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Interview w/ James Lawrence
Earlier today we caught up with James Lawrence to discuss Cartooning, Freelancing and working on his Comic Book Project, The Legend of La Mariposa. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did talking with James.
Anthony Pollock: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this week. Please tell the readers a bit about yourself and the work you do.
James Lawrence: No problem! I am a cartoonist and lecturer based in the Grim North of England. My work consists of bold, colourful fisticuffs, jokes and mythic weirdness perhaps best expressed in The Legend of La Mariposa.
Anthony Pollock: Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind La Mariposa.
James Lawrence: Obviously the various Lucha Libre movies from the 50s/60s such as Santo vs. The Vampire Women are a big influence, but there’s a lot of other stuff in there too, such as classic comic strips, old-school manga and even some occult research…
The Legend of La Mariposa sprang from an idea of taking the tropes of classic samurai movies and spaghetti westerns and filtering them through the traditions of Lucha Libre to create a fun, offbeat fantasy saga. It’s Usagi Yojimbo meets Nacho Libre.
Anthony Pollock: Where did writing start for you and what is your origin story?
James Lawrence: I’ve always been a comic fan but I had always thought of them as something that was produced at breakneck speed by a team of eight guys in New York or Tokyo, or by lone savants in a basement somewhere.
It wasn’t until university that I discovered works like Sharknife and Scott Pilgrim that felt like unique expressions of a singular creative force while still being fun and accessible. The rise of the internet as a social medium meant that I could get peeks into who these creators were outside of what was printed in the book and I realised they were a lot like me, only cooler.
That was when I started to identify as a comic artist (although it’d be a few years until I actually made a full comic).
Anthony Pollock: La Mariposa is clearly influenced by Lucha Libre but where does the overall comic genre sit for you? What are your go to’s?
James Lawrence: I think of The Legend of La Mariposa as sitting in the all-ages/YA camp, straddling the borders of action, comedy and fantasy. My goal is to create self-contained La Mariposa stories that you can read in any order and still get a good story.
I mentioned Usagi Yojimbo earlier and that’s no random reference: Sakai’s comic is my platonic ideal for a comic series: His stories can be long or short, epic or mundane, and can be about anything he feels like drawing, all linked by the adventures of his one central protagonist.
That’s what I want for The Legend of La Mariposa, except with more cactuses.
Anthony Pollock: What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to your work? How do you overcome them?
James Lawrence: My personal problem is that I love making comics and can happily bang out page after page. Everything else is kind of a chore. So for example over lockdown I filled the time by drawing a 51-page Legend of La Mariposa story called Vulcan’s Challenge. I’m really pleased with it and can’t wait to show it off.
However, what I should have been doing is building, promoting and launching the Kickstarter campaign for the volume preceding Vulcan’s Challenge, called The Climb and Other Stories, which is all drawn, compiled and ready to go. It just took ages for me actually assemble the campaign because it’s not as much fun to do that as it is to actually generate the story itself.
If I have a script and thumbnails ready, then I draw pages almost reflexively. Everything else though takes planning and organisation, which are not my strong suits.
Lists and self-imposed deadlines help a lot in this regard. My campaign for the first book, The Legend of La Mariposa – The Demon Gauntlet featured a LOT of spreadsheets and calendar reminders during the planning stage to help me keep track of all the stuff I had to do.
Anthony Pollock: How did you go about finding the right artist to work on this project?
James Lawrence: I looked in the mirror and there he was. Then I forced him to work very hard until his skills were adequate enough to draw what I had in my head. He’s not quite there yet, but he’s getting closer every time.
All-in-all, it’s been quite a rewarding partnership, even if he does snore a bit.
Anthony Pollock: Many of us creators work on projects outside of our 9-5 jobs. Do you have any advice for balancing careers with passion projects/side hustles?
James Lawrence: I hold down a full-time job with freelancing so I don’t often have the luxury of just sinking hours into the drawing board. However, the key word there is luxury. Comics have become my primary pastime. It’s the thing I do when I have any stretch of free time and it’s what I think about doing the rest of the time.
Comics are hard enough that you have to love making them over anything else because frankly, given the ratio of labour to reward, if there’s anything else that you’d rather do that would give you similar satisfaction and fulfilment, you should probably go do that instead.
If, however, you are passionate about making comics, you’ll find the time to make them, even if that means a few hours less on the Switch and not being able to join in the discourse about the latest Netflix series.
Anthony Pollock: Do you have any upcoming events/projects/releases you would like to discuss?
James Lawrence: In the immediate future I’ll be “tabling” at Thought Bubble’s digital convention, where The Legend of La Mariposa – The Demon Gauntlet will be making its convention (sort of) debut! As I mentioned before, there are currently two Legend of La Mariposa books; The Climb and Other stories and Vulcan’s Challenge, about ready to launch on Kickstarter.
I had planned to launch the campaign for The Climb and Other Stories this September, but a variety of life events meant that I’ve had to push the campaign back a bit, so I’m now planning towards a launch in early 2021.
Vulcan’s Challenge will follow hot on the heels of that in Spring 2021.
Anthony Pollock: Thank you for taking the time to do this! Where can readers find you and your work?
James Lawrence: For terrible jokes, political outrage and the occasional comic-related announcement, follow me on Twitter at @Kingfridayjoe. I’m also on Instagram at @jimmydeansausages which is where I post most of my art these days, both La Mariposa-related and not.
You can read the entirety of The Legend of La Mariposa so far at longlivelamariposa.tumblr.com. And if you want to buy a copy of The Legend of La Mariposa – The Demon Gauntlet, you can grab one at longlivelamariposa.bigcartel.com