Friday, October 16, 2015

Kickstart the Week(end) with Super! Volume 2: The Secret is Out!

By: Nicole D'Andria

Super! Volume 1 was one of the highest rated comics of 2014. This week, I’m showcasing the kickstarter for the second volume and talking with the creative team.

The Kickstarter is for Super! Volume 2 which collects issues #6-#11. The world of Super! is overcrowded with people who have superpowers. A team of superheroes whose name is still under development—including the likes of Blitz, the Furious Fire-Ant, Silhouette, Blood Death, Adventure Man Zero, the Streak, the Unquenchable Lush and Professor Max Archer—fight against the super injustices of this world. 

The comic book is being published by Unlikely Heroes Studios. The writers are Justin Piatt and Zack Dolan. Dolan also pencils the comic book and Piatt handles the lettering. The inker is Laurie Foster.

For $5 or more, the backer will receive a digital copy of Super! #6, the first issue in the second volume. For $10 or more, the backer will receive a digital copy of the first five issues of Super! in the first volume and Super! #6. Several other special rewards have been created for people who back the Kickstarter. There is a new toy for the Furious Fire Ant, an art book and a Super! video game. A playable alpha build of the game can be downloadable for Windows on their Kickstarter page.

The creative team needs to raise at least $50,000 by November 3, 2015 at 7:35 PM EDT for the project to be successful. Issue 6 has almost finished production and the money for the Kickstart will help the rest of the volume be created and produced faster and more efficiently.

I spoke with Justin Piatt, Zack Dolan and Laurie Foster about the series:

Justin Piatt (Letters/Writing/Publisher)
Me: What is the premise of Super! Volume 2?

Justin Piatt: Super! Volume 2 is delivering on a promise.

In Super! Volume 1, we essentially built a really fun world and then just had fun with the crazy cast of characters that reside there. It was all about fun. We “go deep” a few times, giving some story elements that have some weight and consequence behind them, but we needed to set the tone as funny, our world as unpredictable and vast, and establish our characters. With so much building, the focus just HAD to be fun.

As we get deeper into the story of Super!, the funny is still going to be there, but the deeper moments are going to have more weight because we’re more invested in the characters. Delivering the content that you were waiting for, but weren’t aware you were waiting for, but then it’s happening on the page and oh-my-gosh-it’s-so-awesome. That is what Volume 2 is all about.

Because every page of Super!, while entertaining and serving a purpose within its own issue, is leading to big payoffs, and as we start cashing in on those investments Super! will be hitting at a level that’s rarely seen in American comics.

Me: For people who haven’t read the first volume, what do they need to know in order to follow along with the second volume?

Piatt: We do a pretty good job of catching readers up to speed, and because issues are generally stand-alone, if you started with Volume 2, you wouldn’t be totally in the dark. It’d be like picking up the best X-Men comic ever made, cold. You’d be like “Wow, this is awesome!” but there’d be a little bit of “Who is this guy who’s doing this cool thing?” so you might have to look back to the start of the book to see “Oh this guy is the Streak. He gets super-speed as long as he’s naked. I get it now!” and then you’d flip back and keep the train rolling.

Right now, Blitz believes that her civilian identity of Paula Terry is dating a man who is secretly a hero, but as readers, we already know that he’s the Black Atom, the leader of the supervillain group the Fearsome Fivesome. That story has been cooking since issue 1, and with the “my boyfriend is a super-hero!” moment on the last page of Volume 1, it’s starting to heat up.

Blitz’s superhero team consists of eight people, and like a shitty high-school band they can’t pick a team name, but that’s okay because they don’t get any credit for what they do anyway. That honor usually falls to our universe’s premiere superhero team, the People’s Champions. The modern-day People’s Champions is led by Superstar - and already we’ve seen a lot of him.

But all of this I’m sure we’ll work on to make sure to convey to new readers too. There’ll be some adjustment, but it’s not like One Piece or Dragon Ball Z where you run the risk of jumping on in the middle of a 20 episode fight sequence.

From Super! Volume 1

Me: Super! pokes fun at comic book tropes. What are some of these tropes and why did you feel it was important that these tropes be brought up in the story?

Piatt: So many things about superheroes that we commonly see just flat-out would not work, or wouldn’t look as cool. I think Zack has a gift for picking that stuff out, and in doing so he created an “everyman” kind of superhero universe where sometimes super-suits chafe or tights don’t fit. But instead of being powered-down like Kick-Ass it’s powered up like the Tick, only where the Tick is set at 4, Super! is cranked up to 11.

We hear a lot that Super! is in for an uphill battle because it’s coming out in the 2000’s, after so many years of superhero lore. But that’s kind of the service that Super! provides. We’re constantly watching superhero shows and movies and thinking “WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT?!” and then we work a joke in around it.

