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.
I wanted a "Horror Movie" racing opponent for Formula Juan Racer. One that is an acceptable violent character. That is Oilspot Cheetah.
Oilspot Cheetah is horrific and pretty.
Formula Juan Racer is fantasy and reality. The Genie of the Lamp is based on experience I had this past Summer in Orlando. I sat through a Vacation Condo Sales Pitch to get discounted theme park tickets. It was horrible.
Formula Juan Racer's reaction is something I know the real Juan has done before.
I felt like Formula Juan needed a clown foe (I was thinking "clown car", and the movie It).
Smackdown Clown and Eenie Meanie Mime come from a childhood (and adulthood) phobia of clowns and mimes.
This cartoon is based on an actual story on the News about someone trying to bring an Emotional Support Peacock on an airplane.
I had also been watching YouTube videos of Hyenas laughing. I think when Formula Juan and the Hyena do get on the airplane, the Hyena should start laughing at the sight of a screaming baby.
The character "Big Elmo" is based off something that recently happened to me in real life. At work, we did a job for someone named Elmo. I was ready to ask Elmo a question if I met him in person.
I finally met the guy named Elmo (a little old man) and was too embarrassed to ask the question.
Mustang Ally was a fun character to come up with. Originally, she was going to be called Tuscaloosa Appaloosa.
Originally, all the racing characters that Formula Juan meets were going to be animals associated with racing or speed (like a race horse or a cheetah). But the world needed to move beyond just that.
I probably think way too much about cartoons. The Grinch is something I thought about this past Christmas.
I can remember thinking about the Flintstones Christmas Specials when I was a kid, too.
The real Blindspot saw earlier Formula Juan Racer panels and wondered why I hadn't made him into a character. So I decided to include him. The real guy wears glasses, and he couldn't look too similar to Formula Juan, so he got Sunglasses. He is also Turkish, and he gave me a very cool Evil Eye Clock he picked up on a trip to Turkey. That led to the driving term "Blindspot" and the character was born! Also, I thought the idea of a blind race car driver was fun.
Ty Wrecks is a dinosaur who wants to buy Formula Juan Racer's car for scrap.
Is Ty Wrecks a menace? You bet Jurassic!
Sometimes inspiration for a new cartoon can be a song on the radio. In this case, it was an Eric Clapton tune.
I can remember being a kid and loving this song, and not knowing what it was about at all.
A conversation about cookies with a co-worker led to me casting Blindspot as Formula Juan's entertaining source of conflict.
The addition of Blindspot led to much more talking in Formula Juan Racer, which was fun to write.
This cartoon was inspired by a conversation with the real life Juan.
My conversation with the real Juan had nothing to do with a fish restaurant. But it did involve a commercial for stuffed toy bear and a restaurant robbery.
I had fun coming up with a car for Blindspot, called "I-Roll."
This particular cartoon symbolically kills off Formula Juan's original, nameless sidekick.
ABC's The Bachelor inspired this cartoon of Formula Juan hosting the train wreck reality show.
I felt the timing was appropriate, since the most recent version of The Bachelor (at the time) did just feature a race car driver Bachelor.
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!