Friday, October 26, 2018

Kickstart the Week(end) with Heroes International - Ongoing Comic Book Series

By: Nicole D’Andria

A superhero team like you’ve never seen before… because they suck at it! Heroes International is Short Fuse Media’s and Freestyle Komics latest foray into the world of superheroes. I interview the creative team about their publisher and the new super comic.

This new ongoing series takes place years after tragedy struck in “The Zero Event.” That’s when all of the superhero population disappeared and newly powered superheroes starting to come out and fight the crime left behind. A division of the government called the Extra Human Division (EHD) starts brining several of these untrained heroes together to start a new the super team called Heroes International. Now it’s up to them to save the world… or fail spectacularly and die!

Heroes International is published by Freestyle Komics, which is part of the Short Fuse Media family. Short Fuse Media is known for their superhero comics and has been featured on “Kickstart the Week” several times before with their “Alignment” line of comics and our very own Comic Uno’s Like Father, Like Daughter comic book series. This new super series is brought to us from writer Ethan Murphy, artist Anna D’amico, colorist Veronica Smith, creative editor and Editor-in-chief Michael Watson along with editor and letterer Danny Cooper.
The project is trying to raise $2,600 to pay the creative team for Heroes International, which has several, pretty much complete issues, ready to be read by backers. Rewards include digital and physical copies of Heroes International #1 ($5), digital bundles with other Shot Fuse titles such as Chess #1 and Heroes: Ignited Annual #1 among several other digital titles ($10), and even more reward tiers that include issues #2 ($15) and #3 ($25) of Heroes International. If you want to see their other offerings, check out the official Kickstarter for Heroes International.

I interviewed publisher Michael Watson, Editor in Chief of Freestyle Komics Danny Cooper and colorist Veronica Smith.

Michael Watson
Me: As the publisher of the comic, why do you feel Heroes International is a good fit for Short Fuse Media and Freestyle Komics in particular?

Watson: It’s a good fit for SFM and FSK because it’s what they need. The book is about the underdog team literally learning how to be legends. These heroes are chasing after the heroes they looked up to. And now they have to learn how to be them, if not better. The difference is they have to do it their way, it cannot be the same exact path as the previous team. That relates back to SFM/FSK as we are making comics because we love them and we want to be like the legends who brought our favorite heroes to life. We cannot do it their way though, it has to be our own. We have made many mistakes learning about how to make comics, but now we use that experience to become better and soar further in this industry. The book is a great book with relatable characters that people can rally behind or even dislike.

From Heroes International #1

Me: How was the creative team for this book determined?  

Watson: When looking for the team we wanted a writer that would come at the comic different from any other comic. We were crafting the misfits; enter Luke Herr. A great writer who is very critical, detail-oriented and thinks outside the box. Luke reads comics that I don’t read and I wanted that so we can grow our audience and make our books versatile.

The artist needed to be dope and have the ability to draw a variety of people that looked like people you actually could see walking down the street. Meet Quinn McGowan. I saw his art online and he drew amazing looking people that were very down to earth. His background work is what really stood out to me. Honestly I did not think he could fit it into his schedule but when I called asking him for recommendations he said “Me.”

Letters and colors were easy as I had two people in those roles I trusted and both can do a ton of different styles. Danny Cooper on letters and Veronica Smith on colors. Danny has worked with me on several books prior and has a very smart eye for letter work. He actually studies for each gig prior to starting and develops text for each series so it’s unique to that IP. Veronica not only has the speed and professionalism down, she can also mimic or create any style needed for different comics. Danny and Veronica made the books their own and dedicated extra time to help in editorial and ensuring we put our best foot forward with each issue.

Heroes International #2 Cover
Me: What are your future plans for this book after Kickstarter?

Watson: After the Kickstarter, well, we gotta deliver, as it’s kind of our thing. We will be working on fulfilling all the pledges immediately upon the funding process being completed. Next up is more releases from Short Fuse. We actually just met with our Joint Chiefs (EIC) and got everyone’s target projected for next year. As far as Freestyle Komics is concerned, we are working on all the next installments of their five books: Hotshot, Vigilance, Heroes International (yes, the next issue after the KS), Emerald Quest, and Cypher. With two more books on the dockets, Zero Event and Taijutsu Gates. Further down the line: continue delivering and bringing great comics to the industry and fandom.
Me: If you had to pick one of the members of Heroes International to be, which character would you pick and why?

Watson: Ad-Lib for the chance to have access to every power would be awesome. Especially if you could master it. I would not have to pick as I would have them all. I am a bit greedy lol.

