Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Most of you guys should already know who ViciouSkill is. They have created a company with possibly the coolest nerd swag you'll ever find at a con. I did an a spotlight interview on the company a few months back, which you can find by on the site.
It dawned on me though, why not interview the artist behind this awesome company. So I reached out to Victor Magana, and obviously, he said yes.
Sitting down with Victor talking about art, the company, comics, etc., was a blast. He not only is an insanely talented artist, but he's one of the most humble and down to earth people I've ever met.
If you don't already, give these guys a follow on Instagram, @viciouskill and @victormagana1987. When you hit up your next con, go pay ViciouSkill a visit. They always make time to talk to you and again, the have some awesome swag to buy.
OK that's enough out of me, I'll let Victor tell you the rest.
COMIC LOUNGE: First off. can you tell us a little about yourself?
VICTOR MAGANA: My name is Victor Magana. I'm the lead artist for ViciouSkill. Ive been going to school, for art, as much as possible. That's pretty much it, haha.
COMIC LOUNGE: When did you decide you wanted to make a career out of your art?
MAGANA: That's actually pretty funny. For example, one day I was walking down the street, wearing a shirt and I saw a billboard with the EXACT same design. I was like " Dude I'm a walking, talking billboard". I didn't agree to this, I just wanted to wear the shirt. So I thought, why don't I just draw things that strike my attention, that other people can connect to, and put them on shirts. I forgot what shirt I was wearing but I thougt, if I'm advertisng for this, I should be more aware, and it should be something that I did.
So then my brother thought of the same thing and we started getting our silkscreen in our walk in closet. We learned from trial and error. That's when I was like, "We should start doing this". But we never really knew how to do it. So we never knew once we had our images in screen printing, where to go.
Then my wife, got me a birthday present. It was ticket to the first LACC, which was called Comikaze back then. I took my brother there and another friend of mine. When we went we looked at the prices, and nothing against anybody they can do whatever they want, but we saw the prices and knew what it took to make silkscreens. We were like, "We can do this at a much more affordable price", because there was no middle man.
My brother felt confident enough in my art skills, that we could do something that would stand out.
We love comics, we were going to the comic book shop that was on Reseda and Ventura, which is no longer there. But I remember our mom getting us THE MASK comics from Dark Horse Comics. I looked at the comics and though "it's good thing she never saw it, because it was pretty violent", but I was really digging it.
So that's pretty much where it started.
COMIC LOUNGE: So where did you come up with the "running man" design?
MAGANA: Let me give you the salesman answer and then I'll give you the honest answer.
When I thought of the "running man", it all started when we went to our first con. I tried to get that feeling of the convention. Like, dude no joke, what I really love about the cons is that nobody is there in a bad mood. Everybody that's there, is because they want to be there. They weren't dragged, everybody puts an effort to be there. You see that love in the comic books, you see that love when the interact when they talk to people that share that common interest.
They have this level of entusiasm, of "Dude I gotta go there". It's like a themepark, it's crazy. So I get off that high and I like that. So for me, the "running man" symbol, is like our companies convention goer. They represent everybody that goes there. So the "running man", can be our company logo that's cosplaying as the characters that we illustrate for every convention. So when you see them in the same pose, it's the same person but they're cosplaying as Captain America, Thor, all that stuff.
When you see the level of detail; these guys that dress up, it's like " Dude how come you're not doing movies?". I've seen some costumes of cosplayers, that KILL what I see in movies. For me that's where the "running man" comes from. Our company, cosplaying through our shirts.
Now that's what I told my brother.
But... it just kills time. I have the pose and then I can just draw on top of it. Hahahahaha. But overall that's where it came from. Then I realized, "Dude, I'm saving time".
It's funny because I've been working since I was 14, there was no part in my life where I had less than 2 jobs. I was a tattoo artist, while I was working at an adult entertainment website development company. I was working a job, while going to school full time. Like right now, I work at a PT (Physical Thereapy) clinic as an aid, but I'm also working as a freelance artist plus doing the thing with ViciouSkill.
