The Boston Comic Con played host to a major announcement during the Female Creators Panel as it was revealed that Marsha Cooke, Stephanie Buscema, and Candis Cooke are launching a new digital app called Teenage Satan, which combines comics with music, games, and more.
I was fortunate enough to get the lowdown from the trio on this amazing new project.
MARSHA: I’ve been a fan of comics for a long time, but I am turned off by graphic violence, so I have been an unsatisfied reader of ‘Big Comics’ for a while. Youth literature is not dying, but the comics market misses it completely. I looked at recent properties that had become worldwide sensations – Harry Potter deals with magic, Twilight covers vampires and werewolves, and zombies are everywhere. Once I eliminated those themes, I narrowed down it to aliens or demons. Darwyn and I bounced around 5 or 6 names and then Teenage Satan stuck with me. From there, the idea of him being the 2011 version the 98 lbs weakling quickly turned him into a homeschooled, emo snowflake Satan.
I’m coordinating the overall project, planning the merchandising, and working directly with our technical partners to get the delivery system ready for September. I’ve written the monthly plot and the story structure. I’m writing the word jumbles and other puzzles that have a writing aspect. I do ‘the twitter’ and I’m lettering the strip.
I knew I could only go so far on my own without having a second voice to keep me on track. Candis is our niece and has been writing for a very long time. She jumped as soon as I asked.
We needed an artist and it couldn’t be Darwyn, we would kill each other working on a project creatively. Candis and I fleshed out the story a little bit before New York ComicCon and began the search.
We saw Stephanie at the show, and Stephanie and Darwyn have been friends for a few years and her art style was a natural fit. Afterward we connected and I gave her the hard pitch to come on board. I think it took her about 45 seconds to say yes.
|Meet the creative team of Teenage Satan: Stephanie Buscema, Marsha Cooke and Candis Cooke|
FOG!: Candis, how would you describe your role?
CANDIS: My role in the Teenage Satan world is to give these little Hellians a voice, and believe me, they want to be heard. I write their insecurities and their devilish ways into strips, pin-ups, and diaries and I try to make sure that the story flows smoothly. Every teen is different (in Hell and on Earth), so we make sure that every character has their own attitudes and personality, and is easily relate-able. (Marsha tells me what to do, I’ve been locked in a cage since December.)
FOG!: Stephanie, After working in the trenches or corporate comics, what is the most exciting thing about working on a creator owned property?
STEPHANIE: It’s a completely different experience all together, the most exciting being the unlimited freedom and collaboration with Candis and Marsha. This project has so much pure love injected into it, it’s hard not to be excited to see it all come together. Working on this from the ground up with women I admire, having the freedom to create these characters, their personalities, environments, relationships, it’s absolute bliss.
FOG!: Why go digital? What are the advantages?
MARSHA: Darwyn has been talking about going digital for a long time. We can all see the numbers going down for the direct market. Everywhere you go, people are slack jawed, face into their ‘smart’ phones, updating their friends, playing games, reading blogs, digital media has become an intrusive part of every day life. I’m addicted to angry birds (or at least I was, 3 stars all levels hells yeah). Trying to hit a youth market with a paper product made no sense. They are already stuck in their devices. We had to make something they would want, and present comics to them in a way they would want to spend time with.
FOG!: How is the writing divided up?
MARSHA: Candis and I look at the monthly plot and break it down into strips/pin-ups and games/diaries then we make a daily plot line. We tell Steph the plot and she gives us ideas of things that would be hilarious to draw or can add to the story with a visual device instead of a word balloon. Candis takes the outline and turns it into gags and strips, I revise, she finishes. I do the puzzles, she does the diaries. We edit each other
FOG!: How intricately detailed is your outline?
CANDIS: There is a structured outline but since we are creator owned, there are a lot of last minute changes we can make. Marsha, Stephanie and myself all work together and we are all easy going, so we are loving the fact we can do anything we want, any way we want it.
FOG!: With such a large cast of characters what came first, your character design or the writer’s description?
STEPHANIE: Candis and Marsha had sent me over a list of characters with brief descriptions and I just fell in love with each one! I sketched them up and went to town with my paints.
FOG!: Is it fair to describe this as a soap opera?
MARSHA: Yes, a dra-medy. The years between 12 and 16 were the best and worst years of my life, and from what I hear, that hasn’t changed much. It’s a story everyone is familiar with.
FOG!: What are the challenges of developing a large scope story with creator owned characters?
CANDIS: I find it difficult to write small amounts of the story at a time when there are so many different characters, with so many different stories. I really get sucked into writing one character, then when I’m writing another character I can’t help but wonder ‘What’s Jezebel up to?’
FOG!: This title seems to have embraced the digital medium using it to support various ephemera including games, gags, puzzles, a diary. Can you discuss that plan and vision?
MARSHA: Teenage Satan will start daily publication on September 6th, 2011. Our first story line runs until the Rapture – which from our understanding is December 22, 2012. If the world doesn’t end, we have plans for a second run.
Games in the newspaper have been around forever, the delivery method has simply changed now to a digital one. The bonus for us is that our target has never been newspaper reader so it seems new to them. Everybody wants to get their product into the digital market. We have a plan on how to do it and think we are ahead of the competition, and we want to keep it that way so we’ll keep our infrastructure and development plan under wraps for a while.
