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InHiatus Studios’ Raf Salazar Talks PuG

A few months ago, I got a chance to do a review of  the first collection, from the up and coming Comics publisher, InHiatus Studios, which has well of talent from the Bay Area in California, I got a chance to talk to each of the creators. This interview was with Raf Salazar who works on the book PuG. Check out a brief description of the series below and my interview with Raf, about the book, his start in comics and what drives him:

Three traveling adventurers, a scared sorcerer, a cursed warrior, and a mysterious swordsman, seek the power of a magical relic, the PangenStone. This epic quest follows the haphazard journey of these bumbling heroes as their destinies become entangled in their quest to wield the fabled stone.

Graphic Policy: What were your favorite comics growing up?

Raf Salazar: My top titles growing up were X-Force, X-Men and Spider-Man. X-Force was my introduction to comics. I remember peering over my dad’s shoulder as he flipped through X-Force volume 1 and thinking wow so cool.

GP: Is there a specific comics creator that influenced you?

RS: I hate to admit this, but Rob Liefeld was a huge influence growing up. After reading his comics I started drawing his characters. I was a huge fan of Shatter Star, those double bladed swords didn’t make much sense but it did look awesome. Liefeld’s line work was different and it very kinetic. I loved it so much I started applying his designs sense and techniques into my own drawings. All my characters were decked out in dynamic lines, giving them muscles they didn’t even know they had, and pouches and pockets galore.

GP: Are there any influences outside of comics that you draw upon in your art?

RS: That would be video games and animation. My favorite part of both those things is the stories they tell and the characters that fill the world.

GP: What influence do your parents have on your work? What was their reaction, when you told what you wanted to do for a living?

RS: My parents grew up in the Philippines and at the time pursuing a career into a creative field like art was just not very practical. However, when they moved to the states they allowed my brothers and I to have the opportunity to explore creative fields.  With their support I found myself drawing and painting every day. So it wasn’t a surprise for them to hear I wanted to pursue visual arts. Of course there was the natural parental hesitation of “can this career support you?” I took that as a challenge and here we are today. As long as I can prove to them I’m eating regularly, they seem fine with how things turned out.

GP: How did you get started in comics?

RS: My brother and I had been reading comics for several years and spent our afternoons just drawing superheroes. It was only natural for us to finally want to see our drawings come to life. Our immediate hope was to animate them, but we obviously didn’t have the resources to animate them, we were like ten. However, what we did have was How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. We studied that book from beginning to end. Read and reread it, and within a couple of weeks we did it. We made a mediocrely drawn, poorly paneled, shallowly written Spider-Man and Venom comic.

GP: When did you know working on comics would be your career?

RS: I don’t think I ever knew, it kind of just happened. I think most artists, or creative types, find themselves doing work they love for other people and forgetting to take a break and do it for themselves. Ya know, how it started in the first place. It’s a funny concept, a creative outlet from being creative. It’s what we do to keep sane. My brother and I made a silly comic in high school so I thought it’d be fun to bring it back during my college days. I ended up drawing short comics to amuse myself. Then I started sharing it with my friend Ed and my brother. Then we came together and got a little more serious about these comics. Next thing you know we put out a web comic ReGrBl for all of the internet to enjoy.

GP: What lead you to form In Hiatus Studios?

RS: I was brought into the team as the fourth member. They pitched to me that they wanted create something that could utilize our artistic talents. Then we came to the conclusion of a comic book anthology. And then I said Hell yes.

GP: What was your inspiration behind PuG?

RS: They say write what you know. What I knew was I liked hanging out with my friends playing games. The games I really enjoy playing with them are rpg’s, digital and analog. So I just mashed those two up and came up with PuG. It’s an adventure-fantasy comic about strangers helping each other navigate their own misadventures. I feel like most people could relate to that, well unless you never had friends to play with.

GP: What can you tell me about the world and characters of PuG?

RS: The world of PuG is a world with a dark past, steeped in myth and legend; with cute and monstrous creatures roaming it’s land. Within the lush forests, beyond the ancient city ruins, we follow three unlikely travelers seeking the fabled PangenStone. A stone said to grant unfathomable power.

Mal is a sorcerer with a unique scar on half his face. He hopes to obtain the PangenStone and learns to harness the mysterious power it holds.

Azuron is a warrior who has befallen a bizarre curse. He too seeks the stone to dispel his ailment.

Cassia is a swordsman whose intentions are as mysterious as the PangenStone itself.

GP: Do you have any favorite comics you are reading right now?

RS: Saga. The artwork by Fiona Staples rocks my socks. If I want to really bum myself out I read Berserk. The dark fantasy by Kentaro Miura is skillfully drawn and wonderfully depressing.

GP: What do you think is most important when capturing a moment in time to render in a panel for the reader to take in?

RS: Color and Composition. Those two things make or break a panel.

GP: When was the first time, you identified with a character on TV/in the movies/ or between the pages of a comic book?

RS: 1991 watching Hook and seeing this brown kid with red in his hair come crashing on screen. They chanted his name, Rufio. Growing up in Virginia as Filipino, this blew my mind.

GP: How important is representation in comics to you as a creator and to your target audience?

RS: It’s 2017. Everyone wants to be represented and that’s fine. I think it’s very important to have representation in comics, but I don’t think it should be done arbitrarily.

GP: Are there any current artists/writers out there you admire and would like to work with?

RS: I would love to collaborate with Haruki Murakami. The surrealistic imagery that’s found in his writing would be a challenge, but also very fun to illustrate on a page.

GP: What kind of reception have you had with Shards Volume 1?

RS: It’s been great. It’s always so scary to put something like this out there for public viewing. Even though it’s a work of fiction, it’s still apart of me. The fear and vulnerability though has been dispelled with the positive reaction we’ve received.

GP: What do you want our readers to know/or expect from PuG?

RS: Expect an action and comedic epic that is filled with twists and turns. The mystery of the magical PangenStone will be explored as well as the pasts of these three travelers, especially Azuron. We’ll explore the nature of his curse and the reason behind it. Along the way the three will encounter other devious characters also seeking the PangenStone.

GP: When can we expect PuG?

RS: The adventure began in Shards volume 1, which we’ve recently sold out. Fear not, a new soft cover run will be available early 2018. Also to be available early 2018, the next issue of PuG! If you want PuG now, the PuG primer is available for your viewing pleasure on our website inhiatusstudios.com.

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