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John: Cool, thanks for having me. I’m actually a fan of your column. I read it whenever I see the next installment online, so I’m psyched to be a part of one.
John: The Superverse venture . . . that’s so funny. I guess because I bid on CrossGen and Valiant, some people think I have this massive company. Our company, and I use the term company loosely , is me and a few friends that decided to get together on this animated short film idea that I had kicking around in my head. The comic sort of grew out of my love for comics and disappointment over the Valiant thing not working out. I was excited to work with Bob Layton on an X-O Manowar limited series, so I definitely had comics on the brain. While the Valiant deal was souring, Zoom Suit was killing it at festivals. We won “Best Animation” right out of the box at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. From there it kept getting accepted to festivals and kept doing very well, so I decided to stop waiting around for the suits to finish bickering over nonsense and just move forward with the Zoom Suit comic.
Jason: From where did the inspiration come for the story and the characters involved?
John: I was about 10 or 12 and I saw Bob Layton’s layout on Iron Man #117, the one where Tony is jumping from the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier trying to put on the Iron Man suit before he hits the ground.
I remember seeing it and rushing to get the book open to see if Tony lives. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but it turns out that he did pull through. Not to sound like a sadomasochistic, nutjob, serial killer twelve-year-old, but I was a bit disappointed about his success, because I wondered who would find the Iron Man armor. Who would be the next Iron Man?
So I wrote this Iron Man story where a kid found the armor. He was all bouncing around inside and couldn’t really control it right. Twenty years later, here we are.
John: Simon Bane is a turncoat NSA agent who steals the suit and Myles Mason is the kid that finds it, but the main character is the suit itself . On the surface, it’s a Charlie Brown, “Ugly Duckling” type story, but as you read carefully, you’ll find a unique departure from the usual superhero tale. The waters run deeper than they appear.
Remember, at first glance everyone wrote off Zoom Suit , because they thought Simon was going to become your typical anti-hero guy in a supersuit. You know the type: “He’s a bad guy, but beats up worse guys.” We put the first three minutes of the short film online and ended it with Simon in the air about to don the Zoom Suit. Quite a few people e-mailed me or posted the typical “rip off,” “we don’t need more tech books,” etc.
Then on April Fools Day we released the second half . . .where the suit didn’t fit Simon.
It was found by Myles who has no idea how to use it. I was impressed by how stand up some folks were to call or write me and say, “Dude, you got me with that Zoom Suit thing, I thought it was going to suck. Good twist, man.” Even Scott Hinze mentioned in an interview on Fanboy Radio that he loved the twist.
That’s the flavor for the whole series. You can try to expect the unexpected, but even our twists have twists. So only the most astute reader will put together the clues and know where the story is going. Plus, I think comic fans are going to get a kick out of the visual and written inside jokes, and pop culture gags. It’s a fun read.
Jason: It seems to me that this is a story about adventure and discovery, and a tale that draws on some of the more archetypical aspects of storytelling. Care to comment about this?
John: It is, but for both Myles and the reader. The reader has as much to discover as our new hero, probably more!
I love comics where extra stuff is developing in the background as you go along. For example, the entire black costume thing in Spider-Man was awesome, the clues that lead to Venom (Web Of Spider-man #18 and Amazing Spider-Man #298-300), then the clues that lead to Carnage (Amazing Spider-Man #344 & 345, 359 & 360). It’s so cool when you can go back and say, “ah . . .there it is, how did I miss that?” or when you know it’s going to happen, but when?
I plotted 13 issues before writing issues #1-4, so there are clues dropped in issue #1 that may not rear their heads until a second or even third limited series.
Jason: For a comic that is still some time away from debut, you have put an enormous amount of effort into promoting Zoom Suit . How did your work with Marvel influence this approach? What have been some of your strategies for getting the book out there?
