JENNINGS — Carmen Martinez grew up drawing and sketching comic book characters for her family and friends.
"Art was always a part of my life," she said. "I was always doing it from a young age."
Martinez, a 2008 graduate of Welsh High School, said drawing was a way of keeping her focused.
Those days of drawing has now turned into a passion for the 29-year-old former Jennings resident.
Martinez published her first comic book, "Totem Hunter" in 2017 and is currently working on what she hopes will be the first of a three-part graphic novel based on the comic book.
She hopes to have the novel finished by next year.
"I was just always drawing and I started making up characters in my head more than on the paper," she said.
Those characters soon began to take on a life of their own with the creation of comic books and other drawings she shared with family and friends.
"I had a really good support group of friends at school who became interested and invested in these stories so it was kind of a natural way of me telling a story without having to retell it over and over again," she said
Martinez said she has always loved reading comics and art in general, but never took any formal art training until she enrolled in college as a graphic art major.
"I'd never taken an art class before that," she said. "I was always good at drawing and got asked to do stuff, but it was like night and day from going to a class that actually taught anatomy and how to draw the human figure ... It just made my art a lot better. Self taught is probably the worst teacher."
After dropping out of college in the middle of her second year, Martinez returned home not sure what she really wanted to do. She ended up in Dallas staying with an aunt and working as a nanny.
Martinez said she always loved making up stories in her head and putting them on paper. "I'm a very visual person and I've always loved art and cartoons and I love reading comics so I got really into drawing to express that side of my brain," she said.
Her mother, Mandy, has kept many of her drawings and journals. She uses familiar characters to tell her stories.
"All of my drawings have been with the concept that there is a story behind them," she said. "I very rarely draw abstract thoughts. Typically it's a character and they are doing something."
After enrolling in community college where she focused on animation, Martinez met a friend who helped her get her first 25-page single-issue comic book which she is now developing into a three-part graphic novel.
"I'm not a fan of how single issues are because its just sort of short and you don't get a full story so you have to keep buying them," she said. "That's not how I read comics. I want the full issue."
Martinez said the idea for "Totem Hunter" was a concept she had been working on since a teenager. The story has changed a lot over the years, but the characters have come and gone through a metamorphosis because my writing has gotten better and I've changed some views on other stuff," she said.
She credits her family and friends for having a hand in the story.
"There are parts in it that remind me of certain people in my life, which is why I wanted it to be the first," she said. "Seeing it come to life was surreal," she said. "I learned a lot selling it but the most valuable thing was seeing it go from start to finish because I had a lot of stories that I'd very rarely finished."
Martinez is the daughter of Mandy and Jerry Martinez of Jennings.