It is always a pleasure to reach out and network with the many talented artists that make up the LGBTQ+ community. I was elated when I sent a message to Fernando Velez, Creator, Writer, Art Director, and Founder of Kraven Comics and the Editor-In-chief and Founder of Kraven Magazine. Kraven Comics publishes the Class6 comic book series, which features LGTBQ+ superheroes. Here Fernando speaks to how he used his imagination to change his reality, why LGBTQ representation is so important in the comics world, and Kraven Magazine’s relaunch.
PrideIndex (PI): Tell me all about you and your backstory thus far. When did you first discover that you were an artist?
Fernando Velez (FV): Since I was a little kid, I have been into the arts, and I will take a notebook with me to write storylines, poems, and ideas. Later, I started producing minor events at the family gathering. My dad’s side of the family was very divided, so I decided that I could bring them together by doing entertainment activities, games, and plays, which developed into a family tradition. Whenever they got together, they would ask what was on the agenda for entertainment. Seeing how talented I was, my auntie took me to audition at the art school where I was selected. On the first day of class, I saw an audition for a play. My teacher told me, “Is your first day at school. I don’t think you will land a role in our play” I auditioned, and in the end, I had a role, acting with the teacher in the play.
When it comes to my imagination, back when I was young, it was hard to be gay, my reality was terrible, so I used my imagination to change my reality to one where I, as gay, mattered and the world needed me. My daily and endless imagination helped me develop a high level of creativity that I use every day for work.
PI: Where were you formally trained as an artist/comics artist? How did it become important in your life?
FV: I took production and play classes in Art School when I was about 16. However, I didn’t go to school because I was too poor to afford an art school, and when I moved to the US, I didn’t have the time, sometimes working two jobs to support myself at 18. I feel the arts and entertainment became necessary when I saw the impact on my family, a divided family that entertainment brought them together. Since I was little, I always felt I wanted to change the world so others like myself could have better opportunities and lives. Today I get to do that change with the comic book that represents the story of many of us, and soon the magazine to celebrate our community’s minds and artists and to be part of their success. I believe success is not measured by how much you make but by how many people you can impact.
PI: Talk about your muse for the Class6 Universe. How did that come about?
FV: In July 2014, one of my writers wrote an article for one of my last issues of Kraven Magazine 1.0 about the misrepresentation of our community in the comic book industry. I have always believed if no one gives you a chance, you create your chance. Since no one cares to provide us with representation in the comic book industry, I decided it was time for one of my dreams; to make a change. Inspired by our own community experiences and the many heroes we are surrounded with; I created the first six LGBTQ heroes representing various parts of our community and subcommunities. Eight years after the first idea, we now have a universe with more than eight series with an inclusive and diverse character that aims to give visibility to many who feel invisible to the world.
PI: What is your ultimate goal with regards to Kraven Comics?
FV: My ultimate goal is to sell the franchise to a studio. Right now, we are working with a producer to sell the franchise. So far, we have gotten some feedback; some studios pass because they are not “too familiar” with LGBTQ content, and others are scared to offer us a deal because they have a contract with Marvel and believe we are their new competition. And some others that are interested, and we are in talks right now. That’s as much as I can say!
PI: I understand that you have relaunched Kraven Magazine. Talk about the first launch and what lesson you’ve learned that brought you to the 2.0 version?
FV: Oh, my god, I was so young when I launched Kraven Magazine 1.0. I think I was 22 when I started the concept and 23 when I founded my first magazine in Miami. I believe it was 2010, and I was working as a server in a brunch buffet in a luxury hotel in Miami. I will always read OPRAH MAGAZINE when I cover the lunch break at the gift shop. That leads me to think that our community didn’t have a magazine like Oprah, one to empower us and challenge us to be the best version of ourselves. So, I start to think about how I can make that for the community. My coworkers said I was the worse server because often, you find me taking notes, creating a budget, and organizing the idea of Kraven Magazine. They will laugh about me and my “silly dreams” two months later, I quit the job, and I came back with Kraven Magazine’s first issue to put it in the hotel. For two months, I went door by door to hundreds and hundreds of businesses trying to sell ads so I could print the magazine. I sold so many ads, and they were so expensive that today I yet don’t process how these businesses trusted someone 23 years old with a dream, but thanks to them, I am where I am today.
