ROKetship: Launching a Dream in Korea!

by Luke Martin, 10/05/2010


"You're living your American dream, in Korea!" which is what my mom said when I told her about the growing success of my comic strip, ROKetship. OK, now "the American dream", may be cliche` but the truth is, that I really am living out one of my biggest dreams, by drawing a nationally distributed comic strip, here in Korea!

Ever since I was nine years old, when my family took an exhausting road trip across the States to visit Disney World, I have been drawing cartoons.  My goal was always to be published, specifically in a newspaper.  I went on to have a comic strip in my college newspapers and eventually published a book. However,  any exposure that I received was limited to my sphere of influence, largely from people who knew me.

After I got married, my wife and I moved to Seattle, where I joined CNW (Cartoonists North West Association) and started a webcomic called Rules of Engagement, about a couple engaged to be married. I was fortunate enough to have the strip nominated for a "best new talent" award. It then appeared in a compilation to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims. Even after all of these accomplishments, my exposure was still limited.  There are a jillion webcomics out there for people to read and mine was buried - far from the big audiences that I had dreamed of; the random folks buying from the newsstands!

Comics are a tough business, especially in the US. Most of the papers only deal with syndicates, which only represent the BIG guys.  Even if you get your foot in the door, there's only so much space on the page and despite retirement, passing on, or a lack of funny material, many of the big-name comics who have "made it" are rooted forever!  That to say, back home, my dream was far out of reach.

In Korea, however, it's a different story!  The expat community is so small and supportive that it's much easier to get a project off the ground.  Here was my recipe for success: my lovely wife suggested that I draw the strip, I had the good sense to listen to her, then I sent off samples to some bloggers for feedback.  It went well and I was referred up the proverbial ladder until I found my comic published and distributed out to the entire country - and thanks to Korea4Expats.com, to the whole world!!

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Now, ROKetship appears regularly in 10 publications, has just passed 1500 fans on Facebook (without ever placing an ad), has a T-shirt deal with Baboshirts.com, and is about to publish a book collection, due out this summer!

I count myself remarkably blessed to have the chance to do ROKetship.  People have really seemed to find a voice in the strip and shown an overwhelming amount of support. Many have said how much they identify with the comic.  They find themselves laughing out loud and taking reassurances in the knowledge that these kooky things "don't just happen to them!"  To me, that's the best part about ROKetship; creating something that people can relate to, talk about, and find community in. As far as I'm concerned, that's one of the greatest goals any artist can have.

One of the big ways people connect with the strip is by suggesting ideas for future comics.  I love suggestions and have used many of them so far.  The truth is, that real life is just way funnier than anything I could ever write.  When people send in suggestions, it doesn't only give me new material, it also gives them something to be proud of, their ideas in print!  It's always fun to see your life as a cartoon.  If we can learn to laugh at ourselves, then we're bound to enjoy life exponentially more.  Whatever you do, keep on laughing and enjoy your time on this wonderful, wacky planet called, Korea!

If you haven't already, check out ROKetship on the Korea4Expats.com homepage & send over your ideas, you just might see 'em in print!  

K4E Note: Ideas can be send via info@korea4expats.com.
Photo: Luke at a jimjilbang - remember he's a cartoonist!!!!

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