Interview: A GIANT Of A Man, Jake Estrada Talks About Creating Indie Comics, Building a Strong Indie Community, And Making A MOVIE??
Standing six foot, nine inches, Jake Estrada truly is a giant among men. With his catch phrase, “We can do this!”, and his positive encouragement of indie creators, Jake has made a name for himself in his local community and beyond. This gentle giant is a husband, father, indie comic creator, blogger, teacher, producer, artist, actor, and entrepreneur. He is a producer and host for many cons in his local community, including; The Spacie Awards (an award event celebrating indie creators on the Space Coast of Florida), Space Coast Comic Con, and Indiecon (A talent show that will showcase indie creators in Brevard County, FL).
With his publication, Space Coast Comixx, Jake has been able to share his own content as local talent with his local community, elevating those around him as he chases his own dreams.
We had a chance to talk with Jake recently and learned a lot about the indie community, making a movie, and time management.
Nerd Bastards (NB): First things first, thank you for taking the time out of your EXTREMELY busy schedule to talk with us.
Jake Estrada (JE): No problem at all. It’s an honor.
NB: Let’s just dive right into it: You produce and contribute to the indie comic Space Coast Comixx, you’re a cartoonist for the bilingual Central Florida newspaper Al Día Today, one of the creators of the Spacey Awards, one of the creators of the Indiecon Talent Show and Convention, one of the creators of Space Coast Comic Con, the writer/artist/producer of the indie comic Bocas, and the writer/producer/star of the subsequent Bocas movie, currently in production… That’s a mouth full, and I know I left some stuff out. Care to add anything?
JE: Yeah, you covered a lot of stuff. I’ve created a lot of other stuff too, like Screw Phillips, The Human Virus, Doughnut Demons, and over 120 different comics I’ve produced myself. Plus, I’ve worked as an art teacher, and much more.
NB: You’re very well known on the Space Coast of Florida for being a strong supporter of the arts and indie scene in general. Where does this love of indie culture come from? Can you pinpoint a catalyst that sparked your fascination for it?
JE: You know… I loved comics as a kid, and my first taste for comics came from a very mainstream title at the time, The Punisher back in the 80’s from Marvel (Comics), but I quickly developed a taste for indie comics, and black and white stories as soon as I got into comics, and fell in love with the underground market then in the city of my birth in Philly. Creators like Spain Rodriguez, and other books from Fantagraphics called to me. Then my mom had a bad tendency to rent every movie at the video store in the 80’s. I saw so many “B” to “Z”-Grade films that it made me appreciate the efforts of those creators. I think of crazy films like Pyscho Cop, Scanners, Hammer film series of Dracula, Exploitation films like the Executioner, Troma Films, and even much more crazier films. My older brother Jimmy and I could go on for hours talking about these wild films. There are times my wife looks at me and says I’ve never heard of that. It happens very often. You get people who are pure snobs that only jump on the bandwagon when things are popular and they don’t look at anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I love mainstream things too. I love me some Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, guys who went on and created worlds, and were literally creating till their deaths. They too were on the fringes of society until they weren’t and are now beloved pioneers, who everyone now loves when they are long gone.
NB: Let’s talk Bocas. Can you give our readers a synopsis of the story?
JE: Bocas is about a fallen angel who fell in the Original Fall with the other angels, but has since repented and his punishment is to walk the world, righting wrongs and trying to make sense of this mad world we live in.
NB: What inspired you to create your indie title, Bocas?
JE: It’s a story, for sure. At first I worked with my cousin, Jerry Estrada, on a completely different story that would eventually become Maestro. Yet Bocas, the central character, is based off the likeness of my father. My father was a man who gave up his education, his life, to support first his mother and father along with his siblings, and eventually had a family of his own. My father worked hard and he wanted his children to do better. Like all good parents, he wanted his kids is to live and succeed in life, and know they are okay. My father would sit down and tell me tales of him kicking peoples asses or about other historical figures kicking ass. My father and I were very close. As a kid I had another character I was drawing based off my father called Chago, but Bocas is the character I would later release. During the original run my father and I would go around, he’d pose for me holding a gun and I created this character off his likeness– fueled by his stories I kept releasing this title until his death. I released 6 issues of the original run. Very fringe, very unground, very raw, very unrelenting.
NB: Your father sounds like a legend. A mythological character. It makes sense that you’d use him as inspiration.
NB: Is there a meaning to the name Bocas?
JE: Bocas is a name, like a last name. Since the character is long lived, most names people have come from somewhere. Take for instance my name, Estrada in English it is like Rhoades, Roads, Street and many other variations. My kin, thousands of years ago, were Gypsies— Like Moors on the streets, beating people up. Hence the term Estrada was born; or like Smiths were Black Smiths. Bocas is about mouths. Mouths talk and when they talk, they can either speak life to the darkness or they can speak death to the darkness. Our tongues, our mouths, our words can bring peace or destruction. So it was a play on those ideals, on those old conventions about life around us.
