By Robin Jones
Welcome back to the Inter-Comics Indie Spotlight, this column aims to make you, the readers, aware of cool indie/crowd funded comic book creators and projects!
We have another double whammy of creators for you this time, with Kevin Joseph and Ludovic Salle co-creators of Tart. Within the lusciously drawn pages of Tart we meet Tart Acid and the world she inhabits, the world of The Toxic Fruit. From investigating the disappearance of a boy in 1950s New York, visiting a demon dimension and arriving at the coldest moment in the history of our planet, Tart is a time twisting adventure for fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and quirky, kick ass women led comics everywhere!
Initially starting off life as a webcomic, Tart has been successfully crowd funded through Kickstarter and is now available in trade paperback format.
Me: Where did the idea/inspiration for Tart come from?
Kevin: From our Co Creator Ludovic Salle’. I’ll let him go into it more specifically as he was playing around with the Toxic Universe long before we were introduced. I simply dove into his toybox and played with the toys I understood best.
Ludo: Tart comes from the universe that I created for my first series Hell Strawberry. Hell Strawberry is inspired by a multitude of references. From comic books to the cinema and television. The list would be too long because it is only a brewing ideas that swirl in my brain. But the most important for me is the Time Travel.
Me: As indie creators, how have you found getting Tart out there to potential readers? Do you guys have any advice for other upcoming creators?
Kevin: It’s absolutely the toughest part of the endeavor. Without a marketing budget (well, without any budget), without industry connections and without a name, what do you have? For us, we have a book we believe in passionately. So we try to turn every stone we can in building a readership.
I’ve found the most success getting the word out on Twitter. And this is where I have to mention a guy well known to Inter-Comics, Jay B. Webb. He was gracious enough to agree to read Tart before almost any other reviewer out there. Through his positive response we’ve been able to get our story in front of many podcasters, reviewers and/or other creators. So I see it all branching out from Jay being nice enough to open our pdf.
There really is an amazing group of indie comic lovers (writers, artists and readers) on twitter. Get into the conversation. They’ll lift you up like you’d never believe possible.
We also try to do as many appearances as we possibly can just to get the cover of the book into people’s minds. Small cons, local comic shops, Gallery shows (ok, this one’s Ludo only). If it’s affordable and we can make it, we go. As far as advice for these shows – don’t go in with the goal of making money. Go in with the goal of meeting comic enthusiasts and letting them know your book exists. You’re playing the long game here. Readers are what you need. If you set out to make money, you’ll quit before you reach the midpoint of the journey, much less the end.
Ludo: We make several conventions each year, allowing us to show our creations to a wider audience, which would not come to us. So it’s always a nice surprise and wonderful when we see the enthusiasm of new readers. But social networks do a big part of the work. Twitter and Facebook can target more widely. But there is nothing better than meeting people and talking with them, face to face.
Me: What sets Tart apart from other female led, demon/hell spawn comics like Buffy or JMS’s recent Apocalypse Al?
Kevin: Well I can answer the Apocalypse Al part of the question with an unequivocal, “I have no idea?” I am completely ignorant of that book. But Buffy… I’ve never shied from the fact that Buffy is, was and always will be a major influence on me as a writer. Whedon and his writing team crafted a show that made me laugh, worry, cry and exalt in The Scooby Gang’s adventures. If we can create any such an experience for Tart readers, I’ll consider the book an enormous success.
What sets us apart? Well I think a major theme of Buffy was being forced to accept the fact that you’ve been chosen for a life you didn’t want. Good, bad or hellish, Tart chose to be doing the job she’s doing.
Ludo I do not know Apocalypse Al, either. Regarding Buffy, I will not lie, it’s one of my biggest reference for this project. But I want to say that there is no marketing ploy from me to choose a female hero. It has always been obvious. I always did female characters. I’m always surprised that we still have to explain when a main character is a woman. We rarely ask a writer why his/her hero is a man, but it’s still a debate for a woman.
Me: If you could sell Tart in one sentence, what would you say?
Kevin: The time-traveling, demon-hunting girl next door.
Me: Who has most influenced yourselves in your work and how?
Kevin: I’ve already mention Joss Whedon, so I’ll reiterate that and throw in Neil Gaiman. Both of these writers are masters at leading the audience into an expectation and then turning the story onto its side. I love stories that surprise me and nobody does that better than the pair of Whedon and Gaiman.
Ludo: Like I said, many references. But like Kevin, Gaiman and Whedon are my favorites. Not only because they are great writers, but mainly because their sci-fi and fantasy universes are often an excuse to develop great characters. With the touch of magic that I like.
