13. The Making of a Comic: 'Road Trip to Hell' by Nicole D'Andria
Comic-book editor and writer reveals her creative process and Kickstarter tips
Howdy Brave Being,
Welcome back, dear readers to The Making of a Comic! I’m joined this week by Scout Comics editor and writer in her own right, Nicole D’Andria! Nicole’s coming to us on the heels of launching her third Kickstarter for her helluva good time series ROAD TRIP TO HELL with art by Monika Maccagni, colors by Joaquin Pereyra, letters by Justin Birch, and design by Brant Fowler. She shares all the details about it and its latest issue. Plus, her Kickstarter tips for creators are not to be missed!
Let’s hop to it!
Road Trip to Hell
BM: Tell us a little bit about Road Trip to Hell, where the characters have been and where they're going.
ND: Road Trip to Hell is the ultimate battle of nature vs. nurture. The series is now three issues deep and I've already put the characters through the wringer. Francis, the main protagonist, has already had a pretty rough life. His ability allows him to see future misfortunes that will befall the people he touches. This ability may prove to come in handy though after Francis discovers he's the son of Satan. He learns the devil has died and named him the new king of Hell. However, to get his throne, he has to literally go to Hell. Even worse, no devil means everyone has escaped from Hell, and if they kill Francis, they can become the new King of Hell. So now, he has the worst of the world after him, plus his own inner demons to battle.
Two other important characters to Francis (and hopefully the readers too!) are his sister Star and Joan of Arc. Star is more than just the comic relief, she's the only person Francis truly considers his "family" even if they aren't biologically related. This brings back the whole nature vs. nurture argument. Star is an extremely courageous character who just underwent a mastectomy to treat her breast cancer. Meanwhile, Joan of Arc is a saint who has been dead since the 15th century. She is Francis' literal guardian angel and his best bet against the forces of Hell. Joan is really rough around the edges and will go to some pretty extreme lengths to keep the worst of Hell away from the throne.
I feel a bit bad for my fictional characters because I certainly don't give them much of a break in these issues! And they're certainly going to go through a lot more throughout the rest of this series!
BM: How did you plot out this series? Are you a pantster or a planner?
ND: I'm a hybrid! I do have a rough plan for each arc of Road Trip to Hell that basically consists of where the characters will be at the start and end of each arc (both location and character development-wise) and the antagonists they will be running into. But the detailed scripts are something I tackle as I approach each arc. My plan is to not get the art started until I have all of the scripts done for an entire arc.
BM: What's your character-building process like?
ND: When I initially started building these characters in particular, I had found a character sheet that asked a bunch of questions about traits, nicknames, likes/dislikes, stuff that may never come up in the comic itself but that helped me create a fully-fledge cast of characters. As I wrote the scripts, the characters really did take on a life of their own, which changed how I saw them developing in the story.
BM: Who is your favorite character in this series and why?
ND: So far, Star has been the character that is the most fun to write, which quickly made her my favorite character. It's so fun to come up with quips for her to say. She's also not just comic relief, her character has a lot of heart and I really want to make her three-dimensional. We'll be going a lot more into her and Francis's past in future volumes that I think will add even more layers to her.
BM: What's next for Road Trip to Hell?
ND: My hope after finishing my third Kickstarter (successfully, fingers crossed!) is that I can start looking at publishers. There's one in particular I'd be very interested in having publish the series. But I've dedicated myself to crowdfunding first for this initial story arc so backers can get the comic book first—plus to gauge their response and see how I can continue to improve Road Trip to Hell!
Building A Team
BM: How did you go about building the team for this series?
