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Indie Spotlight w/Ari Levi

A couple of weeks ago, Dylan had the chance to review the fantastic new 100% indie comic “A Puncher’s Chance” by Ari Levi. Missed it? You can read it here:

Well, I too had the chance to read it this week! It was an amazingly surprising discovery and I loved every pages of it.

“A Puncher’s Chance” reeks of talent so imagine my smile when I also had the chance to interview none other than the writer of this fantastic story!

GEN: Hi Ari! First, tell me a little more about yourself. Who is Ari Levi and where does your love of comics come from?

ARI: Hi everyone! I’m Ari Levi and I’m an up and coming comic book writer from Los Angeles, California. My love for comics came at a really young age. It almost feels as if I was born with a comic in my hand. My older brother, Ryan, is a huge comic fan/collector so there were always comics around the house. In terms of the first time I remember a comic making an impression on me is when I read Green Lantern #36 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis; I just remember thinking how cool it was to see red lanterns (laughs). I read DC Comics my whole upbringing but got burnt out by superhero comics around the time I was in high school; that’s when my brother gave me the first volume of Saga and that book changed my whole view on what comics could be. From there I dove into the indie comics scene and found some of the best comics out there in Invincible, Love and Rockets, Blankets, etc. I could go on all day (laughs).

GEN: How would you describe “A Puncher’s Chance” to our readers? What type of story is it and why should we read it?

ARI: The general premise of A Puncher’s Chance is it’s an ongoing slice of life-action comic that follows the life of Leo Lopez; a down on his luck teen who -- after one fateful day-- gets pushed into the world of MMA prize-fighting. The story is much more than that, though; The fighting and martial arts are a big part of what makes this comic what it is, but to me, it’s all background noise to what the story is really about: A person trying to follow their dreams, create a legacy, and show that no matter where you’re at in life, you can come out the other side on top. I think that’s a story anybody could relate to.

GEN: How did you come up with the idea and how long did it take to create your story?

ARI: Well, it’s been my dream to create comics my whole life and it wasn’t until maybe a year or two ago that I actually started pursuing that goal. I tried making some mini-comics and even started creating a superhero comic, but it didn’t feel genuine; it felt like I was creating those stories because I felt that’s what “industry” wanted. With A Puncher’s Chance I really had to take the advice of “create the comic you’d want to read”.

I’ve always been a huge fan of combat sports, which sparked from my love of the Rocky movies at such a young age. I began training martial arts a couple years before the creation of A Puncher’s Chance and it all clicked for me while I was sitting at work one day: Why don’t I combine my love for MMA with my love of comics? I feel like the two are tailor made for each other. Comics traditionally thrive off having both action and character moments, but they tend to show it off through the lens of superhero comics, post apocalyptic ideas, or very high concept stories. I figured why don’t I tell a grounded story of the crazy lives fighters actually live? One with real stakes and relatable characters that you can root for.

It took awhile to create A Puncher’s Chance; partly due to monetary reasons, but also because Paulo and I really wanted to make sure this comic was the best it possibly could be. It’s been a little over a year since I sent Paulo the script for the first issue and I’m sure I drove him crazy with all the minor tweaks to the story I added (laughs), but it all worked out for the better because we now have a product we both are proud to say is ours and that we’re a part of.

GEN: Now, there’s a lot of fighting in the comic and a lot of reference to combat sport. This is a really specific topic that not everyone is interested in. I’ve personally read the first issue and I know it is more than that. Why do you think someone who knows nothing about combat should still be interested in your story?

ARI: That’s good if you don’t know much about combat sports, neither does Leo! (Laughs). The beauty of this story is that you get to follow Leo through every part of his life, not just the fighting. It’s not just a story about an underdog in the cage so much as it’s a story of an underdog in life. So to anyone who may be turned off by the cagefighting aspect in the book, I can assure you that there is something in here you’ll like; whether it be the friendships Leo builds, the romance he takes part in, or the growth of his character over the course of his life. I truly believe A Puncher’s Chance has something for everyone: character moments, action, romance, etc. It’s a great book!

GEN: I was impressed by the quality of the panels and the clarity of the drawings. The artist did an incredible job, but this also means that you, as the writer, were very thorough in your writing and the details. What would you say was the biggest challenge to bring such a physical and active story into writing?

ARI: Thank you for the compliment. I can’t stress enough how great a job Paulo did at bringing this story to life. He deserves all the credit in the world. As for scripting such an active story, I will say I’m very lucky to know the martial arts I’m writing down in the script; It makes it easier for me to break down the moves in the simplest way possible. The challenge of scripting the book was that while I may know the techniques, it doesn’t necessarily mean Paulo does as well, so I had to make sure what I wrote down was easy and understandable for him to interpret and work his magic.

GEN: I am always interested to know about the creative process. As the writer, how did you find the perfect artist to share your vision? Was it a team work or did you have a clear vision of how you wanted your story to be illustrated?

ARI: I found Paulo on a great subreddit called “comicbookcollabs” where artists and writers post when they’re available for work. I had screenshot Paulo’s post months prior to messaging him and once I was finally ready to pursue my dream of making comics, I hit him up. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get a response or that it would work out, but he responded quickly and I sent over the script and we began work shortly after.

I did have a clear vision of how I wanted the story to look. I didn’t need it to have a certain style per say, but I wanted an artist who could nail the high-octane action of a cage fight, and more importantly, one who could handle the smaller, more intimate character moments; I found that in Paulo.

GEN: Was there anything you learned during the creative process that you would like to share with other aspiring comics writers? Some mistakes you want them to avoid or something that surprised you about the industry?

ARI: Take your time. Let your story breathe. Tell the story that you would be dying to read if it was on the shelves at your local comic shop. That’s all I can say to anyone who’s thinking about making their own comics. I’m no expert, but I think that if you truly believe and love the book you’re creating, people will recognize that passion when they’re reading it.

There weren’t any glaring mistakes when creating A Puncher’s Chance. The mistakes were in my failed attempts at creating comics before A Puncher’s Chance. I was trying to rush it. I was so eager to make a comic that it ended up hurting the projects. Just stay patient, work hard, and take your time. Everything else will work out.

GEN: I also wanted to congratulate you for reaching your goal on kickstarter! How was it to launch your very own comic on kickstarter? Did you have any fears or expectations from the platform?

ARI: Thank you! It feels surreal that it’s already fully funded (laughs). Launching a kickstarter is a very nerve-racking experience. Like you said earlier in the interview, the topic of combat sports is very specific and one that not everyone is interested in; I was getting nervous the night before launching that that might be true. But I had to calm myself and remember how hard Paulo and I worked on the project and how much we believed in it. I think everyone has the same fears when launching anything creative out into the world: What if no one cares? What if this is the wrong time? What if the people don’t believe in it as much as I do?

You just have to let go and let the universe take care of the rest.

GEN: Lastly, what can we expect from you and your team for the future? Any big plans for ‘A Puncher’s chance’ or even new projects coming out? How can we stay in touch with you or updated on your ideas and projects?

ARI: Paulo and I are in the prepping stages for A Puncher’s Chance #2. We’re already fully funded on kickstarter, so we’re going to take that money and use it to create the second chapter in Leo’s life. We’re hellbent on making sure that A Puncher’s Chance goes down as the greatest comic series of the century, so we’ve got, big, big things in the works. If you want to reserve yourself a copy you still can! The kickstarter ends on August 13th and we’ve still got plenty of great rewards and stretch goals you can snatch up. For any updates on the series you can follow me on instagram and twitter @arilevicomics and Paulo on instagram @paulomelart

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