From Heroes International #2

Me: What’s the number one reason why you think people should pledge money to your project?

Watson: The number one reason is because you can see yourself as one of these characters. In our books anyone can be Epic, anyone!

Me: What inspirational words do you have for people aspiring to create their own comic book publisher?

Watson: DO IT! It is literally that simple. It will never happen if you do not do it. Make and complete it. Set a goal you can hit in the beginning just so you can get the sense of completion so you know what it feels like. Do not judge yourself by where other people are in the industry; come out with positive energy and make people remember who you are with a great genuine attitude about what you do.

Danny Cooper

Me: How does Freestyle Komics differ from other superhero comic book universes?

Cooper: Here at FSK, we are building an entire universe with a finite story. We know exactly how many issues away we are from our big moments and how the story of the FSK Universe, or as we like to call it, the HOTSHOTVERSE, will eventually conclude.  

A lot of credit goes to the writer of the first six part story arc of our flagship title, Hotshot. When Victor Dandridge wrote those first six issues he helped create the blueprint to the FSK Universe, the tragic history of the FSK Universe and many of the characters that it contains, including Heroes International.

I don’t know many indie comic companies that are working to tell a story of this magnitude. We have released 18 issues across five titles (Hotshot #0-9, Vigilance #1-3, Heroes International #1 & 2, Emerald Quest #1 and The Cypher #1 & 2). At the conclusion of this Kickstarter we will have 20 issues total available through the Short Fuse Media Group library. In 2019 we will be adding a sixth title with the long awaited mini-series Zero Event.

More than anything, FSK isn’t a subsidiary of a large corporation ultimately required to meet the expectation of shareholders. This means we aren’t strategically running annual mega crossovers or launching constant reboots back to issue #1 hoping to spike quarterly profit reports by snagging “new” readers. I say that with the utmost respect, but this comes with an undeniable level of creative freedom that allows us to tell OUR story OUR way.   

From Heroes International #2

Me: Why do you feel Heroes International embodies what Freestyle Komics is all about?

Cooper: Our goal at FSK is to create stories where ANYONE... no matter their gender, age, race or planet of origin... can be EPIC!  The story of Heroes International is about a team of diverse and inexperienced heroes going through the trials it takes to become EPIC.  

Me: What are the plans for the future of the Freestyle Komics Universe?

Cooper: I mentioned before that we are telling a finite story. We have specific and epic plans in the future for what will be happening in the FSK universe. I don’t want to go into too many specifics but we are working to make sure each story or title can stand on its own while making sure we are working toward an EPIC crossover. But here are some specifics of what we have in development right now.

Hotshot: Michael Watson is currently working on tweaks for the script to issue 10. This will be the first part of the next three part story arc called “The Calamity of Hotshot” where Hotshot is going to learn to deal with failure.

Vigilance: New writer Stefani Manard is working on the script to Vigilance #4 now.  This will also be a three part story arc that will explore who Vigilance is outside the uniform while we learn more about her mysterious past.

Heroes International: This Kickstarter will allow us to release issue 3, which was written by Ethan Murphy. Ethan will be putting the team through the ringer as they work to become the superhero team they are destined to be… or die trying. Issue 4 is in the edit/rewrite process now and this arc will conclude with issue 5.

Emerald Quest: Issue 3 has been written by Michael Watson and is currently being drawn by the talented James Peay. There are some big adventures in store for our hero Marki.

The Cypher: Issue 3 and 4 are in development as we will follow the story of Wolfe and Basement of Doom.

Zero Event: Victor Dandridge is returning to FSK to finish what he started by writing the Zero Event mini-series. This will finally tell in detail the tragic story of the Zero Event that shaped the FSK Universe that we know today while revealing a few surprises along the way. Issue 1 has been written and pencils are underway by the uber talented Mike Lancette. For constant teases of Mike’s progress, check out his Instagram page @mikelancetteart.
Me: If you had to pick one of the members of Heroes International to be, which character would you pick and why?

Cooper: Wow… that’s a tough one. I can relate to each member in a certain way so it's really difficult to pick just one. For example, my professional work history in management allows me to relate to the team’s leader, IronSmith. Being the nerdy guy in my circle means I’m the one that gets the call when someone’s computer breaks. So that allows me to relate to Spyware. As a 36 year dad of four that is rocking the “2018 Dad Bod,” I can definitely relate to Hue-Man and applaud his comfort level with his gut on display in white spandex. Seriously, white spandex… smh. I love speedsters so I’m a big fan of Nimbus. I can relate to the isolation that SoundByte must be experiencing. I love how Titan has to overcome body shaming and I LOVE her spirit. Ad-Lib is fantastic as she can do anything! Sometimes you gotta fix an issue with a hammer… who can’t relate to Crag!

