The last couple years have witnessed rise and decline in Costa Rica's comic book scene. In 2012 Florida native Troy Nicholson opened Boom Shop, the country's only store devoted exclusively to comics, and hosted BoomCon, its first comic book convention. Meanwhile brothers Ivan and Andres Ramirez were drawing away at Ultracomics, a monthly book.
Turn the page to two years later, and Nicholson has moved to San Diego. "The store got robbed," he says. "Almost every single day." And Ultracomics is no longer in print.
"Ultracomics concluded after 50 issues," says Ivan Ramirez over email. "My brother and I are very much into drawing, always have been. We found a great challenge in comics. We have learned how to write stories, create characters and plots and we found a very indie way of publishing. Basically we taught ourselves how to create comic books. That's what Ultracomics meant to us.
"The problem became that we felt more and more ignored because our stories were not about superheroes or anything that resembled mainstream culture. Our stories where about thinking hard and self-discovery through a rational and spiritual development."
Looking through the Ultracomics archives, It's evident these indeed are thinking person's comics, with references to Renaissance art, Japanese manga and American pop.
Ramirez elaborates further on the story arcs:
"We wrote four stories in five years. Buscongo was my brother's story, he wrote it and drew it all by himself. It's about a group of friends who searched for meaning in life through drugs and alcohol and end up searching for magic mushrooms and having an enlightening trip. In the end the main character realizes it's all in the mind and that true independence comes from knowledge of the mind.
"I wrote three stories in the same amount of time...
"Jairo the Dreamer is about a guy who's going crazy because of losing his job, girlfriend and friends. He then starts an inner journey through his dreams and ends up realizing his loneliness -- and the power he owns and the duty of his existence as a person who sees more than meets the eye.
"Liona is about a female warrior princess who lives in a world were not only monkeys have evolved into human form but also lions. She is a lioness. She falls in love with her slave who is a human. And then he betrays her and breaks her heart. She meets another human who is called the immortal because he has lived for thousands of years and she falls for him too. But he is more concerned about things an immortal would be concerned about. So he ignores her feelings. So in the end the mighty warrior princess ends up alone and heartbroken. No happy endings I guess.
"And Mind and Machine is about a guy who creates a machine that looks like a skinless human body and finds a way to connect living brains to it -- brains being the only thing that cannot be mechanized.
"He starts off not remembering who he is and ends up remembering who he was. Since organic humans have gone extinct the remains of humanity relies on him to come up with an artificial brain. And if he doesn't humanity will perish."
Ramirez is still working on Mind and Machine and he hopes to publish it with Tapastic.
"Ultracomics was a learning experience for us and we will keep making comics in the future," he says. "We are now ready to make a more compelling product than before. We didn't make money out of it but we didn't make any money studying in the university either. The best is yet to come."