NB: You are now working on a film adaptation of your original Bocas IP. How did this come about? Has this been something you’ve been planning for awhile?
JE: I lost my youngest son, Cole. He was only 16 days old. I completely quit drawing, and quite honestly it was hard. I stopped publishing any books or drawing anything. It was months of no creation. I couldn’t muster the will to do anything. It was my friend, Chuck Fresh, who pushed me to go out into the world and do something. He suggested I go make a short of one of my comic properties. I decided I’d do that with Bocas. So I wrote a short screenplay that eventually grew into a huge full blown draft, that would become a feature film. My father was long gone, so I figured I’d play the central character. Of course I’m a lot taller, and fatter then he ever was, yet I figured I understood the character and his odd mannerisms. So with that this sparked my juices back into the creative field.
NB: So sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you went through, but I applaud your perseverance.
NB: Can you tell us a little more about some of your other IP’s?
JE: Sure. I created Doughnut Demons with David Grace. It’s a slapstick comic series about evil doughnuts killing evil people. There are two issues in that series. It stopped of course after the whole thing with the loss of my son.
JE: Then there is Demon in a Spacesuit who was the star of Space Coast Comixx for a while and his iconic name is Spacie. He is the mascot of the (Spacie) awards show.
JE: There is Maestro, Screw Phillips, Frio… I have done several biographical things like the story about Puerto Rican liberator fighter Pedro Albizu Campos, Tianos, and then comedic comic stories like The Prez Hates Zombies, which had President Bush fighting zombies and becoming the savior of the human race. I have also created darker, more mind molding series like The Human Virus, which I’m planning on adapting as a film project soon. Plus, I have my ghost story short I’m filming as we speak. I have so many comics I’ve done, that I need a spreadsheet on what I did over the last twenty years. For me you can create a comic about anything; be it romance, drama, horror, porn, real life… You think it, it can be done. I think everyone should go out and create comics.
NB: I have to read The Prez Hates Zombies!
NB: I’m sure it’s like asking “who’s your favorite kid”, but what is your favorite non-Bocas title and why?
JE: I’d say my favorite mainstream character is hands down the Punisher. First comic I read, and I totally get the backdrop about a guy getting revenge for the loss of his loved ones. I always liked those sorts of vigilantes. My favorite film series is the original Highlander film. “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!” Then there’s Deathwish, with Charles Bronson blowing away all the scumbags, yet still Jeff Goldblum got away in the end, didn’t he? That’s what makes Deathwish so beautiful, the man was out to kill scum but he wasn’t sure who he was gunning for. (He) wasn’t a perfect killing machine like he was in previous installments. I know I’ve gone off track here, but that is how I am. My mind is all over and I’m thinking of all these little things.
NB: Tell our readers a little bit about the Cons and award shows you are a part of. How did you get involved with those?
JE: For years I attended conventions of all sorts around the country; from comic cons, to book shows, and other less mainstream types of events. I always wanted to put on a show. I settled in Brevard County (Fl). I attended one show called Nerd Fest. It was an okay show, but let’s put it this way: the showrunner was sort of a douche. The guy would later hire me to do his program. I did his program, but he never paid me and never squared up with me at all. I was forced to sell many of these programs at the show. Nino Mesarina, who drew a story for me, was with me. Together, he and I sold roughly 120 issues of this book. We were screaming “PROGRAMS! PROGRAMS FOR SALE!” During this time I met David Grace, who was putting on Space Coast Comic Con (SCCC). David is a very nice guy who eventually made me a partner, and I would go on and help him run SCCC here in Brevard County. From there, I decided to launch the Spacie Awards Show to put a spotlight on creators at the comic con. I know how hard it is to be tooling away in the dark and not having many eyes falling on your project, and this was a perfect time for indie creators to scream about their wares and help put more eyes on their goods. Now, many people lose their shirts over this award, and in my book all the creators are winners. If they are putting out projects of any kind at any level, they have real stones. It takes a brave person to put their own money into their own wares and build an audience of any sort. So I wanted to spotlight that and let the audience decide who were the best. I helped put on cosplay events like Cosography, to helping with ICC Con (Independent Creators Connection) 2 and 3 for Terance Baker. Meanwhile, I’ve done lots of other stuff that is a bit more behind the scenes. Stuff like attend a summer camp and show kids how to draw, to helping those less fortunate to create art, down to helping and co-hosting INDIECON 2019 in Melbourne Florida, which again, is about the Indies, and this time it includes music, film, books. It’s a non-profit. For me it is about helping and getting people involved to do something, and understand everything we do is art. Life is art and we all have a form of expression, and I’m always here willing to offer my insight, a brief word, and encourage someone to go out and be amazing! Life is too short. I love people seizing the moment to do something spectacular!
