Fernando Velez has been imagining, creating and writing in Los Angeles for almost 10 years, but he’s got a South Florida connection, too.
From Puerto Rico (where he attended art school as a youngster and did some plays), the 32-year-old lived in Miami for about four years – working as a server and “hiding behind the buffet” at the Palms Hotel & Spa just trying to make ends meet.
His first taste of Florida, though, was in Orlando. At 18 he forged his mother’s signature to attend the Disney College Program and try life outside of the Island of Enchantment.
But life in California called to him, as it does so many others, so he left and the creative juices started to flow. He began to ponder creating a comic book series.
Velez wanted to call his comic book venture, of which he is the founder, creator and writer, “Raven,” but by mistake it ended up being “Kraven.” The name stuck and he never changed it – Kraven Comics it would be.
“I would read comics, but wasn’t a big fan of any – there wasn’t [a character] who I could identify with,” Velez told SFGN by phone recently from Los Angeles. “[Hollywood is] making gay characters now, not so much to represent us, but because we have an income and are a good market for it.”
LGBT heroes haven’t typically been celebrated in the comic book industry, he said.
Velez wanted to come at it from a more authentic place.
“I wanted to represent real people, transgender people, base [their lives] on [real] interviews,” he said. “I wanted to be inclusive.”
So Velez created a group of seven LGBT heroes for his series – Class6.
That began about seven years ago. Velez came up with the seven characters to be representative of the LGBT spectrum in some way: a drag queen, a bear, a straight ally, a lesbian, a leather guy, a twink and a transgender person.
At a convention, Velez began to bring artists together and formally launched the venture in 2016 when he published his first in the series in a digital format.
He used his staff of artists to do the drawings while he focused on the scripts, website and social media accounts.
While the digital comic book looked great and was easily distributed, it wasn’t so great for comic book fans, Velez said.
“People want to own it, to touch it. But printing [to order] single issues is too expensive,” he said.
The answer was to create a print edition – the format most associated with the genre and most familiar to fans and collectors.
The journey of converting his creations to print has taken some time. And money.
Velez’ partner, Waiyen Wong, from Venezuela was instrumental in the process.
Wong helped Velez hire artists from Venezuela to work on the drawings and he serves as manager of Kraven Comics.
“We are all like family. The [Venezuelan artists] had never done a comic book,” Velez said.
Velez and Wong met in L.A. and have been together about six years.
Fernando Velez and his partner Waiyen Wong. Photo courtesy of Fernando Velez.
Short on funds and scrambling, though, Velez started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the print venture – the goal was $8,500.
The idea was to combine all six of his existing digital episodes into one 280-page book and offer it a reasonable price at $20 to make it more affordable for fans. (Digital access per is $9.99 an issue).
The Kickstarter campaign was successful – it met the mark and more. Velez thought it would be a harder ask, especially with tough times setting in for so many during the pandemic.
He expects the print edition to be available through Amazon soon.
“It's time for us to have mainstream LGBTQ heroes,” Velez wrote for his Kickstarter campaign. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to go into the movie theaters to watch an LGBTQ superhero movie as good as Marvel but created by an LGBTQ company for the gay community?”
Velez’ seventh episode was just released in digital. Once episode 12 is complete, he expects a second book of six will be printed.
Velez has structured the series to span 30 seasons of 12 episodes each. In other words, this is a passion that will continue for a long time.
For more information:
- The digital comic book’s are available online in Comixology, iBooks and Google Play Books for $9.99.
- Go to kravencomics.com for access to the issues and for more information.
- Follow the heroes on social at @KravenComics.
- Information on the Kickstarter campaign is available at http://kck.st/3ccEDEX.
Jaseri (lesbian) - The ability to control nature; therefore anything connected to the Earth that has life.
A member of a hidden coven, Jaseri was part of a new generation of voodoo priests and priestesses. When she was selected by her grandmother to carry on her powers, Jaseri decided to defend women and gay rights in Uganda. Using her skills, she has pledged to fight for the weak and to teach others how to be warriors in their own right. Little does she know, her ancestry can be traced back to the genesis of Earth’s planetary evolution. She may not know it yet, but Jaseri is destined to join Queen Izaar and Class6.
Kian (bear bisexual) - Kian’s abilities arise as a response to danger, generated automatically by the security system within his DNA. His body’s reaction and powers vary, depending on the situation.
Kian is a bisexual man from the bear community. He used to have a happy life, one without any major problem or negative experience. His father is a very influential person who has always ensured his son’s safety, as he believes Kian is an essential key to the survival of the human race. Kian is made up of a special DNA sequence, one which contains encrypted information about human civilization, including lost cultures and histories unbeknownst to humankind from another universe. Kian’s world finally is threatened when the government captured him to try to access the information within his DNA.
Queen Izaar (drag hero) - She can take and give life. She holds in her hands the life switch of humankind.
Queen Izaar is full of secrets, including who she is, where she came from, and what she knows. She was once a mighty drag queen, but things got out of control, leaving her powerless. Her mission is to save human society from the brink of extinction. She is the rock that keeps Class6 together, and is the goddess of humanity.
Jennifer “Sidekicker” (straight ally)
Neveah (transgender) - Gender reassignment, which enables her to change her biological composition from female to male and vice versa; cell realignment, which enables her to transform into anyone and to manipulate parts of her body, such as her hair; cell manipulation, which gives her the ability to realign cellular structure in others, such as speeding up their aging process.
Neveah was born as a boy in a religious household in the Eastern European country of Montenegro. Thrown out onto the street at an early age, she’s struggled to survive her entire life. Forgotten by her family and attacked by society, she tries to end her life, but instead of finding death, she discovers a new path, one which will lead her to join Class6.
Eron (leather hero) - Eron has a host of abilities that stem from his mind. His abilities include psychokinesis, super-speed, underwater breathing, time/interdimensional travel, and enhanced vision. His abilities appear to increase as he expands his mental capacity through learning.
Eron was an only child born to a low-income family in Venezuela. After Eron's mother died, his father fell into drug addiction and sold him to the cartel to pay off his debts. From childhood to early adulthood, Eron was sexually abused by members of the cartel. When he was in his early 20s, Eron learned he had contracted HIV, and that without proper care, he would soon die. On the night he decided to escape the cartel, Eron caused an accident which gave him uncanny abilities. He in turned used his new power to find a cure for HIV. Lost in the unfamiliar outside world, Eron desires friendship and a sense of belonging, two feelings he has never experienced before.
Nami (Twink hero) - The ability to control technology and devices powered by electricity.
Nami was born with a deadly disease that his father with his knowledge of nanotechnology was able to eradicate, not before Nami experienced side effects which enabled him to control electrical devices. Circumstances caused by his father turned Nami’s life in upside down, into one of isolation and regret, obsession and revenge. But deep down inside, Nami is still a hopeless romantic. Now he is committed to using his abilities to help people suppressed by the powerful and wealthy and to give them back freedom and control of their lives.