|Oak Variant Cover, by Javi Diaz of Tattoo.|
Some time ago I came across an artist by the name of Al Diaz, while in search of some possible logos that we were looking to have done. While exploring Al’s website, I found some concept art for a comic book by the name of Oak, as well as some art for what looked to be potential offshoots of a larger lore.
Here at The Nerd Hub, we look to work with indies, because we are an indie ourselves and there are no handouts from the upper echelon; so I reached out with questions about the product. As it would happen, after Al looked into us as well, he found himself clicking with our way of doing things and was not only all for giving us an early look at his book, but he even offered to sit down with us for a discussion to give potential readers a look into Oak and its associated properties.
J.F. – So, thank you for the time you’ve taken to join me, Al.
A.D. – Thank you, Jack. It’s great to speak with you.
J.F. – Early in your career, where/who did you draw inspiration from while trying to find your place in the medium, and what made you decide to go independent?
A.D. – When I was growing up, I’d have to say, my brother, Javi Diaz had a big influence in my life as an artist. Javi is talented and gifted in his own right. We still work together as “The Diaz Bros”. Also, my mentor, Joe Orlando who was just as integral in my life during the mid 90’s. I actually decided to dedicate this first Oak book to him. During that period, Joe also helped me explore the possibilities of going indie, but he was also the reason DC Comics was interested in the character; the deal didn’t pan out, so we just did Oak as an indie release, which was becoming more prevalent during that time for new creators.
J.F. – So as it turns out, Oak is no more new to the medium than yourself. What was the inspiration behind your decision to relaunch Oak, and what sets this rebirth of the character apart from its last run?
A.D. – Well, the original story iteration of Oak, which was written by another writer over 20 years ago, was a bit macabre for me and at the end of the day, that story arc never sat well with me. I want a book that will appeal through generations, as opposed to a shock valued hot fling. When I was a kid, Secret of NIMH had me dazzled by the art and colors, but as I got older I understood that the story was about animal experimentation and the book evolved with me; they don’t make stories like that anymore. NIMH’s Don Bluth is also a testament to the possibilities that going indie brings. Don left Disney to create a vision, and in turn, inspired more vision; without him, we wouldn’t have Dragons Lair and Space Ace as classic video games.
J.F. – What does this book represent when the foliage is pulled back, in that sense I mean, when reading what are some of the parallels that some of the readers might pick up on?
A.D. – Great point. Oak is the modern day take of a character that can carry the torch for environmental causes or wildlife, without it being preachy or over the top. In fact, he’s completely opposite of that. He was once a “Titan” with responsibilities to Earth. The environmental message lingers as a slight overtone throughout, but what you find with Oak is someone who is disconnected with the things he once knew and protected, with the exception of his friends Totem Strongheart and Maxwell, (the rabbit).
Also, the resurrection aspect plays a big part because the record skips in his mind at times as a side effect, which is an obstacle he personally needs to overcome. Oak is a character who’s on a new journey in search of what his purpose is for the present and future in from his resurrected life.
I think we can all relate to that, right? In the metaphorical context of life, somewhere along the way, we lose ourselves, then we find ourselves again. The worst case scenario being, we lose ourselves forever, if we don’t learn – hence the birth of a villain, Cashus Hazard in this story arc. With that said, I wanted to explore the flaws in these characters rather than promote the ideal. Oak broke a rule because he befriended Totem 20 years ago.
Totem broke Nature’s law in resurrecting Oak. My point is, mistakes are the result of bad choices, even if you’re a Titan or a Shaman. If anyone can tell me that they’ve never made a mistake in their life, they’re full of it. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to error and failure in order to learn from it, get back up and soldier on. Adversity and challenges build the best character.
J.F. – From what I could gather speaking with you previously, Oak seems to live in sorts of parallel to your own life; could you give us the pillar points of relevance?
A.D. – Absolutely. When I embarked on the decision to get back into comic books, it was a no-brainer, it would be Oak. His resurgence felt like mine getting back into it. When I would hit creative obstacles, whether it was visual or writing, I included those in the story, but in a more cryptic fashion via oak’s thoughts. They represent the question, the journey, the failure, the success, and the self-awareness as to what his (mine, yours, ours, etc) purpose is.
