The Legion of Eccentrics is a comic book about an awkward genius teenager from the underserved part of Little Rock who learns that his newly discovered time traveling power is the key to saving humanity by battling atrocities throughout history with other misfit superhumans called the Legion of Eccentrics. (LOE). This isn’t just your average comic book. All comics are collaborative, from the writer, colorist, and penciler, however, this comic is made for the fans, by the fans. Comic Book Curious hosted a contest seeking upcoming artists from around the world who wanted a chance to work with a professional illustrator! The winners, Cesar Jatar and Javiana Medina afforded the opportunity to work with Elvin Hernandez, an accomplished Marvel and DC artist. As the comic is built, surveys will be extended to fans to help decide on the script, color schemes, and themes. By the release, the comic will be a true reflection of the readers who will enjoy it.
For Cesar and Javiana, two Venezuelan natives, creating the Legions of Eccentrics comic book is more than just art. It’s an escape from their harsh reality that they may need to return to Venezuela where their lives are in danger daily and medical care is sparse. Cesar is seeking ways to gain a visa in a new place. Javiana is seeking refuge in Spain but misses her family dearly. Comic Book Curious is providing them the safe space to create and collaborate – a network to call home while they remain in limbo.
Javiana: I moved to Spain in February of this year. In Venezuela I felt hopeless, the quality of life there is unfortunate, insecurity is increasing every day. Since Venezuela is the most dangerous country in Latin America with one of the highest murder rates, I always had the fear that something bad would happen to me or my family. I have been a victim of crime and eyewitness as well as everyone else in my family.
Inflation is also growing, and it is impossible to buy a healthy amount of food when the minimum wage is between $50 and $100. The official currency is the bolivar, but they sell everything in dollars. I lost a lot of weight because it was difficult to find food, it was horrible, my family and I managed to get ahead, but there are many people who are in need, many children looking for food in the garbage, many people who die for lack of medicines, since they are difficult to obtain and are sold at a very high price.
All hospitals are contaminated. If you are hospitalized for any disease, instead of recovering your health, you get sicker due to contamination! Public health is so bad that when you have to undergo an intervention or surgery, you must take all the materials that the doctors and nurses will use - scalpel, gown, gauze, syringes, solutions, alcohol, serum, etc. Transporting from one place to another is also complicated since being an oil country, you can't get gasoline. Sometimes it's hard to move, that's why most of the time I spent in my room watching videos, series, etc. That was my safe place. Although the electricity almost always goes out, something we’re unfortunately use to. There was a time in which the whole country was without electricity, only having it for 4 hours a day. In fact, many people in the hospitals died at that time because the hospitals did not have a power plant. How terrible, how sad.
Javiana laughs here and says, “I laugh so I don’t cry.”
Cesar: I came to Costa Rica at the end of 2016, mainly because of the shortages and insecurity that Venezuela was going through. Both countries have good and bad things. Costa Rica has greater security and respect of the authorities to the citizens. Venezuela has higher and more dangerous crime. In Venezuela it is much easier to get a job, especially in the area of expertise, for example in Costa Rica I have been unemployed for a couple of years and I work for myself in delivery apps with my motorcycle.
In Costa Rica I recently had my permit renewed until October 2024, from then I don't know if I would have another renewal and I fear what happens since it would be a denied refugee application. Some people say that Venezuela is currently better, and the most important thing is the shortage is over (I don't know if this is true), but since I may have to return at some point, I will decide then to try elsewhere if necessary. The truth is that my life is a bit complicated, that's why I have decided to dedicate myself to doing comics and illustration, at least to be able to do what I like. It helps me relax amidst the chaos.
How did you get your start into art / comic business?
Javiana: I have a degree in Education specializing in Plastic Arts. From a very young age, art is what I have been most passionate about. All my life I have been painting in the traditional way with pencil and paper, but I had always been interested in digital art; I just didn't have a tablet or a good computer to be able to learn and practice. One day in 2020, I saw a video on Youtube where they made digital art but on the phone through an app, I didn't know that was possible! I immediately downloaded the app and started practicing from my phone, and now I'm doing digital portraits on my Instagram account @jemm_paint.
Cesar: I have a degree in Arts specializing in Graphic Design. I dedicate myself mainly to digital illustration and have learned to make comics in a self-taught way, experimenting in some webtoon tests. I am currently working on a personal project called "My Darling Succubus" which I will be releasing soon in English.
Elvin: I’ve been into comics all my life (I practically learned to read with comics)! My family from my mother’s side was pretty artistic, and my grandfather from my father’s side was an architect, so art definitely ran in the family! I first started working professionally as a freelance artist during my years in college (first in Puerto Rico during my BFA studies and later at SCAD during my MFA), working on some independent comics assignments and illustration gigs. I have since worked for different publishers and companies as a sequential artist and concept illustrator (including Toys R Us, City State Entertainment, Upper Deck, Kaiser Studio Productions, and DCD Collectibles among others), while also teaching visual storytelling at different schools. I currently teach Sequential Arts and Graphic Illustration for the Applied Design Program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
What is your role in the process of Legions of Eccentrics?
Javiana: In my color process, for me the main thing is the color palette, always before painting I look for the colors that seem appropriate for the scene and that all together have harmony, after that I like to add extra details. I decided to start working digitally because I always wanted to make a living out of my art and in Venezuela art materials are very expensive. I have a better chance of selling my digital art to a foreign audience, so I used the only tool I had, my phone and have dedicated myself to learning by watching tutorials and improving the technique. I saw this as an opportunity to work with great artists to color a comic and the team has helped me a lot along the way.
Cesar: I give different sizes to the lines, depending on the distance, importance and shadows of the object. I try to make them clean and clear lines using a solid brush so that they can be colored more easily. I do this in a digital with a drawing tablet, reducing the opacity of the sketch and working in different layers. In terms of software, I use FireAlpaca since it is free and mainly focuses on manga and illustration. I am learning about Elvin's style and the way he makes his panels which has been a great opportunity to learn and grow in this field.
Elvin: As an educator, part of the joy of teaching is watching students have epiphanies through application of different skills, which I hope will also take place for the current young talent working on the LOE project. I have found them to be young professionals, excited about the project as well as their contribution moving forward. I look forward to watching them grow and I am pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far.
What is the most important message you can pass onto young artists like Cesar and Javiana?
Elvin: Back in college, we were taught that there were three key traits to a successful career as an illustrator (any combination of two works but all three would be preferable): Be good - meaning be talented/adept at the job at hand, be fast - deliver at a reasonable pace and be mindful of deadlines, and be nice/professional - learn to work with others and to present yourself as someone publishers can count on. I still find that these three traits are clear markers of success in the arts, but for young artists I find that one trait they don’t bring up is patience. We all develop our capacities at different paces, so practice, dedication, and an openness to make oneself available to opportunities while understanding that sometimes these take time to present themselves, are additional components.
For more interviews with comic creators, check out this page on our website.
About the author: Erin Edwards is a recently retired Navy pilot who has seen the world from the sky and is eager to write about it on the ground. Though she is just beginning to dip her toes in the comic world, she is passionate about meeting new people and unfolding a whole new universe.
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