Local artist makes comics with ‘racially ambiguous’ theme
Cagen Luse is a local graphic designer and artist who recently embarked on a new project called “LunchTime ComiX,” a four-panel comic strip. The effort provides a window into his own everyday struggles as a “racially-ambiguous artist,” father, foodie, sci-fi nerd and husband in today’s world.
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You have been an artist of many media for more than 20 years – using your art to express your appreciation for urban culture. What inspired you to start LunchTime Comix?
Cagen Luse: I have always loved comics. Since I was a child I have been an avid comic reader and even made a few of my own. I was doing a lot of art but I missed drawing, which has always been my first love. So I challenged myself to see if I could produce a four panel strip for a workweek on my lunch break, hence the name “LunchTime ComiX”. I was successful, so shared them with my network on Facebook. I received such a positive response, I decided to continue and, now, more than a year later, I have created over 126 episodes and am still growing.
What’s the next steps for your comic strip? What are the options for distribution? Does today’s technology make it easier to get your product out there?
CL: I plan on attending some comic cons in the area and getting the word out there as much as I can. I would love to have LunchTime ComiX in a traditional media but I will continue to push it online and through social media. It is great to have the option to just create and share with readers directly.
Are there any comic book creators that inspired you?
CL: There are tons! Aaron McGruder (creator of “Boondocks”) is probably the biggest influence. He was a young guy who started out doing a comic strip that was not afraid to tell the truth and turned into a cultural icon. A few others are Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), Keith Knight (“The KChronicles”), Jim Davis (“Garfield”), John Jennings (“Black Kirby”), Tak Toyoshima (“Secret Asian Man”), Rob Stull (professional inker for Marvel & DC) and Barrington Edwards (“A Come Up”).
In your “Racially Ambiguous Guidebook,” you’re dealing with issues you probably faced in your own life with humor. When did you begin to see the humor in these issues?
CL: When I was a teenager and young adult, these issues really bothered me. I felt like I did not belong anywhere. I was too black to connect with white people, and too white to connect with black people. Then, in my late twenties, I began to realize that I did not have to be defined by anyone else. I could define myself, and it did not have to be one thing or the other. That’s where the “Racially Ambiguous” label came from. I felt like no one had really explored the racially-ambiguous experience and that I could maybe help someone get through it quicker than I did. I find humor to be a great way to confront serious issues in a less confrontational way.
How has that helped you?
CL: It has been helpful in understanding my own experience. I feel like sharing my experiences makes them less painful. If the comics can help someone else feel less isolated, then I consider it a success.
Are people in Boston really as rude as you make them out to be in your “This is Boston” book?
CL: As with most of LunchTime ComiX, the “This is Boston” book is semi-autobiographical. My character is more brave than I am but the rudeness is real. That being said, I am as guilty as anyone at being a M@$$hole. Especially behind the wheel!