Self-Published Spotlight: Jerome Cabanatan’s TREE VS FOX

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.

Jerome Cabanatan came onto my radar, like so many other amazing creators, through the Cartoonist Kayfabe Ringside Seats group. Jerome, both an accomplished martial artist AND cartoonist, has been self-publishing work for years. However, TREE VS FOX, his latest project, is his first shot at a Kickstarter campaign. Like a lot of his work, TREE VS FOX bridges his passion for martial arts and comics to create an action-packed narrative with just about the best choreography you are going to find in any comic. I hit up Jerome for a chat and he graciously agreed. Check it out below and make sure to go support and get yourself a copy of TREE VS FOX!

MONKEYS FIGHTING ROBOTS: Jerome, what’s your comic book origin? How did you get into comics?
Jerome Cabanatan: I’ve always been into comics and cartoons… Space Ghost was the first superhero I remember but when it comes to comics I’ll always remember the time my Lolo (grandfather) visited from the Philippines dragging a suitcase full of my brother’s old comics, which happened to be bootlegs of a bunch of different Marvel Comics. Byrne or Cockrum X-Men, Shang Chi, Daredevil and for some reason Man from Atlantis still sticks out in my head.

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MFR: Oh wow. That bootleg experience must have been quite different. Not the typical way to discover comics.
JC: I didn’t know the difference between a real comic and a bootleg until later, so it made no difference to me. Both had words, pictures and panels!

Art by Jerome Cabanatan

MFR: So at what point did you realize you wanted to MAKE comics? What sparked that?
JC: I don’t think you can read a comic without wanting to make one, so I think the first time I looked at one I was doomed (laughs). But as far as ACTUALLY making one, it was back in 2011 when I retired from fighting competitively and started an after-school Taekwondo program. I needed to create a poster to advertise it and google just gave me the same pictures every other martial art school used. So I drew it myself on a computer that was gifted to me by a family that I taught. And when the kids started asking questions about the characters… I inadvertently started to world-build. And it rolled from there.

MFR: So for you, martial arts and sequential art are really connected? Two lifelong passions.
JC: Yes, seeing life through the lens of both is something I really can’t help anymore.

MFR: So tell us about Tree vs Fox. What’s the pitch?
JC: It’s an all-action, magazine-size, black and white, fight comic follow-up to my Amazon best-selling Tree Kids of Troop 44.  It’s a love letter to martial arts and comics. As Troop 44 was more of a pseudo instructional manual, TVF hits harder in the action and I express more of my thoughts and opinions on how the martial arts lifestyle relates to everything rather than explaining a kick or a punch. Those that want just a fight comic will get a really good one but I’m hoping that the theme of finding strength through challenges resonates with anyone with ambitions. It’s about being more than what people think you are. It’s about trying, failing, and trying again. I think those are important themes in life and art. But as far as the plot… Years after their controversial match at the “All City Troop Fight Championships” went viral, Vaughan, the Tree Kid, and Burad, the young fox, are drawn together by their fighting spirits and face off to prove their supporters right and their haters wrong.

MFR: That sounds amazing! And how come you went with Kickstarter for the first time?
JC: Tree vs Fox is something that’s been brewing in me for quite some time since the end of Troop 44. It’s been the constant project I’ve been chipping away at for the past year, and the one I’m most precious about because of how close the subject matter is to me. There are quite a few crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter has the brand recognition for comics that I am hoping to leverage

MFR: And when does the campaign end?
JC: December 20 at 11:44 EST!

Art by Jerome Cabanatan
Manuel Gomez
Manuel Gomez
Assistant Comic Book Editor. Manny has been obsessed with comics since childhood. He reads some kind of comic every single day. He especially loves self-published books and dollar bin finds. 'Nuff said!