When we first encountered cartoonist Len Peralta, who designed the renowned Geek A Week trading cards, we knew he’d be the perfect designer for our collector’s edition of NaNoLand trading cards for three reasons: 1) He believes in many of the same things we do, such as ghosts, elves, and Bigfoot; 2) He wants to make art affordable for everyone; and 3) He designs with such a wacky, fun aesthetic it seems as if he’s a NaNoLand creature himself.
Len took a break from madly cartooning (and parenting a newborn baby) to chat about geekdom, trading cards, and his design approach.
What inspired you when designing these NaNoWriMo cards?
Well, my other project, Geek A Week, was my way of getting to work on more of the geeky things that interested me. A geek is a person who is passionate about something. You can be a geek about anything—Star Wars, knitting, coin collecting, writing! To me: Geek = Passion. That is why we need more geeks, because passionate people are fundamentally the most fascinating people around.
I’m also of the opinion that you simply can’t wait for things to come along and happen for you. You must create your own opportunities. That’s why NaNoWriMo and I fit together so well. It’s about motivating people to get out there and do something with passion. And I can totally appreciate that idea.
I knew these NaNoWriMo cards would really showcase my art, so I wanted to make them as bright and colorful as possible. I’m currently working on a graphic novel (with Rifftrax/MST member Bill Corbett) so being in that mindset really informed my style for these cards. Hopefully that comes through in the art.
Did you collect trading cards growing up?
Oh sure. I started early with the Wacky Packages from the 70s. They were these beautifully illustrated and funny trading cards that parodied different advertising brands. I eventually worked in advertising, so maybe they had an influence on me.
As I got a little older, I collected Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back cards. I was addicted to those cards. In many ways, Geek A Week is a fusion of those two influences: Wacky Packages and Star Wars cards. I referenced the look of them when I was coming up with the design for Geek A Week.
I also have a collection of Topps Hockey Cards (Teemu Selanne rookie card, FTW!). I also have a full collection of The Simpsons trading cards. I have more cards than I care to admit, actually.
How did you learn to draw cartoons?
I am primarily self-taught. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember, and I just kept doing it. When I started my own business 10 years ago, I added illustration to my repertoire, and I found I was getting a lot more illustration jobs than copywriting and straight design jobs. That’s when my art really started ramping up. Now illustration and cartooning is my primary source of work, and I draw pretty much everyday.
Who are your design influences?
I’m a huge Tim Burton fan. I love his loose, cartoony style and his visual sense. I love Jim Lee and Stuart Immonen’s work. R. Crumb is a huge influence on my style as well.
But I also love pop art work from Keith Haring, maybe because I enjoy the simplicity of his style. I try not to overcomplicate things when I draw. I think working in advertising as a copywriter, oddly enough, helped hone my telegraphic style. I know most people don’t spend a ton of time looking at art. It has to grab them immediately. And I think that’s what I try to do with my work.
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo?
I haven’t. More because of my schedule than anything else. But I’d love to challenge myself with it one day.
If you ever do NaNoWriMo, will you type your novel in your own zombie font?
Wouldn’t that make it super hard to read? People would have a hard time enjoying my weird writing and plotting style. No reason to make it any more difficult for them to get through!
To collect the NaNoLand trading cards Peralta designed, donate $50 or more to NaNoWriMo’s summer fundraising drive by July 24.