On Free Comic Book Day, Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar are bringing their unique all-ages humor to DC Kids Mega Sampler 2010, one of the free comics being offered nationwide this Saturday.
The two creators are the minds behind Tiny Titans, the DC Kids title about "the same Titans you know and love, but really, really little."
The title, which launched in January 2008, is a hit with fans of all ages, as it shows tiny characters from the regular Teen Titans universe, like Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Supergirl, Speedy and Raven.
The title, which won the 2009 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids, doesn't show the characters flying through space or battling villains, but instead tell funny little vignettes about them hanging out in the school yard or at their treehouse.
And even the villains are less intimidating versions of themselves, showing up as either school bullies or mean teachers – like Deathstroke, the principal the kids call the "Terminator."
And last year, the Tiny Titans creators also started writing Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, filled with all-ages adventures as Billy dons the Captain Marvel mantle and saves the world with his little sister Mary.
On Free Comic Book Day, both Tiny Titans and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam will have stories featured with other DC Kids titles. As the issue hits stores this Saturday, Newsarama got an exclusive sneak preview and talked to the creators to find out more about what readers can expect from their stories.
Newsarama: So Art, what do you guys have in this Saturday's DC Kids Mega Sampler?
Arthur Baltazar: We're going to see a sample of everything DC Kids has to offer. We'll see some Tiny Titans and Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam. And we'll see some Super Friends and Brave and the Bold.
Plus we collaborated on the cover. Franco and I both did the art. And we're really excited about that. We told the people at DC that they didn't even have to do interiors, because the cover is so cool that people will pay for it. They could just publish a comic with only a cover and sell it like that.
Nrama: But wait, isn't it free?
Franco: Well yeah, but we told them that they could sell it on Free Comic Book Day because our cover is that awesome.
Nrama: I'm sure that's true, but let's talk about those interiors. What are we going to see in the Tiny Titans portion of the DC Kids Mega Sampler?
Art: You're all invited to Match's birthday party at the Fortress of Solitude. You're going to see Superman in it, and you're going to see Lex Luthor.
Franco: And the Brainiac Club!
Art: Yeah, the Brainiac Club are showing up. And Conner Kent – Superboy and Supergirl. You're going to see a lot of super-people. Aw yeah!
Nrama: This title seems to have been embraced by people of all ages. Do you see a wide age range at conventions?
Franco: Yeah. Everyone seems to love it. I think we've done what we set out to do, which is not incredible for us [laughs], but you know... we wanted to truly make an all-ages book with Tiny Titans, and I think we achieved that. We've been able to hit the market we want to hit, and that's everybody. We get grandfathers, we get kids, and we get everybody in between, getting autographs and buying the book and getting sketches. So I think we did what we set out to do.
Nrama: Art, it's got to be rewarding to get an Eisner Award and get on the New York Times Bestseller list. Why do you think Tiny Titans appeals to so many people?
Art: The book is just so different from everything that's out there. And we make jokes that are funny for everybody instead of just being something for kids.
And you know, you mentioned conventions, and I think that helps, because getting to see how awesome and cool we are with people adds to how much people love the book.
Franco: And the free doughnuts help.
Art: Yeah. We buy our readers with doughnuts [laughs]. I just think you have all the other comics that are out there, and then you have us. It's hard to say where we fit in with everything that's out there. We're different.
Franco: We're like a separate comic book industry.
Art: Almost like another universe even.
Franco: Aw yeah!
Nrama: In the Free Comic Book Day issue, did you write the Billy Batson story?
Art: Yep, with art by Mike Norton. He's my favorite artist. He's fantastic.
Franco: He's Shazamtastic.
Nrama: What's that story going to be about?
Franco: It's about cows, which is also awesome. There's someone going around Fawcett City and the surrounding area stealing everybody's cows, and Billy and Mary have to find out why.
Art: It's going to be cool. It's based on a true story.
Nrama: It is?
Franco: Yeah. We did some research on alien abductions, and we came across a story where in the Netherlands or somewhere like that, where this guy was afraid of his cows being abducted because all the surrounding farms had missing cows. And he thought they were being abducted by aliens. So he went out and bought toupees and mustaches for his cows to disguise them, so they would look like people and wouldn't be abducted.
Art: [laughs] That's right. It's a true story. See? We research all our books, to make sure they're true-to-life. So when the Green Lantern Corps comes down to see the Tiny Titans, that could really happen in life. Everything's a slice of life.
Nrama: But you're not writing the SuperFriends or Brave and the Bold portion of the issue, are you?
Art: Not yet!
Franco: Wait, "yet?"
Art: Oh, I mean... no, we're not. [laughs] No, I'm kidding. Sholly Fisch is writing SuperFriends, and he does an awesome job. When I take my kids shopping for comics, they always pick out his books. He's rocking that title. And the Brave and the Bold is awesome too. That TV show is the coolest.
Nrama: Let's talk about what you have coming up. For people who already get Tiny Titans, what can they look forward to in the next few issues?
Art: We have a Big Hair issue. I'm going to spoil it right now. It's all about big, curly hair. It's based on a true story too, because when my hair gets too long, it's Big Hair. So it comes from real life.
Franco: And I had to do a lot of research, because I don't have curly hair, so I had to research it.
Art: Yeah, he wore a wig for about three months.
Franco: Yes, I did! Research!
Art: There's also a secret character we're going to debut in that book. She's been in the Flash comics. The character is Peek-a-Boo. OK, so I guess she's not a secret now. But she's going to be bothering our little kids. So that's something to look forward to: Peek-a-Boo and Big Hair issue. Don't miss it.
Nrama: Last time we talked to you two, Geoff Johns was part of the interview, because you had co-written an issue with him about Superboy. Are you guys thinking about working with any other DC creators in the future?
Franco: We're trying to line up our writers for Issue #50, and we're talking to a whole bunch of people, but the front-runners right now are Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
Art: That's a true story.
Franco: Another true story.
Nrama: Do you think a Jim Lee Batman might stop by the Titans treehouse?
Franco: I think Jim Lee himself might just show up.
Art: Actually, in Issue #28, Jim Lee, Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns are all in it. They're watching the Super-Pets. It's kind of cool. They're all in it.
Nrama: Then to finish up, guys, with Free Comic Book Day being this Saturday, what would you say to people who have never checked out your comics about the sampler?
Franco: It's free!
Art: And it will change your life!
Franco: Aw yeah!