Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Independent Creator Spotlight: Victor Dandridge Jr. of Vantage Inhouse Productions!

The man, the myth, the legend
Independent comic creator, master salesman, and former world champion thumb wrestler (one of those is a lie) Victor Dandridge is a comic book double threat. Both a talented artist and writer, he has created several creator owned comic titles including Origins Unknown, The Samaritan, and The Trouble with Love as well as a prose work, 8 Minutes. If you ever met him at a convention you likely spotted him slinging stickers and prints featuring his amazing 8-bit renditions of a multitude of pop culture characters. Victor was kind enough to agree to be my first victim for my Indy Spotlight feature!

Victor, how did you get interested in comic books? What was the first comic you ever read?

The beginning of an era!
I actually talk about this in my U Cre-8 Comics presentations!! I didn’t get into comics until I was 10yrs old. I HATED reading as a child -- not that I struggled with it, but I just found the stories BORING...that is, until they announced on the news that Superman was GOING TO DIE!! I remember kinda casually being like, “Superman’s gonna die -- I wanna read that.” And my Mom went APE -- like, “Whatever it is, I’ll get it!!” So, I started reading comics with Superman:Man of Steel #18 part one of the Doomsday Saga!

I have heard you talk before about Daryl Banks being an influence on your artistic style. I for one see
shades of JRJR when I look at your work as well. Just exactly what artists do you feel inspired by?

Darryl was a big influence on me, PERSONALLY -- he was the first professional creator I had ever met and he was a tangible figure, we sorta had the same high school teacher (which is how I met him -- he was brought in as alumnus to my high school’s vocational arts program). So, yeah, that’s where Darryl -- or as I call him, “Dad”, fits. Stylistically, though, I’ve definitely admired and drew from [pun intended] JRJR -- since Uncanny X-Men #300, he’s been one of my faves. I’ve tried a number of styles over the years, so also on the list are Alan Davis, Joe Quesada, Larry Stroman, Howard Porter, Bruce Timm -- geez, the list goes on and on and on...Haha!
On the other hand, what writers inspire you?

My love of writing came kinda late in the game (my goal was to be a penciler!) but my go-tos for
inspiration are Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis when I need some depth and metacontext. Mark
Millar and Robert Kirkman stoke my inner 10yr old fanboy -- really making me feel that magic when I first started reading comics. I’ve also got a soft spot on my bookshelf for Frank Miller (I JUST GOT Born Again -- that’s a dense, but AMAZING read), Alan Moore (it took me a while before I fully understood why Watchmen is so great, but now that I do...I know why DC never let it go outta print), Mark Waid (I convinced my 10th grade teacher to let me use Kingdom Come for a book report...and then at Gem City, I was the opposite “celebrity guest” against Waid for $25,000 Pyramid -- full circle!), Kevin Smith (my love of him has been gushed on MANY occasions, it’s almost obscene), Kurt Busiek (“Ultron, we would have words with thee -- best 7 words ever uttered!)..that list is pretty big too -- I better cap it there.

What’s your favorite book without pictures? Are you a sci fi fan or some other genre?

Oh, that’s easy -- Fight Club! I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE Palahniuk’s work! From Lullaby to Choke, I think I’ve read almost EVERYTHING! The last series I read though was the Ishmael series from Daniel Quinn -- if you’re into thought-provoking, self-sploration, I HIGHLY recommend it -- BUT YOU GOTTA BE OPEN-MINDED!!!
Your work “Origins Unknown” is up for a Glyph Award (Vote for Victor!) from the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention Incorporated. Tell us a little bit about how your independent book got nominated alongside mainstream work such as Ultimate Spider-Man.

I think the common denom is the use of an ethnic minority in the lead role. With Miles Morales, I
think Marvel took an amazingly original step with an iconic character -- they’ve virtually eliminated the risk of rehashing old 616 tales or having similar threads between the current storylines and the Ult. U. Having said that, last time I checked though, Origins Unknown was in 2nd place, TOTALLY SMASHING Bendis & Co. -- HAHA!!! I wonder if he even knows...

Look at all these books you need to buy and read!

Do you feel that the comic community is becoming more accessible to a diversity of creators?

I think comics have always had a sense of diversity, particularly with regards to content and style, but I think there’s a hesitancy when it comes to the creators, at least in certain “obvious” aspects.
But...and I’m probably shooting myself in the foot with this one -- but I don’t think there needs to be an effort to become more diverse with regards to gender, race, creeds, orientations and all of that. I don’t want to be marginalized on the basis of my background, even if it gets me in the door. I don’t want to be a “BLACK” creator, I want to be a GOOD one! We writers are tasked with creating voices not our own all the time and I don’t think you need exact experiences to write about certain things (though I have no doubts that Stan Lee was once a Herald of Galactus...I’m just sayin’).
Do you think more black creators at mainstream publishers would lead to a change in readership

NOT AT ALL! We had an influx of Black creators during the Milestone era and it didn’t really lead to a growth of Black readers -- it’s certainly not what drew me in -- and to a big degree, that was the BEST time for it. There was more of a concentrated effort in being Black that would’ve lended itself into that. But now, no...I don’t necessarily see people identifying with Black culturalism that way anymore. At least not in younger generations -- I think there are still enough of older creators who were kinda kept out that still want it, but I don’t think that my generation of creators need it. I think now, though, we just need to stories that will WOW people again -- not pander to one demographic or the other.
Your U-Cre8 and Pi: Mathematic Monk are both cool forays into helping kids create and
learn using comics. Do you have a background in education or do you just believe in the educational
power of comics?