Me: Who is your favorite character in Super! and why are they your favorite character?

Piatt: It’s going to sound like a cheap answer, but I love the characters that we don’t know ANYTHING about. Sure, we’ve got a really exciting group of heroes in all sorts of crazy colorful situations, but there are Supers everywhere in this world: taking out the trash, cleaning the windows of that skyscraper, filling its prisons, everywhere. So it makes sense for us to fill our backgrounds with characters who will show up or become more important down the line - if the situation permits. For example, there’s no way the leader of a world terrorist organization would be in the background of a coffee-shop scene! World-class villains get their coffee through the brute force or market guile (or did we learn nothing from Superman 3?).

When people shout “Wait a minute, I know this person!” and start flipping through the book… that’s a win for me.

Gun to my head, forced to pick just one… I’d go with Kongarr the Uncontainable. I know, he was only shown briefly so far, but I never think of Kongarr and not smile. Giant monkey wearing gladiator gear with the voice of my favorite actor, Michael Clarke Duncan, permanently on “Slammin’ Salmon mode?” What’s not to love?

Me: What is the number one reason people should back Super! on Kickstarter?

Piatt: The number one reason backers should support our Kickstarter is because they want to read a really, really satisfying and fun comic.

The best superhero comic in the world right now isn’t made by Marvel or DC, and doesn’t even have support from publishers like Dark Horse or Image. The latter two companies shy away from superhero stories, the former are so stuck in a spin cycle of reboots and year-long crossovers that they don’t care that their fans are like “Hey, uhm, can we make good comics and forget about the movies for a hot minute?”

The fact that we go crazy to make our Kickstarter backers happy because we’re 100% fan-supported is further reason to jump on, but first and foremost, it’s about the premiere comic-book experience - which, unless stores back our Kickstarter, won’t be available in comic stores. Isn’t that nuts?!

Me: What inspirational words do you have for comic book writers?

Piatt: Learn to letter. Seriously, it’s not very hard, it increases your value to your team (and probably saves you some money if you’re an indie book), and gives you that all-important “final control.”

Notice the difference between how it’s usually done: Writer writes a script, penciler draws it, inker inks it, colorist colors it, letterist letters it, it’s finished.

Against the Super! method: Writer writes a script, penciler draws it, inker inks it, colorist colors it,  writer gets it back and checks to see if there’s any unexpected changes from script to art. Maybe an overjoyed face didn’t really look all that overjoyed. Better change it! Okay, let’s letter it! Quick, let’s reread it to make sure it’s as good it can be. Re-letter it. Repeat until it’s awesome. It’s finished.

That flexibility is key. Sure, there are book editors, but they shouldn’t be involved on the “story element” level, just at the “does this suck” level… but that’s another column altogether! Lettering yourself, at least you’ll be able to hold onto your work long enough to know what you pass on is awesome and hits in the way you intended it, because you literally put every word on the page. There’s no one else to blame!
Zack Dolan (Pencils/Writing)

Me: If you had only one sentence to describe each character in Super!, how would you describe them?

Zack Dolan: Well, there are so many characters in this series, let’s just stick to the main team or we’ll be here all day.  Hahaha.
-       Blitz is the closest thing to a "real" superhero in the bunch of them, in that she actually both has useful powers and cares about innocent people.
-       The Furious Fire-Ant is a smart-mouthed acrobat in an armored ant suit who is basically what would happen if the Blue Beetle was an irresponsible drunk.
-       Silhouette is one part Batman, one part Doctor Fate, one part Doctor Who and all scary.
-       Blood Death is a gun-toting vigilante so insanely violent and strict, he makes Judge Dredd and the Punisher look positively restrained and even tempered.
-       Adventure Man Zero is a size-shifting super robot who doesn't seem to be aware he's not in a children's anime.
-       The Streak is a smirking manchild who can run at supersonic speeds, but only when he's nude.
-       The Unquenchable Lush is a mild-mannered scientist who becomes a quivering, snarling, white hot ball of vein-popping rage...but only when he's drunk.
-       Professor Max Archer is what would happen if Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Doc Brown were all the same person...and they were completely out of their mind.

Me: How would you describe your art style in the book?

Dolan: That's a difficult question. I try to keep it both realistic, and insanely lively and cartoony, which is a hard tightrope to walk, let me tell you. Haha. I was always a big fan of Art Adams, Alex Ross and Brian Hitch, so you see a lot of that in my work, but there's also a bit of an 80's Giffen Justice League in there, and even some manga influences. I guess you could call my style "Comic Book Jambalaya." Hahaha.

Me: Who is your favorite character in Super! and why are they your favorite character?