I guess if I have to pick just one… I’m going with Vigilance cuz she’s the strongest hero on Earth. Maybe that’s a cheap answer… but it’s freaking Vigilance!

From Heroes International #2

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

Cooper: A few years ago I read an article with the Russo Brothers about their approach to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  They legit said that one of their goals was to make sure that the folks over at “Honest Trailers” could not spoof the film. This inspired me as an editor to strive for the same level of success on all titles I support.

More specifically, I recommend finding the balance between making sure the end product is the best it possibly can be while the voice of the creators can still be heard. Be respectful to your creators but don’t be afraid to do your job, which comes with a lot of responsibility. Your job goes beyond script review, so make sure you work with your creators every step of the way to ensure the book is meeting all expectations. Ultimately, you should be proud of the final product and make sure you give praise and recognition to your creative team.

Veronica Smith

Me: How did you determine the type of color palette you should use for this book?

Smith: I came in on issue 2, and being that it’s set in a space prison we wanted a different look for the book. The creators wanted a look that was similar to a Rico Renzi style, so I started by studying him. His colors are very bold, so it was a challenge for me and a test to go beyond my comfort zone, pushing beyond how’d I’d done things before.

Me: How did you become part of this project?

Smith: FSK creator Mike Watson first brought me to the company to color Hotshot.  I don’t know the details, but the colorist who worked on Issue 1 of Heroes International was unavailable so Mike asked me to step in.

Heroes International #3 Cover
Me: What has the experience of working with Short Fuse Media been like?

Smith: Working with Short Fuse has gone well so far. They’re dedicated to putting out great comics, going above and beyond to make sure that the creators are doing their best and producing the best books they can.

Me: Which page/panel was your favorite to color and why?

Smith: That’s a tough one! There are so many, but I’d have to pick one from issue 2 because it’s so much different from everything else I’ve done. I’d have to go with page 5 because it’s a bit of a topsy turvy page, showing the criminals who reside in the prison while simultaneously giving us a look at the prison itself.  Artist Quinn McGowen really gives a feeling of being in outer space by drawing panels from all angles, especially upside down.

Heroes International #1 Cover B
Me: If you had to pick one of the members of Heroes International to be, which character would you pick and why?

Smith: I feel like I’m already quite like Titan. Being overweight most of my life, I’ve had to deal with bullying and body shaming. I admire her for doing her best to let go of how others have treated her and not only embracing and accepting herself the way she is, but embracing the new friends she’s making in Heroes International.

Me: What’s the number one reason why you think people should pledge money to your project?

Smith: There are so many great messages underneath the exciting storylines in Heroes International. One of them that Titan is attempting to learn is to believe in yourself. A lot of people, me included, have trouble believing the good things people say about us. We don’t have a lot of confidence and can’t accept that we have greatness in us. That’s what I find so great about Freestyle Komics. Our motto is that anyone can be epic. The journey is all in discovering it for ourselves.

Heroes International #2 Cover B
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring colorists?

Smith: Don’t give up!  The old adage that practice makes perfect is true. Google is your friend. There are so many tutorials of different ways to color. Many of the colorists out there have livestreams. Watch them and learn something. Ask them how they do things. Look at the world around you! Really pay attention to light and shadow, how light plays against different surfaces; it’ll give your work more depth. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. If you put in the hard work, it will pay off.

NETWORKING is key!  Nobody will find you if you don’t get your work out there. Post on Instagram. Join colorist groups on Facebook. Get involved and ask questions. You never know when somebody might see you and give you a chance. That’s how Mike Watson found me - through a Facebook group, and now I’m lead colorist and Production Editor of FSK.

Heroes International #3 Cover B
Me: Thank you all for sharing your superhero journeys with me! If you’re reading this and you’re interested discovering the mysteries of “The Zero Event” that made all the best superheroes disappear and left us with the Heroes International, check out the Kickstarter for the ongoing series 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.

Other “Kickstart the Week” features:


  1. Thanks for the opportunity to speak on Heroes International AND Freestyle Komics.

    1. Happy to do it! Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed! :)

  2. Thank you for the article and chance to show case our work.

    1. You're very welcome, happy to talk with you! :)

  3. Uh oh, I'm behind! :D Thank you for the opportunity to share this project! I've had a lot of fun being a part of Freestyle Komics and hopefully others can share in our enthusiasm and enjoy the books too!