No, no formal education for teaching -- in fact, I’m certain if you compiled ALL of my completed
undergraduate courses, I’d still be considered a FRESHMAN!! My whole push about using comics to push education is because that’s how they worked for me -- they paved the way to my reading more, speaking better, being more receptive socially -- EVERYTHING. I feel like it’s my job to show the next gen of readers/creators the same opportunities that I found. So, yeah, it’s corny, but I VERY MUCH SO believe in the educational power of comics.

What kind of response do you get from kids with these materials? Do you see a bright future with
comics in today’s children?

It depends, honestly -- I’ve done a lot of work with urban students and there’s an extremely dense
wall of interference that keeps them from latching on to comics like I did. Despite their ages, their
lifestyles (environment, mostly) doesn’t always incite their imaginations in that way. At least not
yet! I’m still working on what will excite and engage them -- even going as far as sharing The
Samaritan -- which is NOT really age-appropriate, but certainly environmentally acceptable -- with
them and THAT’S seemed to work. Other students -- ones from more affluent backgrounds, both with regards to actual money or focus on educational values, are WAAAAAAAAY more interested and consequently more accepting of considering comics and what they can do. They eat it up like butter on toast! Overall though, I think the future of comics is quite optimistic -- there are so many capabilities and applications availed to young creators that I seems IMPOSSIBLE for the form to die.

On a related note, you are entering into some legal action to protect your U-Cre8 line. Tell us about
what led you to do this and what you think will be the outcome.

I can’t get into it too much -- legal advice and all -- but...what I hope to come out of this with is the
retention of my U Cre-8 Comics brand. I’ve worked REALLY hard to make it what it is and have barely scratched the surface of what it CAN do. And honestly, after seeing how it’s opened doors for so many students and teachers, parents and their kids, I really can’t let that go without a fight.

 Your 8-bit pixel creations have become quite famous. You have even been featured on big time comic sites like Comics Alliance. How did you get started on these little guys and why do you think
they have proven to be so popular?

Out of jealousy and spite! Hahaha -- well, kinda...I can draw, but I’ve not been the most confident in my art skills (detective skills and ninja skills are without question, tho), so when I was really trying to make a name for myself, I wanted to do something that my friends -- amazing artists like Ren McKinzie (the artist for The Samaritan) and Mike Watson (creator/artist for Hotshot from Freestyle Komics) -- WEREN’T doing. The first show we were all going to be at was Champion City Comic Con, a comics and gaming show -- so I thought it’d be clever to put the two ideas together. I NEVER imagined how that would blossom into a gallery of nearly 500 designs, products from prints to buttons, stickers to posters and one of the GREATEST convention attractions, hands down!

The greatest cold blooded heroes ever
I think their popularity stems from them being so familiar and simultaneously unique! I’m certainly not the first person to play with pixel art, but one of my consistent compliments is that I’m NOT using a set sprite-template or mapping over existing images. That originality makes the pieces stand out even more and people have great time connecting with that! Plus with the 8 Bit Challenge (where you have to successfully name 10 characters off of a banner to win a prize) lets you prove your geekiness and at a comic convention, we ALL want to be the biggest and bestest geek there!!
Well on a final note, Victor is there anything you would like to say to the people reading at home, work, or on the toilet?

Vantage Inhouse Productions
I’m going to BOLDLY state that my publishing imprint, Vantage:Inhouse Productions will be up and running for only another 2 years! I LOVE self-publishing and I’m seriously proud of EVERY book in our catalogue, but I’ve always had the goal of working for a mainstream publisher and that’s what I feel all of this work has been leading up to. I just need to be on more people’s radar -- and YOU can help me do that by making for noise for me and my books! Go to your local comic shops and talk about them, hit up some message boards, like V:IP on Facebook, follow us on Twitter ! And also, help me beat Bendis -- I love that guy’s big, bald head, but those bragging rights on my resume would be the schnitzel! Hahaha!
I would like to thank Victor for his time and being willing to talk to me! Be sure to check out his site
http://vantageinhouse.blogspot.com/. You can link to his Etsy store to buy some really cool 8-bit art, or to digital versions of any of his books, which all come with the Jonathan Q. Larson stamp of
approval! Be sure to talk to Victor at any of upcoming convention appearances as well. He’ll be at
C2E2 at the end of this month…


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