Happy Friday Co-Pilots! With snow and extreme weather all over the country this week we hope you are all been safe and maybe even taking some extra time to read a few comics.
With the debut of the Carriers Kickstarter less than a month away, we took some time to speak with Erica J. Heflin, the superb writer of our first issue. We hope you enjoy our conversation as Erica takes us through some of the origins and making of issue one.
Q: How did you first become involved in the project?
Erica: I was friends with Ben on Facebook and he put out a call seeking a writer for the project. I was deep into several comics projects at the time, but was compelled to contact him about it as well. He projects a great kind of enthusiastic energy and it's very easy to get excited about his projects. Once he told me a bit about the rough concept, centered on the pigeon Sable, everything just started to fall together.
Q: I’ve heard more than one person comment that Carriers reminds them of TMNT. The comparison is obvious in some ways, but there are many key differences (the birds are not mutants, and indeed there’s even a question of how much of this is real vs imagined). Was TMNT in your mind when you were developing the book, and how much of your planning went into making it different?
Erica: I can see where people might think that, but in truth it's a fandom that I'm not as tied to. My experience with TMNT was mostly through shared play with my younger brother during the first two films. Instead, it's rooted in the same kind of source that the Turtles are rooted in. It's at it's core a team structure book, with different characters having their own specializations and personalities. Despite the animal basis, it's a fundamental that you see in most team comics and even buddy adventure movies.
I personally went with the four core pigeons to keep the team and personality balance, but also a gender balance that is classically tilted toward the men.
Q: Why pigeons? And why New York City?
Erica: Ben had the original character idea, but pigeons have some traits that make them particularly interesting. In modern times they're often viewed a nuisance birds and aren't given much thought, but their connection to wars through their messenger capabilities opens up a lot of door.
As to NYC, for US locations it's a pretty easy place to find pigeons. Ben wanted the visual backdrop to offer the dynamics of skyscrapers, and buildings old and new, and NYC is visually stunning. Compound that with the origin myth of the 'alligator in the sewer' and it worked out perfectly.
Q: Did Ben develop the look of the characters before or while you fleshed them out? What was the process like?
Erica: Ben developed the first character even before I was involved, but afterward it was a simple matter of deciding on their specific gear. Ben did all the rest, and his designs were perfect.
Q: The Croc King is mostly an unseen presence in the first story, denying us that reveal at the end and leaving us to anticipate seeing him in later stories. Were you trying to build anticipation for the reveal?
Erica: My day job and passion has been working with reptiles in addition to my comics work, so I loved integrating that element into the Croc King story. In fact, many years ago, I cared for a couple of alligators when their rescue facility was lost in a fire, and I learned a great deal about their behavior and care first hand. I was excited to use that knowledge to build toward the reveal of the Croc King. And I will tell you, there are very few animal encounters in America that give me goosebumps the way an alligator slowly breaking through the surface of the water does.
Q: Jim O’Riley and Elias Martins did some beautiful work on the issue. Did you know you were writing for them beforehand?
Erica: I knew Jim would be involved very early on. He and I had worked together before, through some anthologies, and I knew his attention to detail was remarkable. Knowing he was on it actually encouraged the layout of many of the early landscapes, which I feel is a really strong point in Jim's art.
Elias was the artist on my first graphic novel, Mother & Son, released by GrayHaven Comics. I was really happy that Ben enjoyed his work as well, and hope that I can continue to work with them both in the future.
Q: After the first five issues are re-released, Pilot has another series planned. Would you ever want to return?
Erica: I love the Carriers world and would love to return when time and inspiration permits. This last year has been personally dreadful and difficult. There was a great long pause in my creative output as my mother's health declined and healthcare needs grew. She passed away late last year, so I'm trying to catch back up and move forward again. I can't pretend it isn't a struggle, but the positive energy that Ben and the Pilot Studios team put forward will always compel me to come back and work with them. They're really just incredible people.
Q: What’s next for Erica Heflin?
Erica: I'm slowly getting back into my creative works. Right now I'm writing short stories for the Ain't No Such Thing podcast. I'm also continuing to work with Inverse Press, writing a few shorts, but we also plan to kickstart one of my digital first books, the four issue series Space Pussycat. It's a sci-fi romp featuring a bipedal cat, an octopus engineer, and the humans that get into trouble with them. I needed some sci-fi that didn't take itself too seriously, so I wrote some!
Carriers #1 launches on Kickstarter March 1st!
We are pleased to announce Pilot Studios next release will be Carriers #1, the first of five "recut" issues of the popular convention sensation.
Written by Erica J. Heflin, with art by Jim O'Riley, Silas Dixon, and Elias Martins, Carriers follows the action-packed adventures of four carrier pigeons in New York City as they take on threats such as the Croc King and his Rat Pack henchmen! Each issue will feature a new cover by Elias Martins which - when all five are assembled - with form one giant image!
