Teachenglishcaribbean is pleased to interview our first comic blogger, Luke Martin, who currently has his own website http://www.roketship.com. Since living in South Korea, he noticed the many small and large ways that life is different in the country and, on his wife’s suggestion, he began drawing a comic strip about them. Hence, the magic that became, ROKetship! (ROK = Republic of Korea). The strip is a cultural comedy of sorts, which pokes fun at foreign life on this planet called, South Korea!
1. When did you start drawing comics?
I started drawing cartoons on a family trip to Florida, when I was nine, though it wasn’t until I was 12 that I actually started to format my drawings into comics. My family was gathered at my grandmother’s house after, after her funeral. I remember sitting there, watching everyone feel so sad. It was at that point, that I decided to sketch out a gag I had been kicking around in my head. I went around the room showing all of the adults and watching them crack a smile. It was my way of helping them feel better. I still feel a smile is the greatest compliment to one of my drawings.
2. Who is your inspiration for ROKetship?
My wife and I, as well as the entire expat community in Korea! The strip was meant to provide an outlet for all of the confusing and frustrating things we would encounter while trying to adapt to a totally different way of life. Often, I would just draw about things that happened to me that day or that readers would write in to tell me about. ROKetship is about shared experiences, which I think is a big part of why people enjoy the strip.
3. How long did you live in S. Korea?
Just over 2 years.
4. What did you do there? Have you taught English in another country?
I taught English in a private, after-school program for a year and then I taught middle school in the public school system the following year. I haven’t taught anywhere else, though I’d love the opportunity.
5. Did most of the scenes in the comics come from personal experience? Give an example of one experience.
Yes, absolutely! A good example would be the comic of the old woman staring, openly at the foreigner on the subway. This was a daily occurrence. Also the one where the foreigner is so proud of himself for ordering pizza on the phone. He feels he’s really grasping the language, although he ordered exclusively in Konglish (English words adopted into the Korean vernacular, but pronounced slightly differently.) Yeah, guilty!
6. What challenges did you experience when marketing your comic book?
I had more issue in producing the book. There was a language barrier which hindered using a Korean printer. I chose to use an American printer instead, only to find out that shipping would be more costly than I anticipated. Also, many of the bookstores refuse to carry books which are not represented by a known publisher/distributor.
Marketing was the fun part, though I’m fortunate that a lot of factors fell into place at the right time. The local expat publications were already carrying the strip, which provided a lot of exposure and we had a very active online community on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Tumblr. That helped to get the word out as well as some great reviews and a shout out from Seoul Podcast. We did some signing events as well.
7. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
LOL! Good question! I imagine I’ll be a happy husband and father with a webcomic and/or an online business…definitely more stamps in my passport. I intend to return to school to get a higher degree in hopes of eventually teaching at a university level. Somewhere in that ballpark, I suppose 🙂
8.What future plans do you have for Roketship?
I have considered a follow-up book, based on reverse culture shock after returning home from living overseas. I think there would be a lot of material there and that people would be able to relate to that. I also am exploring the idea of doing some resource materials for teachers: somethings that worked for me and which could be presented in a humorous and helpful way. I, of course, want to keep marketing the book and hopefully it will continue to be relevant and a good source of humor/therapy for those teaching overseas!
To order Luke’s book email him at firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.facebook.com/pages/ROKetship/34214005228