Dolan: Oh, that's another really hard question.  Honestly it's a four-way tie between the Fire-Ant, Blitz, Silhouette and Blood Death, but gun to my head-I can only choose one?  I have to go with Fire-Ant because I love his snarky, bitter sense of humor. He kind of reacts to situations the way I probably would in most cases. I love his costume and he's really fun to both write and draw. He has the best parts of characters like Spider-Man and the Blue Beetle, but without all the whiny emo baggage, just the fun parts haha

Me: What is the number one reason people should back Super! on Kickstarter?

Dolan: Well, there a lot of reasons to do it, such as supporting young creative people who have spent years volunteering for free to make an excellent product that REALLY needs their help, the guarantee of loyalty and quality from our brand in a way that most big companies don't care about much anymore, to save the superhero comic from a slow death by the hand of marketing gimmicks and bloated money sucking crossovers, and because of how hard we work to provide female, minority and LGBT representation in a way the Big 2 are sorely lacking. 
I could go on, but I guess if I really had to say what was the most important to us: Because comics should be fun. Comics have supposedly become more "mature" and as a result we have a huge glut of grim/dark super serious comics about things that are just…not that serious. There is so much unpleasantness in comics these days, but how seriously can you take stories about guys who wear their underpants outside of their regular pants? If you can’t laugh at this sometimes, what can you laugh at?  We wanted to make something FUN, that the reader could feel satisfied with purchasing, that they would remember later as a great laugh and a good ride and anything other than a meaningless link in a giant marketing chain to keep books going for no other reason than to keep the brand alive between movies.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for pencilers?

Dolan: Two things: Never, ever stop practicing and don't ever take “no” for an answer.  I've been drawing every single day for 30 years, I first picked it up when I was three and it's not something you can ever let lapse. It's a very competitive industry and you have to practice and hone your skills every single day to stand out, and when you do that, you are gonna get told no 50, 100 or 1000 times, but the key is never to accept that.  One day, you WILL get good enough to do it professionally and work on a real book, it's just how dedicated you are. 

Me: What inspirational words do you have for comic book writers?

Dolan: Basically the same thing I said for artists. Never ever take “no” for an answer and keep strengthening your skills every day. But also, as a writer, you need to not be afraid to do two things. First, you can't be afraid to say something you wrote isn't good enough and needs some rewrites. There's no shame in not getting it right the first time because, here's the kicker, NO ONE ever does. I promise you the first thing Neil Gaiman wrote was not Sandman. Don't be afraid to admit it needs some polishing. But then here's the second thing: Don't be afraid to accept a story is done and that you have to stop messing with it. You have to do rewrites, but you also have to know when you've played around enough and a story is what it's supposed to be. If you don't stop fiddling, you never finish anything, and if you don't finish it, it can't come out, and no one will read it.

Laurie Foster (Inks/Publisher)

Me: How would you describe your art style in the book?

Laurie Foster: I think I would best describe my inks over Zack as clean and bold.  Super! is an extremely detailed comic, and a clean style works best to get that across and compliment Everardo Orozco's colors. 

Me: Who is your favorite character in Super! and why are they your favorite character?

Foster: My favorite character is probably Max Archer, with Silhouette as a close second.  I've ALWAYS had a thing for very intelligent characters (Donatello was my favorite ninja turtle, and Egon was my favorite Ghostbuster), so I'm pretty much following suit. Plus, he's a goofball! I just love him. Silhouette is just a badass, plain and simple.  

Me: I know the Kickstarter mentioned you were a model. Can you tell us a bit about your modeling career and the model-related stretch goal for Super! Volume 2?

Foster: I am a model and cosplayer!  Most of my career has been at comic conventions or through clients online, because I live in the middle of nowhere. :P Inking is really my first passion, so I'm not aiming for a California or New York-level modeling career, but I do love body painting and making costumes. My husband loves taking photos, so together, we make an excellent promotional team! Getting to cosplay characters from the comic I ink is such a bonus! I made a brand new Blitz suit and plan to do an awesome photoshoot with prints of the character for the stretch goal.

Me: What is the number one reason people should back Super! on Kickstarter?

Foster: Honestly, it's just an AMAZING book. They should back it because they'll read a great book, and it'll help us get this show on the road to continue to make great books at pro publisher speeds. I want to keep the fans happy and addicted to Super!, and GROW our fanbase; the best way to do that is to get this project funded! 

Me: What inspirational words do you have for inkers?

Foster: Practice. All the time. Ask artists for sequential pencils to ink and ink those things whenever you can! Not just pinups! The more samples and practice you have, the easier it will be to find work, and progress your skills from there. Ask pro inkers for tips and advice, but also follow your own instincts. Don't mire yourself in a single style - a good inker can be flexible depending on the penciller.  

Me: I also talked to Justin Piatt about the various rewards Super! is offering. The Kickstarter offers some of the most unique rewards I've seen including figures and a video game, so I asked Piatt a variety of questions about the process of creating these rewards.

Why was it decided to create a video game and figures for the book?

