Friday, January 27, 2017

Kickstart the Week(end) with Team Synergy Vol. 1: Spellbound

By: Nicole D’Andria

“For every young girl who never had a super hero of their own to look up to, this is TEAM SYNERGY!” This is the description emblazoned on the first Kickstarter being showcased this year on Kickstart the Week(end). Enjoy a title filled with super heroines and a conversation with the entire creative team.

Launched by HBComics, Team Synergy is about five teenage girls, all cousins, who have superpowers. They are being trained by their grandmother, the original super heroine, to become the best team they can be.

Team Synergy is written by Alan Hebert (Lazerman) with art by Scott Shriver (Fem Force) and colors by Chris Hebert (Lazerman). They need to raise $3,500 in order to successfully fund the project before February 24, 2017 at 8:00 PM EST. Some rewards include a digital ($5) and/or physical ($20) copy of the trade paperback, a T-shirt ($45), a custom piece of art ($50), an AWESOME GIRL action figure ($60), every issue from HBComics lineup of comics (also $60) and more. Want to pledge money to the project or learn more about it? View the official Kickstarter here.

For even more information about the project, I interviewed Alan, Scott and Chris.

Alan Hebert

Me: What inspired you to make a comic book series specifically targeted at girls?

Alan Herbert: Several things, actually Nicole.

First there is my family. My brother has two girls. My sister has one. Two different cousins have two girls each. My brother’s in-laws have all girls. Family birthday parties boil down to about 15 girls and only two boys. We have a very close family. While watching two of my nieces, I tried to find something to put on TV for them. I ended up putting an old VHS of Sailor Moon on for them. As I was watching it, it occurred to me that Sailor Moon was, essentially, a Japanese Superhero show. I then started questioning why I had to go all the way to Japan for female super heroes. The girls were eight years old at the time, and I couldn’t think of a comic book appropriate for them either. This all started the wheels turning.

The second thing was from doing conventions. When we started publishing Lazerman years ago, we began to realize that there wasn’t a lot of comics that parents felt comfortable giving to their children. Lazerman always caught the parents’ eye as something they could buy, and it’s one of the biggest reasons for the success we have on that book. As we sold the book at conventions, I noticed more and more young girls. Fathers who have gone to conventions for years are now bringing their daughters, and sometimes full families are going together to the cons. While Lazerman actually sold really well to the girls as well as the boys, it did start to occur to me that there was nothing designed specifically at them. I began to realize that there was this massive hole in the industry, and I had family members directly affected by it.

Me: How would you describe the current state of female characters in comics? Who would you say are some of the most empowering and the least empowering examples of women in comics right now?

Alan Herbert: There aren’t any super hero comics aimed at young girls. Walk into a comic book store, you either find stuff that is too “kiddie” or stuff that is aimed at late-teenagers or adults. Many of the female characters are dealing with adult situations, scantily clad with gigantic boobs. None of that I want to buy for my 10 year old nieces. I don’t trust the “Big Two” anymore, I wouldn’t buy a comic from one of them for anyone under 14. To find a regular, good old-fashioned super hero comic book that you can give a kid but isn’t dumbed-down is rare, and nonexistent for girls.

Me: Can you describe each of the five girls on Team Synergy, including their personalities and powers?

Alan Herbert: I went for what I call the “Breakfast Club” dynamic. All the girls are from different high school social groups. They are all distant cousins, and inherited their powers from their great-grandmother, who we find out was one of the original superheroes in our universe. “Granny” is their trainer and mentor.

Awesome Girl is a jock-type. She is team leader and has super strength. She is fairly overconfident and a bit of a show-off.

Hot Pink is in the cheerleading squad in High School. She flies and has fire-based powers. She is also very confident, and smart. She often buts heads with Awesome Girl.

Scatter Brain is a punk-rocker type, she’s ¾ Japanese and probably the smartest member of the team. On skin-to skin-touch she can send an electrical shock to your brain that will knock you out instantly.

Glitterbug is the geek of the group. She’s into anime. She shrinks and throws a stinging “sparkle dust”. She is also overweight and has confidence problems.

Pinball was raised in the South, she belongs to that social group that is somewhere in the middle and tends to get forgotten about. She can roll herself into a ball and knock over several opponents, bouncing off them, well, like a pinball. She is the most vocal.

Me: What is the number one reason you think people should pledge money to Team Synergy?

Alan Herbert: There is really no comic out there like this. There needs to be more female super heroes out there. There needs to be more books parents can buy for their girls. We have a proven track record of not just getting a book produced, but coming out with continual issues of a series.

Me: This Kickstarter is for the first volume of Team Synergy. Can you tell us anything possible future volumes for the series?

Alan Herbert: The first volume is basically their first public superhero appearance. The second volume will go back and tell their backstory of how they were all introduced to each other (they are all distant cousins and have never met). Further issues will set up their rogue’s gallery, and maybe even a crossover or two with our other books.

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

Alan Herbert: Just do it. Seriously. If you want to be a writer, sit down and write. The difference between me and you is that I sat down and wrote, and completed it, and got it down. That script you are talking about writing? Get on the computer and write it now.

Scott Shriver

Me: How did you get involved with the Team Synergy project?

Scott Shriver: I was already working with HBComics as an inker when needed. I had expressed an interest to do some solo work and the boys gave me a try-out for Team Synergy.