As an artist, I am influenced by a lot of painters and illustrators. I like Art Nouveau (Mucha, Klimt), fairy tale illustrations (Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham). But also the contemporary artwork, the design. I like the works of James Jean (the covers of Fables), he has a perfect proficiency to mix traditional drawings and graphic elements. The art of J.H.Williams III on Batwoman is incredible, too. I try to work in this way.
Me: Do you guys still get time to read comics and if so, which titles are regular appearances on your pull lists?
Kevin: Little by little, I’ve run out of time. I still try, but I’ve honestly fallen off the wagon a bit. I’ve tended to start using my comic budget to support indie kickstarters lately. It’s still $25 to $75 a month on comics, but it makes me feel good in lots of ways. 1) There are some real gems out there. 2) I’m helping a creator put out a book that they probably couldn’t get out there any other way. And 3) With two books Kickstarted, it makes me feel a ton less hypocritical backing other projects I believe in.
Ludo: I try. I read some books of Marvel and DC but I’m lost with all the references that I don’t get. I keep to read Fables, Buffy, Hellboy.
I started Invincible, Empowered, Wizard of Oz.
Me: You’ve mentioned crowd funding as a way and means of getting Tart out there, what was the best aspect of that?
Kevin: Absolutely, positively the relationships it’s created. The goal of Kickstarter is raising money, and then producing and delivering your product. That’s great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the best part.
I never, ever assumed I’d make friends out of the process. We had backers raise their pledge at the last second just so we could pass a numeric milestone (even though it didn’t affect us being funded or a stretch goal). Backers from our first project apologize because they were funding us at a lower level in the second campaign. Think of that for a second. They’re giving US money to fund OUR dream, and THEY’RE apologizing for it.
The Kickstarter community as a whole is an amazingly supportive, friendly, fun and engaging group.
Me: What can readers expect in the future for Tart, as you say you have 3 – 4 years worth of story ready for her!?!
Kevin I can hear Ludo’s breath quicken an entire ocean away. Our skeleton of the series runs approximately 40 issues. But with Ludo supplying every bit of art, at the same time that he’s paying the bills with freelance graphic design, we doubt we’ll get those forty issues finished in 3-4 years.
But whenever we finish, our goal is to create a series that engages and surprises our readers throughout our run. When Tart’s story is done, we hope our readers are left with a satisfying and defined ending. We also hope they’ll be able to go back through and reread it finding more in the series than they might have on the first go around.
We won’t know that we’ve accomplished that for a good while, but it’s definitely the goal.
Ludo: Unfortunately, I can not project myself too far in the future, I do not know how fast I could work on the next issues of Tart.
The French way of work is about 48 pages a year (knowing that the artist is both the artist, inker, colorist, and sometimes letterer). I try to do better and provide more but it’s hard.
Me: What’s your favourite aspect of making comics?
Kevin: I’d normally mention the friendships I’ve made doing it, but I’ve already touched on that with the Kickstarter question. So instead I’ll say that right now, comics are the best way to get your work out and into the audience’s hands. I have two screenplays that I worked my tail off on sitting on my hard drive. I know people with novels written, that they can’t get anyone to read.
Comics on the other hand. You can photocopy and hand out a comic for free. You can self-publish a webcomic. You can print 20 or 30 copies through a digital printer and try your hand at selling them at Cons or LCS’s. You can Kickstart a large run of beautiful books. Or you can submit to the big boys and hope the right editor grabs your book.
The options aren’t limitless, but having your work experienced by an audience is easier in comics than in most any other media.
Ludo: That can be really hard, and headlock, and exhausting. But at the end, it’s always satisfying. I can’t live without making comics. It’s in my veins.
Me: Hypothetical now… Tart vs Buffy in a bounty hunting situation… Who’d get the demon first?
Kevin: Oh, God. You can’t do this. You’re asking me to pit my creation against one of my favourite characters ever created. Unfair. UNFAIR!
I can’t do it man. Everything I type seems unfair to one character or the other. I’ll say this. Mano e mano Buffy would beat the tar out of Tart. But Tart would persevere and figure out a way to survive. Buffy’s a fighter. Tart Acid is a survivor.
Ludo: Hmm… I guess Tart has to kill Buffy. Sorry. There can be only one. Oh sorry, It’s Highlander, right?
Until next time.
Rob Jones is an honourary Yorkie, but for the life of him, he can’t understand why. He writes articles, is attempting to write comics and his life ambition is to own a solid gold Donkey… For more comic news, reviews and the odd bit of sense, follow Robin on twitter @Hulksmash1985