Spotlight

Trying to Make It the Underground Music Scene – The Year of Reflection

BluRaven C. Houvener is a Michigan based creator who specializes in both web and print comics, and Zines. He usually draws on his experiences growing up in the underground music scene alongside his father, and uses those experiences to craft out there Slice of Life sagas with a psych stream of consciousness edge. In 2019 he took part in 6 publications and launched his BCH Comix label, firmly stepping into the print comic arena. He is the creator of The Year of Reflection.

Synopsis: Jumping off the 8 year run of It’s Just another day, The Year of Reflection continues Jake’s tale. Only this time he’s taking backseat to the wild antics of his best bud Seeker and the mellow headed drummer Phillie, as they traverse the underground music scene in Detroit and beyond! The themes of coming of age continue to be explored but now the stakes are higher as the world is spread out before them.
Fame, fortune, and a’ good lay are the 18 year old friends goals… but getting there is the real battle!

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
Not officially. I was pretty soured on the art education system from my time in high school. I’ve had this conversation with several artists in my age range haha, the fact is that things are different now. Comic art is seen as an art form and much more respected than it was back in the early 2000s. I lost count of how many times my art teacher would tell me to “find a more meaningful outlet”. When it came time to look at colleges the big art schools in the area had a very similar attitude. So I went the community college route. Figured if I was gonna get shit on, I wasn’t going to pay top dollar for the experience. While I found college art classes were full of the same pretentious pundits I encountered in high school, I did find a home in Macomb Community College’s “Media and Communication Arts” program.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
I have always gravitated towards the Slice of Life genre for my comics, both my current and previous ‘It’s Just another day’. There is so much entertainment value and lesson to be found in daily life. And with such a loose canvas to work with there’s room to add my own spin! You can convey fantastical elements in so many varied ways in SOL comics!

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Oh yeah! The Year of Reflection is still in its infancy (still under 20 pages) but will have elements of action, adventure, romance, drama, and so on. It’s going to be an epic tale!

What was your inspiration for the story?
I grew up around the music scene from day one. I saw it all from the glory of a roaring crowd, the slew of fans who would crowd around my dad when he would step into the local record store, and the parasites who would latch on hoping the Nicodemus name would bring them some cred. So I knew the score…I knew it well enough to not want to be a part of it myself.

Fast forward to late high school, a dear friend of mine was obsessed with the scene. He wanted it all, the fame, the possible fortune, and definitely the women! He taught himself how to play guitar and through some friends found himself a drummer and set out as the duo “The Clapp”. Free from the confines of high school myself and the badge of honor that comes with turning 18 I was craving adventure. So long story short I served as roadie for the aspiring band and took part in their adventures.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Absolutely! Early introduction to the works of Hunter S. Thompson had a strong influence on my writing style. His sagas are eventful for sure, but what I fell in love with was how he could take easily mundane events and make them engrossing! He even made politics not a snore fest in ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72”!

As far as art goes… *whistles*… I can’t look at the works of Daniel Clowes, Charles Burnes, or Fiona Staples without my jaw dropping. Hell I probably wouldn’t have ended up going the direction with my comics I have if not for Clowes ‘Ghost World’.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
Of course the complexity of the page makes a huge difference. Uninterrupted I can knock out a page in a few hours? Constant interruptions like the 9 to 5, life, social stuff, etc… can make the process take up to a week.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
My method is a little behind the times especially compared to the stunning digital artists I see work from daily! I go in with an idea of how the page is going to flow and what it is going to contain. Next I pencil it all out as precisely as possible. Then I ink those pencil’s making any corrections as I go. Once it’s inked to my satisfaction I scan it into the computer, pull up my trusty Paint.net program and import it. I love Paint.Net cause it’s a freeware program that does the same stuff as Photoshop but it’s FAR MORE user friendly. Once the page is in Paint.Net I do any digital layout that needs to be done, add effects, dialogue, etc… and boom. Done. I usually have some music jammin’ in the background or some funny YouTube videos to get me laughing as I go.

