Friday, September 28, 2012

Virtual Comic Con: Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, creators of Alpha Girls

The fifth and final day of Virtual Comic Con is here! We close out the event by talking to Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, creators of comic and movie production studio South Fellini. Tony and Johnny discuss their various comic series, their new movie, and baby mammas.

Brian: You've published five comic series with various publishers such as Red 5 and Image, and also published directly via Comixology. Do you approach publishers differently from one another, and have you learned different things about publishing from dealing with multiple companies?

Tony: Each project is unique so it kind of gets started in its own way.  But in the end we look to get the comics into as many platforms as possible.  We want to be on-line, in phones, floppy issues and graphic novels.

Johnny:  The only thing we know for certain about comic book distribution is that everyone reads comics differently.  We want to get our stories into as many people's hands as possible.

Brian: With Moon Girl, you took an obscure public domain character created by Gardner Fox/Sheldon Moldoff and managed to both keep her true to her roots in the 50s, yet also modernized her well for today's audience. What were the challenges in doing that?

Johnny: We wanted to work on something super hero based because of Rahzzah, the illustrator of Moon Girl.  His very realistic, painterly style lent itself to making incredible seem credible in a cinematic way.  So we started looking for something in the public domain, something that had roots in the shared past of super hero comics.

Tony: Moon Girl took a lot of inspiration from books like Marvels and New Frontier.  Super heroes seem to function best when they're recontextualized to that 1950's setting.  So when we stumbled onto Moon Girl these ideas all came together at once.

Johnny:  The comic is about social unrest in America in a time after a great war.  There are some parallels to the world we live in today.  Everyone is looking inside themselves, flush with possibility, trying to decide the kind of future they're going to build together.

Tony: All five issues will be collected into a graphic novel this year.

Brian: Carnivale de Robotique is the only all ages comic South Fellini has done. Did the story itself dictate that direction, or did you decide first that you wanted to try an all ages series and go from there?

Tony: We self-published Robotique for Indie Comic Day or Skip Week, some special event where all the big publishers were not going to have any new releases.  So a lot of us independent folks put out books on our own.  We called comic shops and solicited the comic ourselves.  And we got lucky, the stores were very supportive of the event.

Johnny: It's a four-part comic about Wendy the nanny droid, who runs away to join the robot circus.  And she kind of finds her way in the world by persuing her dreams.  We tried to tell a fairy tale from the future and Mark Fionda brought some gorgeous water colors to the mix.  I think the comic is still very adult but the images hide the subtext.

Brian: DOGS of Mars has often been compared to Alien for obvious reasons, but takes a unique approach with its art,  in suggesting rather than explicitly showing the creatures and most of the violence they cause, and also in the color scheme (only black, white, and shades of red). Was that your idea or did the artist conceive of that approach?

Johnny: We met Paul Maybury, the artist on DOGS of Mars, at San Diego Comic Con in 2010.  All three of us had shuffled through DC Comics digital imprint and come out the other side looking to work together on something genre.  We talked a lot about Japanese gore core, war movies and real world robots.  Paul came up with the red color scheme based on the submarine lighting and the traditional tones of Mars.

Tony: DOGS isn't really about the monster.  It's about the people the monster is trying to kill.  There are obvious allusions to Aliens but the Lord of the Flies-style breakdown in society is what's really terrifying. Friends are turning on one another and rivals are the only people you have left.  Trapped at the edge, these people have to give up their humanity if they want to survive.

Brian: Your latest project is the live action film Alpha Girls, about a satanic sorority. Judging by the trailer, there is a definite 1970s grindhouse influence. What is it about the horror films of that era that resonate so strongly with audiences today?

Johnny:  I think we were really inspired by Suspiria, Heathers, and Evil Dead. These movies served as the visual vocabulary between people creatively involved in the project.  These are the films that get you excited to make something of your own.  There’s an energy and excitement on screen that translates so well because the people making it love what they do.

Tony: Alpha Girls was going to be a comic book originally.  We got really into the sorority/coven idea ourselves and after a few weeks it was like, hey… I think we can make this. There's a universal appeal to the horror genre because it's about revealing a hidden world that we all secretly believe could be true.  How did all those people get rich and famous? The devil did it.

