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Yo Mikey P. here.

Thanks for checking out the site. I try to write about comics as much as I can but I got kids, ok?

Project: Get Known! UPSTARTS

Project: Get Known! UPSTARTS

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A few weeks ago, I attended Baltimore Comic Con and discovered some great indie talent at Jose (Joe) Jaro’s booth who was there with writer Kenny Groom. Jose’s art immediately drew me in and they both sold me on their collaboration. UPSTARTS is a fun futuristic /alternate universe which balances action and levity in a packed first issue. I had several great conversations with this writer-artist team and they were cool with me  letting me interviewing them some more. Get to know: Jose and Kenny's Upstarts!

 

Mikey P:

How do you two describe Upstarts to fans and friends?

 

Jose Jaro:  

I'd describe it as an action scifi comedy.  I picture a mixture of the old Lethal Weapon movies set in a gritty futuristic urban setting like in Blade Runner somewhere in outerspace.  

 

Kenny Groom:

Definitely a SciFi buddy-cop comedy. A fun romp in an overcrowded city atop a floating asteroid.


 

MP:

Kenny, you wrote the script first and were looking for an artist.  How did you guys end up working together?

 

KG:

I met Jose years ago through a mutual friend. Currently the friend is one of the hosts of the “Loading Snacks,” show, a pop culture and comic focused YouTube and other media show. So when I was working on Upstarts, I knew Jose had an original character he created that would fit perfectly into the role of the main character for the script. I asked, and the rest is history!

 

JJ:

Kenny and I go way back.

 

MP:

Jose, in regards to that character you already had designed, what was it about Kenny’s script that made you feel he was a fit for this comic?

 

JJ:

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I’m the first to say that I am not a writer.  Coming up with origin stories and backgrounds is not my strong suit.  I came up with the design of Griffin, the lead hero, with no real backstory.  I just wanted to create a, what I thought, was a cool looking character.  No real superpowers like super strength or flight, but very good with combat and combat weapons, and very durable.  Almost Luke Cage level.  At one point, Griffin was actually part of a totally different team comprised of characters created by other artists.  Unfortunately that didn’t last.  So, I had a character that I wasn’t doing anything with.  That’s where Kenny comes in.  Kenny and I tried to work on a couple of books before we did Upstarts.  I already knew what he can come up with.  Unfortunately, those projects never made it past development stage.  Years go by, I got out of comics for a bit, then Kenny reaches out to me and tells me about Upstarts.  We started coming up with a plan to crowd fund this title.  Almost the same time, an artist by the name of Chris Gevenois reaches out to me as well.  Chris is the artist on Salvagers.  Another very successful indie book.  He was forming a studio and wanted to see if I was interested in joining.  I introduced him to Kenny and with the help of Chris and his business partner Don Pankievicz, we successfully kickstarted Upstarts under InkForged Studios.

 

KG:

Upstarts takes place in a very far future and normal humans have literally been bred out of existence. Though obviously some human features still remain, everyone left in the galaxy is some form of alien or alien hybrid. Jose’s character Griffin, looked distinctly alien, so naturally he was a perfect fit for the book.


 

MP:

First issues can be problematic especially when introducing one character, let alone a whole team.  But this story was not cluttered with exposition and just jumps right into the action. It almost felt like this was issue 4 of a series, and I mean that as a compliment.  How much was this by design?.

 

KG:

It was all by design. I felt that the best way to introduce this team was to just do it. Backstory can be revisited or even somewhat explained as things go along. Comics are all about pacing and I felt that if I explained each character’s backstory rather than focusing on where they were now in the world, it wouldn’t have quite the impact early on in the story.
 

 

MP:

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The ironic, romantic narration over each panel is really structured well to what is being shown in each panel.  It’s almost as if you both were playing the same song using different instruments. Was this the result of a very detailed full script or an open dialogue between you two?

 

KG:

Both. I am very detailed when I write, but I tend to focus on the most important things first and then let Jose add the smaller details that he enjoys. For this book, since the commentary was so important to certain panels, I paid special attention to the roughs he sent and the panels that I knew had the commentary. If he missed something I would have told him. He didn’t miss anything at all, so it worked out great.

 

JJ:

I would say both.  Kenny’s scripts are very detailed but he gives me a lot of room to give it my own flare.  He’s also not married to each panel he writes.  I can come up to him if I think a panel is not needed, or an angle of shot is not working, or I physically can’t put that many things in one shot.  At the end I feel like it works.


 

MP:

By the end of the issue, readers will learn that narration is the voice of Mel Macabre, a celebrity host in a social media obsessed society.   Will she be a prominent character or a vessel to introduce the UPSTARTS to the world?

 

KG:

Mel is a very important character in the Upstarts universe… I can’t say more, too many spoilers!


 

MP:

She sort of reminded me of Ruby from Fifth Element. Not her personality but who she represented. Any inspiration?

