Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them
Barely into his twenties, cartoonist Nate Garcia is a force to be reckoned with. With just a few (excellent) self-published books under his belt, Nate has already made major waves and impacts in the world of indie comics. I’d been following Nate for a bit, both on social media and the various reviews and press he’s been getting in everything from ‘zines to The Comics Journal when I finally ordered a copy of his comic ‘Alozno Sneak’ (I would have bought everything else had had but he sells out of A LOT of stuff). I was immediately floored and had to talk to Nate. So I reached out and we chatted via Messenger for a few days. So read on for the chat, and make sure you start grabbing Nate’s work before it sells out.
Monkeys Fighting Robots: What’s your comic book origin? When and how did you get into this most wonderful of mediums?
Nate Garcia: I read comics in my school library. Stuff like the BONE collected paperbacks from Scholastic by Jeff Smith. Not really a lot of superheroes if any at all. My first-grade teacher had a crazy life and would fill us in on her mid-20s drama. After a while, I’d come to school the next day with 16-page comics of these stories. She would start to give me folded and stapled paper to take home daily and from 2008-2010 I was making these books for her. She’s still got them, there are around 50 issues.
MFR: That’s incredible! I’ve never heard of anything like that before. Was she a comics fan herself?
NG: Not that I know of, but most 20-something-year-olds are egomaniacs. I’m sure putting her as the main character was the best thing going on at that fragile, rapidly changing period of time in her life. Either that or she just loved the fact that I was doing something and staying busy. A lot of kids were just loud future wall punchers and carjackers. Stole calendars and stuff. I only stole a pen (ONCE!) but that was for drawing. She was extremely supportive and bought me colored pencils. We’d stay at her house a lot, my brother, and sister and I and she showed me the TV show ALF for the first time and my first Bone Comic as well now that I think of it. She was important, and I owe a lot to her.
MFR: Have you kept in touch? Has she seen your work now?
NG: Yeah! She’s never bought anything, but she sees what’s going on on Facebook and stuff. She’s busy! Not mid-20s anymore.
MFR: So did you just keep making comics from that point on?
NG: Pretty much, it was on and off. I’d get really discouraged in high school and started a bunch of stuff that never got finished. Wanted everything to be perfect and elaborate and “DEEP!” But it’s funny, cause that’s not the stuff that’s fun to make when you’re starting out. And it’s also the stuff that’s impossible to make. Wasn’t until the end of my senior year in high school that I started to take comics seriously again and began self-publishing strictly for me. Because I wanted to.
MFR: Were you consuming comics consistently, or did that wax and wane as well?NG: I was always consuming comics. Me starting to self-publish in my last year of high school was the inevitable thing I’d been putting off forever. Out of fear, laziness, and excuses out the nose. But I always wanted to make them. I was reading a lot of Derf Backderf, Craig Thompson, and old Zap Comix issues, and a lot of the shitty undergrounds from that era too. The 60s underground stuff was really impactful for me at that time because no issue had a linear focused story. They were all short, cartoony, and incoherent for the most part. The pressure to do a huge “meaningful” story was lifted from reading those.
MFR: I know what you mean about the underground books. I recently found a few copies of Yellow Dog Comics in a dollar bin. I hadn’t heard of it but I knew what kind of book it was as soon as I saw it.
NG: Yeah love that stuff.
MFR: So when did you decide to start sharing your work with the world?
NG: End of high school, I just made like 5 at-home printed zines and gave to my friends in 2020. It was just a few one-pagers and sketchbook pages, I decided I wanted to fill out the whole zine with comics and self-publish one every couple of months as a time capsule for myself. I’d just graduated high school during the pandemic and wanted to have that reminder I was alive. Cause time was moving way faster in the early pandemic days. You’re sitting there like “shit is it June?” So October 2020 I self-published Hornrim No. 1 which was just a shitty one-man anthology I did. I’d just turned 18 and moved outta my parents’ house. I put the comic up on my Etsy at the time which I made just to sell and mail stuff to my friends back home. Like less than 20 people bought a copy the first time round and they were all from my high school.
MFR: What kind of response did you get from those people? Is that what made you keep going?
NG: Eh not a lotta people said anything. What made me keep going was my wanting to make a better comic, cause once you put something out you realize how much it sucks…Feels bizarre talking about my “origin story starting out in comics” when I feel like I’m still very much in that. I don’t have any perspective or anything quite yet. I haven’t stopped cleanly for almost three years working on these comics like 8-10 hours a day. So my mind is clouded.
MFR: How do you balance all that cartooning with life? You seem impressively productive! I know you were working at a Zoo, are you still working there?
NG: Quit the zoo in May of this year (2022) to do comics full time. I was drawing caricatures for the company for 5 years since the day I turned 14. I was ready to be out. The pays never more than Mcdonald’s and you’re just breaking your hand each day. I just started making a lot of money in comics. And now I can justify the hours spent somewhat. I mean, I live very bare bones and cheap. Shit apartment, don’t drive a car, etc. gas prices mean nothing to me… But I balance it pretty unhealthily, my relationships with people are totally fucked if not involved in the work in some way. It’s something I “say” I want to get better with, but it’s an endless fucking wormhole. I’ve only become more of a workaholic. I feel worthless and horrible if I’m not working on something, and can only feel good when I am. But I could be doing worse things, like heroin, or getting people pregnant. It’s the one thing I get the most joy and fulfillment from in the whole world. I’m trapped for life.
MFR: Trapped by comics. So I want to talk about Alonzo Sneak. I love the character. When and how was that sneaker-wearing cowboy born?
NG: I was drawing cowboys a lot in my sketchbooks when I was like 17 or so. Got really obsessed with horses around that time too, it was natural. I was drawing horses and cowboys with these really elaborate tennis shoes endlessly. I just started thinking of stuff they’d do/talk about and everything was vivid in my mind. Felt right. Did d a bunch of comics that I didn’t show anybody for a while and eventually put some in the Hornrims. Just snowballed since then.
MFR: He’s a great character. He feels like he could have been around in those undergrounds. Are you gonna be sticking with him for a while?
NG: As of right now it’s all I’ve got written for the next year or so. I love working in a focused setting with characters I kind of understand and love. I’m trying for a Scooby-Doo, Love & Rockets.
MFR: And what else are you currently working on?
NG: Right now I’m almost done penciling the next zine “Plum Pocket” which I’ll have out in September in time for the San Francisco Permanent Damage Comics show which I’ll be tabling at with Josh Pettinger & Jasper Jubenvill.
MFR: That’s a solid table! Jasper and Josh are amazing. love how supportive you three seem to be. Of each other and indie comics in general.
NG: They’re just my best friends, we talk every day. I’ve probably talked to Josh every day since 2020. When we were all trapped inside. He was stuck doing a bunch of grueling animation gigs back in those days, and we’d always need company while working. Josh is a huge influence and has been there for me thru it all. Jasper too. Love them to death.
MFR: And finally, where is the best place for folks to find your work and contact you?
NG: People can buy my comics at Nategarcia.bigcartel.com and Instagram the best place to stay up to date with new stuff: @nategarciascartoons.