Interactive art: Meet ‘Cursed Swords Logbook’ author Maso Rich
Maso Rich is here to push the boundaries of storytelling. He’s the creative force behind the online brand Bubba Dutch, which specializes in making interactive graphic novels. These novels incorporate sensory elements like feel, smell, touch, and taste to draw the reader in and make them feel like they are part of the adventure.
Some of Rich’s most notable graphic novels to date include the Cursed Swords Logbook, which follows a pirate through a mystical world, and the upcoming Zyro G, which details a galaxy-spanning trek through the cosmos. As an author, Rich often works alongside editor Rae Levi and illustrator Denzelberg to bring his ideas to life.
Film Daily had the pleasure of talking with Maso Rich about his artistic influences, his novel approach to writing, and his plans for the future of Bubba Dutch. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about your journey as an artist. What did you do before becoming an artist?
When I was 15 I decided I wanted to be a writer. So I read scripts and books and taught myself as best I could. My favorite script to read was American Beauty by Alan Ball. I went to college and intended to be a doctor like my dad so I completed pre-med with a biology focus while at Tulane but also majored in Film Analysis and minored in both English and Digital Media. After that I sat down to take the MCAT and it just wasn’t for me anymore. I got a job interview in Los Angeles and just moved out here on the chance.
I worked a few talent management jobs in Hollywood and got a glimpse of a world I didn’t want to be a part of so I left to pursue some other work. I then built the company Entertainment Concierge. The company took off and was doing amazing until Covid (happened). It was doing so well that in 2017 I started writing The Cursed Swords Logbook. With the writing and art process as well as the physical book designing I knew my vision of Cursed Swords was going to take time.
I then started producing art for Instagram for fun because my soul was calling for me to do something beyond selling tickets to the wealthy. That is when I created @leraffejames. 4 months into Leraffe James it became an internet sensation for a few weeks. It has since died down but still maintains a large following today. When covid happened my event concierge business collapsed but I never stopped pushing Cursed Swords forward and in the beginning of 2021 I finally was able to self publish the book. I most recently became an NFT producer at my cousin’s content company, producing animated NFTs for the Golden State Warriors, Preakness Stakes, and Tfue.
Was there any particular piece of art that inspired you to become an artist?
It wasn’t a particular piece. It was a particular person. My mother is an artist and has a passion for painting and drawing. I always thought it was the coolest thing growing up to have such a creative mom. She could do anything and the other kids were jealous. The power to create is so contagious if it’s inside of you. She brought it out of me throughout my entire life even though I was being guided down the M.D. route by my businessman/doctor father.
What was the first project you worked on, and what did you learn from the experience?
I always just created my own art. Primarily through writing but I did get an animation certification and taught my older brother how to animate as well. I’d say overall we are both mostly self-taught in 2D animation. We animated a 10 minute thing called Animal Friends, the world where Leraffe James comes from. It was awesome to work with my best friend on something and I knew that no matter what as long as I was creating things I liked with people I liked I’d be happy.
Do you have any experience with mentors? If so, do you recommend them for up and coming artists?
I personally never had a good mentor. My bosses in my life have all been greedy or nasty in some way or another. Having been sued by one for leaving his company and the other being #cancelled in modern culture for inappropriate behavior. I have seen others who have succeeded with mentors and they tend to follow a more normal route but I walk my path alone.
Who are your current inspirations?
Personally I love a lot of adult animation writers. I love Seth MacFarlane and his spirit. He never stops writing and producing. I can tell he loves what he does. I’m sure the money helps too but he seems like someone who enjoys it all.
Talk us through your creative process.
My creative process for writing Cursed Swords is very much attached to whatever I’m going through emotionally. The book is written from the journal perspective of the protagonist, Captain Rhodes, so a lot of the entries include his internal dialogue. That internal dialogue relates to a lot of my feelings about the world and my daily battles. He is the pirate hyperbole of someone fighting to better his situation and not stay comfortable in the way things were previously established by his predecessors.
What inspired you to create Bubba Dutch?
Bubba Dutch was a name my older brother, Devin and I chose for this company. Although he is a CPA accountant now he is the reason I chose this route in life. When we were teenagers his dream was to act and he lightly said he wouldn’t be happy unless he could make films. So I started writing them for him because I wanted to help. The creativity bond he and I share goes all the way back to when I was 2 and he was 3. We would put buckets on our heads and he’d call himself Bubba and I would call myself Dutch. I can’t tell you where the names originated from, we just started saying it. An awesome memory we’ve held on to our whole lives.
What is your mission with Bubba Dutch?
Bubba Dutch’s mission now is to tell stories in a new modern way. Kids these days are so stuck on their screens that I don’t see anyone ever holding a physical book anymore. Bubba Dutch was started for me to create and bring joy to others. Now it’s becoming something of bringing a new generation of media to people. In a world consumed by digital media, I think some print materials and relatable content are going to need to be adapted for the changes humanity is enduring. That’s why the physical book has such unique features and design.
Tell us about the Cursed Swords Logbook.
For his entire life, Rhodes was just a mere commoner on an island that had been forgotten and blocked off by the outside world with no explanation. A place where you’re at the whim of the governing powers and no sign of escape. Then one day, he lets Darkness control him, and he turns to pirate life. Can he reach his world’s highest heights, despite his cursed beginnings?
As Rhodes, his brother Dylvin, and their friends are forced by circumstance to finally escape their hell on earth, they head out to the sea with two mystical swords in tow that have passed down through the guardians of Paliss. From adventure to adventure, Rhodes and his crew must navigate unknown dangers and myths, unfolding the history of the String Islands while they attempt to escape the shackles of their past. They are not prepared for what awaits them, but this band of inexperienced men and women is fast whipped into shape for the biggest fight of their lives.