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KG:

For her, I thought more along the lines of how popular some people are, when they really shouldn’t be. Social media and user generated media is so huge now that sometimes I see people trending and being cheered on, growing fans and being looked up to for simply doing something scandalous, sexy, silly or just plain stupid. It is crazy, but that is where I drew her inspiration from when writing about her. Jose obviously got the point because he designed her incredibly.

 

JJ:

Kenny gave me a brief description of Mel and I added on to it.  I took inspiration from hosts of gossip hollywood news shows like Access Hollywood, etc.  Also from current pop stars and I hate to say it, Kim Kardashian.  All of which, I am not a big fan of. lol

 

MP:

That culture of live feeds, “tubecasts,” and a media driven society, will this be a tool or a hindrance to the UPSTARTS as they try to uphold the law?

 

KG:

That will be varying from different points of view. Obviously, Griffin and Pounder want to be stars, but as the U.P.S.R.T aren’t supposed to be detectives, rather than enforcers and it has just been broadcast throughout the galaxy that they are in fact going to ‘try’ to be the former, it could be seen as a hindrance by some of the other members of the U.P.S.R.T. I do make that distinction because that is what they are actually called. The ‘UPSTARTS’ is a name given to them by accident.

 

MP:

I could draw setting comparisons to Transmetropolitan.  Will you also use this platform to discuss society in hyperbole?

 

KG:

I have never read that, but I will be now! I will say yes to the question in general though. Obviously the media will exaggerate the deeds of the group in general. They already have and it will show just how much the next issue!

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MP: 

 Jose, your work is astounding.  Real crisp, detailed line work. I could feel the energy and movement to your characters and panels.  What do you attribute your talent to?

 

JJ:

Oh man, well thank you. I’ve literally been drawing since I can remember.  Drawing always came easy for me.  I guess some would say it’s a natural talent.  Not to say that I’m better than the next guy, but it’s in my blood.  Over my lifespan, I’ve been inspired by so many artists.  My favorite artist at the time is Olivier Coipel.  Love what that dude can do.  Adam Hughes is another huge inspiration for me.  Those two have really had a great impact on my drawing style.  I think I’m pretty comfortable in my own style now but all artist incorporate something from their favorite artists.  Other artists are Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Art Adams, Terry Dodson and I can go on.  I’m still learning and always trying to get better.  Practice does make perfect.  Until you log onto Instgram and see something from another artist that just blows your mind.  Then perfect becomes inadequate and you have to push yourself even more.  Stay humble folks.  I always know there is someone always better than me so I keep evolving.  


 

MP:

 How long have you guys been making comics?

 

JJ:

We’ve known each other for several years from mutual friends.  I guess technically we’ve been trying to work on comics for almost 10 years maybe.  Something like that.  

 

KG:

Actually it has been more like 15 or so, but the first ten we didn’t know what we were doing, so that doesn’t count. I spent the last several years leading up to Upstarts actually learning how to write comics, specifically what I knew the professionals wanted to see.


 

MP:

I had the honor of seeing pages from this issue in real life and they are more impressive to see as ink over pencils. There is a growing trend for artists to becoming all digital.  What’s your take?

 

JJ:  

I think I’ll always be a traditional pencil/ink on paper.  I do love digital, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t feel natural to me.  I do want to take more time in trying it out.  I think people in the long run will always want the real thing in their hand.  I think that goes for actual comics as well.  I could be wrong.  Wouldn’t surprise me.  Digital is a great platform but there’s nothing like having it physically in your hand to look at.  


 

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MP: 

 Jose had to design a lot of characters in this book.  Not just the main ones, but who they fight, and the citizens of Babylon 313. How much prep do you put into these characters before they hit the page? How much input in their look did Kenny provide?

 

JJ:

The main characters I did do some character designs for.  Kenny gave me brief descriptions on them and I would shoot him back some ideas.  Lucky enough he approved of most, if not all of them pretty early in the design stage.  Some of the other characters I did on the fly right on the page itself.  Kenny pretty much leaves me alone when it comes to the artwork lol.  

 

KG:

If there is a needed specific look for the character, I suppose I describe it, but mostly I let Jose design the characters from brief descriptions. What matters to me is that the story gets told and I have found that folks who tie the artist’s hands as far as their creative input end up with a lesser quality book and artwork.

 

MP:

A unique environment was called for as well. Where did you get ideas for the setting?

 

KG:

I got them from my jumbled mess of a mind of course! In all honesty, my imagination is always going, so some things just come to me. Originally there were some similar characters I played in a DnD style setting many, many years ago. I just took inspiration from them and turned it into SciFi.


 

MP:

Dennis Lehmann’s colors were also well matched with your art style.  You also do a lot of work with your own colors.  What was the decision to divide up these duties?

 

JJ:

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I wanted to get some sleep and see my family lol.  That’s not even far from the truth.  I knew that I could not physically do all the artwork, along with a full time job, a family, and some semblance of a life.  The guys at InkForge brought Dennis on board if I remember correctly and man I was blown away.  That is one talented dude and I’m a big fan.  


 

MP:

This comic was published by Inked Forged Studios.  How did that integration come about?