My only time that I have, is when I go to the gym. Which I find therapeutic for me. It's cheaper than therapy. That's why, when doing the "running man", I feel like it's a continuous rhythm and theme that can be engraved into a lot of people's mind.
For example, when Shepard Fairey first started OBEY, he was hitting up that face in so many places, until it got engraved in people's minds. Then when he came out with the clothing line people were like, "Oh I know that".
But to be honest with you, the way that it got decided to do the "running man", is actually the convention goers. They're the ones that gave me the idea. That's something that I kept seeing over and over, is that level of enthusiasm that just does not die.
That's why when you go to our booth, I don't like chairs, I use the chairs as shelves. I'm gonna try to match your level of enthusiasm. People that are there it's like, "Whatever you're having, I want some".
COMIC LOUNGE: How do you decide on what designs/characters you're gonna do? Is it just stuff that you grew up loving? I know sometimes you do stuff exclusive to the conventions. Where does your inspiration usually come from?
MAGANA: For that, it's exactly that. It's stuff that we grew up with. I feel like if I illustrate something that I don't know, I feel that it's kind of disrespectful to the people that do love it. I would have no idea what to do with it, like I was just wasting time. If I illustrate stuff that I did grow up with, that I know, I try to convey the things that I like about them though the artwork, it gets better results from me.
There've been so many time when people would say, and no diss towards the series, but someone was like "I never see you guys have "Naruto" stuff". I'm sorry but I don't watch "Naruto". It's because of having multiple jobs that I don't have time. I try to make time for other stuff, but it's a lot of time and investment that I don't have. In the future, if I could get into it I would. But I don't want to do that to people. I wouldn't be providing to the highest quality, that I can.
Usually my brother, Edison, is the one who helps me decide and remember stuff from our past. He has a very good sense and understanding of what will take off, what people are kind of craving for.
One thing that I kind of want to do, personally, is Bananas in Pajamas. I was always like "These guys are stoners". They wear pajamas, always go to the local liquor store. It's stuff we can look back and laugh at and just relate to that nostalgic feel.
It's stuff we love and adore, even cartoons that were just made to push the toy line. There was still some love towards it. The animators still tried to do their best, even if it was a toy line. Like "Street Sharks", if I was those guys that got turned into a shark, I'd be like "Dude change us back!". But it's that enthusiasm of cartoons that I love. For example, "Bikers From Mars" or "Freakazoid".
It's basically that, my brother tells me what to draw and if we agree upon it, that's what we do.
COMIC LOUNGE: You've also expanded, at least recently that I've noticed, past the "running man. You did the "Spider-Punk" shirt and the "Spawn" shirt. Are there plans to do more designs like that? Are there any specific characters you'd like to tackle?
MAGANA: Yeah! So for example, my brother and I have been discussing the "running man", and even though we like it and it's a symbol of our company, we're trying to have that specifically for pins. I do want to go to that level of detail that I did with "Spider-Punk" and "Spawn". That's what I'm doing right now actually. I've been working on Lobo, I did Judge Dredd. I'm also working on some anime stuff for Anime Expo.
I'm trying to go through a "dark" series. I'm trying to design that anti-heroes, like Lobo, Ghost Rider, Lady Death, Vampirella, and all that stuff. I'm trying to design them in a way I would see them in a Heavy Metal magazine. Like a Heavy Metal cover. When I think of Lobo, I think of Motorhead. When I think of Ghost Rider, I think of Megadeath. Lady Death is more like some Norweigan metal band.
But again, the difficult part is trying to keep it dark, keep it in the same feel. For example, the letters in the alphabet or a font, they live in the same universe but they have their own thing. Not to make it too similar. That's the part I'm trying to balance.
I love what I did, not to sound like an ass, but I like how Punk Spider-Man came out. That's because Edison let me loose. He said "With Punk Spider, do whatever you want, and I did it. With Spawn, he said just think about making the shirt the cape. He usually just let's me loose, but we are gonna try to do more of that now that I have more time.
COMIC LOUNGE: What characters would you do for a "light" series?
MAGANA: I definitely wanna do characters with a sense of humor too them.
