By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Fernando Velez is the founder, creator, and writer of Kraven Comics that publishes the Class6 comic book series featuring a cast of LGTBQ (and allied) superheroes. Peach spoke to the creative mind about the deep-rooted idea for Class6 and why LGBTQ representation is extremely important in the comic book industry.
Fernando, you are the creator of the LGBTQ comic book series Class6 – tell us a little bit about the background for it. How did you come up with the idea?
After my brother died at six (I was five at the time), my mother dedicated herself to raise funds to buy toys for children who were sick in the hospital. Back then, I would dress up as a clown and give out the toys, and I learned that we all have the power to be heroes, be kind, and light up the day of a sick child.
When I was 15, I liked to write scripts and came up with my first character, Kraven. Growing up gay in a small town with conservative traditions wasn’t easy. I started to imagine a different reality to escape from my actual reality of not being accepted, undergoing weeks of conversion camps and psychiatric hospitals. I envisioned an alternative reality to escape to and started writing ideas of how my world could be different; how I could be a hero and not be what people were telling me that I was. During this time, I tried to commit suicide three times until I decided that I’d rather have people hate me for who I am than love me for something I am not. I left my island when I was 18 without help from anyone, not knowing anyone outside of Puerto Rico. I started naming everything Kraven – my pets, my emails – so I wouldn’t forget about that young Fernando and stay true to myself. I started Kraven Magazine when I was 21 and ran it for five years before closing it to focus on comic books. I decided to combine real-life LGBTQ heroes with current events and a touch of science fiction to create stories that would empower the LGBTQ youth while creating awareness of what our LGBTQ community has been through and continues to go through. And this is how Class6 was born.
LGBTQ superheroes are traditionally just hinted and rarely confirmed, yours are fiercely and unapologetically LGBTQ. Why is it so important to display this kind of representation?
The comic book industry can be very racist and homophobic. Big comic book companies are afraid to give us a proper representation because that could mean losing their fans. They would rather stay silent than lose money. I want Kraven Comics to stand for what we believe, empower the community, and be strong. Class6 means so much to me because it’s more than a comic book. I created it for my young self and all the youth who needs a hero to look up to represent them.
How has the reception been of Class6?
The response from the LGBTQ community has been great, very positive, engaging, and promising. Some fans have messaged me saying they didn’t even know about some of the issues we have highlighted in the series. Also thanking me for opening their eyes to the challenges of the gay community and that they will be more active in helping our community. On the other hand, we have received some messages, including threats, negative and hateful comments. I’ve been told to ignore them, stay calm, and be careful with my responses since I represent Kraven Comics. To me, that is the problem. If we remain quiet, the hate will continue.
What are some of your favorite storylines from the series?
One of my favorite storylines is when Queen Izaar tells Noah why she saves the reptilian race children, the enemy’s children in episode 7. “Every living thing in the universe is important. Reptilians are just as important as humans. These children do not hold hate in their hearts. In the center of the earth, their new world, the inner word, they will live in peace alongside humans.” With all the hate happening in the world, I like to remind people that we didn’t know hate; hate was taught. Another storyline is the first encounter of Neveah and Eron, where Neveah, who is trans, has her turning point to become a superhero and has to set aside her personal emotions.
You have chosen to self-publish the comic book series through crowdfunding – how has that worked out?
We have been selling the series digitally for some time now but learned there is a strong market and desire for a printed version as well. We decided to combine the first six episodes of Class6 into a printed book format with a total of 280 pages titled Special Edition Mid-Season One. We created a Kickstarter campaign to get us started, we are expecting the books by August 1, and we will start distribution.
What is your message to the LGBTQ community with this comic book series?
Our main message is anyone can be a hero, whether a bear, drag queen, transgender, lesbian, bi-sexual, twink, Black, Latino, Asian, old, young. We are all unique in our own special way. I want LGBTQ youth to know there is no need to hide, and there is a large community that has their back. I want the youth who are lost and wanting to commit suicide to understand we are all part of something greater, that their lives matter, and they are needed. I want everyone in the comic book industry to see an LGBTQ comic book that is inclusive and diverse and can provide entertainment, not only for the LGBTQ but for everyone.
How can you get your hands on Class6?
Our Kickstarter campaign has ended with a 113% success. You can continue to enjoy the perks of Kickstarter on kravencomics.com until August 1. After August 1, you can buy the book for $25 from our website. A complete list of comic book stores that will carry our books will be released August 1 as well. The books are currently available digitally ($9.99) on platforms such as ComiXology, iBooks, and Google PlayBooks.
Do you have any exciting future projects you can reveal?
We do. Besides working on the next 30 seasons of Class6 which will contain 12 episodes each, we are also beginning to work on making a free miniseries about the everyday lives of the characters from Class6 with the sole purpose to focus on one LGBTQ issues and to bring LGBTQ conversations to the comic book industry. Also, one of our artists is a Drag Queen named Petra la Transfor (@petralatransfor), and we are working on making a special segment with her reviewing the episodes to interact more with the community.
In closing, anything you’d like to add?
I want to thank every person who has opened up to me to talk about their life. It inspires me. Also, to all my friends who got involved and invested in this project. To the fans and all the supporters and such a special thanks to my partner Waiyen Wong to make this happen. To our amazing team of Latino artists, my penciler Doris Marcano, my colorist Daniel Grimaldi, my art director Marifer Bohorquez, and the inking team Geomar Gonzalez, Elizbeth Mavarez, Claudia Viale, John Grenadito and Pedro Latouche. They are the best! This is their first comic book, and we have become family these past five years. They are the soul of Class6.
Learn more and order your issues at kravencomics.com