Today Black Ship Books will be turning all eyes onto a rising star in the comic industry: indie artist and writer, Andrew DeCrescenzo! Andrew is a 26-year-old cartoonist out of Manalapan, NJ who has launched his own series on Inkblazers.com called Spirit Legends. Penning, drawing, inking, coloring and publishing the series, Andrew is committed to bringing relatable, lovable, and entertaining characters in his own original manga-style story to his fans online.
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Black Ship Books: So tell us what Spirit Legends is about and what was the premise behind it?
Andrew DeCrescenzo: Spirit Legends is a series that follows a young man in his teens who is your typical loser in high school. I really tried to exaggerate this feeling I had in school of not being popular, so I made this character who I just so happened to name after myself (ha!) who really only has one good friend. Eventually, he gets dragged into an event where he obtains a mystical item called a Talisman that grants him powers over the element of darkness. Things start to change for him from this point on, as the item he obtained keeps reappearing on him, so he is stuck with it, and there are others who want this item that he now has. As the story unravels, we see just what is going on in the bigger picture such as who these mysterious characters are that want the Talisman and why.
BSB: What inspired you to create Spirit Legends?
AD: Spirit Legends was first conceived years ago when I was still in middle school. Back then I would play lots of games with my friends either in my pool, yard, or basement, where we would use our imagination to pretend to be characters we created. This one game in particular had us each with a small spirit of sorts that each represented a certain element and would grant us the ability to manipulate said element. As I was always the one who wanted to come up with a story as opposed to just fighting for no reason, this one idea stuck with me and I began to work with it in my head. As a child, I always emphasized stories and plots in our games to the extent of putting our games on hold until I could figure out just why we were doing what it was we were doing in our games.
Eventually, I settled on the idea to have these spirits living inside certain items, which over time became the Talismans now in Spirit Legends. The spirits became more humanoid (you’ll be seeing one in issue three), and the story started developing more from there. It was a series that just stuck with me for over a decade now in my head, and after many versions of it on paper, I finally settled on one that I liked the best.
BSB: Is the main character of Spirit Legends, Andrew, really you, Andrew DeCrescenzo, or someone you desire to be?
AD: Haha, back when I was creating this story, as I said in the previous answer, it really was me, and some of the other characters were really my friends. As time went on, though, these characters became their own characters that differed from us, or rather I didn’t want to restrict their development. I decided early on to make them all new characters, and I actually gave a lot of thought on changing their names. In the end, I just stuck with keeping the names for them as a sort of nod to where they originated. Also, I thought it would be interesting to use names that were normal everyday names. The one example that stood out for me was Peter Parker from Spider-Man. It just seemed like an average everyday name, and because of that, it really resonated well with the theme of this character being an average teenager with nothing really special about him, aside from his secret as Spider-Man of course.
BSB: Some of the features of the characters and the tone of the story seem derivative of those from the Dragonball series. What other works have influenced your own story telling ability or art style?
AD: So you’ve noticed? Haha, back when I created the story, Dragon Ball Z was my biggest influence, and as I was still learning to draw decently, it was my biggest artistic influence as well. I would study the anatomy of my favorite characters in order to learn how to draw people. As a result, the characters took on this style very reminiscent of Akira Toriyama’s style of drawing. This is more so apparent in issue one, as it was an issue I drew quite some years ago when I was still new with anatomy. Once issue 2 started, I had a new influence in my life, Naruto, which is now my favorite manga/anime. As a result, I subconsciously started changing my style to that of Masashi Kishimoto’s. There is one thing Kishimoto said in an interview once that stood out to me, and that’s that over time, his art style started changing from cartoony to realistic, and this really stuck out in my head. I realized that it is not a bad thing for one’s art style to change throughout a series, as long as its gradual and not all of a sudden, and that they still are very similar. I also started reading a lot of Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog at the time, so I started developing this nice mix of a western and eastern style. There is one other influence that really pops out to me, and that’s One Piece. A fear of mine was that all the character would look the same, something that a professor of mine pointed out about Betty and Veronica in Archie being exactly the same with only different hair. I was researching different eyes and something about the very cartoony eyes of Luffy in One Piece stood out, and so I sort of made this rounded but squared eye style for the main character and some others.
BSB: What were your original intentions or aspirations when you started the project? Have your goals changed since you first began?
AD: As a child, I aimed high. I dreamt of becoming the next big comic artist like Stan Lee or Masashi Kishimoto with a majorly popular series loved all around the world. I imagined myself invited to different panels at conventions with crowds of people, and this motivated me to work even harder. Then, I grew up and realized that this was a dream that had a very high possibility of never happening. Still, I can be very stubborn, so I constantly fight with myself on this. I still aim high, but I try to mentally prepare myself for it flopping. There was one thing that my dad said to me years ago- if you really love what you do, you will be successful at it. I’ve been using this to keep pushing me to aim for that really ridiculously high standard I set for myself, but in the end I can only try my best.
BSB: Is this the first comic you’ve self-published or do you have any other published works out there?
