The Bronx has long been a steady breeding ground for artistic talent. The borough that’s most thorough has nurtured and produced the likes of Stan Lee, George Perez and John “Crash One” Matos. Artists such as these men continue to leave their marks whether it is in abstract, surrealism, street art or the comic book world. MAS Media Studios is one such group that has been making its own sway.
The artist collaborative was founded in 2007 by Jorge Medina, Anibal Arroyo and Jonathan Syphax who subsequently released their flagship title Street Journal the following year. Since then the three men have been creating more colorful yet gritty issues of the urban drama while promoting it at every comic book convention one can think of across the United States. I was able to catch up with two of the co-founders, Arroyo and Syphax, for a quick Q & A session at their booth during this year’s installment of New York Comic Con.
DR: What was the main reason for this collaborative? What made you guys say “let’s do this”?
AA: Basically we through another creator (banner). The long story short is that didn’t work out. When that didn’t work out we formed our own company. We kind of decided to do it on our own.
JS: What really brought us together, product-wise at least was Street Journal. It was a project which I had created and co-wrote with Jorge. We had met Anibal at one of the conventions and he just fell in love with the story. George fell in love with the story. And it basically is what formed Mas today. We all brought our work and talents together which launched other projects for our company.
DR: What have been some of your biggest obstacles thus far in your careers?
AA: For me personally I’m a family man. I work fulltime nine to five hours outside of this. The timing and finances has really been a huge obstacle for me
JS: My biggest obstacles are definitely finances and the cost to produce the project. But also the aspect of trying to have a vision and incorporate it into the visions of other individuals in order to be able to reach whatever goal I can seek. We kind of approach the business in three separate ways but it melds together very well as an individual unit. Sometimes it’s hard to show an idea in a way that others may try to grasp but we meld our ideas together.
DR: Do you think that it’s like that for every person in the comic book business?
AA: Oh, absolutley! I think if you’re a regular person like myself, what I mean by that is nine to five you have a day job, that’s definitely your biggest obstacle. That and sometimes motivation. For a lot of us we get a little sluggish around a certain time of year and we only kick it up during the convention season. So that kind of catches up, I definitely fall victim to that.
DR: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
JS: My inspiration is straight from my own life and experiences plus people I knew. Street Journal takes place in the South Bronx. It’s about a writer trying to get through and overcome his environment. I find a likeness to that character and it’s real close to me.
AA: Everything! Movies, life experiences, people that I know, stuff that I read in the news or see on television. I’m constantly drawing. Even on the ride here I see stuff on the street and see that I may be able to use that for an idea of a character or a story later on. I’m always like a sponge, constantly absorbing everything.
DR: You guys are Con veterans. What does being part of this every year mean to you?
JS: For me it’s about doing something I love with the people that I love and connecting with other creators which are really cool. The other part of it is just being in the game. I feel like when you’re in the Con you’re not the guy sitting on bench hoping to be put into a play. You’re in it! Good or bad you’re running the court. So you’ve got a shot every time you’re on that court to make it. The minute you step out of out of Con you’re on the sideline waiting to get called. All of that is what I love about it.
AA: For me really all about paying dues. This is part of the process. If you want to make it you’ve got to pay your dues. This is where everybody comes up and I’m no different. That’s a lot of the reason why I’m here. Also it’s about connecting with the people. I love creating and I love being around creative people. This is the Mecca for that. This is where you’re going to improve your chances of meeting people like that. It’s about the people, the fans and creating.
DR: Comic Con has evolved over the years as a phenomenon on both coasts. What do you attribute that to?
AA: Again I’m going to say the people. It’s all about the fans. It seems like creative force brings out something that everyone can relate to. It grows and the more people come to it. The more it grows. It’s like an energy. It’s something hard to put a finger on. I mean you can’t even describe it. Comic Con is something I like to joke and say it’s like the all-star game, the Super Bowl, Wrestlemania and the Stanley Cup all balled into one for geeks. And geeks never go away! We don’t die! We multiply! It’ll never die!
JS: For me it’s the same thing to a certain extent. Creative people just have certain energy and they draw together particularly in New York. To me it was almost destined for it to become huge in New York. Because it has always been the most diverse city, the most dynamic city and one of the most cultured cities in the world. So you have every type of taste, every type of story here and every type of creator. Which means it’s an open field for you to share your work to any kind of customer or fan out there that just has a creative spirit.
DR: How do you see Artist Alley’s role changing at Con?
AA: For me personally as an artist it seems as some of the attention has gone away from the actual creative’s and the people who actually draw things out. It’s become more for publicity than what it was originally, which is not necessarily bad thing because everything has to evolve and go places. Ultimately you want to be successful and you want to make it so you’ve got to crossover. But you can’t forget where it started and what its roots are, that’s the artwork.
JS: I really can’t say it any better than that.