Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 has started out with a bang for Defenders of Eden, my project I have been working on for a year or so. It started out as just a creative "fan fic" venture for me. Something to do for fun and keep my creative juices flowing but then it turned out to be something much more thanks to a few artist friends, and a little bit of drive. I wanted to share a bit about it on this blog, (my personal blog, but I have a few posts of projects on here) showing everyone the process that we have taken, and the journey we continue to travel!
Most of you know I have been a "creator" for all of my life. Drawing random pictures of super heroes, naming them, giving them powers, pretending, and using my imagination has been such a fun way to explore artistically. I have always been a fan of toys of all kinds. I thought I might possibly grow out of it, but something about the childlike spirit of creating, and having an imagination are things now, looking back, I could never see myself without. I remember my grandmother would take me to the local salvation army where I could look through all of the bins, searching for my latest prize. Outside of my superhero comic book project "Disciple 6" that tailors closer to the traditional superhero fan, with a twist of scifi, I have compiled a group of characters I created because of my love of all things "Masters of The Universe".

I found a folder about 4 years ago, that I had (which i cannot wait to share pictures of, some really good fun old stuff!) where I had written these loose ideas for a story called, "Defenders of Adonia". Random characters that I had created throughout my youth. My attempt at recreating a property like MOTU, or ThunderCats. My thoughts turned into, what if I was given the opportunity to write my own MOTU property. I would do a continuation of the world, sort of a "next generation" version. I decided I would call it "Defenders of Eternia: life after HeMan".
I only continued to use about 3 characters from my "Adonia" story. (one in which i called TechTrek who's first incarnation in my folder had legs that could become a vehicle sort of half lower body like transformer style. wheels on his knees...) A few made their way to my D6 franchise, and I think 2 others are used in my property co created and written by my great friend Geoffrey Young called The World Within My Walls. So I took a good long hard look at this "fanfic" idea for Defenders of Eternia. I created most characters on my own, but also used, (to flush out story) Kayla from the unused MOTU bible called "HeRo son of He-Man", A character I called Robot4.0 which was the progression of Roboto, and also a blind character that I created giving him the origin of Lews, a blind child from a FILMATION episode. Also, a great artist, and someone whom I consider a friend through the org, and his love for MOTU, Emiliano Santalucia had such an amazing creation for his redesign of SweetBee (a PoP character) that I got his permission to use this concept as a new character of mine called HoneyComb. Now it got to a point in my mind where I convinced myself, "man, this could be something good" as well as friends on had given me alot of encouragement on my characters, and the potential that they held.
Then comes the trigger that sent this adventure in a whole new direction. Masters of the Universe Classics held a contest. The toyline has been doing so well, that they decided to recreate the famous contest in the 80s that gave a fan a chance to create their own fan character that would be molded into the toyline forever with a figure and a bio. This was such an exciting idea! Not only for me, but for thousands of other "fanfic" style fans who had their own characters on the org. We all paced, thinking of who we would want to submit. Would it be some org favorite like SpyFly? A really well created character that fit so perfectly with the existing world? The fine print would prove differently though. Because of legal reasons no "previously viewed or created character could be submitted" Which basically meant, if it is on-line, and has been seen by others, it is officially off limits because of legal reasons. (Which makes complete sense but from a fan stand point it really let the air out of alot of us) Now at this time I had a few characters that others were already familiar with, (TechTrek being my org handle) but I also had others that had not been seen yet. Maybe slight tweaks in look, and name change and I could enter and WIN!!!! Who would choose? But then the fine print continued. Also stated in the contest rules was this: If you submit it and it doesn't win, we get to keep it, and its likeness no matter what.
This is the single main reason why I did not enter the contest. I thought that this was a very selfish thing to do. (though professionally I understand) It makes no sense from a "image comics" sort of "creator owned/respect" way. I mean, basically they are saying, "even if you don't win, everyone of you are creating a large file of characters that we can use as Mattel property legally for any line we want to. If anything shows up in any other form, comic, toy, or otherwise, will will have the ability to sue. It's just a cheap way to get someone else's work in my mind. This is a personal way of looking at it, and again legally, I understand why they would do it, but for me it wasn't worth it. Sure for those willing to take that chance with the opportunity to win a contest, those willing completely understood what they were doing. But for me, it was not worth it. These are my characters.