COMIC LOUNGE: You should do Flash. As a lifelong Flash fan, Id' love to see a Flash shirt. The Wally West version though.
MAGANA: Flash? I've thought of that. I can see from the tattoo on your arm, you're a Flash fan. Haha.
I wouldn't be opposed to that idea. It's just that for me, again, I'm trying to see the best way that I can lay it out. Even though it would be dope to do all the Flashes, like they each have their own unique personalities. So for me it's like, out of all the Flashes, which one? You said Wally? Ok, you made my decision for me.
Definitely Deadpool, he's got a sense of humor.
But I'm trying to design more t-shirts, that our female fans could also enjoy. Not that they don't enjoy Deadpool or Flash, but also female superheroes as well. I would wear a Wonder Woman shirt. But I just have to get it right. Again, I have to read up on those characters and see what the best thing is. Is there a very strong catchphrase that doesn't get the attention it deserves. I just try to draw the thing that I dig and hope that other people enjoy them as well.
COMIC LOUNGE: Do you ever plan to do this full time and going all in on it? Or do you still see yourself working outside jobs but putting more focus on ViciouSkill?
MAGANA: Yeah definitely! Since my wife is expecting in late August, I definetly want to make graphic design or illustrating job more dominant of a career. The reason I want to do that, is that if I can work from home, I think it will be easier in case of emergencies. I can be there for my kid and all that stuff.
I started my own domain, I'm gonna be coming out with a website: www.artbyvn.com. That's where I will have my portfolio and everything.
On top of that, my brother and I have a lot more planned out for ViciouSkill. Also for my personal life. But I definitely want to make it full time.
It's just, when I'm stressed out from work, I go home and draw. It's a way to vent.
One thing I definitely want to do full time on the website, is YouTube videos. For example, I want to show people how I draw, how I find references, how to find copyright free stuff (so it doesn't bite you in the ass). To be honest with you, the best kindness that I've seen people show me, is teach me what took them years to learn, so I don't have to.
When I was a tattoo artist, this guy comes up and tells me " I'm gonna teach you how to do feathering". I went and sat down and while he was teaching me and all that stuff, he said " Nobody was there to teach me, it took 7 years to figure out feathering. The right needle size, the right pressure, the right machine, how to hold it, all that stuff. For you it only took 15 minutes".
That's what I want to do on the website. That's what I want to do full time. I want to teach people the skills that I've learned. I don't want to hold these steps back. If other people can produce cool stuff, dude I wanna buy that cool stuff. I wanna read that cool stuff. I wanna see that cool stuff.
I just want to build a website like that, where I can also build some clientele and establish my work.
COMIC LOUNGE: Where do you see yourself or the company five years from now?
MAGANA: Things have just happened... that I don't want to spoil the surprise.
COMIC LOUNGE: What does being an artist mean to you?
MAGANA: These our question that I never really think about, but strike a nerve.
Taking the time to create something, to change the emotion of somebody else for the better or the worst. But really sending out a message to either make somebody happy or sad, or just tell them how you feel.
Like when I do the comic book conventions or do the artwork, I have that level of excitement. When I created the "running man" series, the pose, you don't know how happy I get when people tell me "Dude I really dig this, I love this". I try as hard as I can to not let it boost my ego. What I take that as, is that I'm headed down the right path.
The people that follow us, the people that support us; they're guiding me. It's a two way street.
For me, art is everything. I can't tell you how manty times it's helped me in my life, literally. Not to get to sentimental or anything, but I used to have a journal I used to vent or "lay it down" so that I could see a new perspective. But I didn't write in the journal, I would draw what happened that day. But I would use code and certain things would have symbolism. My brother was like "This is some Mario, abstract, acid trippy stuff". But everything had a symbol, so when I look back at it I can read it but nobody else can. So every page was like a little drawing. It did help me clear things out, it helped me see from an outside perspective. That everything was gonna be ok. Like that line says "It's always darkest before the dawn".
So for me, it saved me a couple times, it's therapeutic, it's so much a part of me that I don't know what I'd do without it.