Is your comic a finished work? If no, how long do you think you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
The Year of Reflection is an ongoing process. I did so much trial and error with my previous comic ‘It’s Just another day’ that I’ve got things down to a pretty good science by now. I foresee T.Y.O.R. taking two years to reach its conclusion, but we’ll see. That’s what I love about webcomics. Such a fluid medium!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
This comic has been in the idea phase for some time and ever evolving. I’m still coming up with random elements to throw in. This is gonna be the ultimate world/story establisher for my series as there are still stories I wanna tell with these characters after the conclusion of ‘The Year of Reflection’.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making of your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
There’s only one major hurdle I’m facing… and that’s making this weekly webcomic while still trying to get pages done for my print run of ‘It’s Just another day’. So that’s not a major hurdle as it all comes down to time like it does for any creator. How does one juggle the demands of life with what we truly desire? And hands down at the end of the day my one desire is to work on my craft.

I would tell myself to take the 6 month gap I had between the conclusion of It’s Just another day and the start of The Year of Reflection and focus more on the I.J.a.d. reboot and The Year of Reflection pages and not so much on the multitude of side projects I took on haha.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I love every facet…which is convenient since I do the drawing, illustrating, editing, and layout. If I ABSOLUTELY had to pick just one thing though I would say it is the art portion. I always joked that I’m more of a writer than an artist but there’s a special kind of pride that comes with taking an image from your head and recreating it on the page in front of you.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Aside from the time issue I mentioned, I think the most difficult thing is the aftermath of getting the comic to the people. I’ve been lucky and built enough of a following where my work does get seen. But as you know social mediums are stacked against the indie creator with Facebook/Twitter/Instagram’s dreaded algorithms, YouTube demonetizing ads and so on. So kudos to you and those likeminded who give the indie creator a voice. I’ve found Podcast’s to be extra inviting. A couple month’s back I had a blast shooting the breeze with my friend Toaden, of Toaden’s Media Litter Sandwich podcast. So have fun with this and don’t just make connections, make friends!

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
It maybe cheating but I love writing my pseudo-self insert, Jake. It’s fun to relive moments of glory, reflective to relive the sorrowful moments, and empowering to put into words things I wish I had in the past. Another fun character to write is St.Nic. He’s based on my father Nicodemus, also called St.Nic. He lived such an interesting life that it often times boarders on the unbelievable anyway. It’s great to take these characters in new and exciting directions. Now Jake will be an ongoing companion in ‘The Year of Reflection’, and St.Nic will have sporadic appearances. Both will add greatly to what this story will build though.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
I would say T.Y.O.R.’s main character Seeker. Just channeling that much love of the music scene, good and bad, is a difficult one for me haha. There are times where he’ll come off as completely oblivious to the weird or shady shit going on around him, but that’s not the case. He’s not dense or blind at all…he’s just that in love with music and the lifestyle around it. That poses a problem for Jake and Reflection’s drummer Phillie as they try to keep him out of as much trouble as he’s willing to inflict on himself haha.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Every character comes with their own fun. This chapter I love drawing Jake’s gray suede jacket, like I get a big smile whenever I get to haha. Seeker’s fluffy hair is always fun. Thinking up a character’s appearance on the spot, like Reflection’s shady manager, always gets the creative juices flowing!

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Phillie…for some reason his hair always screws with me!

Where can we find you?
You can find everything you could ever want to find about my work at my website: bchcomix.com! There you will find links to my webcomics, social mediums, where to buy comics, and notes about upcoming events!

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I think I’ve been an open book so far so I’m at that point where I could just stop OR you could put on a pot of coffee and I could yammer some more haha. I did want to say that I’ve followed these interviews as you’ve posted them and I have to applaud your interview with Dirchansky. Primarily because Dirchansky stated something that I’ve felt and experienced for some time also as a person of color. There’s this outcry for us POC creators to be messengers and tell our tales. I don’t fall in a category where my story is tied to my racial lineage though. I grew up in diverse areas with very diverse surroundings. With my father being a musician I’ve been around people from all walks of life, races, and styles since I was born. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling those tales, inspiring, and educating about those issues…in fact it’s very important. It was refreshing however to see someone else not “want to focus on the struggle” and just tell a story that feels dear to them. So hey Dirchansky you’ve inspired me *fist bump*

Thank you Ink, Sweat and Tears for this time! Peace and love to you and all who read this. Long live the Underground!