Carriers #1 comes March 1st to Kickstarter!
Magni & Warhawk Adventures just got BIGGER with the addition of a backup story written by Inkpot and Scribe Award winner Jeff Mariotte!
We are pleased to announce that Jeff Mariotte (Desperados, Star Trek: Serpents In The Garden, Empty Rooms) has written a backup story that will be included in the first issue of Magni & Warhawk Adventures #1 (Kickstarter coming in February 2021).
“Dawn’s Early Light”, which shows us one of the first times Magni and Warhawk worked together, will feature art by our dynamic Kurt Belcher. Fans of great superhero team ups and World War 2 comics won’t want to miss this!
And remember, the prequel issue Magni & Warhawk 0 can be found to order or download on our Indyplanet store!
Hey Co-Pilots! It's been too long since we've updated you on all the exciting things happening here at Pilot Studios. We have been working on so much, and we're excited to be bringing you a lot of great new comics and content during the first half of 2021.
Always Punch Nazis volume 3 has arrived in the US from our printer overseas; we are just waiting for it to clear customs (any day now) so we can get it to all of our wonderful backers and those who pre-ordered it as well! We all think it's our strongest volume, and we're proud to finish the series on a high note!
Spinning out of the pages of APN is The Magni & Warhawk Adventures. Warhawk, our own Native American superhero, has teamed up with Magni, a superhuman betrayed by his Nazi masters who has joined the side of the allies. The series, written by Jay Huwer, will show the evolution of the two heroes' relationship and chart a course to their thrilling and surprising future! Art in the first issue, which we plan to drop on Kickstarter in February 2021, is by our own Ben Ferrari, with a beautiful cover pencilled by Kurt Belcher, inked by Silas Dixon, with vivid colors by Jorge Cortes.
Also coming early next year will be the first two issues of The Pilots, an anthology featuring our Pilot Studios heroes. There will be a lot of new material as well as a few reprints of some of our classic stories. The cover of the first issue is a wonderful piece by Ben Ferrari with colors by Jorge Cortes. We're really excited for this.
Finally, Spring 2021 will bring the first issue of Crash Landings, a horror/fantasy anthology inspired by Kurt Belcher's love of both low budget and great horror and Adam Holmberg's enjoyment of anthologies like House of Secrets and The Twilight Zone. We have an exciting lineup of stories featuring such talents as Jay Huwer, Justin Gray, J.P. Rice, Adam and Kurt, and more to be announced.
As a reminder our books are available on IndyPlanet and at our ETSY Shop.
We have no doubt that 2021 is going to be a big year for our little company!
Keep Flying Pilot, Where Passion Fuels Our Comics!
We have received shipping confirmation from our printer and should be receiving physical copies of Always Punch Nazis volume 3 within the next couple weeks. When it arrives it will ship to backers first; once that is complete we will ship pre-orders made in our online store. Digital backers should have received their links; please contact us through the Kickstarter contact link if you can't see them.
It isn't too late to grab a copy. Just pre-order at the link here!
The Engelberg Center at the NYU School of Law featured the Unionization of Kickstarter in a recent podcast series. We were excited to discover that Always Punch Nazis is discussed in chapter 2 of the podcast, where its key role in the union efforts is discussed in detail. We are proud that our wonderful series had such a powerful real-world impact.
Check out the podcast here!
Cabin Fever Radio is doing a 48 hour telethon this weekend, and founder Bobby Smith recorded a fun wide-ranging interview with our own Ben Ferrari! At the end of the Sunday session Bobby has also promised to review Always Punch Nazis volumes 1 and 2!.
Cabin Fever Radio is a station that allows actors to practice their craft from the comfort of their own home, yet still being part of an ensemble cast. The telethon is designed to introduce the viewer to their amazingly talented co-stars and many longtime friends of the ensemble...including Pilot Studios.
Check out the passion and craft of a group of great artists. Ben's interview can be found 49 minutes into the broadcast at the link below.
Cabin Fever Radio 48 Hour Telethon
Here is the main cover to Magni And Warhawk Adventures #0, an homage to the classic cover to Superman #76, by book artist Steven A. Wilcox, with colors, logos, and letters by Warren Montgomery. Warren hand-lettered the balloons on this cover, so it really is old school!
Coming this Fall!
Pilot Studios Merchandise - including our fantastic Always Punch Nazis T-Shirts - are available at TEEPUBLIC!
Pilot Studios is owned and operated by Ben Ferrari. An independent comic book studio dedicated to making fun comics while spreading a message of social justice, we are the home of Always Punch Nazis, the anti-racism anthology that helped inspire the unionization of Kickstarter and was denounced by Breitbart