Brian: All of your work, up to and including Alpha Girls, features women characters guiding almost all of the story, yet South Fellini consists of two guys from South Philly. Why has featuring women characters in the forefront of your projects been so crucial creatively?

Johnny: They told us to write what we know.

Tony: We love our bad-ass mothers very much.

Brian: If Alpha Girls is a success (and I hope it is for you), will movies be the main creation of South Fellini going forward, or will comics still be a creative outlet in the future?

Johnny: We wanna make all our comics into movies and all of our movies into comics.

Tony: For all of the Baby Mamas, Baby momma momma’s and Baby momma’s mommas of the world.

Thanks Tony and Johnny!

Alpha Girls will be screening at the Trocadero in Philadelphia next Wednesday, October 3rd, and in Washington, DC at the E Street Theater next Saturday, October 6th. For full details, click here.

Here's a glimpse of what you can expect from Alpha Girls (NSFW). And yes, that is who you think it is as the priest!

And with that, we wrap up my first-ever Virtual Comic Con! I want to thank all of my guests who have made this a great event: Jeff Parker, Shawn Aldridge, Joe Rybandt, and Tony Trov and Johnny Zito. I couldn't have done it without you!

Most of all, I want to thank you, the reader, for taking part. I hope you enjoyed my version of a comic con. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments sections or at I definitely want to do this again next year--perhaps more than once.

It's only fitting that I close out the con with news of a horror film, because it makes a perfect segue to my next blog event--the Countdown to Halloween! It's a mere three days away. I have tons of great stuff to share with you, so please stay tuned. It all starts Monday, October 1st. See you there!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Virtual Comic Con: Joe Rybandt, editor at Dynamite Entertainment

Welcome to Day 4 of the Virtual Comic Con. Today I'm speaking with Joe Rybandt, editor at Dynamite Entertainment.

Based in Runnemede, NJ, right outside my hometown of Philadelphia and next door to my current town of Bellmawr, Dynamite Entertainment publishes a mix of original characters, such as Garth Ennis' The Boys, and licensed properties such as The Shadow, Red Sonja, and The Green Hornet. Dynamite has also been known to collaborate with other comic companies on projects such as Avengers/Invaders with Marvel. Dynamite's sister company, Dynamic Forces, creates collectibles such as special edition comics and prints. I talk with Joe about these projects and what makes Dynamite different from the competition.

Brian: When did you first become a comics fan, and how did those early experiences inspire you to enter the comics industry?

Joe: It was in the 4th grade, when a friend brought in a copy of an X-Men comic. It was a reprint of a Lee/Kirby issue, #4 I think. I read some more of this friend’s comics and then eventually started buying my own from the local pharmacy or grocery store. I wasn’t until right before high school I found the comic shop in town. Those early years were consumed with Marvel and the X-Men in particular. My palette expanded later…

Brian: What eventually led you to Dynamite Entertainment?

Joe: A series of happy coincidences which really kicked off when I moved from suburban Chicago to just outside Baltimore, MD. I had worked comic book retail in IL while figuring out my life, and when I met who would become my wife and moved to MD, a series of events led me through several employers and states over the next decade or so. I’ve been with Dynamic Forces for 11 years, and the bulk of that now has been under the publishing division, Dynamite Entertainment.

Brian: Creator/publisher relationships have been under scrutiny lately. Dynamite has been publishing work by the same creators for a long time, such as Alex Ross, Kevin Smith, Garth Ennis, Stephen Segovia, and Frank Cho to name a few. How does Dynamite maintain good relationships with its creators?

Joe: Most of these relationships started well before we started publishing comics. Alex and Nick [Barrucci, CEO of Dynamite] have been friends for years before we ever published a comic. Creators like Garth started with us when we were publishing, but in all cases, I think our approach and relatively small size helps creators find a comfort level that layers of corporate bureaucracy can’t provide.

Brian: Dynamite has had a lot of success with licensed properties, where some other comics publishers have stumbled. How does Dynamite approach licensed properties differently than other companies?