ND: When it came time to look for a team, I was looking at a lot of the indie comics I was reading (and sometimes even editing!) and looking for a style that I thought screamed Road Trip to Hell. Monika Maccagni's work on Vampblade in particular, specifically the character designs and how full of emotion everyone's expressions were, along with some bombastic action, made me want to contact her right away. This was pretty easy considering I'd been editing some of the books she was doing artwork for! I saw Joaquin Pereyra's gorgeous color palette in MediSin and knew that would be a great color scheme for Road Trip. So I reached out to the writer on that (shout-out to Jeff Dyer!) to see if he could refer me to Joaquin, which he thankfully did! Justin Birch I've worked with before on adaptations like Miraculous, so I knew he was an amazing letterer. Brant Fowler, who did the design for the logo, I know through my work on Comic Frontline. And last but certainly not least, I was familiar with Zoe Stanley's adorable variants for series that I've edited like DollFace, so I knew if I wanted to indulge my love of chibi art, I would need to contact her!
BM: What has it been like working with artist Monika Maccagni on this series? Did y'all develop a way of working together?
ND: Monika is so talented and was able to run with the scripts I gave her so well that I rarely needed to communicate with her past the script, honestly! It was amazing to have her send me some pretty barebones thumbnails to establish the basics of how the page would look and then see those become full-blown pages! If I ever do an extended edition of Road Trip, I'd love to include some process pages to show the comic go from thumbnails to the finished work.
BM: While working with colorist Joaquin Pereyra, how did y'all decide on the color palette?
ND: I wanted Joaquin to tap into a similar color palette to what he did in MediSin. From there, I really let him take the reins when it came to his interpretations of some scenes. He sometimes even gave me multiple options to look at for things like; for example, the first issue initially had three different background color choices, including a blood-red sky that I'm tempted to make a limited cover someday....
BM: Tell us a little bit about working with Ringo-award nominated letterer Justin Birch. What has he taught you about lettering?
ND: Justin is a fabulous letterer who has increased my appreciation for the skill of lettering so much. Lettering is something you really can't take for granted, and it's an art form all its own. I had suggestions for how I wanted the lettering to look, like swapping the colors between Baphomet's balloons and text as well as using a different font for Joan's dialogue, and Justin was able to pull off everything I asked for and more.
Running Kickstarter Campaigns
BM: As someone who has successfully funded not one but two comics on Kickstarter, what are your top three tips for first time Kickstarter creators?
Make sure your reward tier levels make sense and cover not just the product you're offering itself but also shipping—that goes for your overall goal too.
I highly recommend sharing a preview of your Kickstarter ahead of time with other creators and gather their feedback. (I would not be going into this Kickstarter as confident as I am without the awesome advice you gave me about the campaign, Brittany.)
The work on your Kickstarter does not stop after you hit launch. Be promoting your Kickstarter as much as you can, whether it's setting up interviews like this one, appearing on podcasts, or even just posting on your socials and emailing friends, family, and other creators.
BM: As an editor and writer, how do you think Kickstarter has changed the landscape of self-publishing comics?
ND: It's opened a lot of doors for people who previously may not have been able to find the right publisher for them to get their work into people's hands. I know people who exclusively publish through Kickstarter as well as those who have used their success on Kickstarter to help them get their book or future works if there's to a publisher who may not have been as willing to take a chance on the book or the creator if they couldn't see how well they did with their Kickstarter campaign. It's also really helped create a community among creators self-publishing their comics that can be extremely positive.
BM: What has been the most surprising outcome of self-publishing through Kickstarter?
ND: People actually spending money on my work and meeting my goal! Honestly, I'm so thrilled when anyone backs my projects because I know, especially now, that money can be very tight and it's important to spend it wisely. So it means so much to me that people would take a chance on my work and support it that way. A huge thank you to every past and future backer who helps bring Road Trip to Hell and other projects like it on Kickstarter to life!
Preview of Road Trip to Hell #3
BM: Wow! Such excitement. Thanks for joining us and sharing this awesome preview. You and your team should be so proud!
Check out ROAD TRIP TO HELL on Kickstarter at the button below and hit the “Notify me on launch” button to be the first to know when it launches. Once the campaign is live, you’ll be able to get all three issues in the Digital Devil Catch Up tier or the Devil’s Advocate - Issues #1-3 tier for the physical books. For the collectors out there, Nicole even has reward tiers where you can get all the covers, including the variants by Zoe Stanley!
Don’t forget to follow Nicole’s work here and sign up for her newsletter to stay in the loop about her latest work!