AD: There are some other shorts that I put up online that I made throughout college. I suppose you can consider them self-publishing, but the artwork is older and I’m not too fond of it anymore, haha. Still, I was proud of it at the time, so I left them up on my DeviantArt. They would be The Great Divide (based on a true story) and MedeAD: A Space Tragedy (based on the play Medea). Also, I worked on the prequel comic to Eddie Lebron’s fanfilm Mega Man, called Mega Man Origins. Spirit Legends, however, is the first comic that is actually available to purchase. You can download the first issue on Comixology, but for some reason I haven’t been able to upload the second issue on their site. I’m not sure why I never got a response yet about my inquiry on why that didn’t work, but hopefully it will be available soon. I really like their guided view as an option for reading comics.
BSB: Do you have any other talents? And how do they correlate with your artistic work (did they influence your art style, could they aid you in the future if you decide to make a career in comics)?
AD: I never really focused on writing before, so I don’t want to say I’m a talented writer, but I have been trying to become a lot better at it recently as I feel like story telling is a talent that I always had. Another big thing would be video editing and voice acting, though. I’ve been working with some talented individuals to help bring my comic to life in the form of an animated motion comic. Sound Effects artist Alan B. Mckenna, does all of the animation. I then take the file and edit it in Final Cut Pro. I also voice the main character, Andrew. I wonder why, haha.
BSB: So, since creating the comic, have you seen any personal growth for yourself as an artist?
AD: Oh, definitely. I’m pretty picky, so I’m always tearing my artwork apart, figuratively, and trying to figure out how to improve or how I could have done the page differently. I also have a good friend who is already pretty successful in the industry. I find myself asking for him to critique my work often, and over the years, I’m happy to know he’s had less things to say about what I should have done and more things to say about stuff that I did that he likes. I’ve been learning more and more how to draw specific dynamic poses, and so I’m learning more and more about anatomy and perspective as I make more pages.
BSB: What would you say is the best written and poorest written comic you’ve read?
AD: Wow, this is actually a really tough one for me. I can’t recall any comics that I didn’t like. I think there have been moments in great comics that weren’t as good as they could have been. If I were to use Naruto as an example, I feel like a recent event where Orochimaru came back and removed the Hokages from the Death Reaper could have felt less like deus-ex-machina if more time was spent preparing for the moment. That’s not to say I thought it was bad, but I personally didn’t feel that one part in particular was dealt with properly. As a reader, I like to be surprised, but I don’t like so many random things happening all at once in order to solve a problem. When too many surprises happen all at once, things seem to feel a bit surreal in context. The reader starts to feel like they were left completely out of the loop. I feel if all those seemingly random aspects were introduced one at a time, it would have meshed together a lot better, and it would have been more like puzzle pieces coming together, ultimately making the reader think, ‘Wow, how did I not see that coming?!’ I suppose the best example of this was all the hints at the masked man being Obito. We should have known by all the hints, but we also thought it might have been too easy to think it was indeed Obito, and so the discussions on just who this masked man was kept coming up. I remember a moderator on a forum claiming he would ban anyone for suggesting the masked man was Obito because it didn’t make sense to him and he was tired of hearing it. Since I’m so stubborn, I opened my mouth and suggested that it was still possible. Needless to say, I was banned. Um… what were we talking about, again? Haha!
AD: Personally, I think the most important thing is being able to relate to and care about the main character. The main character of any series is one the audience will be following. If the reader can’t relate to the main character of a comic or care about that character, then why should they care about his/her adventures- essentially, the comic itself? You need to give them a reason to want to follow this character and support him or her. Yes, the artwork is important, but the story is equally as important.
BSB: As far as you being the writer, penciler, inker, primary colorist, and publisher of your comic, what do you think are your greatest challenges?
AD: Time, haha. With so much to do, there is so little time to get everything done. With that being said, I’m actually looking into a crowd funder right now in an attempt to fund the comic. Starting in issue two, I had someone else taking over as colorist after I placed down all the color flats. As it stands right now, an issue gets down every year. With the right funding, I can focus all my attention on my comic as my only job and work to get an issue done every month, so I hope when the crowd funding goes live that people will be interested in donating every month for the rewards, and it would be my job to ensure that the series is entertaining enough to be donated to!
BSB: Thanks so much, Andrew! And for fans or potential fans out there who are interested in keeping up with Andrew and Spirit Legends check out the pages below!
Spirit Legends’ Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/spiritlegends
Spirit Legends on InkBlazers: http://www.inkblazers.com/manga-and-comics/Spirit-Legends/detail-page/3763?lang=en
Spirit Legends on DeviantArt: http://drewmaru.deviantart.com/gallery/ (Issues separated into categories on the left)
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/drewmaru_comics
My Tumblr: http://drewmaru.tumblr.com/
Spirit Legends Motion Comic Episode 1 on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21GyViLeK7Y
Spirit Legends Motion Comic Episode 1 on Newgrounds: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/630610