Written by Neil Greenaway
At Phoenix Comic Con 2015 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Nick Marino of Holy F*ck about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 06/06/2015, and you can read their version of it here.
Neil Greenaway: Why don’t we start with you telling us a little about yourself and your book.
Nick Marino: Ok. The company I am here with is Action Lab: Danger Zone. Actually, its Action Lab Entertainment’s mature readers imprint. I am Nick Marino, the writer of Holy F*ck.
NG: So, what inspired you to start writing comics?
NM: I don’t know… I love comics, I wanted to make comics. Now I make indie comics. (laughs) I think really what it comes down to is that this is the medium that speaks to me the most. Just comics in general. Comics speak to me the most. And the more I read comics, and the more I learned about the business, I learned that, number one, really the best way to get involved with the business (if you want to work with a publisher, and not publish yourself) you really do need to start with an independent company who is not doing licensed stuff. For the most part. There are some people who can go directly into something licensed, but that normally means that they are transitioning from a different medium. I have a friend who is a novelist, and she is transitioning from being a novelist to writing her first comic (which was the Jem book from IDW). But that is a different bag. I’m not a novelist, I did not start with that. So I was just like, “I gotta learn how to make comics. I’m going to teach myself.” So I made self-published comics. They were TERRIBLE! But I had fun. And for me, I thought, what’s the next step? As I have learned what it’s like to self-publish and to tell my own stories with my own characters, I’m really passionate now about not just telling my stories, but about that whole side of the business. The side of the business that is about original creations.
NG: Is Holy F*ck a story that you feel you need to tell?
NM: I like that question, because there is a yes and a no answer. The yes answer is that it’s a concept that I came up with, and I loved. I was on a podcast for a friend, Kaylie McDougal who is a terrific cartoonist and did our variant covers for issue #3. And we were talking about projects that we had were never, ever going to get made. Because they were too out there, or whatever. And I talked about my idea for The Bible 2, and how I would never find a collaborator for that. I can draw, but I am not good enough to draw anything like that. And somebody in the comments left a message that said “I would draw that”. And it turned out to be a cartoonist that I was not familiar with from the Netherlands named Daniel Arruda Massa. And I said to myself “I am never going to have this opportunity ever again. So I am going to take him up on it, no matter what”. But it turns out that he is a great cartoonist, and a great person. So it worked out well. And in that respect, because it felt that it was so serendipitous, my answer is yes.
But I could also answer no in the sense that, it was not that this specific story spoke to me more than other ideas that I have. It’s just that I love to tell stories. And this one felt like it was starting to happen on its own, almost without me even trying to make it happen.
NG: How receptive was Action Lab to picking it up?
NM: You know, I pitched to everybody that I possibly could for this. Anybody that had any semblance of publishing this type of material. And, with Action Lab, it was super easy. I just emailed them. Then I waited three months. And I got an email back that said “Yeah, we’re interested”. And that was it. Now, the book was already done. But they did not ask us to change any content, they just asked us to color it. That was it. It was really super easy. They made it feel like sending an email to a friend. It was that easy.
NG: Is this your first book put out through a publisher?
NM: Yes, it is.
NG: You had mentioned some self-published work. Could you tell us about that?
NM: Well, I did a bunch of webcomics that I would then collect into mini-comics. So, I started out with this really bad webcomic called Zombie Palin. It is almost difficult to describe, but all you really need to know is that it featured a Zombie Sarah Palin. Then there was this thing called cut-and-paste comics. Well, I did a cut-and-paste called Super Haters. And I ran that one for about 5 years. I was even doing it daily at one point. You know, it’s cut-and-paste, it was not that hard to do a daily. And I would collect those into mini-comics. And I decided to see what it would be like to work in the main stream publishers conveyor belt style. Where you have a penciller, an inker, all those steps in the process. So I got together with a group of friends to do a webcomic, that we would also collect and publish as comic books, called Time Log. Which was rejected by Comixology recently. Super Haters is on Comixology, though. Then I did a bunch of weird, little one-off things. Sometimes they were webcomics, but sometimes they meant to be mini-comics. And they were all cool, but, they were really like me training myself. It was like getting your masters in comics, for me.
NG: How long have you been making comics?
NM: I have always been cartooning. You know how kids are put into roles as they grow up? Well I was always “the cartoonist”. And so I was always making comics, and cartoons. But they were more like comic strips. So I would do comic strips for my school newspaper, stuff like that. And then I just, I guess really I started drinking more, and partying more. And spending less time on creative stuff. So I kinda got away from it for a while. But starting in 2008, with the Zombie Palin comic I mentioned, I started really hunkering down and focusing in on it. So I guess that it has been, getting close now to 7 years that I have had tunnel vision on this. Saying that I want to be a professional I need to start teaching myself how to do it.
NG: Do you work in a day job?
NM: I have a complicated situation, but basically I am lucky enough not to have to hold down a day job right now. Is Holy F*ck a day job? No. But I am very fortunate that right now I can focus on creativity as my day job. For a short period of time.
NG: So, what exactly is Holy F*ck about?
NM: I think that the basic concept of Holy F*ck, I like to describe it by starting with our nun, Sister Maria. She is very devout. But she is basically tested in her faith when she has to team up with Jesus and Satan to take down this army of mythological gods who want to be worshipped again. So their plan is to create a nuclear apocalypse, save the humans from the apocalypse, and then reap the benefits of the worship. Maria is the driving force behind the book. And she has dreams that lead her to Jesus and Satan. So I guess that she, in a biblical context, is like a prophet. Now, Jesus and Satan have sort of an unexplained past together. They seem to really like each other. Maybe a little bit more than anybody expected. Certainly more than Maria expected, or is comfortable with. But Jesus and Satan don’t really have much to do. They’re kinda bored, and so, they say “To hell with it, let’s help Maria.” And that’s the adventure that they go on.
NG: Is there a future for these characters?
NM: In the future, our new series – Holy F*cked which can be found in the July Previews Catalog and should be in stores around September. If the first series was an homage and satire of over the top action movies, the sequel will be both an homage and satire of what both Daniel and I love about super hero comics. I don’t want to spoil too much, because it’s not out yet. But I think that I can tell you that the main antagonist is Hercules. And he has an axe to grind based on what happened at the end of the first series. And he really has his sights set on Jesus. He is the one that Hercules blames. But if anyone read the first book, they will know that it was actually Maria. And that is where the Holy F*cked starts.
NG: Do you have any other books coming out soon?
NM: I do not have any other books set up right now. I do have a Kickstarter that I am planning for a stick figure graphic novel that I drew. It is not ready to go yet, it’s just percolating. But that’s just going to be for me, really. It is going to be a Kickstarter that I would want to back. And I think that, by proxy, it will be one that other people get a big kick out of. It is based on another webcomic that I used to do, called Stick Cats. It’s about a bunch of stick figure cats. It was a comic that I drew that was like jazz almost. In that it was improvised. I would improvise it from beginning to end. It is silly, it is raw, it’s ugly, and I think that people will really enjoy the full story if they get a chance to read it.