Protect ya neck! Because Mad Cave/Dry Foot’s own Jarred Lujan pops in to answer some questions! From Dry Foot itself to the Wu-Tang Clan!
1. Hello there, and welcome to the Mind Meld here at IndieComiX! For those not familiar with you and your work, could you tell us about yourself?
My name is Jarred Luján, I’m a Mexican-American writer from the greatest state in the union, Texas. I mainly just write comics and tweet about the Wu-Tang Clan.
2. The Dry Foot trade was released on the 24th this past week, how are you feeling about that?
It feels bittersweet. I love this book, I’m tremendously proud of it, and I think the trade gives a lot more people a chance to read it fully. This really is the end of this journey, at least for now, and that kind of bums me out. I had such an amazing and educating experience at every stage of this book, I’m just sad that part is coming to an end.
3. What made you go with 1980s Miami as a setting for the story?
I didn’t choose the setting, actually! Mad Cave Studios kind of just told me that’s what they were thinking and I ran with it. I was excited to play in the 80’s though. Its got this sort of nostalgic aura around it that I think is often associated with people romanticizing it. I really wanted to dirty that up a little bit, to bring it down to its true roots.
4. Is there going to be more in the Dry Foot world? As I’m fairly positive folks would want to see more. Especially as it doesn’t seem like a certain crime boss would leave things alone just because they high tailed it out of the area.
At this point, no, and I’m okay with that. I feel comfortable leaving our story where it is. I think we wrapped the story up in enough of a final ending to give readers a sound conclusion. Obviously, there’s maybe a little more to explore there, and if Mad Cave wanted to bring the whole team back to do more, I’d frankly have a hard time saying no. I love all the Dry Foot team, they’re all fam to me now, so I’d jump at the chance to work with them all on more (…or something else, even!)
5. You’re one of the 2019 Mad Cave Talent Search Winners, what led to you signing up for that?
A lot! I was actually pretty familiar with Mad Cave before the Talent Search. I had read Battlecats, Midnight Task Force, and in 2018 I entered the first Talent Search and lost. I followed with them though, I read all the ’18 Talent Search books along with most of the Mad Cave line that Mark London was writing. When the ’19 Talent Search came around, I was really on the fence about whether or not I was going to actually enter. I was having success in my own self-publishing corner, and figured I’d just focus on that, but Anthony Cleveland, ’18 winner and writer of Show’s End and Stargazer, convinced me to give it a shot. Anthony is a Big Homie and I wound up doing it pretty close to the deadline on his advice and friendly pressure. Obviously, a smart decision, hahahaha.
6. As a fellow Texan, did the recent snow/ice storm affect you too badly?
Yeah, it sucked. I lost power and water for two days, my parents lost both for five days, and my Grandparents, one of which is on oxygen, lost it for two or three days. It was a genuinely horrifying situation. I was mortified. I have never seen anything like that, especially seeing grocery stores just…empty, no food, no clean water. It was a crazy time to live through. I’m truly grateful all of my family is okay, and I wait with a strong sense of eagerness to see what Texas’ government is going to do to rectify this horrible mishandling of our infrastructure to make sure it never happens again.
7. What steps do you feel could/should be taken to prevent the kinds of problems Texas experienced with the ice storm in the event it happens again?
I’d like to see all of the ERCOT board resign, to be honest. I think it’s difficult to trust the people who made this mistake to correct it. After that, we need to focus on winterizing our grid. We were told to do that in the aftermath of the 2011 Winter Storm and didn’t do it, we paid for it dearly during the most recent storm. No matter whether we join the national grid or not, there has to be more regulation on the people in charge of this. The damage this did to our state is massive, from actual storm damage to power outages to water accessibility to food shortages, there has to be big change in Texas to prevent it from happening ever again.
8. What’s next for you with or outside of the Mad Cave crew now that Dry Foot is finished?
Mad Cave has so many amazing things in the works, from the launch of Maverick to the 2020 Talent Search Anthology to new projects with immensely talented creators. They’re a busy bunch of folks and I’m immensely excited to see what they have up their sleeves for the next year and beyond. I’m optimistic that Mad Cave and I will work together again, but as of right now there are no concrete plans for that.
Fortunately, I have a bunch of other writing stuff coming out! I’ve been announced as a part of the Big Hype Anthology currently on Kickstarter, a part of Grant Stoyle’s YULE Anthology, and I have a story in A Cold, Dark Universe which funded last year. I have a new mini-series at another publisher that will be announced in the next month or so, I believe. I’ve also got two stories I plan to bring to Kickstarter this year. I’ve got a few more big things planned, but nothing I can talk about in detail. It’s very exciting!
