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A Cat Chat with Jamar Nicholas

Our own Cat Garza leaps out from the mists after a prolonged absence, and shoots off a fresh new Cat Chat interview with none other than Jamar Nicholas, small print artist and animator who has garnered notice for himself for his The Jamar Chronincles, and who now has a weekly webcomic featred on Kevin Smith's Movie Poop Shoot site. Cat chats him up here about "the process", the comics industry, and good ole' dreams...

catgarza: What'cha working on right now?
Jamar: Right now in my mix, I have DETECTIVE BOOGALOO: HIP-HOP COP that I'm doing for Kevin Smith over at Moviepoopshoot.com...
Jamar: And a lot of shadowprojects. Stuff I can't talk about unitl it's firmed up.
catgarza: When did you decide to jump to the web?
catgarza: I mean, I was a fan of THE JAMAR CHRONICLES once I read it, and I saw you do a lot of work in print. Some of the "shadow work" stuff is that right?
Jamar: I've been on the web for a while - when I was drawing THE JAMAR CHRONICLES... and then I started to a weekly version of that on the web, for places like COMICS2U.com and through my mailing list...
Jamar: Shadowwork is print work? Yes.
catgarza: But it's good to see you jumping on the web, doing a weekly strip.
Jamar: Thanks man - it's really a test of virtue.
catgarza: It seems like you're really flourishing style-wise, as well. How do you work? I mean, what process are you using right now to produce your strips?
Jamar: Especially since the rest of the other strips are done by teams, I'm the only solo cat, so I think I put more pressure on myself to make it look like more than one person does it :-)
Jamar: Well, I'm a tactile-oriented fella. I try to use the same materials all the time, but if it doesn't feel right, I'll change... Right now, I'm working on 8.5x14 paper, which I bordered in blueline and print out of my Epson. I work mainly in Col-Erase red or blue pencil (Right now, I like the feel of the red) and then ink over it in tech pens or anything that leaves a black line. I use a WACOM, just for coloring. I letter on the computer too. My man Phill Cavete hooked me up with the GRAND POOBAH font, which is my handwriting. That's Boogaloo's voice.
catgarza: Nice. It's a great lettering style for the strip. The strip itself is pretty nice, story-wise as well.

Jamar: Thanks. I think I'm the only one who gets it sometimes. I dont get a lot of feedback.
catgarza: Heh, I know what THAT'S like! ;-)
Jamar: Yeah, Hahaa.
catgarza: I get little feedback, too. It's usually "great!" And that's about it... so it's hard. Especially when you're your own worst critic. Still got the love (for comics)?
Jamar: Yeah, I beat myself up. I am a pacing freak too. I want the strip to go at a certain speed - and the rest of the guys do gag a week strips or 4 week story arcs. I still have the love. I'll always have it!
catgarza: Have you thought about daily?
Jamar: Man, I couldn't deal. :-)
catgarza: Ha!
Jamar: I am thinking about doing an experiment where I do a seven-day Boogaloo - just seven strips in a row. That would be about it.

catgarza: Well, I'm just asking, I guess. Is comics yer bread and butter still, or are you having to supplement... be a hybrid... like a lot of cartoonists our age?
Jamar: It's tough.
catgarza: Yeah. I know. I'm thinking that doing it all will help... i.e., cool T-shirts, tatt flash, illo work, whatever. I'm even playing music sometimes...
Jamar: I'm a straight up freelancer, and I need to keep the plates spinning on all angles. Add to it that most people think that what we do is a cheap commodity, you have to constantly bend over or lose jobs because you need the money and will take whatever you can.
catgarza: Yup. Exactly. And the market isn't too good right now for ppl like us.
Jamar: I've had people wonder why I wasn't ecstatic to do him a project for some outrageously low figure.
catgarza: Um, because GOOD work takes TIME to produce! Damn! Heh.
Jamar: Exactly. But I'm in a different place now - some doors are opening and that's good – it's still a waiting game. San Diego was a great network, but you still have to play the followup game.

catgarza: Yes, cons definitely help the networking aspect of our business. Do you think the Internet will help?
Jamar: I know that's your deal and all Cat - but I don't know. Not the way the Americans mindset is. You'd have to build a name in print first - then make it work on the net. There's always wildcards like the Kurtz or the Penny Arcade guys.
catgarza: I'm thinking that a lot of what the Highwater Books ppl are doing in print is what needs to be done... individual comics as art/comic OBJECTS which can be unique unto themselves. I wouldn't mind doing a print book
Jamar: Yeah.
catgarza: But it's gotta be FOR print. Just like web stuff for web. At least, that's where I'm at now.
catgarza: T-shirts as T-shirts. Taking things back to themselves as a unique object.
Jamar: That's cool - but there's still the Marvel aesthethic that doesn't believe in that.

Jamar: I'm sure most people don't know what Highwater is. But WE do.
catgarza: True. But that's where it starts, I think.
Jamar: And the horn-rimmed glasses set does. But BASH! HULK SMASH! doesn't. And that's still what 'COMICS' are to a lot of people.
catgarza: True, but the economy can't support 1,000,000 copies of the next X-book.
Jamar: I agree and I don't at the same time. I think people buy what they think is hot and has perceived value. Lookit Yu-Gi-Oh cards. They can't keep that stuff on the shelves, and that costs more than a comic book. 5 dollar booster packs? Why isn't that comics?
catgarza: I've been noticing "trends", but I'm afraid to try to play the game of predicting the next one, y'know?
Jamar: yeah, You'll always lose if you try to forecast it. You need to create what I call the 'Boba Fett Factor'. The shit that you just made up, and people can't get enough of it. And you don't understand it - but it's out of your hands...

catgarza: I think we're both are on the right track at this point in our "careers"...
Jamar: I agree, Cat-Daddy.
catgarza: I think you started doing print before I did, though...
Jamar: Around 97... Somewhere in there.
catgarza: Ah, same time. SPX '97.
Jamar: I had gone to print... but got shut out of SPX '97. I was at '98. I met you in '99 I think.
catgarza: Shut out? How?
Jamar: No more tables!
catgarza: Yup, I met you through Keith Knight. Then we hung out with Mike Speranza at my first comicon.
Jamar: Right. You were rocking a bowler hat. :-) Yeah, [Mike and I] roomed together and we let you crash on our floor. :-)

catgarza: So, ultimately, what do you want outta your comics career? And don't hold back, 'cuz I KNOW I wanna have some kinda animation deal in there somewhere myself, y'know?
Jamar: I want to build a name where people go to me to get a certain flavor. They go to me because they want the Jamar Vibe. And I want to be known for my properties. Since I'm an animator by trade, I want to see my stuff move on the big or small screen, and I want to own it all, or as much of it as possible :-)
catgarza: Heh. Well, I'm gonna have a hard time keeping up with that! But as long as you remember yer ol' buddy Cat if it ever comes to it!
Jamar: Definately!
Jamar: I have big goals.

Cat Garza is a funked-up contributor for the Comixpedia. You can experience the magic of his own personal stash here.