 

JJ:

Like I said, at the time Kenny and I started on Upstarts, Chris reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining his studio.  I told him about Kenny and our project and Upstarts became their flagship title and first to be published by them.  Don and Chris took care of the Kickstarter side and Kenny and I worked on the book and promoted it.  

 

KG:

They approached us about possibly publishing it as their first title and we worked out some logistics and the rest was history. I was very fortunate that Jose is so talented and got the book noticed over all.


 

MP:

There was a great ending to this issue. Can we expect future issues of UPSTARTS?

 

JJ:

The short answer is yes.  Yes.  

 

KG:

Already working on the scripts for them, so to mirror Jose’s short answer; Yes.

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MP:

Speaking not only about UPSTARTS, what do you hope to achieve in your careers?

 

JJ:

I love creating art.  Whether it be sequential art, or pin ups, or whatever.  I would love to do it full time.  It’s achievable.  I’ve seen personal friends do it.  I’d love to work on some popular titles so I can say I worked on so and so.  But in general, I’m working to be a full time artist first and a whatever on the side.  

 

KG:

I just love telling stories and seeing them come to life. Ultimately just to have my two sons someday hold up something I worked on to their kids and say, “My dad did this,” is enough for me. I’d love to work for some major publishers and if it happens, it happens. If not, I will keep writing and telling my stories.


 

MP:

Who are some of the creators that had the biggest influence on you?

 

JJ:

 When I was in highschool, Todd McFarlane was my hero.  His run on Spider-Man was awesome.  I also loved Jim Lee’s run on X-Men.  When those two along with all those other artists formed Image, I was so excited.  They were definitely a big influence when I first started getting into comics.  Then after that, it was just discovering other artists as I got older.  As I said, Olivier Coipel and Adam Hughes are my go to artists right now.  

 

KG:

For me it was mostly fantasy and SciFi novels. Michael Moorcock was one of my biggest influences. His writing was so simple, but yet I couldn’t help but find myself in the shoes of his heroes/anti-heroes.


 

MP: 

What other projects have you been involved in you’d like to share?

 

JJ:

I’ll let Kenny elaborate more, but we are currently working on another book together called Broken.  It’s actually a spin off of a story he created called Lowlife.  

 

KG:

I have a series I am working on called Lowlife with an artist named Ewelina Mroczkowska. My lifelong friend Jason Humm co-writes that some with me as well. Lowlife also spawned the spin-off story called Broken which I am working on with Jose. Recently, Ewelina and I were hired as a team to work on a Star Wars fan comic called Legacy of Darkness. It is a sequel to a fan film called Threads of Destiny from director Rasmus Tirzitis that came out a few years ago and had over 9 million views on YouTube. That is currently running on Kickstarter.

 

MP:

When you guys are creating, what’s on in the background? Music? Movies?

 

JJ:

I usually have either music or a movie on.  Some Phantogram or Vampire Weekend and anything in between.  My go to movies are Big Trouble in Little China, Captain America Civil War for some reason, or whatever I’m in the mood for.  I do find myself more distracted when I put a movie on.  Maybe I should stop doing that.

 

KG:

I listen to a lot of blues/rock when thinking and writing for dramatic scenes. I go stoner metal all the way for action though!


 

MP:

Besides comics, what else do you fill your time with? When do you find time to create?

 

JJ:

Well I’m married and have 2 kids.  My daughter is 6 turning 7 in a few weeks, and my son is 3.  Honestly they take up most of my time.  I usually don’t sit at my drawing table until they all go to bed.  Usually around 9 or 10pm.  I work for a few hours but I still need some sleep so I can go to my day job in the morning.  I try to keep weekends free for family time.  Ya know, dad stuff.  Sleep is optional.

 

KG:

I have two sons, one almost 18 and one 16, so I play a lot of video games with them and spend a lot of time hanging out with them and my wife. It will be 20 years next April! Really I am not that old...


 

MP:

Any advice for other unknowns out there trying to make their own comics?

 

JJ:

From experience, never give up.  Like I said before, I took a break for a little bit from being an artist.  Or at least from pursuing to be a full time artist.  Life happens and you make decisions that work for you at the time.  But if art is your passion, at some point you have get back on the horse.  You have to make it happen.  It’s so cliche but you can’t be afraid and take chances.  I’m still trying to take my own advice on that last one.  

 

KG:

Never give up to echo Jose. Keep at it and find a way to make it work. Don’t let anyone bring you down and make you quit. Be it artist, critic, family, or friends. Keep at it. If you want it bad enough it will happen. Even if you don’t sell thousands of copies, once you get to see something with your name on it printed, in your hands, the feeling is incredible!

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Thank you both for your time.  Looking forward to your future projects.

Follow these guys from a distance or find them at the next con close up.

And find your way to a copy of the Upstarts!

http://inkforgedstudios.bigcartel.com/product/upstarts-issue-1

Jose-jaro.squarespace.com

Jose Jaro Deviant Art

@joe_jaro

@olddogdigital

 

 

 


 

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