9. What was the most challenging aspect of the story for you while writing it?
I was really worried about getting the setting right while still making it feel fresh. Miami in 1984 was a unique spot, a beast all in it’s own right, I wanted to make sure I captured that feeling while not falling into the tropey 80’s slang and gags. I wanted to make Little Havana feel in the same time period, but with a subculture all its own…and I think I did that well? I spent a ton of time doing research on Calle Ocho, on how Little Havana developed, I read Miami newspaper pieces from that time period. I did a bunch of research on it and I’m pretty proud with how it came out.
10. Research is always important to do with anything. You mentioned earlier in a tweet that someone had a negative view that you couldn’t make a comic with just a Latin Creative team and you proved otherwise about that. What do you have to say for anyone else who thinks that and for those Minorities who want to make comics but are hesitant for whatever reason?
I don’t even argue with people who say something like “you can’t make a comic with an entire creative team.” I’m doing it right now with The Twin Blades. There’s nothing to argue about anymore. I’m right, I was always right, and those people can eat shit.
If you’re a marginalized person who wants to make comics and your hesitant, my advice is to just push yourself to do it anyway. There’s an audience for everything, someone out there wants to hear what story you want to tell.
There is plenty of crummy people in the industry, sure, but there’s a lot more good people who want to see you succeed and want to cheer for you.
11. Who would you fan cast for each role from Dry Foot?
I don’t have any idea. Part of that is because there isn’t enough young Latine actors for me to really fancast, part of it is that I’ve never thought of Dry Foot as anything other than a comic. I’m boring, sorry!
12. You’ve mentioned a few titles like the Anthologies earlier that you’re involved with, what can you tell us about those?
Yeah, so in Big Hype I have a story called TERMINAL. It’s a post-apocalypse shoot ‘em up story about a man who is terminally ill. I did it with J. Paul Schiek and AJ Mason. The story is grim and heavy, but it really plays on my love of Albert Camus’ absurdism and I enjoyed working with the guys on it a lot.
In the YULE Anthology I have a short story about the Aztec winter solstice festival where they performed human sacrifice to honor the god Huitzilopochtli. My story with Gregery Miller is about what happens when the colonialist Spanish prevent that from ever happening. It’s really trippy and a little scary. It’s very out of the normal that I usually write, so I’m kind of excited to see people’s reaction to it.
In A Cold, Dark Universe Kasey Quevado and I did a story called INTERLOPER. It’s a sci-fi action/adventure story that I loooooooved working on. It’s essentially about a family trying to illegally get off their home planet and the crew that finds them. I love that story and Kasey did such STELLAR work on the pages, I think people are really going to dig that one.
13. With the Pandemic lasting as long as it has, how much of an impact has it had for you so far? And what do you think could be done to deal with it more effectively?
I mean, there’s the obvious answer in that Dry Foot had a huge delay of several months. I had gone to C2E2 and met editors and publishers, walked away thinking I was going to really have a huge 2020 in terms of pitches getting picked up, and then—poof—the Diamond Shutdown happened, my book was delayed, and everyone I had spoken to at C2E2 suddenly had far bigger problems on their hands. Frankly, I think I lost a fat stack of opportunities with the timing of the Diamond Shutdown and it sucks. None of that really matters when you look at the fact that my family is still healthy, still safe, and I’ve remained employed throughout this entire thing—that’s not something a lot of people can say.
I lost a bunch of opportunities, sure, but the truth of the matter is that I can get those back, you can’t say the same for a lot of the stuff others have lost. Opportunity knocks twice if you work your ass off.
In terms of handling it differently, I don’t know, man. I wish our country took masks more seriously, I wish we had a more coordinated national effort at the federal level, I wish we had taken steps to help make sure people who would suffer from the shutdowns were financially okay. I think a lot of smarter people have given examples of how those things could have been better implemented and I’ll defer to them on the specifics.
14. For my final question, what album or song from the Wu-Tang would you recommend to a first time listener?
Gotta be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Easily my favorite rap album of all time, but I suspect it’s likely the greatest album of all time period. From start to finish that thing is just incredible. I listen to it on at least a monthly basis and it still never gets old. Just an absolute banger of an album.
Editor’s Note: Huge thanks to Jarred for taking part in this interview!