Joe: We started with licensed comics and I think that making those early titles work just set a paradigm that continues to this day. The key is finding the right talent and that starts with the writer, if you hire the right talent you make every aspect of the process easier to manage and we’ve been very fortunate in that regard.

Brian: Dynamite is in competition with other companies of course, yet you've also co-published with those same publishers (i.e. Avengers/Invaders with Marvel, my first exposure to Dynamite comics) and also create collectibles with other companies through Dynamite's sister company, Dynamic Forces. Is it ever awkward to be both a collaborator and competitor at the same time?

Joe: Not for us! These types of things come and go and when they happen, they’re a lot of fun, but they’re certainly not constant…

Brian: I really enjoyed Kirby Genesis. That series was my first experience with those Kirby characters. How did that project come about, and what was it like to edit that series?

Joe: It came about by building up a relationship with the Kirby family and then putting the creative team together. We did this one a little different than we do most others in that once Alex and Kurt were on board, we all got together at Alex’s house and put the main series together (Kurt and Alex in the lead, of course!). It was a lot of fun and made for a memorable experience to be sure. A lot of this job is sitting in an office and banging away at a keyboard, so to be in the presence of other humans, making comics, was really unique.

Thanks Joe!

You can download Dynamite comics at Comixology, or find print copies at your local comic shop, which you can find at Comic Shop Locator.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Virtual Comic Con 2012: Shawn Aldridge, writer of Vic Boone

Day 3 of the Virtual Comic Con is upon us. Today, I talk with Shawn Aldridge, writer of Vic Boone: Malfunction Murder.

Shawn lives in Portland, Oregon, as do many comic creators, and has published his series Vic Boone with Philadelphia-based comic publisher 215 Ink. I asked Shawn about his inspiration for Vic, how he balances the various genres that blend together to make the series enjoyable, and his views on comic creators relationships with publishers.

Brian: Where did the ideas behind Vic Boone come from: the former daredevil turned private eye, the mixture of old school noir and science fiction, Vic's destructive personality, etc.? I know your father was a big influence on the series.

Shawn:  It was my uncle who was the biggest influence on the creation of Vic Boone. Growing up, I spent a lot of time around him. He'd watch anything that had science fiction or fantasy elements no matter how bad it might be. The classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet were a part of his childhood and by extension became a part of mine. He was also responsible for my love of comics. He'd bring over a stack every couples of weeks and leave them for me to read. 

The initial idea to mix noir and science fiction came one night when I was looking through some 60s pulp novels I had. Two covers, one science fiction, the other a tough guy pulp, just happened to be juxtaposed in a way to spur the idea of mixing the two genres. Not the most original idea, but the first spark seldom is. I think it's how you expand it that makes it yours. For me that came from the question, What if all those early science fiction movies had actually happened, that they weren't Hollywood fiction but were historical fact?

With that world in place, I knew it would only be as interesting as the character who walked you through it. Enter Vic Boone. Making him a private eye seemed a good way to set up situations to put him in, but I also wanted there to be something unique about him. His being a former motorcycle daredevil seemed to work on a few different levels and played into the themes I wanted to explore. I view Boone as this guy who is always trying to prove his worth in a world where the worth of a human is slowing fading away. He firmly believes that good ol' sweat and grit can trump any amount of technology. To him technology is a crutch that will eventually turn you soft.

Brian:  Do you see any of yourself in Vic's character?

Shawn: There's probably a little of my own personality that comes through in Boone. I can definitely be a bit of a smart ass and we both share a love for vintage motorcycles. Oh, and we both have bad knees. haha.  But I can safely say I don't have the destructive personality that Boone has, nor have I ever had a bad thing to say about a robot. 

Brian: Humor plays a big part of the Vic Boone experience, yet it never undercuts the action and the dangerous situations Vic finds himself in. How do you find the right balance?

Shawn: That's a tough one. It's probably a mix of trial and error and experience gained from those errors. What I try to do is approach the scene first and do what I think best serves it. Does a joke take something away from this scene? Is this bit here a bit too serious? Once I lock in the scene, I pull back to see how it fits into the overall story. Is it necessary? Does it flow with the overall mood of the story? Of course, you never know how well you pull it off until the reader reacts to it. 

