The GeeksverseInterview with J. Gonzo

Interview with J. Gonzo
Published on Monday, May 16, 2011 by


Mexican wrestling comics should be colorful. J. Gonzo is the auteur behind La Mano Del Destino a six part comic that keeps luche libra colorful. J. Gonzo is a trained illustrator and tattoo artist with a vision. When he could not find a company to sell his vision he opened his own company, Castle and Key Publications. The first comic from Castle and Key is the first part of his vision, La Mano Del Destino, although he anticipates putting out future titles from creators that have unique vision.

La Mano del Destino is the culmination of years of work, study, and comicfandom. When did you first envision a luche libra comic? When did the storyline for La Mano Del Destino enter your mind?

Gonzo: I’ve always been a fan of Lucha Libre – it was always on the periphery of the environment that I grew up in (Chicano kid, growing up LA adjacent). I loved the masks, costumes and drama of the sport and so when I began to draw superheroes as a kid, I would often incorporate elements of the Lucha Libre aesthetic into my representations of guys like Batman or Wolverine and the like. Then I began to draw full-on Luchador versions of heroes and one day while doing one of these version of a hero, I strayed so far from the source that he became a stand alone character – he had no real personality at this point, but he was his own person at least in looks. The more I saw the one image of him, the more I began to imbue a personality of how he could be, so I did a few pages of kind of s throwaway story with him and added those to my portfolio – this character still wasn’t quite who La Mano del Destino in now, but close. In 2009, I was at San Diego Comic Con talking to editors and shopping my portfolio around when one of the editors looked at pages of La Mano del Destino and asked what the comic was about. I told him that it was a one-shot story that I was working on and I was probably going to publish it at some point. He asked if it could be turned into a mini series because that might be something that this publisher might want to print. So I went home from San Diego and expanded the story out into something that could sustain a mini series and in doing that, I everything clicked for me – all the components of who La Mano del Destino were discovered and he became who he is today. In 2010, I took this final version of my comic around to publishers and with the market being what it is, and me being an unknown, they all had to regretfully pass. I did receive a lot of encouragement to self-publish from a lot of editors and so now I am making that happen.

La Mano del Destino tells the story of a man struggling with fate. He has been shamed and is trying any means necessary to climb back to the top. He is trying to restore his masked honor by signing a deal with a supernatural force. For the benefit of our readers who are not familiar with mesoamerican mythology, how does this story of vengeance and destiny draw from mesoamerican myths?

Gonzo: I am not creating a direct parallel or allegory of one particular myth, and I don’t want my intention to shade whatever experience a reader might gather from my comic. With that being said, I am drawing heavily from the story of Quetzalcoatl as understood by the Aztecs as a symbol of resurrection, and in his relationship with his brother Xolotl – most notably in the story of their birth and betrayal of their mother Coatlicue – A lot of this will be gone over in issue 2. I try not too be heavy handed in my reference to MesoAmerican myth, and the myths themselves are a little ill-defined depending upon which culture is telling them. The Olmec Quetzalcoatl is quite different from the Aztec, but it is the constants that fascinate me, and those are the attributes that I allude to in my comic. The astute observer may notice my cobbling together of ancient and colloquial symbols throughout my comic.

It will be curious to see those mythological strains coming out in issue 2. In issue one thus far the supernatural connections seems to me to be similar to Ghost Rider, Devil and Tom Walker, or Faustus but that is all drawing from European influences. Even Darkness: Four Horsemen seemed to mix the European influences without a real mesoamerican feel.

The color palate of your comic is interesting. It is drawing influences from Silver Age comics, like legendary Jack Kirby, and Mexploitation. How did you decide what colors to use?

Gonzo: I wanted to use as few colors as possible, I really want to keep the whole comic as simple as possible. I’ve always believed that the more you leave off of the page, the more that the reader has to imagine what is not shown and the more engaged they become. So in regards to color, I first created a color palate for La Mano del Destino that was as bright and vibrant as the Chicano culture that I grew up in, and then I decided that those colors were only for him – the rest of this world’s colors were selected to both complement his palate and give a vintage feel. In the days when coloring was done by cutting amberlith or rubylith, you only had like 20 sheets for every screen or flat color area which limited your color in both how many you could use and how they could blend together, so i picked a palate that I would allow me to best render my world, but that could actually be cut out of amberlith if this was to be printed in the late 60s. I want the comic to feel like a bit of an antiquity.

Releasing the first issue was such a nice part of your launch, yet the screen and the print page soak and reflect colors so differently. One of the reasons that older comics don’t digitize well is because the ink soaked pages don’t look good on the screen. So, when you chose your color palate did you have to think about this work being displayed both on line and in print when selecting your colors?

Gonzo: I don’t separate how I think about the comic digitally or printed, I do try to play to the strengths of both mediums. The digital version still looks like it is printed, with the overprinted, picked, not quite 100% opaque blacks. and the texture of the paper, I think the comic looking hand-crafted in a digital world makes it stand out a bit. And I think all of that hand-crafted feel is accentuated in the print version, which will be on newsprint and have that great feel of an old comic. But the color selection is the same – I have spent so many years doing graphic design that I tend to work in color palates that I know will cross mediums well.

The visuals in your comic are reminiscent of the silver age of comics. In your own words, how do you describe what makes the Silver Age of comics different fro the current modern age?

