Vantage: Inhouse Productions is helmed by the Hardest Working Man in Comics, Victor Dandridge Jr.. The author is known for his well-crafted stories such as The Samaritan and Kinder Guardians. In addition to a large amount of series he is working on, Victor is also the mastermind behind the U Cre-8 Comics line. The U Cre-8 program brings comics into the classroom to increase reading comprehension and writing with sequential art.
Victor’s Kickstarter to bring U Cre-8 to students in Central Ohio shattered their goal of $250 to become 1,000% funded. He recently sat down with us to tell us more about the ambitious program.
FT – In addition to the U Cre-8 Comics line, what are some other projects that you are working on?
V: IP – Being the Hardest Working Man in Comics, I tend to keep a FULL slate of projects going on rotation! Right now, I’m producing SIX (Never Too Late; Gloriana Pax; Point of Authority: Family Times; Safe Guard; The Knight Watch; and our flagship title, Vantage) new titles as part of V:IPhase 2, a new publishing campaign that aims to radically expand and integrate the current characters we’ve created.
In addition to that, I’m dipping my toes into the horror genre — truly one of my favorites, that I strangely hadn’t tried to tackle before. We’ve got two projects: ‘Rest Stop’ — prose, anthology series centered around highway rest areas, and ‘Suspense in Six’, a visual anthology with art by David DeGrand (This Bites)!
FT – What exactly is the U Cre-8 Comics line?
V: IP – U Cre-8 Comics is a growing and diverse product and programming line, whose primary function is to bring comics and classroom fundamentals. At first, a collection of thoughtful workbooks that used sequential arts to focus on reading comprehension, vocabulary building, and creative writing, the brand has expanded to include practical supplies for traditional art creation.
FT – How did you come up with the idea for U Cre-8?
V: IP – I share in the philosophy that in order to truly prove I knew something, I have to be able to teach the fundamentals to others. As a living success story of how positively impactful comics can be on education (I didn’t like to read as a child and comics helped turn that around), proving that validity was my first motivation. But, I knew just advocating for comics’ place in the classroom wasn’t enough. Comics were TOO outside the norm of standard literature for a lot of schools to embrace. So, U Cre-8 was ‘cre-8ed’ to be a bit more of what teachers were used to working with.
FT – Your Kickstarter for bringing U Cre-8 to classrooms reached 1,000% funding. What were your expectations and how did you feel once you smashed through them?
V: IP – Even starting off with a modest goal of funding for ONE school ($250), I knew it was a huge risk to go to the global market of Kickstarter to support an initiative that most of the contributors probably wouldn’t even benefit from! So when we tackled that within the first few hours, I was completely ECSTATIC!!!
Part of the reason I went the Kickstarter route was to make as large of an impact on my local community as possible. So, once we got that first school funded, watching as backers from all over the world put in for on our stretch goal for more schools, was absolutely unreal! And it wasn’t even the success of MY campaign…it was recognizing what this funding could do; what it could mean for a kid who is harboring ambitions of exploring comics and geekdom as their career. It was both inspirational and immensely humbling, all at the same time!
FT – With 1,500 students being involved in this program, how did you decide what schools to run this through?
V: IP – I grew up on the Southside of Columbus, OH, so that was always my first target for impact! If charity starts at home, I figured the worth of my words and actions would matter most to the kids that I could run into on a regular basis, either at the grocery store, the post office, or in line at a fast food spot! I used that accessibility and it already has started working in building my visibility.
FT – One of the things that I love most is that this plants the seed for creativity in both art and writing as well as reading. As someone who reads for pleasure and finds that most people are surprised by that, I can’t help but be excited. Once this program has finished, are there plans to branch out to additional cities or states?
V: IP – Funny enough, back in 2013, we had mapped out doing an 8-city tour, coinciding with our convention schedule. Now that all the awards for the #EmpowerLearning campaign have been sent out, I can really start brainstorming on revamping that plan, with the possibility of returning to Kickstarter to help fund and market it.
FT – Are there ways to order copies of the U Cre-8 books to run this program at locations like public libraries so others can get involved?
V: IP – Absolutely!! Through www.ucre8comics.com, we have a list of our 9 current programming options, for all interested parties. And, we offer wholesale pricing for bulk supply orders — which for schools with seasons of inside recess, would be an incredible resource! We’re working on a series of instructional e-books that will serve as teacher’s guides, that can be shared for school use and class projects
FT – As the Hardest Working Man in Comics, has this negatively impacted writing your own books?
V: IP – Nah, I’ve managed to create a rather flexible working model, relying HEAVILY on regular paper pads and my mobile devices to get stuff done, even when I’m on the go! I mean, if I’m gonna be the #HWMiC, I can’t let a little thing like being busy slow me down…right??
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