I decided because of that to go a completely different route with my project. I decided to make the Defenders of EDEN. My own project, stripping any connection of things that were not mine, I started from scratch. Building my world was going very well, but something was missing. Something wasn't quite right. I decided to approach a few other orgers that I had great respect for, and they also had "personal" fan-fic characters. I basically said, "Hey, I'm TechTrek, and I love your character. It would be really cool if I could legally have your creation, and use him/her in my own project Defenders of EDEN, in which I will do my best to keep the character how you wish, but you will always get credit for original creation, and we will be able to take these characters where they have never been before." Saying in a round about way, THEY DESERVE THEIR OWN WORLD. I LOVE MOTU, and MATTEL, but the creativity behind these characters has been inspired by MOTU, but they will never truly be MOTU.
A few said no. a few said, "I plan on doing what you are doing" :) but the key few said, "I would love that".
I was over joyed. These few extra characters are EXACTLY what this project needed. Less me, more "us". So now with a few 'classic' characters added to my stories, I began to build a world called EDEN, which basically in my mind stands for beginning, or even all things beautiful with creation. As a creator myself it seems like EDEN is a great name for a world, even for the non religious. Coming up with bio's for the characters was going well, and with a few creative dialogues with a friend of mine called Wolfsang, the concept of the towers of the north and south came to fruition. Now, my art, although good on a "middle school" sort of scale, did not do this story justice what so ever. With all of the great fan art on the org, I took a chance approaching someone to possibly do the art for DoE. CJ, known as "bearshow" online, has been around for a long time, and is known not only for his great vision when redesigning characters, but his amazing use of prisma color markers. In the age of digital coloring, I always joke saying, if we were to loose all power, a few would be standing who would be able to color a comic old school, and CJ would be one of them! From what I recall CJ was hesitant, but said that he would take a look at what I had as a vision for DoE, so I emailed him what I had realized with the concept, and showed him the few orgers who wanted to at least have their character involved. Also contacted because of his digital color work was Andrew (ICEMAN) Cramer. I explained to both of them that this would be a "mock" toyline, we would create a world, with Bio cards and characters that people would wish were a toyline or comic book. They both bought in, and with the help of our friend Dan Brenus, who would handle all of our vintage inspired art, things just took right off!! I often refer to CJ as my Kirby. He takes not only what I create to the next level, he makes my creations vibrant, and adds a depth to them that I can't describe. It is such an honor working with him. Andrew has always been professional, and a workaholic. He always seems to find time to get to DoE, and when I see his emails in my inbox, I eagerly open them anticipating the finished product. Not only have my two partners done well at helping me establish my created world, they now have a hand in creating characters, looks, bios, and we really work as a unit to give the best product we can.
Now, with 3 waves complete of vintage art, and almost 200 likes on our facebook page, we have decided to use a website called KICKSTARTER, to produce not only a comic book of Defenders of Eden, but also posters, bio cards, stactions and busts! We have only revealed wave one of the characters, and we are getting such great feedback from not only friends on the org, but other fans of similar 80s properties, action figure lovers, and toy collectors alike. We can not wait to share more characters, and more bio's that further flush out the world that is EDEN. We have inspired customs on the internet as well! I think that is what I appreciate most, the fact that my friends and others online have been interested enough, and consider the work and art we are doing to be something worth looking at. Something worth exploring, and developing. Maps, posters, art cards, and many other items coming soon. It has been such an honor working with such great artists, and collaborators on this project. I thought it would be nice to share a little about the birth of DoE, and pay respects to those who in one little way or another had to do with it along its way. Creativity comes first here, and we appreciate all the support as we continue to grow the brand. Thanks!

Matthew Rodriguez (creator/owner)

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