Monday, May 20, 2013

Chicano Kickstarting graphic novelist

posting by RudyG

[Daniel Olivas returns next Monday.]

El Vez
Ricardo Acuña
I was surprised last year to run across Ricardo Acuña's Kickstarter campaign fundraising for his first graphic novel The Realm. It was described as: "A supernatural, dark and gritty graphic novel about a thief searching for buried treasure who must overcome his greed in order to escape from a Mexican ghost town."

My first surprise was how easily this vato could pass for the cult, Mexican-American, political rock star and Elvis Presley "impersonator." You compare the photos. (Yeah, Acuña's not as viejo-looking, true.)

My next surprise had to do with so many writers hoping their writing will be turned into a movie (and movie script). Acuña (aka Ricky Luv) was doing the opposite, striving to get his script published as a book, a graphic novel.

As he explained it, "This is my first graphic novel based on a feature-length script of mine. Besides film, the graphic novel is a perfect medium for the pulpy and fantasmagorical world I created in The Realm.

"I did exhaustive research on the few companies out there that convert scripts into graphic novels and struck gold when I happened upon Stephen Stern (President of who paired me up with legendary illustrator Stan Timmons. Stern said, [Acuña's script] reminded me, at turns, of El Mariachi, and Treasure of Sierra Madre, and even The Shining. It's a wholly original, mind-bending, sexy ghost story.' "

I was next impressed that the kid was hungry and determined. As he explained, "In Stephen Stern and Stan Timmons, I have the best team to convert my script into a graphic novel. My unique deal for the entire production will cost approximately $10k (the graphic novel script, sketches, inking, lettering and the cover art). I invested $5k out of my own pocket and ask your support and contribution towards the remaining $5k, while giving you the opportunity to be of part of it."

In the end, 98 backers pledged $5,513 toward the $5k goal.
You can go here for the trailer on that.

Acuña knew there'd be risks and considerable work: "The biggest challenge in the production of this graphic novel is to ensure that the film script translates well into a graphic novel. The process starts with formatting the film script into a graphic novel script, that is, breaking down film scenes into comic book panels.

"Basically, I'm testing my story and my storytelling skills. At every stage, from initial sketches to final lettering, I work closely with the illustrator so that the panels are faithful to the story. As a graduate of Columbia's University film program, I am uniquely prepared for this challenge as I shape and edit the plot and dialogue from one medium to another.

"In essence, this graphic novel should stand on its own and also serve as a storyboard for eventual production of the film. The risk is not whether it will work or not, but how well it will work in either or both mediums."

When I read Acuña's bio that he'd lived in Denver but we'd never crossed paths and that he'd done a stint in public school teaching, the ex-teacher in me was hooked. I decided to make a donation and follow Acuña's publishing trek, since Kickstarter-type projects are growing avenues for publishing.

I recently received my copy of The Realm and will share my take on it in a follow-up posting, as it takes off. I'll also look into interviewing Acuña about lessons he learned that may help other aspiring writers. In the meantime, you can learn more below and by going to The Realm website.

Summary of The Realm: A dark and gritty tale about thief Juan Caballero who botches a bank robbery in San Diego and in the process gets his accomplice and friend killed. Juan escapes to Mexico and comes across an old drunk with a map to buried gold in a town called El Reino (The Realm). But instead of laying low, a desperate Juan steals the map.
After much trouble, Juan eventually finds El Reino and the gold. Problem is, El Reino is cursed by an evil witch so that anyone who enters El Reino can never leave. Juan also falls in love with a beautiful young maiden imprisoned by the witch who can show him the way out of El Reino, but only if Juan gives up his greed.
Juan must choose between the gold or his freedom.

Ricardo Acuña bio: "I was born and raised dirt-poor in Nogales, Arizona, a small town on the U.S./Mexican Berlin Wall. At 15, I earned a full, academic scholarship to attend a prep school for rich kids, The Lawrenceville School. After culture and climate shock, I attended Stanford University (a year spent studying wine-tasting in Paris) and graduated with a BA in English and French Literatures.

"I returned to the East Coast, worked at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital psycho-sex ward as a research assistant whilst putting myself through Columbia University’s film school, where I earned my MFA, with a concentration in screenwriting.

"I then moved to Denver (a year and a half prostituting myself to temp agencies), drove through the icy, treacherous, bittersweet Rockies to sunny, hazy L.A. and worked day jobs from the depths of typing pools to copy editing, from communications management for the farm workers to episodes teaching high school English.

"I have paid my dues, but am very happy to report I am now married to the love of my life, have a brilliant, beautiful little girl and a tough preemie baby boy, and know that the only thing I need to do in life is write. If not, I will drop dead."

Acuña just officially released The Realm and if you want to check it out, you can purchase the soft cover here.
Purchase the eBook here.

Es todo, hoy,

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