Can you give me a little background about yourself?
I grew up in
. When I was
12, I was hired by Frank Scadina to work at his downtown Collector’s Corner
comic book shop as a cashier/clerk. One time, we had Bob Wilkins of Creature
Features TV show at our store, and it was jam packed the whole day. From my two
years working there, I built my $29,000 comic book collection of Silver Age
Marvel. In 8th grade, I made the honor roll. At San
Jose, CA San Jose high school, I was the school's
newspaper editor and qualified for state as the San Francisco Bay Area's mile
and two-mile track champion. I ran Cross Country and track at , where I obtained
my A.A. in Art. I also ran for the San Jose State track club before moving on
to coach at my alma mater SJHS, where we were back to back Bay area Division IV
state qualifying champions in 1990-1991. One day in 1992, while I happened to
be buying some Marvel and independent titles at Brian’s Books comic book
store in Santa Clara, CA, I noticed there were no Latino heroes, then I
grew frustrated as to why I hadn't noticed that at 12 years old, in high
school, or college and went home and created Aztec of the City, which made it's debut Cinco de Mayo, 1993 San Jose City
What is your artistic background?
I used to draw here and there as a kid; tracing Marvel heroes until I got good enough to draw them from memory. It was mostly Spider-Man and some Bruce Lee.
In junior high, they used to put one page stories I had written on the wall of the principal's/attendance office. I was editor-in-chief with the high school bi-monthly paper; sometimes I drew editorial cartoons. I have always excelled as a creative writer. Getting creative or factual things down on paper is my strong suit.
I see that you worked with your brother on the first few issues of Aztec of the City, so was he a co-creator, or were you the sole creator of the book?
I thought it would look good in the media if it were two brothers doing the book and invited him to help me draw the other half of the book. I was influenced by the three Simms brothers in
who produced their very own 32-page black and white independent series, Brotherman. I have been the sole
proprietor since April 1993 and have worked with artists Kasey Quevedo, Gene
Poonyo, Ernie Polo and most recently, Jaime Nava Pastrana
in self-publishing, the independent, small press, and Aztec of the City.
Seeing as you’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, and knowing your influence in the marketplace as being a Latino creator, my question is was it hard to get where you are today?
As soon as I saw the void, I worked fast to create Aztec of the City, drawing 50% of it myself, then hiring the few passionately true artists that were willing to work for next to nothing in making it happen. When I met Jeff Smith at a 1993 summer Santa Cruz comic book workshop sponsored by Joe Ferrera at his spacious, Atlantis Fantasy World comic book shop, he showed me his Bone characters when he was on issue # 4 and pointed out he had no advertisers, no bar code, and his books were distributed nationwide. Jeff really educated me about the business end of the industry that day. In that first year, I drove to
Salinas, San Francisco,
Newark, Fremont, Berkeley, West Hollywood, East LA, Bellflower,
and South Gate getting
the word out and selling them direct. It was tough, but the positive local
support was tremendous. Being interviewed by Aldama for his book was an honor
to be recognized second or third among the 11 Latino comic book
pioneers like Ivan Velez, Dominguez, Navarro, Saldaña, Hernandez...etc.
Did you deal with any discrimination from other artistic peers? How has the landscape of comics changed during your time?
At the very first 1994 APE Con in
San Jose, I met LA's Carlos Saldaña of El
Burrito fame and Lalo Alcaraz with his La Cucaracha strip when we were
all just starting out. In 1995 at Comic Con, we all had tables together,
side by side in the small press area, and were calling it Chicano Row. LA's
Rafael Ravarro (Sonambulo), Carlos Saldaña (Burrito) Jose Martinez (The Chosen)
and Javier Hernandez (El Muerto) were there. Richard Dominguez of Texas (El Gato Negro)
was directly next to us. It was at that time when DC approached me about their
cautionary concerns over Aztek, which
I had no qualms with because they were two totally separate entities.
Afterwards at a Mexican Restaurant across the street from Comic Con, we all created a fraternity, a brotherhood, called The Professional Amigos of Comic Art Society (PACAS). The changes I've seen are that most of the DC, Marvel, Image, material is somewhat stagnant, and the industry could use something fresh and interesting from the pool of independent titles. Big indie favorites of mine that garnered major success were The Crow and Kick Ass.
|Look at the two illustrations. Both heroes are thinking|
of their Aztec hero coming to life? The poses are similar
aren't they? What do you think?
Let’s cover your feelings over this whole ordeal with the people that have infringed on your copyright and continue to ignore your claims. What are you going to do?
You know, when I first heard about it and saw for myself what was going on and what they were doing, I got in immediate contact with four friends and sought their advice on how to proceed. They each said to send them a friendly message explaining what my concerns were of the severe copyright infringement of my Aztec of the City intellectual property, but after viewing their YouTube video, I decided to counter punch hard and hope when the dust settled, they would cease and desist. My friend in the bay area, reminded me that where he's from, ''We don't run from a fight, we run to the fight.'' So, I'm taking that approach.
|You see someone already put them on notice|
that the character existed? Mmm!
What do you think?
Under their YouTube video trailer, which has 8,254 views, there are not 6,000 comments or even 60 for that matter, there are
12. A simple dozen. And the
very first comment--of only the 12 mind you--that they have ever received after
uploading their video, is by ''someguy988''; who states very simply but
clearly, ''that character already exist''. They have been very diligent
on their social media sites to delete every comment regarding this matter, but
thank the good Lord, they can't delete any comment on youtube; especially the
damage sign warning from ''someguy988'' telling them 5 years ago that Aztec of
the City already existed.
It would be easy for me, as it was for a certain commissioner of Gotham City, to walk over to the red phone hotline and contact the business attorney who helped register my copyright in 1993 and decide on a unique, distinct, one-of a-kind business name like El Salto Comics, to put on her cape and commence to ''lawyering'' (as the Clampetts would say). They have yet to print one comic book and if they proceed with this one, they fall into the copyright infringement realm that completely favors all the evidence on record of my intellectual property that is Aztec of the City.
The DC Superman vs. Shazam is the precedent they fall under, when one reads the disclaimer at the bottom inside page of every comic book since time eternal, ''All characters featured in this magazine and the distinct likeness thereof are trademarks, copyright Fernando B. Rodriguez.” How DC has not sounded the alarm on their Lobo thing is beyond me. The fact I'm a small independent publisher isn't going to make a bit of a difference to a civil court judge and jury that will see and weigh a verdict on the preponderance of the evidence.
In a civil case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving facts and claims asserted in the complaint, and believe me, we'll present enough testimony and exhibits dating back to 1993. I mean, where have these guys been? They certainly are not mentioned in Professor Aldama's book. Whatever excuses or song and dance they make about not contacting me may be their ultimate undoing because we're all grown men and I'm willing to bend, but not break. They can clean this up and make changes accordingly. Some of us create and others copy. I mean, don't get me wrong, one of my great influences is the Sub-Mariner; but my hero doesn't live underwater and look exactly like Namor, Prince of Atlantis.
About the writer:
Jake Estrada has been publishing his own comics since 2005. His first comic, Bocas, centered on a Hispanic character, and there are six books in that series. His other books include Estrada Media Serials 1, Estrada Media Serials 2, Bridgeton Nights, You Cannot Silence Me: The Unauthorized Pedro Albizu Campos Story, Tainos, Motorist vs. Bocas 1, Motorist vs. Bocas 2, The Human Virus, and Screw Phillips. Other books are currently in the production stage and are scheduled to be released in 2013.