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Indie Spotlight: Nick Cagnetti

As we try to shine some light on more of the indie cartoonists, Nick Cagnetti seemed like the prefect place to start. HIs book PINK LEMONADE made a big splash when it first cam out, do in large part to Cagnetti's bombastic style with electric colors that pop off the page.

At only 25 years of age, he's already developed a large fanbase and continues to work on his popular book. Stay tuned for more PINK LEMONADE, including a crossover with another indie cartoonist (who will also be covered here at Comic Lounge soon), but I'll let Nick give you guys the inside scoop. Hope you guys enjoy this indie spotlight and make sure you check Nick, and his work, out on social media, links at the end of the interview.

RYAN: For those that may not be familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

NICK: I'm a 25 year old comic book creator, I've been drawing since I was a little guy. Comics are how I learned to read, they're how I learned to draw. I have been making comics for the last 8 years or so now. I collaborated with friends through college and illustrated 5 issues of the quirky but earnest superhero book, Infinite Wonders, and 3 issues of a retro horror romance romp, The Spirit of The Shadows. I branched out to trying my hand at a series of painted comic strips after doing a lot of those books, that would become the first stories with PINK LEMONADE.

RYAN: I discovered your work from one of the other writers for Comic Lounge in combination with the Cartoonist Kayfabe channel. You have a very unique visual style, who were some of your artistic influences?

NICK: I think Steve Ditko is a big one. Spider-Man is my favorite character in fiction and a lot of that from an early age for so many kids comes from the brilliant design. Black and white reprints of the original Lee/Ditko run were some of the earliest comics I had (I'd color them in with crayons) and the offbeat quality Ditko gave everybody sucked me in. I think a lot of my thoughts on creating costumes or worlds for characters to inhabit always comes at looking towards the masters of superhero jamming like Ditko or Kirby because they didn't prioritize realism but rather focused on making drawings/designs/layouts that were evocative on the page. I want to make things that bring out those same kinds of strong feelings when you look at them.

RYAN: Your current project, PINK LEMONADE, has strong Kirby and Allred vibes, can you talk a little bit about that?

NICK: Mike Allred is one of my favorite creators, reading MADMAN for the first time was one of those books for me that changed the way I look at comics. The Frank Einstein character's earnestness and inquisitive nature for the world around him was infectious! A synthesis between that kind of approach with Kirby bombast is definitely something in my heart with this book. I see people mention the colors a lot, I like to refer to it as a high-fructose candy syrup confection you shouldn't have but it tastes good so you do have it. Beyond that, I've got a lot of love for indie creators like Daniel Clowes and I think I've absorbed elements of his approaches to the quieter character beats. It's important to me that even when you've got those crazy moments they behave and act kind of neurotic and troubled on the page in the way that normal people sometimes do in real life.

RYAN: The book just exudes a fun and exciting energy. Where did the idea for this book come from?

NICK: The Pink Lemonade character started out in those comic strips I mentioned before wherein I didn't really have much prior writing experience so it was very much a spontaneous narrative which I think meshes with the state of the character going on this journey. She's very much about wanting to make the most out of life even if she doesn't always know what that means or how to achieve those things. Then it becomes an exercise for both me and the character to continue to grow on the page artistically and personally. I work on my craft writing more, drawing more, but the way the character approaches things really twists the direction the story takes more often than not. I think Pink Lemonade's optimism in wanting to rediscover the nice things in the world due to pretty much being a blank slate puts her and the reader on a level playing field so things are really open to go on these crazy adventures.

For me that becomes most rewarding when I'm able to latch onto ideas we all know and recognize as consumers of fiction and then look at them from Pink Lemonade's lens to maybe consider a different point of view so you get these ridiculous scenarios but they've also got these currents running through them that have other things there to dig into beyond that. The funny thing was as I was starting to do those first comic strips, I wanted to do something with a cool, mysterious motorcycle riding character. It took shape but not how I originally pictured because Pink Lemonade just has a life of her own and is her own kind of cool, which definitely refreshed my enthusiasm on the page.

RYAN: Since you do everything on the book, what do you first, art or writing?

NICK: Since writing isn't the thing I'm most experienced with, for the series I want to make sure the scripts are as good as they can be before I start drawing them. I allow for plenty of wiggle room, though. Things often change as I'm actually drawing the pages and I realize things can be condensed or shifted around, or completely new elements can be added that come to me right in the moment. It's still that same spirit of spontaneity that cuts to the core of the character. For example, the Ron Radical character wasn't in my script at all. Instead as I got to the page it hit me, I "resurrected" him on the spot to be used in this series because I realized it fit perfectly and had potential going forward. Ron Radical was the protagonist of the very first comic I tried to draw in high school but never finished because it wasn't good. I'm happy to say 10 years later he is finally getting his due here.

RYAN: This book was launched through crowdfunding. Since it was so successful, will you continue to launch other projects that way?

NICK: I'm sure I'll go back to crowdfunding sometime but at the moment I hope to take a break from crowdfunding campaigns for my comics. I was happy to see the response from the crowdfunding campaigns, I didn't have a whole lot to do with organizing those or anything but it was pretty humbling to see so many folks deciding to support the book that way right out of the gate. It makes me feel like it could certainly be a viable avenue again but it's not my favorite way to do it, if that makes sense.

RYAN: How did you link up with, It's Alive! Press?

NICK: They approached me, actually. It was my first time having a book published officially for worldwide distribution through Diamond which was and is still pretty crazy to me. It's a big jump from starting out putting comics online for free in the beginning and not knowing if anybody ever saw them to that. I learned a lot from getting a taste of the inside mechanics and am thankful Pink Lemonade's readership expanded the way it did. I did decide to split amicably with the publisher, though. Just letting all you publishers know 'cause I wouldn't mind taking the book to a new home- Pink Lemonade is a free agent going forward!

RYAN: As an indie creator, how do you balance your creative work while also maintaining a regular job?

NICK: I'm doing the art full time so every day lately it's something different I'm working on. I'm lucky in that regard because I'm able to stay busy and not be looking at the same thing each day. Especially with the state of the world right now I'm doing my best to take commissions and more random small-scale projects for folks to try bringing in money while chipping away at my comics at the same time. Hoping to get to the point again soon where I feel comfortable enough pause the other stuff and focus on just my comics for a period. This stuff is pretty much all I think about besides looking out for my family!

RYAN: Do you have any other projects in the works?

NICK: Yeah, I'm almost wrapped up with coloring a Pink Lemonade crossover book with Jamie Jones' Baboon character. We co-wrote that one and Jamie illustrated it, will be out this summer! It's Pink Lemonade's next stop after her most recent appearance. I'm providing covers for a 4 issue series coming later in 2020 or early 2021 that hasn't officially been announced yet but I was able to share a small peek at one of those covers not to long ago. I'm excited about that as it's my first real cover gig for a publisher! I'm doing title cards for a Spider-Man fan podcast called Amazing Spider-Talk, which is a fun and informative show for fans of that character. Can't go wrong drawing some Spidey. PINK LEMONADE #3 is in the early stages still but it'll be continuing the story in crazy fashion.

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

NICK: I'm pretty easily accessible day to day if you're on the internet or phones or whatever. I'm fudgy1nick on Instagram, Ncags on Twitter, and nickcagnetticomics on Facebook. I share a lot of what I'm working on pretty frequently and keep people updated on what's coming down the pipeline.

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