The PREVIEWS Party: First, can you tell us a bit about the story of Side-Kicked?
Russell Brettholtz: Side-Kicked tells the story of five of Chicago’s most dedicated and dependable sidekicks who grow frustrated and resentful of being disrespected by the heroes they work with, ignored by the media, and taken for granted by society. So, they decide to go on strike.
The PREVIEWS Party: What inspired you to tell this story?
RB: I was working as an assistant to a financial planner. My job was mostly clerical: make appointments; file paperwork; phone calls to clients; etc. But, my most important job was fixing the mistakes of the person I worked for (of which there were many). I was young and ambitious, and I made it clear that I would like to be put on a path to one day becoming a financial planner myself. Instead, I got fired. It was a no-brainer to translate my situation into a superhero/sidekick relationship and tell the story of sidekicks who are sick and tired of being unappreciated.
The PREVIEWS Party: How did you develop the look of the various sidekicks, heroes, and villains and their abilities?
RB: Miguel will have to tell you how he came up with the costume designs for all of the characters, because I only provided him with the vaguest notions in the script. As for their abilities, well, it’s superheroes, -- you gotta hit the archetypes: flight; super-speed; plasma blasts; electric blasts; and mind control. The most important thing to me was mixing and matching powers for the hero/sidekick teams. I really wanted it to make sense that these particular partnerships would be complementary and combative.
Miguel Mendonça: Well, I just caught those vague notions from the script and started sketching. The way the script was written allowed me to easily imagine what Russell was aiming for. I think right from the beginning it was very clear to me what the “feeling” of this series should be. From there, it was a matter of having the characters make sense in that kind of universe. One thing that I thought would be important was that all of the sidekicks would look good together, even though they were all coming from different team-ups. I did not have this in mind for the initial salvo of villains, though, but tried to differentiate them from the sidekicks. I wanted them to look a bit generic, but instantly recognizable as villains, and at the same time keep their costuming original.
The PREVIEWS Party: How did your dynamic duo of artist and writer come together? What was your collaborative process like?
RB: In the winter of 2012, I dusted off the first (and only) chapter of Side-Kicked that I had written a few years prior. I had just learned about Kickstarter and realized that I finally had a way to pay an art team to create the book. I wanted to have the entire script complete before I started looking for an artist, but I was only halfway finished when I first saw Miguel’s work. I was a frequent visitor to websites that offer “creator zones,” trying to improve my skills and learn from others, when I checked out a particular art thread. Literally, from the very first panel, I knew Miguel was the artist I wanted for Side-Kicked. His style was exactly what I saw in my head when I pictured the book. I immediately shot him an e-mail, and, over the course of a weekend, we hammered out the details for working together on the book.
Miguel was very easy to work with. I tell people all the time that it was like he could see inside my brain, because every panel he drew was almost exactly as I pictured it. And, the few times he did venture away from the script, it was always a massive improvement over what I had written.
MM: I have to add that Russell was ALWAYS amazing to work with. I had some contretemps delaying the making of issue #1 (including a broken arm), and Russell was always incredibly patient and understanding.
RB: And, just to include a plug for Darby Pop Publishing . . . they found us via our Kickstarter campaign, got on-board early, and proved to be incredibly helpful when it came to editorial, production nitty gritty, marketing, and even financing. I wish every creator out there a Darby Pop in his/her corner.
The PREVIEWS Party: This book has a great range of characters. Do you have a favorite sidekick?
RB: That’s kind of like asking if I have a favorite child. It’s really hard to pick a favorite. There’s something I love about each of them. But, if I HAD to choose one, I would go with Phantasm. It really is his story that moves Side-Kicked along. It’s his relationship with the classical “hero,” Mr. Marvelous, that hits the closest to home. The Phantasm/Richard scenes were the easiest to write for me, because he was the character I most closely identified with.
MM: If I really HAVE to choose one, I’ll go with Phantasm also. He’s really easy to identify with. It’s like he is an average guy whose life is upside-down. He could be any one of us . . . except he has super powers.
The PREVIEWS Party: Do you see this series potentially continuing?
RB: Absolutely! Although I made it a point to wrap the plot up at the end so it can be enjoyed as a standalone book, there’s more than enough story to tell that picks up where this one leaves off.
MM: I agree. One of the things that initially attracted me to the project was the enormous potential that these characters and their universe have.
The PREVIEWS Party: Okay, hard sell time! Why should we be ordering this book? What makes it special?
RB: Side-Kicked is more than just a superhero caper. It was created as a metaphor for anyone who has ever been disrespected or taken for granted by their boss (and I bet that covers a LOT of people). It’s for readers who want to see the truly good guy win. For people who want to feel good about rooting for the underdog. For people who need the catharsis of knowing that, regardless of their position in the world’s hierarchy, they can (and do) make a difference and have some measure of control over their own lives. It’s for all of us who have been side-kicked by life but refuse to be beaten.
MM: This is a completely fresh take on the superhero story. You have never read an approach to the costumed, super-powered folks quite like this. It’s really easy to relate to the characters. I said it here before, but I don’t think I can come up with something better than this at the moment so it will have to do: they could be anyone of us . . . except they have super powers!
SIDE-KICKED (TP) is now available for pre-order from your local comics shop with order code AUG15 1606 and will be released in-stores and digitally in late October. Visit DarbyPop.com to learn more about this series and all of their new comics and graphic novels.