Gonzo: I think the Silver Age can really be defined by its swiftness. The stories were typically Done-In-One stories and so the plot had to have all the fat trimmed off of them. The printing was still a bit unrefined so you had to draw in broad, bold motions with big flat blacks and wide swaths of color. I always felt that Silver Age comics were more about idea – they didn’t have the time or resources to get caught up in the minutiae of the world they created – they just had to get the idea across and let the reader fill in the details – And that to me was fun! I like my comics to be fun. I think the modern age, for the most part, is all about fleshing out the comics world, putting in every detail and explaining all the complexities, so you get a lot of highly rendered panels with a lot of talking heads. I can understand the compulsion to want to ground your world in some ind of reality, but I get enough of the real world in the real world. Drawing every nut, bolt and seam, doesn’t make the the comic world look more real, it makes it look more like Cosplay. For me, when I think about the physics of the Fantasticar too much, it falls from the sky – and that’s no fun – and Kirby made that car soar!

If you had to pick a page in the first issue of La Mano del Destino that screams Jack Kirby to you, which one would it be?

Gonzo: Page 9

The first issue (of 6), now available online, is written in English with just a touch of Spanish. Will you be putting out a Spanish version of this comic in the future?

Gonzo: Yes, absolutely! It is very important to me that it becomes available in Spanish and I will make that happen in some way. I am still working out the details of getting translated. Also, it is looking like it will be available exclusively through one retailer (who has an online store), though I am ironing those details out now as well. Worst case scenario, the Spanish language version will be online only, but I hope to get the issues out in Spanish, or at least a TPB.

At the end of the first issue the technico pulls the prosthetic arm off of a rudo as part of the finishing move. Is this based on an actual wrestling match or just a little something you dreamed up? Luche libra can pull in such odd things in matches.

Gonzo: I dreamt that up. Originally Chango (and the whole comic) was a lot more goofy. I had envisioned La Mano del Destino wresting an opponent with a a prosthetic arm, but in each panel the attachment at the end of the arm would be different and always something random (an egg beater in one panel, then a mallet in the next) but still ending in him getting beaten by his own arm. The original tone of the book was a lot more akin to a Mexican Gameshow than what it is now, but when I expanded the book and really defined the tone of the characters and plot, I lost the attachment gag, but left in the being whacked with one’s own prosthetic arm part – it proved to be a perfect balance of silly and brutal.

Do you follow the east coast Chikara Pro wrestling? It is a superhero/comic influenced luche libra influenced wrestling without quite the mysticism of your six part comic story.

Gonzo: No, I was totally unaware of this – I checked a little out online and it looks great! I’ll have to delve a little deeper into this. Thanks for the Heads up. I check in with the CMLL from time to time, but am not as well versed in that Lucha Libre world as I wish I had time to be. I also go to Lucha VaVoom out in LA when I can – that is a great time! But, unfortunately, that is about the extent of live Lucha Libre involvement. The irony is, now that I have created my own Luchaverse, I have no time for Lucha Libre.

The first issue of Le Mano del Destino is online now. It will soon be available in print through Diamond Distributors, so hopefully at comic shops everywhere. How soon before we can see the second issue on comic shop shelves?

Gonzo: I just confirmed that issue 2 will be July’s Previews and shipping in September. The plan is have a book out every other month for the 6 issues.

Nice schedule. Your promoting this comic online and in Previews. What comic-cons will you be attending this year to help spread the word about Castle & Key’s premier comic?

Gonzo: I will be at the Phoenix ComiCon on May 26th – 29th at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth mostly, but I may be sketching at a couple other booths too.

I will also be at San Diego Comic Con July 21st – 24th, I am not sure all where I’ll be, but at some point I will be at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth. If you “like” my La Mano del Destino page on Facebook or follow me on twitter, I will make schedule known once I know it. Links to both at castleandkeypublications.com I do free sketches for anyone who can find me – if you message me (through FB or Twitter) at either event, I will let you know where and when I will be sketching.

At motorcycle shows they routinely have tattoo artists set up. Occasionally they are in the parking lot or in a room to the side. I once saw them do tattoos in a concession stand. Have you ever thought about doing tattoos at a comic convention? Everyone wants a free sketch for their notebooks, but surely somebody would want a sketch on their skin.

Gonzo: I have heard of a couple of Comic Conventions that have allowed tattooing, unfortunately the ones that I am attending do not. A lot of states have strict regulations that prevent you from doing tattoos anywhere other than in shops. I’m not opposed to the idea, but it would probably be the kind of thing where the actual tattooing happened off-site at a shop that I could work out a guest spot situation with. Plus, when I am tattooing, I am really focused and would probably ignore everyone else who came by to see me, and I don’t want to do that. At conventions, I want to be able to just give stuff away, free sketches, I’ll sign anything, gonna try to have some little giveaway goodies too. I dunno, I guess if people want me to tattoo them, I could work something out – depends on the interest.

Thanks for taking time to “talk” to us and tell us about your project.

Gonzo: Thanks for the interest and opportunity to talk about my comic. This definitely the most unique set of questions that I have answered about my project.

Good luck on the project. Be sure to keep us posted.

If you haven’t read the comic, then head over to Castle and Key Publications and read the first issue.
Jump over to the Pryde Forum to discuss this comic.
This is the page that J.Gonzo sees as most Kirby-ish.

One Response
    • […] J. Gonzo placed the first issue online and distributed it through Diamond. His pre-order numbers are in for the first issue. As a result of the numbers, Gonzo has decided to self-distribute his second creator-owned wrestling comic. Follow the journey of J. Gonzo, Castle and Key Publications, and a wrestler trying to reclaim his honor on Facebook. […]

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