Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani won two Eisners for Tiny Titans, their DC series that presented colorful, all-ages versions of characters like Robin, Beast Boy and Wonder Girl. That book ended earlier this year with issue #50, and Baltazar and Franco moved on to the current Superman Family Adventures, plus the recently announced Aw Yeah Comics — a monthly comic starting in September starring Action Cat and Adventure Bug, mascots of their Skokie, IL store. Newsarama talked with Baltazar for more. Newsarama: Art, what motivated you the most to start the Aw Yeah Comics brand?
Art Baltazar: Wow. Well, when me, and Franco and Brother Bear — Brother Bear is Marc Hammond, but we call him Brother Bear — we were all playing with the idea of having our own comic shop. Once it started to become a reality, I thought it would be cool to have mascots for the store. Then after getting into the store for a few months, I thought wouldn't it be awesome if we did our own comics in our store with the mascots. So that's pretty much how it came out. I talked to Marc and Franco and they thought it was awesome and we decided that we want to make all-age books with Action Cat and Adventure Bug and have them be sold exclusively in our shop. So, to get the book, you have to shop in our store to buy it. [Laughs.]
It's kind of like an incentive piece to come into our store. Another idea we had was to the first two issues are done by me and Franco. We write both issues and I draw the first one, and Franco draws issue two. All the ones after that, we want to feature other writers' and artists' takes on our characters. So we want to do it in the tradition of Spider-Man or Superman where these characters have lasted for 50 years and they've been drawn by different creative teams. So we kind of want to do that with every issue of Aw Yeah Comics. Every issue will feature Action Cat and Adventure Bug, but with different artist and writers. Some independent guys just starting out, and others are seasoned veterans. So once we get everything going and get more name listed in, we'll be able to announce who is working on what.
Nrama: Tell us about your mascots.
Baltazar: Action Cat and Adventure Bug are the heroes of our book and they're the mascots of the comic in our comic shop.
Nrama: How meta of you.
Baltazar: Right? Our comic shop, Aw Yeah Comics, is in our comics and it's run by Hammond, who is a big bear. So he runs our shop and it's like a slice of real life. In our book, Action Cat and Adventure Bug work in our shop, but they wear glasses and vests to disguise their identities. Action Cat's real name is Cornelius and Adventure Bug's is Aloysius and they work at the comic shop, but Hammond the bear doesn't know his employees are super heroes. So, that's the gist of the book so far.
In our first issue, Action Cat and Adventure bug fight Evil Cat. He makes their lives a little bit rough for the first issue. That's what we're going with so far and it's pretty cool. I designed the characters really simple, too, so we can get kids to draw some fan art.
Nrama: Who are some of the "seasoned veterans" that you have working with you on this?
Baltazar: I can't name the big guys yet, as I've yet gotten confirmation or get art work from them so I don't want to put pressure on them if they can't handle it [laughs]. I have guys that do comics already, like my buddies at Instant Press. David Gruba and his partner Renee Castellano and they make a book called Bride of the Wolfman. It's like Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf stories, but they're either married or dating, but it's not traditional in how you might think and they're doing an issue. I also have my friend Bob who will be doing an issue and works on the Trix Rabbit and Lucky Charms commercials. I have a local guy, Alejandro Rosado, he works on a book "Sofa Kingdom." [Laughs.] Yeah, say that real slow. It's a joke we all learned as kids.
So right now, I have a lot of guys, buddies I know. Animators and cartoonists from Chicago, or from Artists' Alley. Oh, Katie Cook will be doing something soon, and Jaime Cosley and, hopefully, Chris Giarusso and Jacob Chabot. But I know they have deadlines, but they said they wanted to do stuff for this so you're going to see a lot of cartoonists and guys like me and Franco. Guys who we hang out with and have dinner with, those will be the first guys we really push. I'm anxious to see what everybody does and their own take on Action Cat and Adventure Bug and just have a good time?
Nrama: None of your characters will appear in your DC work, correct?
Baltazar: No, sir.
Action Cat and Adventure Bug will be in their own book. It was cool because DC Comics is awesome as I went to them and told them what we wanted to do. I said I wanted to make comics for my store featuring out own characters and they said it was great! They said "you guys have fun". So they understand that if it doesn't interfere with my deadlines, we're all good to go, ya know?
While I'm committed to Superman Family Adventures, Aw Yeah Comics is a great side project. Comics are in our blood and we're going to do it anyways, ya know? I make comics that never get published. They're all in my sketchbook, but eventually stuff will come out. The thing about Aw Yeah Comics, we're all going back to our self-published stuff from 20 years ago, because I have a backlog of comics from '92 to 2012. So I'm going to go back into my old stuff and whatever I need to fill in with something, I'm going to tap in to those old stories and reprint them for the shop. You might see some vintage Baltazar.
Nrama: How excited are you about this project?
Baltazar: I'm really excited about this! This is the first time we're actually having a character we could make things with. I think a lot of it allotted to Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, because people know me now. This isn't a brand new start out thing, this is next thing. We're making plushy toys for the store. We have so much more than we did with our other characters, and we have so much more resources like social media. We can get news out so quick. If this social media technology was around '92-'94, there would have been so many independent comics exploding onto the scene.
I've been making comics since '92 and those first ten years were hard to promote and the resources were not there yet. But now, I mean I have a little advantage from Tiny Titans, so it just felt right and I wanted to show people and the world my characters. I probably have around 500 characters that are waiting to be thrown out there.
Nrama: What are you hoping the readers get out of the Aw Yeah Comics experience?
Baltazar: Aw yeah. I just hope that just people pick up on what we represent. I know we designed our store to be kid-friendly and family-friendly. When you walk into our store, it feels as though you're walking into a living room. We have couches and big chairs and a table so people can just come in and read, or draw stuff, or hang out. So we want our comics to represent us and all-ages, fun comics. We want people to come in, read, and think they're cool and sit down and talk about them. I think Aw Yeah Comics is supporting our family-friendly vibe.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!