After I opened the new company for the comic book, it was too much for me to handle, mainly doing everything. That’s when I have to make the difficult decision to close Kraven Magazine. Now that the comic book is running smoothly and we are almost finishing our first season of Class6 and starting a new series, I can bring back Kraven Magazine 2.0.
This time the concept is different. First, I contacted my original team almost 12 years ago to offer them ownership of the magazine. It’s exceptional for me to work with the original team and have them as part-owners.
My own experience inspires the new concept. Contacting LGBTQ magazines to talk bout the comic led to the new idea, one of free ads and articles for our community. Many magazines, except for two, will charge me from $700 to $5,000 to talk about the comic book. However, when Marvel or DC comics turned a character gay, they talked about it for free and made me so angry that, like me, many of us have been silenced by our community’s magazines. I get they need to make money; we all want that little green paper, but there should at least be one option for our community to have a chance to reach our others within the community, and this is where Kraven Magazine 2.0 plays an essential role. Every article will entertain you, empower you, motivate you, and promote someone’s business and talent in a way that doesn’t seem like a promotion but rather a celebration of the individual talent or business.
PI: Talk about some of the challenges you have faced to bring this magazine to the marketplace? What you’ve done to overcome them?
FV: When Kraven Magazine 1.0 was launched, the biggest challenge was getting it to people. Twelve years ago, hosting an Epub file, you needed to pay a company to do it. We were hosting third-party apps and websites that required so much money. Now that has changed, with new advanced technology, we can host our files, we have the freedom to control what we want to do with the magazine and don’t depend on third party companies. Printing also was difficult and expensive. Today with more companies printing, prices are more competitive, and with the relationship we have built with our comic printing company, we have better prices, so all of those challenges that we faced with Kraven Magazine 1.0 have disappeared with Kraven Magazine 2.0.
PI: Where can I find Kraven Magazine?
FV: We will be launching a website, but for now, at www.kravencomics.com/kravenmagaine. Kraven Magazine will be released on June 15, free digitally on our website or for 10 dollars for the print edition. Our issues won’t talk about events to avoid adding an expiration date, so anyone can read it anytime, even months after been published.
PI: How can the LGBTQ+ community become more involved in your venture? What does the future hold for you?
FV: The community can help by sharing the magazine so more individuals can apply to be featured or get free ads. Also, I encourage everyone to support the print edition that will allow us to keep ads and featured articles free of cost and expand the reach so our featured individuals can get more exposure. Imagen if we become the number one magazine in the US with a similar readership as Queerty, for example, they have over 5,000,000 readerships and charge over $5,000 per article. We will be the first magazine to provide 30 people with a report and 20 people with free ads to reach a massive audience that can change their business for good. In my own experience, when we needed it the most, two local magazines, Peach Atlanta and South Florida Gay News did an article about us, and because of them, we were able to print the first six episodes of CLass6. Imagine the impact we can have on other businesses and artists if we reach a vast audience. That can only happen by supporting our print edition so we can have the funds to invest in reaching out to the community.
As for the future, we have gotten hundreds of excellent submissions. Within a year of launching, I hope to make the magazine monthly so we can help more businesses. If we launch 12 issues a year, 600 LGBTQ companies or artists, that’s almost a million-dollar saving combined in advertising and featured articles, we will save for our community.
PI: Is there anything else you would like to share?
FV: I want to thank everyone for their support; without you, we wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be working on change.
Fernando Velez Serrano Creator, Writer, Art Director, and Founder Kraven Comics www.kravencomics.com