Will Rhodes and Dylvin grow strong enough to wield the Cursed Swords? Will the crew develop their affinities to the elements in time to win their great battles? What will happen when Rhodes draws from the Darkness? Join this misfit family as they try to find a way to raze their world… and build a better one in its place.
The truth lies within his journal entries.
How long was this project in the making for?
I started writing the novel version before I switched to the half-novel half-graphic novel idea. That was in 2016/2017. I just got busy and let it fall to the side until in 2018 when I decided to find an illustrator to help carry the burden with me. It’s been a real grind since then. I’d say the true dedication has been 3 full years of work.
How did illustrator Denzelberg and editor Rae Levi get tied to the project?
In 2018 I put a post on an artist forum looking for a comic page artist. I had a lot of people respond but only one person fit my budget and had the talent to see inside my mind. I started by doing a few art tests with Denzelberg and ultimately decided to hire him full time to join me. He is from and lives in the Philippines.
We’ve talked on WhatsApp everyday for almost 3 years. I used my concierge company to pay his salary and keep him going through everything that’s happened and he has stuck by my side and turned my story into his passion as well. I’ve never met him but I’d say he’s a close friend regardless of that. I think what we’ve accomplished together has been special.
Rae is just one of the nicest and smartest women I’ve ever met. When I first worked in talent management she worked in the literary department in the same office as me. We’d always been friends and lightly stayed in touch. When I finished the first draft of the book I asked a few friends to help me edit and no one really wanted to give me the time. It’s sad when you can’t find someone you trust to do good work on something you love so passionately. Then something in the back of my head said “who do you know who can do this?” That is when I remembered my old friend with a masters degree in creative writing.
She wasn’t the self-taught crazy person like myself. She was a true refined talent. She had just had a baby and wasn’t working at the time. I called her and offered her what I could afford to edit. She agreed to help me. This rekindled and strengthened our old friendship. We worked together via calls weekly throughout the pandemic and we ultimately got a draft we were ready to print. It would be rude of me not to mention that she took only 60% of what I offered her financially in order to help me out. These small gestures are things I will never take for granted. She balanced her life and work with this project for me. I owe her as much as I can give when the time comes.
What challenges did you face while creating the Cursed Swords Logbook?
This question. Oh my gosh. Writing and rewriting have their own challenges. Throw in directing an illustrator in the Philippines in a different time zone. Designing the physical features of the book in India. Running an event sales company and Leraffe James publicity. Leraffe James led to me being hired as an animation producer as a social media company. I just had to learn to balance it all. Let’s say Covid forced me to take a necessary break from a lot of things.
It’s all been so hard from financing the production and publishing to just organizing the entire team to balancing my other responsibilities. The biggest challenges now are with no event company. I continue to invest in the sequel book. I won’t ever stop. Denzelberg relies on me for his income to take care of his family and the book is just my passion so I won’t give it up.
You wore multiple hats while working on the Cursed Swords Logbook. How did you balance those responsibilities?
See above. Honestly, I don’t even know how I did it looking back. I’m just lucky I’m a really good salesman and my event clients love me. The balance comes from just doing it all. I was able to create a process that was mostly mobile. The least mobile part of the process is the writing.
Do you think interactive books like the Cursed Swords Logbook are the future?
I mean if parents want to reduce the screen time for their kids, get them reading, and keep them engaged things like the Cursed Swords Logbook are gonna be needed. I don’t know if this is the future because there isn’t anything really like this that I’ve seen. I just wanted to create something that was enticing enough to get teens to put their phones down a little bit each day.
What did you learn from working on the Cursed Swords Logbook?
The biggest take away I have is that anything that a person wants to put into this world is possible as long as they are willing to put in the work. Cursed Swords doesn’t exist without the ticket company or the other people involved.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is an ever changing answer. I’m very into Crypto investing. My dream has always been writing and animation. I’ve always been willing to do what it takes to better myself. I just see myself changing constantly. The dream would be releasing the 4th book of this series in about 5 years.
If anyone could write the story of your life, what author would you choose and why?
My life story… Jeez, what a tale that would be. I wouldn’t wish writing that on anyone. From starting out as 1 of 6 kids, each one super unique, to my career life with bosses who’ve been the center of #metoo and suing me, to starting my own multi-million dollar event sales company, to Leraffe James and the animation studio, to covid and watching everything I built crumble, to releasing this book. It would just be a weird disjointed adventure.
What has been your greatest success and failure to date?
My only success is that I never give up. Everything has ups and downs, the process of never stopping and willing your way to what you want is all I have. I learned through covid that even something you never thought had a weakness could crumble. I lost everything and I’m just now starting to rebuild. I’m at a crossroads in my life right now at 30 years old. Do I really want to rebuild a sales company when my soul isn’t truly in it? The money is nice but the process to rebuild is going to require a lot of time.
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
Don’t wait for someone else to help you. Don’t wait. Whatever you can do, do it. It doesn’t cost anything to write. It doesn’t cost anything to post on social media. It took 4 months of no one noticing Leraffe James before some random person posted it to Reddit. I’ve just learned that the power is always in your hands and the technology that exists today gives everyone the opportunities to fight. Get creative with how you will achieve your goals. I never once thought I would start a sales company when I moved to LA. I just did it because I had to put food on the table.
What’s next on the docket for you?
Well I’m going to try and market the Cursed Swords Logbook and I’m 70 pages into the second Cursed Swords book. I’m extremely deep in my crypto research and see a future there for sure. I’m rebuilding the concierge sales company on a smaller scale. I’m interviewing at Nickelodeon Animation this week, maybe that will go well. I’m writing for some other opportunities, they might be long shots but if they hit you’ll definitely hear about it. The only thing you can count on is that I’ll stay busy learning new things and practicing the old.