John: Marvel will always be a big influence, and before that I sold comics at shows and owned a small shop while in college, so that helped too. I’ve also been reading comics for over 30 years. Man, you’re bringing up my Marvel days, you’re going to bring a tear to my eye here. My favorite job ever.
Alright, enough being a wuss, I’ll tell you my simple three step strategy.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
We didn’t start talking about the first book until it was completely finished. Issue #3 is nearly finished and #4 will be complete well before #1 ships .
Be polite, friendly and professional in all circumstances.
In simple terms, if you’re a tool, why would anyone want to help you? Be yourself, but be a pro, too. Like the way you would act with your friends (unless you’re a dick with them, then don’t do that).
Do what you say you’re going to do.
Basically, under promise and over perform . Things work out better for everyone when a retailer and customer truly believe that they got more than they expected. If you don’t have a clue, don’t try to hide it because we’ll know. Comic people know their hobby up and down.
John: That’s it huh? Just straight up, “Gimme scoop?”
John: The 36 story pages, 2 letters pages and a comedy ad page for $2.95 isn’t enough?
Jason: Not if I can squeeze more out of you. Spill it, Taddeo!
John: I love straight shooters, so here you go. Zoom Suit #1 is MetalFX from cover to cover. Everywhere you see the Zoom Suit , it is presented in millions of metallic colors. To get that effect throughout the entire book and keep the price at $2.95, it took a four-company partnership in three countries and two continents. In exchange for the use of our images and animation in their advertising and promotion, MetalFX supplied their inks, software and production expertise. Then Datachrome stepped in with a staccato printing process that features more than twice the resolution you see in a normal comic. But you can’t run this stuff on cheap paper, so Coast Paper Turgeon, also out of Canada, stepped in and upgraded all the paper. The cover on Zoom Suit is 14 point, which is heavier than most trading cards!
The effect is sick. This is like reading comics in IMAX or Hi-Def. Some folks involved in the process have referred to Zoom Suit as the world’s first “Super Premium” comic. Hopefully fans will agree that the story lives up to the production values.
John: Response has been overwhelming. I’ve been at fests where we received standing ovations. One festival promoter asked me if I could tell her son what happens next, because he can’t sleep at night thinking about it. We’ve won “Grand Festival” awards, “Best in Show,” and numerous “Best Animation” awards. It’s surreal. I’m psyched.
We put out an offer for free trading cards on Broken Frontier a few months ago. We figured we would make 1,000 sets and give them out over like two or three months, and in the meantime come up with the next promo item . . .48 hours later . . . GONE!
In just 48 hours, we had allocated all 1,000 sets. Then by the end of the week, we had another 1,000 requests. Diana [the Zoom Suit editor] was like, “I’m not going to have to lick a thousand envelopes alone, am I?”
Now I can’t stand it when people run out of stuff that I request. I remembered I got beat like that all the time as a kid: “while supplies last” crap. It pisses me off. There was this submarine that you put baking soda in that I sent away for, and I got a crummy sorry letter and like a pack of Kool Aid. That just really annoys me.
So I went back to press with a second set, and finally the third which we give out now. We didn’t limit the third though. To date, we have given out to fans or sent to retailers over 200,000 cards, about 50,000 to 60,000 sets. Oh, and I must have signed at least 100,000 of those. Still no word on the baking soda sub though.
Jason: What type of fan would Zoom Suit appeal to?
John: I wrote Zoom Suit as if I was writing it for my friends, and we’re all comic geeks. So I’d probably say Zoom Suit is for anyone who loves superhero comics. If you’re into comics well enough that you can geek out with me and the best of them, you’ll dig Zoom .
Jason: You seem to have a specific vision for Zoom Suit , who have been some of the artists you have collaborated with for this project?
John: On covers for the limited series, Bob Layton, Bart Sears, Gene Colan and Jim Starlin. Mostly the guys that did real famous tech or armor stuff, and Bill Tucci did a piece of Zoom art for me personally for helping him color the last Shi limited series. I loved it so much, I asked him if I could use it as a cover. He likes the book, so he dug the idea.