Me: If you had to pick, which character is your favorite to draw on Team Synergy and why are they your favorite?

Scott Shriver: Picking a favorite character to draw is tough as I like them all. Scatterbrain is a fun character to draw with her spiky hair and punk get-up. Probably her and Awesome Girl are my favorites to draw. Each character has a pretty distinct attitude and has to be drawn to fit that.

Me: How would you describe the current state of female characters in comics? Who would you say are some of the most empowering and the least empowering examples of women in comics right now?

Shriver: I'm going to be biased and say some of the most empowering female characters are right in AC Comics Femforce comic, which is not only one of the longest running indy comics still being sold through Diamond, but also the longest running female group book ever (and I just happen to do inks for them). I would say one of the worst role models for girls is the new Harley Quin with maybe Wonder Women being one of the better examples.

Me: What is the number one reason you think people should pledge money to Team Synergy?

Shriver: I think people should back Team Synergy if they have any younger girls in the family that might be into comics or might be ready to get into comics if the right title came along. The book is very girl-centric and I've seen how excited some of these kids look in the convention photos when they discover Team Synergy. In a lot of ways, this Kickstarter is tough. We are asking people (for the most part) to give financially to someone else instead of themselves. Team Synergy is clearly not your usual fan-boy comic. Most kids don't have credit cards, so I'm hoping some thoughtful adults will come on board to help them get this comic!

Me: What inspirational words do you have for people aspiring to get into comics?

Shriver: For anyone in general who wants to get into comics I would say realize it's a long road and it takes a lot of work and study. Do your own mini-comics and develop a style. Do that for a few years if you need to. Connect with people online who are in a similar circumstance and work together to hone your skills. And if you are really serious about what you are doing, just never give up. Just keep improving.

Chris Hebert

Me: You are an artist as well as a colorist. Why did you decide to just be a colorist on this issue and not do the artwork yourself?

Chris Hebert: A few reasons, actually. First of all, we publish six titles at HBComics. Since the beginning, I've been the artist for our premier title, Lazerman. Between my duties on that title, and my duties overseeing the art for the other five titles as well, there simply aren't enough hours in a day. The more important reason, however, is style. I believe that you match an artist to a book the same way you cast an actor in a movie. In this case, Scott's style is exactly the tone and feel we were looking for. I simply think he's better for the part.

Me: How would you describe the current state of female characters in comics? Who would you say are some of the most empowering and the least empowering examples of women in comics right now?

Chris Hebert: I think we are in a strange transitional state at the moment. Publishers are clearly making an effort to focus more on female heroes, but I think ultimately many of the efforts feel like placating half measures. Taking an established character like Wolverine, Iron Man, or Thor, and replacing them with new female versions of them, feels like a stopgap solution to the issue at best. Comics are cyclical. They constantly challenge the status quo to shake up sales, then return to the status quo in dramatic fashion. It's happened over and over again. Does anyone really think that at some point Marvel is not going to have a dramatic “return of Wolverine” storyline? Or restore Thor Odinson as the official Thor? A lot of people forget Thor was already female 10 years ago (Odin punished Thor for his misogyny and transformed him). How long did THAT last? This is what comics have been doing for decades. As a result, this current drive to bring more female characters to the mainstream feels incredibly temporary. What could be less empowering than being handed a female hero that you know will be replaced as soon as people start to miss the old version?

Me: You founded HBComics with your brother, Alan. Why did you decide to go into the comic book business together and create your own publishing company?

Chris Hebert: A: I consider us a “self-publishing studio.” By that I mean, we create our own material in house, then publish it through our own resources as a means to get it out into the world. We grew up with a love of comic books, and very creatively driven minds. As the industry changed and morphed through the 90s into the 2000s, we noticed many of the elements that attracted us to the genre in the first place sort of fell out of favor. Comics became darker, and infinitely more cynical. In the end, they were simply less fun. We create comics that try to recapture that lighter, more optimistic feel that the industry is lacking. We publish them ourselves simply as a means to make sure they get out there.

Me: What is the number one reason you think people should pledge money to Team Synergy?

Chris Hebert: This is a scenario we've seen played out at many conventions we've done: A family approaches our table, made up of, say, a mother, father, a son and a daughter. Usually the son, with his father, approach our table eagerly looking over our books. The daughter stands three feet away, with the mother waiting patiently for them to be done so they can move on to another table. She literally doesn't expect that anything at the table will be for her. Since we released the first single issue of Team Synergy, now we address that young lady, with the book outstretched in our hands, and invite her to look though it as well. At that moment, they LIGHT UP with excitement. They realize there IS something at our table just for them. I think that's reason enough that this title NEEDS to happen.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book artists and colorists?

Chris Hebert: I don't know if it's inspirational, but I'd say “Love what you do. If you see it as a labor or simply as a means to an end, you'll get frustrated and jaded. If you truly enjoy doing it, eventually you'll find your audience, and you'll have fun doing so.” To quote Marc Anthony: “If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.” 

Me: A big thanks to the entire creative team for taking the time to answer my question! If you’re interested in checking out Team Synergy, see their official Kickstarter here.

Do you have a Kickstarter? Want to be interviewed about it and have the project featured on "Kickstart the Week?" Let me know in the comments below or message me on my website.

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