short trip over water brought me to the Borough of Brooklyn. I descended the long and narrow Flushing station stairs to avoid the treacherous elevator that had trapped many a hipster. I hit the streets with the same burst of energy I felt when my plane from the mid-west landed at LaGuardia. I suffered a devastating blow when I realized that my old comic book shop was now a Botanica.
Smartphone in hand, I rode back to Manhattan as I searched for another store and a bar where I could drown my dejection in non-alcoholic ginger beer. I ended up in a cute bar, seated next to my future artist. We made an instant connection and the two years that followed were a series of astonishing artistic awakenings.
We eventually found a comic book shop that we both liked, but more importantly, we launched a comic book company that allowed us to create worlds, and share the fruits of our creation.
Being a native of the Bronx myself, I love that your comic is called Bronx University. Can you give our readers a brief description of the book?
Demons have always masqueraded as the myths and legends that leap out of the collective human unconscious. They have pretended to be dragons, ogres, fairies, and mermaids, all in an attempt to trick humanity. In our modern world, they have taken the guise of fantastic UFOs, aliens, and machine elves.
This is the story of the heroes chosen to stop those demons, and all the stupid and fun things they do while in college. Welcome to Spiritual Warfare 101. Welcome to Bronx University!
What was the creative process behind this comic?
The concept for Bronx University started to take shape after I remembered an anomalous childhood experience. I’m going to keep this experience to myself because of how surreal it seems when written rather than experienced.
I took this concept and expanded it using Jung’s psychological theories and The Bible. I created descriptions for my characters and wrote 12 issues that closely followed Cambell’s (1949) structure of the monomyth.
I took all of this material to my artist and pitched the story. We worked together to give our characters their visual look and streamline the story.
Liia Magi is your artist for the comic and she does some awesome work. How did this collaboration start?
Thank you! I’ll pass the compliment along. I agree that she does awesome work. Drawing Bronx University was the first time she ever worked on a comic book, and her skills have improved with each issue.
Liia is a digital designer by day. And while she loves her job, she rarely has the opportunity to do work that is artistically personal. Creating a comic was a means of fulfilling my dream while simultaneously providing her with artistic fulfillment.
What are some of your dream projects that you want to work on and what do you hope to accomplish in comics over the next 5 years?
I hope to continue writing Bronx University for the next 5 years. It would also be nice to join the creator-owned family at Image comics to increase Bronx University visibility and sales. As for my dream project, I have always wanted to write a Predator story for Dark Horse.
Recently I got to take a great writing class over the summer. One of the questions by someone in the class was how do you communicate to the artist about the scene you want or the look of your character. When you write the scripts and send them to Liia to draw, how involved are you in the process and what advice would you give to writers when communicating to an artist? Also what questions should an artist be asking a writer?
I think this depends on the communication style and artistic preference of your artist. Some artists prefer little direction while others require specific details. Preference can change depending on the scene, and the amount of time one has worked with an artist.
Liia prefers I write scenes in two distinct fashions. First, I write as if I were merely telling an elaborate story. This simplicity allows her to grasp the tone and mood of the scene. Second, I write a technical description describing the angle of the shot with foreground, midground, and background details.
I tend to do much plotting when writing an issue, but panel structure sometimes changes after seeing initial sketches or thumbnails. As a writer, I have to tell a good story while also playing to my artist’s strengths.
I don’t have an established list of questions that I think an artist should ask a writer, but fluid communication is necessary. Any question that leads to clarification and good work is an appropriate and welcome question.
You and I have met at a networking event that happens around comic con. Its funny you and I knew each other way before that event. How important is networking and what advice would you give to those aspiring writers/artist looking to break into the business about network?
Networking is critical. Every single interview or store appearance I’ve done has been a direct result of good networking or communication. I ended up with a great artist because of my professional, friendly, and genuine approach.
As writers and artists, we are consistently reaching, inspiring, and interacting with others. In the world of comics, opportunity and success increase with excellent interpersonal skills.
Can we find you and Liia at any upcoming cons?
Liia and I will be at the Creator After Con Network NYCC Party at Twins Irish Pub during New York Comic Con 2018. We will be giving stickers to all our readers (while supplies last). Come by and say hello!
Juan we want to thank you again for taking the time to do this interview for Inbeonmag, please let our readers know where they can find you on the internet and where they can get their hands on your comic Bronx University.
Issue 0 of Bronx University can be read for free on our website: www.convictioncomics.org
Issues 1-4 of Bronx University are currently available on Amazon for digital download. You can view them on your Kindle or any other device with the free Kindle app.
Issue 5 of Bronx University will be available on October 1, 2018.