The daily schedule includes more than traditional comics. We’ll have a gag pin-up (Playboy style) one day, a game the next day, a journal entry from the characters the following day, 4-6 panel strips, fakebook updates, music links and so on. It’s not a daily comic, it’s a daily destination, with every piece linked to the characters and the storyline.
The weekends will have our playlists for the week, link blog for news of interest and hilarity, twitter trends, make-up tips, anti-bullying messages. Since we will be producing every aspect of the project, we will be able to adapt quickly to the whims of the youth market
The app will cost .99¢ a month or you can buy the full run for a discounted rate.
FOG!: Is this the future of digital comics?
MARSHA: I think so.
This is a solid plan for a creator owned distribution system that crosses platforms. We’re still working on the nuts and bolts but yes, we think the way you see Teenage Satan is the way creator owner comics will be sold
We’ve all decided to make decisions on this project together. We have control, we set our deadlines, the mistakes are ours. Since we are publishing it digitally, we felt no need to get anyone else involved.
FOG!: Tunes: original music or established musicians?
MARSHA: Both. We’ll have playlists of our favourite songs, playlists of characters favourite songs and music from bands that partner with us – our first is called “The Stolen Minks”
FOG!: Are there plans for print editions?
MARSHA: Yes, we would consider hard copies but it’s not our end goal. We haven’t talked to publishers – one option is to have digital sales fund a print run. 16 months of a daily project is enough for us to handle right now, but if the situation was right we would be thrilled to see Teenage Satan come out as 4 soft covers and then one maxi edition.
FOG!: What kind of merchandise is available/planned?
MARSHA: For Boston we’ll have 2 Stephanie Buscema prints, 1 Darwyn Cooke print a set of the above prints, in signed and numbered sets, Men’s t-shirts (1 style), Women’s t-shirts (4 styles), Kids t-shirts (2 styles), Keychains and Buttons.
We will have an online store. Until it’s up and running later in the summer, people will have to catch us at conventions, we’ll be at Heroes and DragonCon.
We have two more prints from Steph coming for Heroes in June, and then another product line coming for DragonCon where we expect to have prints from Amanda Conner, Allison Sohn, Cat Staggs and Adam Hughes and some other fun hell themed stuff.
|Online Store Coming Soon: Keep checking TeenageSatan.com for info!|
FOG!: Are you prepared for tweens everywhere to be wearing your artwork on t-shirts?
STEPHANIE: Bring it on!
FOG!: Who or what are the biggest influences on your work?
STEPHANIE: First and foremost, my Grand Dad (Comics legend John Buscema) will always be the biggest influence on my work. He not only encouraged me to pursue art but opened my eyes to so many fantastic artists and illustrators from a young age. I have a ton of influences in, comics, music, art, old movies, cartoons, it’s hard to list them all! My top art influences have to be Dan De Carlo, Eldon Dedini, Marie Severin, Mary Blair, Basil Gogos, Jim Flora, Darwyn Cooke, Bill Campbell, Eyvind Earle, John Stanley, JP Miller, Richard Scarry, Charley Harper…I have to stop or I’ll go on for an hour or two.
CANDIS: Without a doubt, my uncle Darwyn has always fascinated me with the magical way that his words can influence people. I have always wanted to make him proud, and I am always thankful to him for taking the time to teach me a few things. Writing is what I love to do, so what a great mentor to have by my side.
MARSHA: MTV, Trailer Park Boys, being Canadian and having an outside view on American life. My pull list is small – Paul Dini one shots, Jonah Hex, Glamourpuss, Amanda Conner. Mike Allred,
FOG!: Who is your favorite Teenage Satan character and why?
CANDIS: Lucifer is my favourite character for sure. He’s the ruler of the Underworld, what else could compare. I almost feel sorry for the guy. It’s has to be rough being so evil all the time.
MARSHA: Jezebel. I like that she is happy go lucky now instead of being the typical version you see of her. I love the way she looks and that she’s a terrible cook. I’d love to have Steph make paper dolls for her
STEPHANIE: I love Luc (Teenage Satan), he was the first character I doodled for the project. I feel I can really relate to the little guy, especially when I was in my teens. Being in school and not having many friends, hanging out with the other outcast kids and being teased all the time. That was basically my life for years. So yeah, Luc has a large place in my heart!
|Luc, Jezebel and Lucifer|
FOG!: Who is the target audience for the project and what about Teenage Satan do you think sets it apart?
MARSHA: Tweens and Teens, grade 6 -11. Kids who outgrew Harry Potter and Twilight. Teenage Satan is a home for every outcast and loser who feels alone and misunderstood, so, everyone.
What sets it apart? There are a few things, first off, he’s endearing. Everyone can relate because everyone has a crazy family or had a crush on someone who loved someone else, or went to a new school or couldn’t dance.
Then, there’s Steph’s art – it’s incredible and the subject matter really sets her imagination wild.
Three women own this, three women are making it, it’s new and different then anything anyone has every seen.
FOG!: If successful, would you launch new series under a similar platform?
MARSHA: Let’s talk again in December 2012. This is a long term commitment from all of us. We love working together. We’re focused on this for now and once we’ve completed this we’ll know what to do.
FOG!: Finally, In ten words or less why should everyone read Teenage Satan?
STEPHANIE: It’s something fun and completely different then anything you’ve experienced.
CANDIS: It’s STD free.
MARSHA: It’s a comic, it’s an app, it’s a game.