Brian: Artist Geoffo has a unique take on Boone, simple but very expressive. How did he come on board the project?

Shawn: I actually lucked into Geoffo on a message board. I posted that I was looking for an artist. In the tons of response I received, his art just seemed to fit what I was looking for the best. I loved how he framed panels and action and really understood subtle facial expressions.  
Brian: How did you become involved with 215Ink as your publisher?
Shawn: I had answered an ad they posted about taking submissions for writers and artists. As part of my samples I sent in the original 8-page Vic Boone story from Zuda [DC Comics' former Web-only outlet featuring creator-submitted comics] . Andrew, the main guy at 215Ink, fell in love with it. One thing lead to another and Vic Boone found a home.

What appealed to me about them was they're a great creator-friendly company. They're really behind the idea of creator-owned comics and trying to expand the readership and diversity of comics. There's a good group of talented creators over there and that ain't a bad thing to be a part of.  

Brian: You're outspoken on creator's rights on various social media sites. What would you like to see happen to comics creators that isn't happening now?

Shawn: I'd like to see creators given some sense of security by the industry, a bit of hope that when the jobs dry up and they're down on their luck someone will be there to help out. We shouldn't have to hear about creator x being penniless and struggle to pay hospital bills. We shouldn't have to crowdfund someone's life. I'm not sure how we accomplish that. Perhaps we could give a cut of the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by blockbuster superhero movies to Hero Initiative?  

Brian: Would you ever entertain a work-for-hire offer by the corporate comics companies?  

Shawn: Oh, definitely. I'd do a Mr. Miracle and Big Barda series in a heartbeat. As much as I love working on creator-owned comics, I also love paying the bills. haha. I think the thing you have to remember when doing work-for-hire is that you can build all the sandcastles you want, just know the sand belongs to somebody else.

Brian: Finally, what other projects do you have in the pipeline, or what would you like to create in the future?

Shawn: Right know I'm knee deep in the next Vic Boone graphic novel and a Vic Boone anthology. The anthology has me really excited. I've somehow convinced some extremely talented people to jump in and do they're take on Vic Boone. I've read a handful of the scripts so far and they're all brilliant. I've got a few pitches I'm lining up also. One is an all-ages book called Kid Gloves. It's about a boy with gloves made from Merlin's robes. There's one I'm doing with Jim McMunn called Mr. Zero. It's best described as a 60s whiteploitation comic. I'll also have a short in the upcoming FUBAR Vol 3: American History Z that's put together by Jeff McComsey and Fubar Press.

Thanks Shawn!

You can find Vic Boone: Malfunction Murder through 215 Ink's digital comics apps.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Virtual Comic Con 2012: Tuesday's Forgotten TV: Captain America Starring Reb Brown

Welcome to Day 2 of my first Virtual Comic Con. Today, I incorporate Tuesday's Forgotten TV with a look at Captain America--but obviously not the latest film incarnation courtesy of Chris Evans, nor the earlier film version from 1990 starring Matt Salinger (for an in-depth look at that film, go here). Today we're looking at the two TV-movies from the late 70s starring Reb Brown.

The two films offer a Captain America that is far different from the comic book version. In the TV-movies, he plays Steve Rogers, living in modern times, as the son of a noted scientist whose patriotism earned him the nickname "Captain America."  When Rogers is seriously injured, a scientist and agent administers a special serum to him, created by Rogers' late father, that not only repairs the damage to Steve, but gives him heightened abilities. The agent then recruits Steve to fight evil forces in both films (including Christopher Lee in Captain America II).

The movies are, to be honest, bad, but in that fun, kitschy way. They were certainly a product of their time, which I can easily forgive, and they entertained me, which ultimately is the point. I would be happy to own them on DVD, which I can easily do, as they are available from Shout Factory.

And yes, that is a plastic shield he's holding. A PLASTIC. SHIELD!

I hope you're enjoying the Con so far. Stay tuned for more tomorrow!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Virtual Comic Con 2012: Jeff Parker, writer of Red She-Hulk

Welcome to my first ever Virtual Comic Con! I've been thinking of doing this for months now, and I'm really excited to finally bring this event to you. Before I get into it, I first want to explain my thoughts behind this.