NB: I can attest to your encouragement. You’ve been very supportive to me, and many other creators I know.
NB: I imagine putting these shows together every year takes a monumental amount of work. Can you tell us a little bit about the process involved with putting these events together every year?
JE: Putting together these shows are a lot of work. It takes over a year of planning and sending out messages. Luckily for me, I’ve always had partners that put in just as much work, so it doesn’t solely fall on my shoulders. Nonetheless, it’s hard work and lots of time focused on this, along with my other tasks. For events like this, you have to always secure the venue first. Sometimes venues are booked to the max and it gives you little wiggle room on the day you are going to have it. Then you have to factor in the price, the insurance, the advertising budget; then you think about the sort of guest you want to bring and you have to reach out and contact those people and try to sell them the show. Then you got to lay out where the tables will be and you always have to smile, be polite, and make sure you thank people… For me, every year I like having different guest and try to get bigger and better people. If you walk out with a smile that means I succeeded in my job.
NB: So basically blood, sweat, tears, AND a pound of flesh. Sounds like hard work.
NB: Aside from your numerous creative endeavors, you’re also a teacher, husband, and father. How the HELL do manage all of that?
JE: I like keeping myself busy and I enjoy doing things like this. If I stay too still, I go crazy and I drive everyone around me crazy. Bad enough I’m already from another world on many different ideas. People beg me to go back to work.
NB: Does Jake Estrada ever take some time for himself? What do you do to relax?
JE: For me, I love taking long trips. I love driving to places that I’ve never visited. I’ve gone to the House on the Rock, which happened to have an episode of American Gods filmed there. It made me laugh when I saw Mr. Wednesday go onto the huge carousel in that place. I’m a traveler. I try to go somewhere every year. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go this year due to a lot of factors, but if I can, I try to get away and see the sights and enjoy life as much as possible.
NB: You’re very influential in the Space Coast Indie scene, but who influenced you? Do you have any heroes or role models that you look up to? Anyone that you might model your determination and work ethic after?
JE: My father, who is no longer with me, influenced me so much. I try to honor him in everything I do. My father was a hero to our family. Other people who I respected are our military that stand and defend freedom, and people like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Pedro Abizu Campos, Martin Luther King Jr., Roberto Clemente, and my mother Nilda Estrada. I saved my mom for last– while most times she never, ever agrees with me, and thinks I’m nuts, she has always had my back. She could bad mouth me all day to my face, but the moment I tell her “Hey, so-and-so said this about me”, she would go “Who? Where’s their phone number?! No one is going to talk bad about my son!” I’m a man in my forties and she would still protect me like I’m a newborn. She calls to make sure I’m sleeping, not sick, and she momsplains to me all the time. I love her and, maybe soon, if she ever has the time, she will appear as MAMA-BOCAS in my films one day.
NB: MAMA-BOCAS sounds like an amazing woman.
NB: What are some of the biggest obstacles or struggles that you’ve had to overcome as an indie creator?
JE: Money. Money is the enemy. Money is the hero. It all revolves around money. After money is time. You have to have time to create, but you also have to have time to network; you have to have time to promote; you have to have time to calm yourself down when you don’t have no money to put product out, and when you have no time to create; you need that time to find a team to help you put the product out, and with that, sometimes you need the money to pay said team. So Time and Money go hand in hand, you see? So most creators have day jobs and funnel some of their money to their passion, and their passion may make a little (money) back. There is an old saying: “You gotta spend money to make a little money back.” Plus, you have to put in the time to make the world around you go. You have to be present, and you have to remain vigil, and you have to understand Rome wasn’t built overnight.
NB: What advice would you give someone who wants to become an indie creator? Whether it be a film maker, comic creator, or musician, is there one piece of advice that you think will help them along the way?
JE: Build your network. Go to chamber meetings; go to barber shops; go candy stores; Use Facebook, Twitter, your local church, even your job. Talk about what you do. Tell them your passion, and repeat over and over again what you do. Never give up!
NB: WE CAN DO THIS, right?! I’m sure you have a lot of future projects in the works right now, but what is the one that you are most excited about?
JE: RELEASING BOCAS (film) and PRODUCING THE HUMAN VIRUS.
NB: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us Jake. Where can our readers follow you on social media to keep up with your multitude of projects?
JE: I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m everywhere! If some tall guy is blocking the sun it is probably me. Say hello. I won’t bite. Peace everyone.