Inside the book, I think Billy Dallas Patton and I worked real well together, and now Keron Grant is onboard too. I only met Keron a few months ago, but we talk a few times a week and seem to hit it off real well. Both those guys will be major stars in the comic industry within the next five years. No doubt.
Jason: Zoom Suit has a very unique design element to it. Is this something you specifically had in mind when you created the concept, or is it something that has evolved over time when working with the artists for this series?
John: I wanted Zoom Suit to have its own style in many ways. The character designs, camera angles, shot choices, page layouts in the comics and more. I actually write panel by panel, and I’m very specific. I paste pictures into the script for example camera angles and reference scenes from films. However, I’m not a tyrant about my ideas. Billy and Keron have both called me with great ideas for pages, and I’m always quick to jump at a great idea that advances the story. I’m not into that “pride of authorship” thing. Comics, TV, film, these are all collaborative efforts. Sure, someone has to break the ties and I have to be that guy, but I’m not a tool about it.
Jason: Zoom Suit is branching out into other media outside of comics. What is involved, and where can people see this work?
John: It’s already been in over 50 film festivals, and it’s accepted to quite a few more already. It was just accepted to the MegaCon Indy Film Expo, plus I’ll be at MegaCon with Bob Layton and the rest of the guys from Team Zoom, oh, and we’ll have the Zoom Suit there too, the one that the guys from Nightmare Armor made. It’s cool. Come by, take a picture, and check out the flick on the big screen.
Jason: Will there be other Zoom Suit products such as collectibles or toys?
John: I’ve been approached for licensing for a few items already, but what I really want to do at this point is have a good time and write a cool comic. I’m not very interested in making money. So far we’ve given whatever prizes we receive to the Humane Society (except the trophies and plaques and stuff – I keep those). I don’t think so. Unless it’s something very unique, or for charity, then I would do it. Just to make a collectable toy or something now, I don’t think so. The comic is the focus.
John: Right now there’s a full 13-episode television season plotted and eight episodes completely written. Zoom Suit is very well planned out. There are characters in issue #1 that seem in the background. Some stay back there, others . . .well, you’ll see.
You have no idea the things this suit can do, and neither does Myles. Only difference is, he finds out the hard way.
John: Superverse will never be a large publisher with a dozen books. It’s just me and some friends. I might help out a friend on something I really like, but I don’t see myself as a publisher. I’m just a guy writing a comic because he digs comics.
Jason: But what about other properties you will be producing? I am particularly interested in how you acquired the rights to America: Super Power .
John: Yeah, there’s that. I own the artwork and all the rights associated with the art including to publish it in any manner and some other stuff, too. It’s approximately 20 pages of art including a few covers. The name American Power is owned by Disney, along with two scripts that were written for the series. I think they were a zero issue and a number one. My title, America: Superpower, would have nothing to do with the aforementioned scripts or name American Power .
The original idea for American Power came to CrossGen from Buddy Saunders, the owner of Lone Star Comics . We spoke about his ideas for the book, and those were the best that I’ve heard. If I recall, I felt the scripts that I had read were a bit of a departure from the original vision – not necessarily bad, just different. If I ever did do anything with it, I would probably call Buddy again and start there. Right now, it’s far off.
John: Zoom Suit is in the February issue of Previews for April shipping. However, I should warn fellow fans of an interesting dilemma that has developed. Because of the high end printing and “cover to cover” metal, we wanted to give retailers a copy of the actual book with the order form, so they could see and feel it first hand before committing.
To do this, I made the unorthodox decision to print before getting any indication of orders. Needless to say, our print run was small (it’s already printed), and Zoom Suit has gotten far more attention than I think anyone ever expected.
So I’m giving IE readers the heads up. If you want a copy of Zoom Suit , best bet is to let your comic shop know right away.
Jason: Thanks, John!
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