Constant collaborators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani made a splash five years ago with their debut of Tiny Titans for DC Comics, giving young (and young at heart) readers a different spin on the DCU with its lighthearted humor and charm. Then later they took over the duties for Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! and the comic adaptation for the Young Justice and briefly the Green Lantern animated programs.Last year, they started their own self-published brand of Aw Yeah Comics, but in February they started a Kickstarter campaign for the financial backing the brand after some financial difficulties arose. The Kickstarter project was funded within hours and was so popular they had to expand the goals. This weekend at C2E2, Art and Franco made several announcements about the future of Aw Yeah Comics as well as the announcement of a brand-new title at Dark Horse, Itty Bitty Hellboy.
Newsarama spoke with the duo about the new title, where Aw Yeah Comics is heading towards, and to not be surprised if more projects are announced before the end of summer.
Newsarama: Well, Art and Franco, it's been a busy year with you guys doing Green Team for DC and your Aw Yeah Comics self-publishing, but at C2E2 there were some new announcements with even more projects in the works. Tell us a bit about those.
Franco Aureliani: It's true.
Art Baltazar: Yeah, our Aw Yeah Comics are out we have a lot of thoughts of what to do and where to go digital with this. So we paired up with Mark Waid and Thrillbent! I was so excited to go there and now you can buy or download Aw Yeah Comics starting this week from Thrillbent and comiXology, too.
Franco: It's true. You can go to the Thrillbent site and you can order it directly through their Thrillbent icon on comiXology, but that's not the only news from Thrillbent-
Art: It's true.
Franco: We wanted to do something a little special for our fans and the one thing that really surprised us was how much reaction we got from our Kickstarter for Aw Yeah Comics. Art and I were talking about what we could do for the fans that really turned out for us. Talking to Mark Waid we decided that we were going to put out not just one, but two, exclusive comics through Thrillbent.
One of them is called Amazing Mouse and it will have stories from Art and myself, and Chris Smits as well. It'll mostly be drawn by Art. Then we have another character that's going to be written by all three of us as well with the artwork being done mostly by myself and that's going to be called The Phantom Lemur.
Art: Yeah!Franco: They're all going to be in the same universe as Action Cat and Adventure Bug, but these are going to be totally free. Then you can go weekly onto the Thrillbent site and read them for free. If you really, really have to have it in print or you have to have the entire thing digitally, you'll be able to do that after each story is complete. Mark and Thrillbent will take that story and package it digitally for comiXology and so you can buy it and then eventually we will package it in print, so you'll be able to buy it in print at some point.
Art: And all of our stories with the online exclusive characters they're all tied into our Aw Yeah Comic shop.
Franco: That's right.
Art: That's right.
Nrama: So who are Amazing Mouse and Phantom Lemur?
Art: Aw yeah! Amazing Mouse lives in a mouse hole in the comic shop-
Franco: And we thought this through, by the way! This wasn't all "hey, let's do this!". We kind of thought this process through. That first issue of Aw Yeah Comics that you can buy on comiXology, or if you have one in print, if you look, you can see the mouse hole in the issue. It's there for everybody to see.
Art: Yeah, issue one has the mouse hole underneath the front counter where Hammond is talking to Cornelius and Aloysius.
Franco: It's true!Art: It's all true. We wanted something that could bring in exclusively for kids, well not exclusively for kids, but something they could download and read for free. And there's a little twist to the character that we don't want to reveal just yet. but by the end of the first story arc, you're going to see who Amazing Mouse really is. You're really going to dig it.
After you read Amazing Mouse, you're going to see how we think about characters, how important they are to kids. So, it's gonna be good! Amazing Mouse fights crime, of course, he'll have his own villains, and I don't want to reveal too much because I want it to be surprising when you see the first story. Amazing Mouse wears a helmet and drives a car and has its own little adventures. The Phantom Lemur is also tied to the store as well.
Our store is painted with stars on the wall, so the Lemur is linked to those stars. So you're going to find out his link to Hammond, and to Hammond's powers a little bit. and the link to those stars. It's gonna be cool. Adventure Mouse is more of an adventure-type story and Phantom Lemur is more fantasy stories. It's gonna be cool! I can't wait!
I don't want to reveal the story, because I want people to check them out, even though they're free! Ya know?
Nrama: There was another announcement over at the Dark Horse panel that you guys made and it's sort of a big deal for you. What are some of the details about the Itty Bitty Hellboy mini-series?
Art: Yeah it was pretty huge! It all came down from Scott Allie and Elizabeth Allie, our editor over at Dark Horse, and Mike Mignola and this is what I've heard from them: Mike Mignola wanted something he could sell to kids at his table because most of his Hellboy books are mature, but all the kids know Hellboy from the movies and the cartoons, so he wanted something he could hand to kids just for them.
