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Indie Spotlight: Daniel Moler

Once again, thanks to the awesome Kayfabe community, I've discovered another awesome cartoonist. Daniel Moler's work is something I discovered through the Wizerd Megazine (put together by the Kayfabe Ringside Seats Group). After that small sample I knew had to see what else he had up his sleeve.

I'm happy to say that it was even better on the second read. Hope you guys enjoy this indie spotlight with Daniel Moler. Stay tuned for more spotlights on indie creators coming soon!

RYAN: For those that don't know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?

DANIEL: I’m a husband and father in the Kansas City area, working full-time as an IT project manager, but when I’m not doing all that I’m a writer and cartoonist. A lot of my content tends to lean towards the esoteric exploration of consciousness, which has always fascinated me. Other than numerous articles and contributions in various journals and the like, some of my works include: Red Mass, a novel about psychedelic revolutionaries; Machine Elves 101, a biography of Terence McKenna, the Timothy Leary of the 90s; and Shamanic Qabalah, a nonfiction work from Llewellyn publishing about using the mind and imagination to explore the inner, rather than outer, universe. I also have a history as a college professor and love teaching this stuff independently whenever I can. So, I’m all over the place.

RYAN: I discovered your work from the Kayfabe Ringside Seats group on Facebook. It's pretty awesome what a great community it is. Do you feel it has helped you grow awareness of your work?

DANIEL: Comics was always a medium I wanted to get into, ever since I was a kid. It was my original passion, but I just didn’t have the confidence to get into it. The comics world always seemed out of reach and I didn’t have the resources in college to support my drive in that medium. I ran across the Cartoonist Kayfabe YouTube Channel a couple of years ago and the first time I saw Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg go through a Wizard magazine, something just clicked inside of me . . . all that passion as a kid just flooded back in and started drawing comics daily and haven’t stopped. With that, as well as meeting and interacting with the Ringside Seats community, the energy just keeps flowing and hasn’t waned.

The thing I love most about Kayfabe culture is that it is a supportive culture . . . everyone just wants to read more comics and make more comics. There is no room to tear anyone down or minimize their work, which is something I experienced in art school and was the thing that diminished my artistic drive for so long.

RYAN: You recently launched your new project, Psychonaut Presents, can you talk a little bit about that?

DANIEL: Sure. Psychonaut Presents is a take on the old Marvel Comics Presents anthology from back in the day . . . its format is sort of anthology-based, though will highlight a single story each issue, along with a few single-page stories or galleries. The character Psychonaut usually introduces the story . . . kind of like The Cryptkeeper in Tales from the Crypt. The first issue, MotherVine, is about one of my experiences with ayahuasca, the psychedelic vine from the Amazon that induces incredible visionary phenomena. In a way, it is mind-blowing and even life changing. It is said by the natives in the Amazon that ayahuasca actually makes you die and then returns you to life. So, with an adventure like that, I had to tell the story!

RYAN: You have a really awesome aesthetic and premise. Where did the idea for the book come from?

DANIEL: I’ve had quite a few encounters over the years with Native and shamanic cultures, mostly in regard to altered states of consciousness using psychedelic plant medicines, vision quests, meditation, dreamwork, and other things. Through that I’ve collected some weird and incredible experiences that I’ve always wanted to find a way to express and I thought comics were the perfect medium for that. Some of these, as you can imagine, are so visual and can’t be explained just using words. I have also always been a huge fan of autobiographical comics, most especially the works of Robert Crumb, Lynda Barry, Harvey Pekar, Alison Bechdel, Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, and others. I like the Indy style, that unclean look where you can almost see the process happening within the final product. So, I guess with those influences over the years, that same type of aesthetic just sort of organically shows in my own work.

RYAN: Since you do both writing and art, what do you do first when working on a new book?

DANIEL: Even when writing a novel, I have to start off with initial concept drawings, character profiles, etc. From there, I start with a loose outline and then tie main parts together with a loose script. I have found that in writing comics, I don’t type out a script. I storyboard while I write, because it helps me process the visuals along with the words so that by the time I hit the drawing table, there is very little else that needs to be planned out . . . I can dive right in! I tend to pencil very loosely, mostly just to establish placement on the page, and do most of my work inking. But, really, the details of the script will change and evolve over the course of drawing the comic . . . you never know how something is going to work until you see it manifesting in front of you.

RYAN: What do you like most about self-publishing?

DANIEL: It has its positives and negatives. Philosophically, I make self-publishing the priority. Giving all of that control to the creator is very important to me. However, I don’t always have the time to self-promote . . . being a family man and with a full-time job, it’s enough just to get the work done. When I have published under a traditional publisher it was helpful because they do all the promotion and editing for the book . . . and it’s nice to get a royalty check every once in a while. It’s helpful to get a good gig with a publisher for some things, especially if you can set your own terms and use that as a monetary base to continue on your next project. At the end of the day, for the comics industry at least, I think independent creators using independent printers and distribution channels is the way to go. There is so much satisfaction in directly supporting an indy creator, knowing they are getting the full benefit for the work they put out.

RYAN: As an indie creator, how do you juggle this aspect of your life while also maintaining a regular job?

DANIEL: It takes a lot of sacrifice. After working and then parenting, I’ve had to stop being a consumer of things and spend my spare time creating. So, I don’t read as much as I would like to anymore, or watch many movies or shows. I’m not able to keep up with all of that content that is out there. Also, networking is the currency of independent creators and I am not able to spend as much time making connections and supporting others as I would like. All my focus has to be creating. Every moment I am not working or feeding the kids, no matter how tired I might be, I pick up the pen. It’s a discipline. Coffee is my god. Also, sleeping is overrated.

RYAN: Are there any other projects in the works?

DANIEL: I am currently working on issue #2 of Psychonaut Presents, which will be a two-parter story that concludes in issue #3. I have about two other issues planned out after that then may offer the series in a trade paperback collection. In the meantime, I have also been scripting a fiction series that I hope to put out after I am done with Psychonaut Presents. It stars a character I’ve had in mind for years, who has plagued my subconscious and I’m ready to get out of me. It will have magic, demons, and diners . . . so you can’t go wrong with that, right? I have already written it as a novel several times for the past decade and was never satisfied with it enough to try to publish it, but now I think it was always meant to be a comic. I feel very confident in the script so far. There will maybe even be a preview in a future issue of Psychonaut Presents.

RYAN: For all the readers out there, where can they follow you to learn about any projects you might be working on?

DANIEL: My website is the best place to find me, but you can also follow me on @danielmolerweb on Instagram and Facebook. I usually post updates of whatever I am working on so everyone can be part of the creative process. To me, that’s the part of the magic!

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