-By Dan LuVisi

I want to tell you guys a story. I’ve told this journey of mine at several workshops, from Gnomon Workshop, to some colleges, and in Portugal at the Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn event (which I suggest you sign up for this year, as it’s fantastic). I’ll be giving this speech at OFFF in Barcelona, Spain this year, so please come by if you’re a reader of this blog.

For those that can’t attend, here is Part 1 of this speech. I’ve been told it’s a bit of a lifter for the spirt, and motivational to artists who want to build their own world–something I feel we should be doing more of with the lack of creativity coming out of Hollywood these days.

I want to write a small disclaimer that these are my choices and opinions. I absolutely mean no disrespect to artists (of all sorts) who work at studios or freelance. We’re all part of the bigger picture here, and it is together how we create these IPs and universes.

Please, enjoy, and I hope you get something out of this. Goodluck, I wish you all the best in that journey, because get ready…

It’s a bitch.

One day I woke up, and I decided I was going to make a book.

This wasn’t pre-meditated, and I had no idea what that book was. I was inspired by all of you, and from a single painting of a masked man who was spilling his candies everywhere.

I had just come off a pretty ruthless tour of work, with a client who I’d like to believe could be a perfect dictator. Things were said and threats were made to me that should have never been uttered out of the clients mouth, and it drove me to a point where I said: Enough, I can’t do this anymore.

Barely any money in my pocket, I told my business partner Stephan that I wanted to make a book called Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter.

Towards the end of 2008, I took a risk. I took a huge leap of faith, and told my business partner I was going to make a book, and it would be done in a year and a half. I didn’t know what I was signing myself up for, but I decided that this was going to be it.

Let’s back up.

I’m a child of ADD. Wasn’t much of a school kid. Not that I was dumb or ignorant, I just couldn’t process it as others did. While people were taking in math notes, I was trying to figure out how Boba Fett escaped from the Sarlacc’s mouth. As my science teachers taught us about chemicals, I was dreaming about if Batman could kill Predator.

I was always lost, trapped in others worlds. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Peter Jackson, Alex Ross, Todd McFarlane, or Stan Lee–I wanted to be those guys. I wanted my own world, my own characters, and to tell a story that gave you the fuzzy-feeling.

That feeling when Luke finally attacks Vader in ROTJ. That feeling when Neo stands up after being shot. That feeling when that cup of water shakes, due to the impact of a T-Rex.

I wanted to go on adventures and tell stories of characters that didn’t exist in our world. So I freelanced for a bit, and felt drained. I had ideas, but the clients always seemed to pick the bad ones. I worked on a couple of movies, with cool directors, but in the back of my head always felt “Wish they did THAT…” or “Man it would have been awesome if they did THIS…”

I remember directing the Obi-Wan VS Anakin Skywalker final-duel in my head before I saw Episode 3. This is a scene I had thought of ever since I read about it in those old character books. And then I saw the movie…and yeah. We’ll leave it at that. Now you can see why making my own book, with my own stories and my own characters felt like the right thing to do.

I had obsessed over these movies as a kid, trying to figure out what make me feel a specific way. Why did I get those nerd-goosebumps? Why did I re-watch this one scene so many times? What makes me like a character so much?

I began taking a lot of notes, and reading whatever I could. Studying people like Joseph Campbell, John Lassetter, Brad Bird, or other people that you wouldn’t quite expect like Louie CK, or hip-hop artists like 2pac or Kendrick Lamar. What got these people to this point? What did they do?

I tried to absorb everything I could from these people. Even if it had nothing to do with painting, I would try to figure out a way to apply it in that sense. Eventually growing to a place where I felt comfortable with the knowledge I had.

When that mark was met, I began to create a pitch packet for LMS, as I wanted to pitch it to Kevin Eastman of Heavy Metal publishing. Kevin was a guy I looked up to ever since I first picked up a pencil. Having drawn a Ninja Turtle Character as one of my first drawings, I figured this was the best place to go.

After a terrifying pitch (my own insecurities, Kevin was a complete–if not quiet–gentleman), he told me it would be his pleasure to publish the book with me. I was ecstatic, racing home to call my parents and tell them about what had just happened.

But then it hit me:

What the hell did I just set myself up for?

To be continued…