Sometimes ideas just write themselves. Such is the case with Formula Juan Racer.
I have a friend named Juan. English is his second language, and he is one of the funniest people I know. He grew up in Mexico and I feel like we bonded through my attempts to speak Spanish with my limited High School Spanish class knowledge from long ago.
Oh, and he knows how to dance like Johnny Bravo (the Cartoon Network character). Seriously, he did that with no prompting from me. So I know that Johnny Bravo is well known in Mexico.
For his birthday, I got him a joke car trophy engraved with "Formula Juan" (I thought it was clever). Shortly after that, I became "Social Media Friends" with Juan. He saw some of the photos I'd posted of puppets and sculptures I've made.
One day, he approached me and asked, "Are you a witch doctor? I saw the VooDoo doll you made."
This was one of the funniest things I've ever heard. And a giant leap of logic. I've never made a VooDoo doll. Not on purpose, anyway. Those were just puppets I'd made.
Juan said "I'd better be careful, or I might see myself."
So, of course, right away, I made a "VooDoo doll" of him out of paper, and sent him a picture on his social media.
I started thinking---"Formula Juan Racer" is a really good idea for a cartoon.
The "VooDoo doll" that I had made out of paper was a good starting point, but the Juan Racer design got a significant upgrade. Originally, his outfit was going to be green, but he looked too much like Fidel Castro with a green hat.
The car was the tricky thing. What should it look like? I knew it would be red, but it couldn't look like Lightning McQueen from Pixar's Cars. I wanted it to look special, and not necessarily exactly like a Formula 1 car.
In the end, inspiration for "El Coche" the car came from several different places: Disney's Alice in Wonderland (the Playing Cards and the Cheshire Cat), plus the animated titles for the 1989 film Loverboy, plus Mexican Wrestling, and by a happy total coincidence, the Mexican Flag.
In October 2017, I drew my very first Formula Juan Racer comic.
While Formula Juan Racer is a car driver, he is also a Jack of All Trades.
I recently came up with a concept for a restaurant called Bayou Burger. I actually pitched it (in passing, not at a formal meeting) to one of the owners of a restaurant called Baha Burger. The owner of Baha Burger liked my idea of a swamp themed establishment that sells alligator tail and frog legs, but he ultimately passed on my idea. He did come up with an idea for "Friday Frog Legs" for Bayou Burger.
So Bayou Burger lives in the world of Formula Juan Racer. As a total coincidence, I came up with a sewer joke a few days before the actual Juan was talking to me about the movie It.
If you ever go to a restaurant and order a cold cut sandwich, be sure to ask, "Just how cold are the cold cuts?"
The goofy guy with the stocking cap is loosely inspired by a Disney duck character named "Copete". I first discovered Copete in a "Pato Donald" (Donald Duck) comic book on a childhood trip to Mexico.
Formula Juan's best friend is El Coche, the car.
I feel like it is very easy to come up things for a cartoon character to say or do when it is based on a person that you know.
Formula Juan and El Coche are also different aspects of myself. I feel like they are my own version of art therapy.
El Coche the car takes a lot of inspiration from Benny the Cab in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Something that fascinates me about my interactions with the real Juan is that some aspects of our conversations may get lost in translation, but more often they don't.
A conversation we had about me accidentally eating a chapped lip flake translated well. But a conversation about "Chicken of the Sea" brand Tuna did not. That was a Jessica Simpson moment, but Juan had a good excuse, because he'd never heard of the product, and the name of the item doesn't make much sense in English.
Formula Juan and El Coche have some character flaws.
The world of racing is full of pressure and scandal.
Pulling a prank on someone who uses a CPAP machine is very easy.
For years, I wondered what a CPAP machine was. And now I use one. I now sleep soundly and I have vivid dreams. Sometimes the dreams are so vivid, they are exhausting.
Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us.
Formula Juan's crazy racing opponents take inspiration from Nintendo's Mario and old Hanna Barbera animated shows like Wacky Races.
Spitfire Dragster the dragon is Formula Juan's main opponent.
Luckily, Formula Juan can fight fire with a psychological burn.
Sometimes, I get very strange ideas when I am on long car trips (like my Thanksgiving drive to Florida).
Formula Juan's stocking-capped acquaintance is my go-to guy for strange and bizarre.
Inspiration can also come from the news. I had read a story about a frumpy, middle-aged lady chewing out a Korean student for not speaking English.
Spitfire Dragster is the perfect, big menacing character to menace the much smaller (but much more fearless) Formula Juan Racer.
For Juan's birthday, I wanted to get him a good "Feliz Cumpleanos" Birthday Card, but instead of searching for one, I decided it would be easier to make one. In the shape of a Fiesta hat!
|Feliz Cumpleanos Formula Juan Racer Card|
For his birthday present, I got Juan a small keychain flask with his name engraved on one side and an image of Johnny Bravo dancing on the other side.
In December of 2017, I decided to make some Formula Juan Racer merchandise.
I drew a stylized Formula Juan Racer on the computer using an engraving program called Xenetech.
Feliz Navidad, Amigo! The very first Formula Juan Racer merchandise is a brass and resin Christmas Ornament (a Limited Edition!).
How rare is this Limited Edition? Only one, for Juan (the real one!).
One day I hope to make Formula Juan Racer into a movie or a cartoon. Juan could even do the voice!