I admire anyone who pursues their dream with reckless abandon. During July’s Comic-Con I was impressed by the multitude of creators in the small press section who just have a go. Especially in artistic endeavours, that kind of leap of faith is a very open one and a degree of humility and vulnerability are required. Your work is out there for the world to see, and that can be a scary place for anyone.
Cassandra Reyes decided that she too could be one of those brave creative minds. Jackket Knightmare is her debut comic book series. The first issue is out now, with hopefully more on the way. Cassandra has spent the last four years teaching herself to draw. That dedication shows in the first issue. Of course, it’s not as polished as other work on the stands, but for a newbie to the comics publishing world, it’s very impressive. It’s also heartfelt. With a story concerning the titular character as a trenchcoat clad defender of child abuse victims, Jacket appears to be a cross between X-Man Gambit and The Crow, but with a metrosexual vibe reminiscent of David Beckham. A scary combination, to be sure, but Jackket is the best looking piece of art in these few pages.
Not much happens here, so for those expecting kung-fu action, prepare to be disappointed. The dialogue is also sparse, but lays enough of a foundation that I can only assume will be built upon in future issues. The story is not as direct as it needs to be, with further facts from the Jackket web-site necessary to clear it up. But for a short story, and some interesting manga-inspired art my hat goes off to Cassandra. There is also a more Japanese influenced tale on the flip side of the ish, (and a page written entirley in Japanese) for manga fans that highlights the mirth that can happen with voices in your head. Basically the premise of both tales centres on young pastor Tomas Caballero as he deals not only with the death of his father, but also the emergence of the new Jackket personality within him.
Cassandra can only get better from here, as both a writer and artist. There is definite potential here, with the interesting black and white art, coupled with grey tones for certain sequences, well designed layouts and unusual subject matter . All this means that Jackket may just carve a niche for itself yet.
Did you grow up reading comics and fall in love with them straight away?
No, I’m pretty new to comics. I did watch all the comic related 90’s X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons if that counts. But my first official comic book was the movie adaptation of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and it was my brother who gave them to me.
What particular creators and characters are you a fan of?
To say that I love Gambit is a slight understatement! But yeah he’s my favorite aside from Rogue, so thank you Chris Claremont! As for artists that influenced me, Tetsuya Nomura (FinalFantasy7) is my favorite, along with Mark Bagley of Ultimate Spider-Man, and Salvador Larroca from Xtreme X-Men. People also assume James O’Barr because we get our characters compared a lot even though I never saw his work prior to JK. A little over a year I did get to meet him and show him my character, but once I did see his artwork I have come to really like his style too.
What made you dedicate yourself to creating comics over the last four years, rather than say music, or novel writing?
Actually, I pursued music for half my life at first. I really felt that God had called me into Christian music, but as I got older and I wasn’t recording albums or touring, I got discouraged and quit. For three years I brooded, feeling like I had failed God, but I also started writing stories and drawing too. Then I heard about Christian comics, and decided to try it. At first I just wanted to find an artist while I wrote the story but when I couldn’t find anyone I decided to do it myself.
I come from an artistic family, so my mom, sister, and brother (all art majors) give me tips now and then, but a lot of my help also came from “how-to” books, and of course tons of comics!
Your Japanese influence is obvious in your art, and I know you’re also studying the language. What is it about the culture and art that comes from that country that appeals to you so much?
At first I decided to do a manga because the style is pretty simple compared to an American style comic, but that was more of a decision based on my artistic limitations at the time. But now there is a huge part of me that has grown to respect the Japanese people, and now I want to somehow use media to let them know that there is a God who loves, and died for, them. I know in my heart one day I’ll go there, but in the meantime God wants me to do something here first, and I think that’s Jackket.
The choice of child abuse as a central topic was an unusual one. Why did you choose
to focus on that issue?
When I started Jackket I wasn’t sure why he transformed, but around that time I heard the story of a child who had been starved to death while most of his family did nothing. He’s buried not too far from where I live. I pass by there still sometimes. That soon became the basis to Tom’s story, and I decided to show physical abuse rather than neglect because you can see the damage it does, and in a comic it’s important to show what’s happening.
It also was a scary decision because I didn’t know how people would take it, and it’s hard because you know what you’re drawing is really happening. So yeah I’ve broken down several times while drawing panels, but God helps me through.
How has the process of writing, drawing, printing and promoting been for you? Has it all been quite different from what you expected?
Yes, it’s crazy! I thought making a comic would be easy 5 or 6 year ago. Boy was I wrong! Coming from where I’m coming from, I had to start at the very bottom and work my way up. Jackket’s first issue today is actually the third version of it before I felt it was decent enough, and of course I’m going to keep pushing myself with each issue. The printing kind of fell into place, and God provided a great guy like Joey and the website christiancomics.net to help me out. Promoting and selling issues hasn’t been too hard either. I really feel like God has given this project supernatural favor.
How has becoming a self-publisher changed you as a person?
I haven’t felt any different, then again I haven’t really thought about it. I guess if I did I’d probably get overwhelmed because there is a lot more to go.
You’re working on issue 2 of Jackket now. Is your dream to create comics for a living one day?
I’m not sure about being a comic book artist. All I know is that I have to finish this comic series. After that I just have to trust that God has everything else worked out for me, because I still have a lot of other story ideas too.
To purchase Jackket Knightmare, visit Cassandra’s official site here.