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Velez, Ivan (Ivan Velez, Jr.)

Velez, Ivan (Ivan Velez, Jr.)

PERSONAL:

Born in Bronx, NY.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Planet Bronx Productions, P.O Box 672146, Mosholu Station, Bronx, NY 10467. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Comic book writer, graphic novelist. Has worked as scripter for Marvel and DC Comics. Planet Bronx Productions, founder.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Xeric grant, 2004.

WRITINGS:

Tales of the Closet, Volume 1, Planet Bronx Productions (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor, with others, and writer, with others) Dead High Yearbook, Dutton Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of work to magazines, including Gay Comics, Details, NYQ, and HX. Contributor of titles, including Blood Syndicate, A Man Called Holocaust, and Static, to Milestone comics. Producer and director of short film Malaguena.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ivan Velez is a comic book writer and graphic novelist whose creations are quite distant from superheroes such as Superman or Batman. Instead, Velez deals with more domestic issues such as being gay in a straight world or coping with other outsider issues. As he told James Barron in the New York Times, he became involved with comic books because it was something that he had not left behind from his childhood: "I isolated myself when I was a kid. I lived in a real rough neighborhood [in New York's South Bronx] and I wasn't that sure of myself. The comics were a world where everybody was honest and they didn't really lie unless they were bad guys—and you always caught them very quick. And they didn't judge you. They never asked questions about you—color, sexuality. It was a good place to get into." Velez further explained that watching Spanish-language soap operas with his grandmother helped him create a writing style rich in character and emotion, but also made him mindful of plotting techniques such as the use of cliffhangers.

Velez began penning his first comics series, Tales of the Closet, Volume 1 in the late 1980s. The intertwined tales of eight high school students who are gay or lesbian, this series was collected as a graphic novel in the 2005 Tales of the Closet, Volume 1. Velez himself recently came out of the closet when he began the series, and he hoped to help other gay youths with his comics. As Gay League writer Joe Palmer noted, "Velez created eight teenaged characters, a multi-racial group of four girls and four boys, as tentative explorers of this strange place." These eight attend a high school in Queens, New York, and have a rough time because of their sexuality. Scott Lind is the only one of the eight who has publicly announced his sexual preferences, and the athletes of the school pick on him badly because of this. In defending Scott against these tormentors, the other seven form a bond, a sort of homosexual club. One of the members keeps a journal until her mother discovers it and forces her daughter to start dating boys; another member, a boy whose father dies, is put in a home and begins hustling for a living. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that the book "feels like the beginning of a soap opera," and was disappointed that none of the story lines were completed in the first volume. The same reviewer was also unimpressed with Velez's artwork but observed that "his ability to create interesting characters" helps overcome this deficiency. A higher assessment of Tales of the Closet, Volume 1 was offered by Palmer, who thought the book "was an important story when it was released and it still is today." Palmer further commented, "A story like this would have made my teenaged years much easier and I hope it gets into the hands of teenagers and young adults."

Velez, working as both editor and writer, records more tales from high school in his 2007 graphic novel Dead High Yearbook, a work which, as a Publishers Weekly contributor felt, "crosses the line between macabre and tasteless, but horror movie-addicted teens will likely devour it" on that basis alone. The eight stories in the collection are created by various writers and artists and "introduce readers to a small yearbook staff, putting together photos and stories for the year's graduating class," as Teen Reads contributor Norah Piehl commented. However, instead of uplifting stories about the class clown or the most likely to succeed, each of the stories in the collection describes the strange death of one of the students, mortalities caused by herbal weight loss medications or the grisly result and aftermath of a hate crime, for example. Piehl felt that Dead High Yearbook was a "good choice" for an "introduction to the horror-graphic novel format." Similarly, Kliatt reviewer George Galuschak felt the collected tales were "clever and original, and the full-color art is suitably gory," while a Kirkus Reviews critic termed it "a great change-of-pace for teens going through superhero overload."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 2007, April Spisak, review of Dead High Yearbook, p. 390.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2007, review of Dead High Yearbook, p. 130.

Kliatt, March, 2007, George Galuschak, review of Dead High Yearbook, p. 29.

New York Times, July 24, 1994, James Barron, "A Writer Dreams of Comic Epics and a Closet-less Future," p. 7.

Publishers Weekly, August 22, 2005, review of Tales of the Closet, Volume 1, p. 43; March 5, 2007, review of Dead High Yearbook, p. 63.

School Library Journal, May, 2007, Eric Norton, review of Dead High Yearbook, p. 168.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2007, Matthew Weaver, review of Dead High Yearbook, p. 63.

ONLINE

Gay League,http://www.gayleague.com/ (January 17, 2008), Joe Palmer, review of Tales of the Closet, Volume 1.

Planet Bronx Web site,http://www.planetbronx.com (January 17, 2008).

Prism Comics Web site,http://www.prismcomics.org/ (January 17, 2008), "Ivan Velez, Jr."

Reading Is Fundamental Web site,http://www.rif.org/ (January 17, 2008), "Ivan Velez, Jr."

Teen Reads,http://www.teenreads.com/ (January 17, 2008), Norah Piehl, review of Dead High Yearbook.

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