Until two years ago, when I finally had the chance to attend my first ever large comic convention, I'd always pine about missing them. Instead, I would throw myself into the comics I had, kind of my own comic con made for one. Then, inspired in part by the Comic-Non of the blog Trusty Plinko Stick by Bill Doughty, I thought I'd have a "virtual" con for those who couldn't attend the big cons in San Diego or New York, etc. I contacted some creators who I admired and had prior contact with before in the hopes of doing an interview, and they graciously said yes, for which I'm eternally grateful.

With all that being said, let's get to it! First up: Jeff Parker, the current writer of HULK and DARK AVENGERS for Marvel. The HULK series, following the exploits of General "Thunderbolt" Ross as the Red Hulk, is turning the spotlight to Ross's daughter Betty, the even more volatile Red She-Hulk. I've really enjoyed Parker's work on HULK and I'm eager to see what he does with Betty. Jeff only had time for a couple of quick questions, but I'm thrilled he could take the time for me.

Brian: Red She-Hulk has been an integral part of the Hulkverse since her creation by Jeph Loeb a few years ago. Has her debut in her own book been in the works for some time now, or was this something that came together quickly, and is this related to the Marvel NOW! launch coming this fall?

Jeff: It came together quickly. I think they realized with the timing we had the chance to try something different and big by putting her in the lead. Though I can never say for sure how things happen. I just know when Mark Paniccia asked what I'd do with her in charge, I immediately said "she's a menace!"

Brian: As much as I've enjoyed Red She-Hulk, it's sometime been difficult to tell whether or not she is a separate personality from Betty Ross or if Betty is in control the whole time. Will her duality be a major focus of the series?

Jeff: My opinion is that like her dad, she's still Betty, but at the far other end of her personality spectrum. That's my favorite portrayal of Hulk too, the idea that he's the same guy, but his head is all full of testosterone and rage and gamma energy so he can't think very rationally, he can only lash out. 

THAT SAID, there will be duality at play, and big inner conflict.

Brian: You've described the series as "Red She-Hulk versus everyone." Is there one event that makes her want to lash out at everyone, or is this just the culmination of the heartwrenching experiences she's gone through her whole life that makes her want to take on the world this time?

Jeff: It's both really, but on the surface she's reacting to a program designed to roll out new superhumans. But that's going to take her farther down a road where she'll have very few allies. The bright side is: she doesn't care.

Brian: What can we expect from artist Carlo Pagulayan? He's done a great job teaming with you before on HULK and AGENTS OF ATLAS.

Jeff: You can expect a beautiful woman who can convincingly knock down a building. Which is really, really not easy to do. And Wellinton Alves is also working in with Carlo, who is not the speedster of artists with his love of detail. Wellinton is excellent, and their styles are very compatible.

Brian: Finally, is there any chance Red will find at least some peace down the road, some bit of happiness she can take comfort in, or will things get worse for her before they get better?

Jeff: She's a true Hulk, things are always going to go wrong. But she will take some happiness in smashing those wrongs!

Thanks Jeff! Be sure to check out Red She-Hulk's debut in her own series when RED SHE-HULK #58 hits print and digital comic shops in October! You can also check out Jeff's work in DARK AVENGERS, also from Marvel, as well as his self-published Web comic, Bucko.

See you tomorrow for Day 2 of Virtual Comic Con!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Teaser for the Countdown to Halloween and A Special Announcement!

Hey there everyone! With September about to wrap up in less than two weeks, it's a good time to remind you that 1) next Friday is my birthday (Happy Birthday to me!), and 2) the Countdown to Halloween is almost here!

October is one of my favorite and most productive months of the year to blog, as I host a near-daily onslaught of spooky, scary, or just plain fun items to get you in the Halloween spirit. Of course, I'm not the only one--check out the host site by clicking on the Brain That Wouldn't Die icon to the right and you'll see all of the participating blogs as soon as the clock strikes midnight on October 1st. Project founders John Rozum, Shawn Robare, and Jon K do an awesome job curating all of the links together, so please check out the site and as many participating blogs as you can.