Piatt: It’s going to sound crazy, but both were chosen because they’re really cool Kickstarter rewards that provide the most bang for their buck. If we removed both the game and the toy from our Kickstarter, we’d be raising $43,000 instead of $50,000, and we wouldn’t have any rewards to offer in order to try to reach that goal!

That’s why we went forward with these NOW, but as far as “why get toys” or “why go for games,” the answer is much easier.

I’d played - and loved - the X-Men arcade game before I read my first X-men comic. I also had the tradable cards, and struggled to get that final 9 card Danger Room set together to make the larger picture.

I try to make sure Super! is hitting those same notes and playing that same song, because I want comic fans to feel like I did when I was a kid. There was this sense of awe and wonder to it. With Super!, we can recapture some of that.

As far as toys, I have toys all around my house from games and TV shows, and now I’ve got one of my characters running around. That’s why I pushed the team for toys. There were other reasons I’m sure, because “I like it! It’s shiny!” doesn’t go far at our meetings, but that’s the core of the decision as far as I was concerned.

Me: Who worked on the video game and what is the basic premise of it?

Piatt: I did. The Super! game is created in house, with our other team members providing much needed audio and testing support, as well as feedback into the overall design.

I’ve been obsessed with getting Super! into video game form for YEARS now, and while it’d be killer to hook up with a studio for it… whose got money for that? Not us! We’re trying to make a comic! :)

We focused on the Streak because he naturally fit into a small-scale arcade title with the assets that were already available. I’d love to make a game featuring other characters, with a deeper scope, but you need a budget for that!

The basic premise of the game is that aliens have invaded and you’re running around as the Streak, picking up civilians and getting them to a hospital. Short and sweet. While I’d love to expand its functionality, it’ll always have a “pick-up-and-play” feel to it.

If you’re not having fun with a game within ten seconds, something is wrong.

Me: You compared the play style to Temple Run. For people who haven’t played Temple Run, how would you describe what that means for the Super! game?

Piatt: It’s like Temple Run in that that the camera is behind a character who is running straight, and you’ve got to avoid stuff or die. But that’s just about where the similarities end. Ideally, I’d like to keep this game objective based. Your progress is measured now by how many civilians you save. I’d like to keep adding things for your character to do that progress the experience along.

The Commodore 64 game Quest for Tires did this nicely. You were rolling in the jungle, you fought a boss, you were rolling up a hill, you jumped a volcano, you rolled down the hill, you fought a boss, etc. Same simple play mechanics, but it was satisfying.

Temple Run gets replays because of its insanely complex currency system. You’re getting coins, you’re spending coins on useless stuff. You’re buying coins with money. It’s genius I’m sure, but it’s not really fun either, and if you’re not making a game so that someone can have fun, you’re not making a game; you’re making a slot machine.

Headline: The Super! game will look like Temple Run but feel like Quest for Tires.

Byline: Super! creators die penniless in a gutter somewhere. :)
Me: How did you create the figures?

Piatt: Zack drew up toy designs for eight characters about two years ago for our Volume 1 Kickstarter. At that point, we started contacting companies and got a few sample figures made. At the end of the day we went with the manufacturer who had the best sample. The largest cost - the mold creation and actual production - we hold off on until we actually have the funds to make them, which makes the toys perfect for Kickstarter.

Me: To finish off the interview with everyone, if you were a character in the Super! universe, what superpowers would you have and why would these be your powers?

Piatt: I’d be Hotspot, the master of Wi-fi. I’d have the power to bring whole networks down to their knees and slow production to a standstill, but I’d still be loved by the people because of my free wireless internet. Plus, stopping aliens is one thing, but there needs to be at least one vigilante hero taking on Comcast.

I was going to go with super-speakers, so I could make really cool entrances, but the Wi-Fi would also be kind of cool.

Dolan: I think I would need a combination of super strength and invulnerability. I have uncontrollable urges to break stuff when I get mad, and I feel like it would be really stress relieving to just be able to crash through buildings like some sort of demented Kool-Aid Man.  Also, who hasn’t had the urge to punch someone to the moon when they make you mad? I say you need both strength and invulnerability, because without one, the other is somewhat useless. Super strength is no good if you tear your super strong arms out of their sockets trying to lift a tank and being indestructible is not exactly useless, but if you were just a regular dude it would definitely not be as fun. Haha!

Foster: I think I’d like some kind of druidic powers - communing with animals and nature and all that kind of stuff.  I want to ride a tiger while I command the trees to walk!  I’m just a weirdo that way.  :)

Me: Thank you for your time; it has been super! Check out Super! Volume 2 and pledge to their official Kickstarter here.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have it showcased on “Kickstart the Week?” Let me know in the comments below or message me on my personal website  

Other “Kickstart the Week” features: 

No comments:

Post a Comment