Hello, all! Welcome to another issue of Indie and the Geek. This week I sat down with Richard Zerga and Kristi “Batz” Zerga to discuss their upcoming indie works this September and their very own indie publisher. Here’s how it all went down.
Nicole Sixx: What can you tell us about Kitty & Batz?
Kristi Zerga: My friend (Dianna “Kitty” Spain) and I (Kristi “Batz” Zerga) first created Kitty & Batz while we were in high school, 11th or 12th grade, I believe. We were put into groups of four and had to come up with a short story based around a satire. Dianna and I have the same outlook on people, so we weren’t really looking forward to working with the two classmates we got stuck with. Long story short, the two others didn’t do crap, so Dianna and I broke off and created the first mini story of Kitty & Batz. We passed but because of the violent content in the story, we received weird stares.
So, Kitty & Batz is loosely based on actual events and situations that have happened to either Dianna or myself, or both of us. The story is really over the top and violent, and the characters are well animated but have no problem expressing their hatred for everyone. Kitty and Batz are often accompanied on their little adventures with Kitty’s niece, Ellie (inspired by Dianna’s real niece, Mary “Ellie” Belle).
Each issue for Kitty & Batz is different, meaning they don’t always carry out one plot or purpose like most comics. Like in superhero comics from Issue 1 when a major threat arrives all the way through to Issue whatever, when they finally resolve the Issue . . . you know? Yeah. We don’t do that . . .
Issue 1 and, the newly released, Issue 2 for Kitty & Batz are completely different, story-wise.
Issue 1, which was released in September 2011, is about Kitty and Batz blindly following two girls that they were planning to rob, when they suddenly find themselves in . . . wait for it . . . an Anime Convention! (Insert dramatic music here.) The events that follow are based on our actual reactions to the people that religiously attend the Anime Conventions . . . that s–t ain’t pretty . . .
Issue 2, which was released at this past Sac Anime in September 2012 (and, yes, I realize the irony of releasing our comic book at the same place Kitty and Batz despise . . . how do you think the convention people from Issue 1 were so spot on?) and received the same burst of attention and praise as Issue 1 did. This time, however, the issue is made up of several different stories all based on situations that happened. The favorites so far are “Epic Nachos” and “Adventures of Little Kitty and Batz: Birfday Partie.” The most important story in there is “Assassins,” which introduces a new, mysterious, and highly dangerous main character (not actually inspired by someone we know, but is styled with Sid Vicious attributes).
Kitty & Batz is quickly being widely accepted by readers from 16 years old all the way to readers in their 50s. We are constantly being complemented on the art style and the lucid colors that are quickly becoming an iconic feature for the Kitty & Batz series. We do incorporate a Jhonen Vasquez-type style in both the art and the dark humor of the story, but it isn’t as blatant as it may sound. Kitty & Batz already has a huge following, and I expect it to only get larger as the series continues, with a new issue being released every September. So, when that time roles around, be sure to keep your eyes open for their return!
NS: What have been the challenges and rewards of putting out indie comics as a small publisher like LEGENDS of Heroes & Villains?
KZ: The challenges can be plenty. The biggest would have to be getting the readers interested in our comics, story, characters, and art style. And, of course, we cannot leave out the hardship of funding!
When we first started to hit the smaller conventions with our comics, all our focus had been on our titles. Funding was tight so we started off in Artists Alley. That first time, just looking around at what the readers were purchasing, mostly had been fan art. This was something we did not want to do, because we wanted to be known for our original titles. But, after a discussion with LHV team, we thought about doing fan art to draw the readers to our table, and from there, introduce them to our original characters and titles. And, that did the trick!
Along with the rewards of people recognizing our original characters and art, as an indie comic book creator, we have FULL creative control over our projects. Sometimes, they’re a massive hit, Kitty & Batz, and sometimes they can be a miss (we won’t mention the two titles by name, because we did not write either one). But, it is really amazing to start with an idea, turn it into a story, begin the art work, and end up with a final product. And, you know, good, bad, or indifferent, IT IS YOURS! And, it feels pretty damn good!
And, with the success, we’re invited as special guests more and more frequently, from conventions to appearances at comic book stores for Free Comic Book Day in Northern California.
NS: Tell us about Squirrel; you mentioned you have a hand in the art on that?
RZ: The Squirrel idea came from an event that happened in Texas last year. Jeff Hughes of Comic Book Divas called me about an event that happened where a police officer was responding to a small squirrel that had been chasing children around. So, the officer gets out of his car, approaches the little squirrel, and maces it! Too funny! Jeff thought it would be fun to create a comic based on that event with the squirrels taking their revenge on people. So, his idea was to create the story as a parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Now, with that being classic horror, although Batz and I cannot watch it without laughing, we decided it should be in black and white. We love the classic horror stuff from Universal and Hammer, as well as American International and their ‘B’ horror flicks, we thought the b&w finish would fit this story perfectly.
The art, Batz and I are doing. I’m doing the backgrounds and the male characters, with Batz creating the art for the squirrels, PJ Soles, Rhonda Shear, Lily Cardone, and the rest of the female cast.
The comic makes its debut October 17, 2012, at Empire’s Comics Vault in Sacramento, CA, with a special guest signing all day, PJ SOLES! This will be PJ’s very first appearance to Northern California! We’ll be there, too . . .
NS: What’s the creative process like on a comic like Squirrel where you have so many people attached?
RZ: As far as the creative process, Jeff and the LHV team have worked together before, so that’s pretty smooth. The art goes well, because Batz and I are ALWAYS working together! ALWAYS! And, with all of the females appearing in the comic, they’ve been really looking forward to the comic, especially when they see Batz’s art of them ‘tooned up! PJ said that was the reason she decided to do the comic, it was because of Batz’s art.
So, overall, we’d have to say everything is moving along very well.
NS: How would an indie creator go about joining LEGENDS of Heroes & Villains?
RZ: This falls back to the money part we chatted about earlier. For now, we just get paid from the sales of the comic books and any commissions or conceptual art projects we receive. So, paying others to be a part of the LHV team is still a ways off.
Batz and I want to say thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Nicole! It’s always a pleasure talking with you!
Thank you, Richard and Batz, for your time. Join us in two weeks for another exciting interview! –N