So I heard that Elizabeth and Scott had this idea, or I think it was just Elizabeth, that said to him "let's call up Art and Franco to make Itty Bitty Hellboy". So that's pretty much how it all started. We got an email from all three and we said yeah, okay and we then we freaked out on each other. "What? They want us to make this? WOW!"
Franco: The whole thing about this is that Art and I have been in this business for quite a while now, but we still geek out over stuff like this. Like, "oh my God, I can't believe we're doing a Hellboy book!" We're just overgrown fanboys. [laughs]
Art: And it's funny because we got the assignment the same time we got Green Team. So, we've been holding out on Hellboy and not talking about it to anyone at least since...January, maybe. February?
Franco: No, it was January. Yeah.
Art: It's been a while, yeah, and we've been going back and forth with character designs and story ideas and Dark Horse really embraced it. As you saw at C2E2, they gave out so much promotional stuff.
Nrama: You guys have been collaborating for so long, but on things like Itty Bitty Hellboy, what decides who is on writing duties and who gets artistic duties?Franco: Well the writing comes from both of us, but the art is mostly Art, because, you know, my day job. Not to give anything away, but I teach high school so it's difficult for me to actually do the artwork sometimes. But with Aw Yeah Comics, it evolved into me wanting to draw more. I was doing so much writing, I wanted to start doing more drawing and The Phantom Lemur evolved that, as did a lot of Aw Yeah Comics. Aw Yeah Comics just expanded so fast to other people doing so much artwork for the stories for us and with us, so when the opportunity with Thrillbent came up we talked about Art doing what he can do when he can and I can do whatever when I can and we'll just have this massive amount of influx of stuff we never had before. It's just so, so terribly exciting.
Art: Also Thrillbent gives us the opportunity to reach back into our older stuff and you'll probably see more titles from our archives; we'll eventually put them up on Thrillbent. We decided that after meetings with Mark Waid that it's not just going to be the Aw Yeah Comics issues, but you're also going to see older stuff like Weirdsville and Lunar Lizard. All our old comics that you can see when we started. I started back in '94 and we have lots of content so we can do a book once a week.
We're going to be on a monthly schedule and you're going to see the older titles come up, limited series and stuff like that; all digitally.
Franco: We always wanted to do something digitally so when this opportunity with Thrillbent came up and we talked with Mark and asked if our stuff would be available through comiXology and he got all excited and said yes and as a matter of fact we can have Aw Yeah Comics released when you have it at C2E2 and we thought that was fantastic. So that's how all of these other things are going to be released, on comiXology through the Thrillbent app. So soon you'll have a whole world of Art and Franco, just in case you don't have enough of us already.
Art: Before I even made Patrick the Wolfboy books I was in sixty-two comic books so they're going to be on Thrillbent eventually. We got a bunch of short stories and we'll include them in other collections of stuff like that digitally. It's exciting and it's just the way to make comics. We can pretty much make comics all day, eight hours a day and still not get done which is kind of what you want.
Now it's just Hellboy is mixed into our daily routine which makes it all that much more awesome.
Nrama: We're not even half-way into 2013 and you guys seem to already have a full plate, so dare I ask if there's anything else in the pipeline?
Franco: Uh, yeah. [laughs]Art: Yeah, we've got some stuff, but we can't say it here or now but keep your eyes open on Free Comic Book Day in the DC sampler. I'm not saying where it is but there's going to be something that's not real obvious but there's a line in there that says what it is. [laughs] I was surprised to see how small it was and that it was in there. So I am excited about that. Then in July, there's going to be a big Super Pets book that's almost like a Who's Who that I did for DC so you can get to know the Super Pets. It starts off with the first appearance of Krypto and then it ends with all my versions of them. It has a forward in it by Geoff Johns and it's pretty cool.
Franco: How many characters did you draw for that?
Art: I drew about three hundred and twenty characters for it.
Franco: Yeah I saw him while we were working on all this other stuff and he was like "aw, I have to do all this stuff, too". C'mon man, pace yourself! Don't burn out on me now, we have a lot of stuff to do.
Art: Yeah, I'm finally up to the point where all I have is Hellboy. I mean, I'll have more stuff as I have a few more phonecalls to make this week, but it's kinda fun. Everything we're doing now is just so much fun and the coolest thing about us is that, especially with Dark Horse and Aw Yeah Comics, is that we do comics because it's the way we know how to make them. So when Dark Horse said they wanted to be in the Art and Franco business, that's what they're getting with Hellboy.
I remember years ago when first starting out, I was always asked to draw a certain way, now I get to do my own thing and my style with it being all cartoony. So yeah, we're in a good spot.