J.F. – And one of the biggest things Oak has to offer, isn’t even this main mini-series is it? What is it that invested readers could expect in the future of this lore?
A.D. – I’m glad you pointed that out, Oak is the catapult of a larger world with other titles that will spin off into their own thing, including my brothers’ brainchild that will follow immediately after the success of Oak; Tattoo.
J.F. – So, Tattoo would be the next series coming out; what would the narrative be looking to achieve there and what can we expect as to a setting as compared to Oak?
A.D. – Tattoo (working title) is based on Totem’s two sons and is set in a present-day as Oak is, but it’s overtones and messages are martial arts based. The idea for each 4-part book is that they carry their own overtone, the environmental vibe is specifically unique to Oak. The other title will stand on their vibe apart from the rest, but still remain connected by characters. If there are no snags in the plan, expect book 1 of Tattoo, mid-late 2019.
J.F. – With a universe you’ve bred to have limitless potential, I’m sure you would like to see stories told from different experiences. If you were to get a chance to expand beyond comic books, where would you take these tales?
A.D. – I’d say some titles that we have are stronger in certain cross platforms than others. You can’t fit a square into a circle, so you have to be objective and be self-effacing as to whats going to make sense in the big picture. So, while I have some ideas in mind, whatever speaks to us right at the time is what we go with.
J.F. – Oak’s first issue featured a lot of thematic color sets; so I would imagine that other entries within the lore would paint unique pictures as well. We also know that your brother will be leading the art for Tattoo. Would it be safe to say that we could see some unique styles and overtones with each book art as well, and what could that look like for Tattoo?
A.D. – I know for Oak, I wanted to keep track of time during that first book, (daybreak, sunset, etc), and at the same time have the colors play a part for the mood in the story. You’ll notice that towards the end of the book, the background colors get darker, more metallic as opposed to how the story starts with a bright day, blue skies, foliage, etc. Also, I wanted to explore making creative use of the page layout, so I used very few square panels in order to convey that. As for Tattoo, my brother’s take would probably be radically different than mine, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with it. He and I agreed, we would never want Oaks spinoff titles to look the same as Oak and Tattoo.
JF – You’ve done some extensive work over the years, trying your hand in many fields from music, to strip style comics, to product art and more. Now you have this new endeavor surrounding puppets? What’s that all about?
A.D. – [Laughing], it’s crazy you mentioned that. Yeah, there is something in the works with regards to that. I like doing different things at once – I think it has to do with my attention span. As much as I love the comic book medium, I’m always looking to do different projects. I can’t say much on that just yet, but one thing I can say is that I’m looking to offer something for everyone. Oak is my headline young adult project and this would be more geared to adults with the thirst for an irreverent flavor.
J.F. – After you get the ball rolling on Oak, what type of story would you be aiming to accomplish as your next comic book focus? Sci-Fi with aliens and a hint of horror, a technologically advanced western; or perhaps something more grounded like a crime drama or a buddy road trip?
A.D. – Well, there’s a map of what we have planned. So we definitely have to do the spin-offs for Oak, but we also have some stand-alone titles (which have nothing to do with Oak’s lore), and those do involve sci-fi, crime dramas, and other things through a wide array of different times, places, and planets. In hindsight, the range of our work will allow the people to pick and choose what they like or don’t like, and that’s all good.
J.F. – Before we go, what would tell other inspiring creators out there looking for their calling?
A.D. – Stay honed in on your craft or vocation, research as much as you can about the pioneers and innovators who came before you. It sounds cliche, but persistence really pays off. If others do not allow you to play in their ballpark, forget them and start your own ballpark. Be sure to include those who have a mutual respect for one another, and make sure you create a ballpark better than the one you weren’t allowed in. This is why I love TNH so much, I really like how TNH didn’t like what they were seeing and started their own ballpark; love the autonomy and latitude of what you are doing.
I’d like to thank Al for sitting down with us; as far as the book goes, I actually was given a chance to read it and you can read my perspective in my next ‘Comic Book Spotlight’. If you are interested in seeking your own opinion of the book, you can follow the taglines for your own copy. Don’t forget that you can subscribe by email for notifications of new entries, or follow our facebook page. Feel free to drop any questions you may have into the comments below.
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