Strong Ave. Studios / AOART5
Anthony “AO” Oropeza | Kansas City, KS | Microenterprise
This is another entrepreneur we at KCSourceLink have been following for years. Meet Anthony Oropeza, the creative mind and hand behind Amigoman, a bilingual comic book super hero, and the newly created Eco Green Team. Oropeza is man of many nouns—the entrepreneur behind Strong Ave. Studios, which he founded in 2000, is also writer, artist, art director, marketer and publisher.
Without further ado, we’ll move aside and let you get to know Oropeza.
How did this all begin?
I started the AMIGOMAN comic book while living at home with my mom in KCK, working a full-time job and going to Rockhurst College on a part-time basis. I came up with the idea for the character on the way home from school after visiting Clint's Comic Shop in KCMO.
After grabbing my Batman and Spidey books, something hit me from the class I had just attended. I noticed that I didn't see any Latin main characters on the comic book shelf. So on the 15 minute ride home, I said to myself, “What if I came up with my own character?”
So in that 15 minute time span, I came up with the name “AMIGOMAN” and a bit of his story.
What challenges did you have to overcome?
1) Lack of skill and experience. 2) Lack of a team. 2) Lack of time. 4) Lack of project funding.
I had to understand that I was on an island and that many people thought creating a Latino comic book super hero in the 90s was a pipe dream and that idea would never be any good. Today, my challenges are mostly about funding. I have the ideas, the property and know a ton of talented people – just working on finding funding for them.
Who helped you start your business?
At first, many people offered suggestions and were really polite about a really crappy first couple of books I put out. Then a friend from work, Tyson Jones, redesigned the AMIGOMAN logo digitally—and made it look legit. A few years later, my buddy Rudy Garcia put me in contact with a St. Louis artist named Lorenzo Lizana. Lorenzo saw the potential with the character, the writing and offered to draw for me.
Throughout the years, various artists have helped on various projects, most of which have been placed on the shelf mostly due to lack of funding. Currently, I get a ton of help from Nicole Emmanuel and the InterUrban ArtHouse. She believes in what I am doing for kids, schools and the community. She understands artists and believes artists should be paid for their time and effort.
What’s your big news in the past year?
Wow, there have been a few. I guess my top three big news points in the past year are
1) Our AMIGOMAN character will be featured on the front and back cover of the summer issue of the Johnson County Library "Activities and Guide to Services" catalog this May.
2) We visited and spoke to parents at the LeMonte Mo. School and sold more than 300 books.
3) Thanks to the Briarwood PTA and InterUrban ArtHouse, I was commissioned to speak to grades 1-5 about my Strong Ave. Studios creation—a comic book/coloring book about recycling and conserving the Earth's natural resources—“The Eco-Green Team.”
What is the Eco-Green Team?
The sister, brother and pet owl trio provide helpful tips to kids about what they can do at home and school to save our planet. Not only was able to create new property with new cool characters and a storyline that emphasized science, math and the earth for the students, the school also purchased about 300 copies of the book for every student. It was awesome!
What flavor do you add to KC?
I want to design and create fun and cool projects with a purpose, originality and a Latin flair or a bit of my Mexican-American culture added to it. The cool thing about where I grew up, I have roots in both KC’s—The Argentine district (KCK) and the WestSide (KCMO).
What would like to say to kids out there?
People in KC from all different walks of life and situations are creating cool stuff and that they can create cool stuff too. If a kid can read, they can learn, and do anything.
What would you like to say to the entrepreneurial community?
To other local businesses, large and small, we have an obligation to try to help our schools and kids, by offering schools learning solutions and perhaps trying to help inspire and get kids interested in reading/learning/tech/design/music/fashion / something creative, productive and positive.