But that's not all to look forward to...

I am very happy to announce a first here at Me and You. All next week, I will be hosting my first ever...


This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and next week it finally happens. As a longtime comic book fan, and inspired by the big cons I've gone to the last couple of years, I will be hosting a "virtual" con here at the blog. I have lined up several comics professionals for interviews that I'll be publishing right here, as well as a comic related Tuesday's Forgotten Film/TV series. If all goes well, I'll do more interviews throughout the year, and perhaps another week-long con here and there.

As you can see, I'm really excited for these big events, as I think they bring out the best in the blog. Please stay tuned for all the fun. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday's Forgotten TV: Misfits of Science

This week's Tuesday's Forgotten TV is the 80s NBC sci-fi action series Misfits of Science.

The misfits are comprised of four young recruits: their leader, a non-powered genius; A 7-foot-tall man with the ability to shrink very small (played by the late Kevin Peter Hall of Predator and Harry and the Hendersons fame); a rock musician who has electrical powers thanks to an on-stage accident; and a troubled young woman with telekinetic powers, played by Courtney Cox. In the pilot, a fifth member of the team existed: a middle-aged scientist who could freeze anything due to an accident from being cryogenically frozen. This character had to be removed from the series due to a complaint by Marvel Comics regarding his similarity to the character Ice Man. I find that amusing, as I think the character more closely resembles the DC Comics character Mister Freeze.

Regardless, the show was by no means a ratings winner in its Friday night at 8pm time slot. The series debuted in September of 1985 and was cancelled in February of '86.

Below is the opening title sequence of the series. Enjoy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

NFL Today, December 17, 1977

I'm not a big sports fan, and I'm certainly not a football fan. But what I am a huge fan of is broadcasting. Here is an interesting tidbit of both things. Here is a full half hour of CBS's NFL Today from December 17, 1977, hosted by the classic team of Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, and Jimmy "The Greek."

For years this was the football pregame show of choice for millions of Americans. It's a nice time capsule of the 70s from a broadcasting, sports, and pop culture perspective. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday's Forgotten Film: Midnight Run

Tuesday's Forgotten Film this week is the 1988 comedy Midnight Run.

The film stars Robert DeNiro as bounty hunter Jack Walsh, a former cop who was disgraced by Chicago mob boss Eddie Moscone (Dennis Farina) as retaliation for trying to take Moscone down. Walsh takes a job to bring in accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin) to his bail bondsman. Mardukas was arrested for embezzling money from Moscone. Walsh and Mardukas take a cross country trek, all the while trying to escape the clutches of Moscone, a rival bounty hunter, and the FBI, who want Mardukas to testify against Moscone.

The film blends comedy and action very well, and DeNiro and Grodin make great foils for each other. The supporting cast (including Yaphet Kotto, Joe Pantoliano, and John Ashton) is superb, with every cast member adding something special to the mix. As well as the action is executed, the verbal play between all characters is witty and hysterical. The movie is readily available on DVD and online services, and I highly recommend making the effort to see Midnight Run.

Here is a sampling of the fun the film offers (language NSFW). Thanks!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday's Forgotten Film: Teachers

Happy September everyone! As promised, I'm back, and I start the month off with this week's Tuesday's Forgotten Film, Teachers.

Teachers stars Nick Nolte as a high school teacher who is temporarily made school psychologist during a time of controversy. A graduate of the school files a lawsuit for being allowed to graduate without the abilities to read and write; one teacher (Richard Mulligan) is an outpatient at a mental hospital; and a student is shot and killled in a standoff with police on school grounds. Amidst all the chaos, Nolte befriends a promising student (Ralph Macchio) and tries to steer him in the right direction. Also among the cast are Judd Hirsch, JoBeth Williams, Crispin Glover, and Morgan Freeman.

The film goes back and forth between comedy and drama, and does so with relative ease, although the drama aspects are sometimes overwrought. Still, with students of every level returning to classes at this time of year, Teachers is a fine way to spend an hour and a half.

Below is the film's trailer. Thanks!

TEACHERS: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Teachers, Arthur Hiller