18. The Making of a Comic: 'Slice of Life' #1 by Kat Calamia and Phil Falco
Deconstructing the "slice of life" genre and the benefits of self-publishing
Howdy Brave Being,
Welcome back, fine friends to The Making of a Comic. This week, BI VISIBILITY creators Kat Calamia and Phil Falco join me to talk about their latest Kickstarter comic, Slice of Life #1, a queer romance originally published on WEBTOON. Kat and Phil are currently seeking funding to print the first issue on Kickstarter right now, but have spared some time in their busy schedules—and on the heels of an insanely successful Kickstarter for BI VISIBILITY—to talk to me about it and give us the inside scoop on self-publishing. Let’s hop to it!
Slice of Life
Brittany Matter: Tell us a little bit about Slice of Life #1.
Kat Calamia: Slice of Life is about a gritty anime protagonist, Lady Vengeance, who is brought to the real world by a super fan. She'll learn there's more to life than darkness and revenge...and find love with the super fan's twin sister - a kind-hearted cheerleader.
The series is a queer romance that deconstructs the "slice of life" genre, unpacking the importance of everyday narratives to tell a larger story about the meaning of life from the point of view of a fictional character.
BM: Who is Lady Vengeance?
Phil Falco: Lady Vengeance is the moniker of Yuriko, our anime character who is brought to life. Within the context of the anime, she is a young woman who lost the love of her life and dedicated herself to avenging his death. She became a skilled swordswoman and tracker who traveled the land in search of her revenge.
However, once she’s brought to the real world, Yuriko is confronted with the harsh truth that her entire life was fictional. So Slice of Life is the story of Yuriko learning how to be a real person and discovering who she is outside of the confines of a plot-heavy gritty anime where her purpose is already spelled out for her.
BM: Tell us more about her love interest, the kind-hearted cheerleader.
KC: Lucy is a perfectionist! She’s trying to balance her duties as a student, her extracurriculars, and, of course, her relationship with her family and friends - all while she’s dealing with the rough emotional terrain of coming out to herself.
BM: What about the genre of romance appeals to each of you?
KC: Romance was a popular genre during the dawn of comic books, but over the decades romance titles have dwindled. We are both queer creators and want to bring more queer representation to the medium.
Romance is the perfect propeller to drive a slice of life story. Both genres keep character work at the heart of their narrative, an element that Phil and I find very important in any form of storytelling.
PF: A big reason is that neither Kat nor I had really tackled romance in a meaningful way in our other projects. We really wanted to tell a queer story with our WEBTOON, and love the idea of a fictional character both learning things about being a real person and discovering she’s queer/falling in love at the same time.
BM: On Slice of Life's Kickstarter page, it says: "Slice of Life #1 will be collecting the first four chapters from WEBTOON in a new sequential format." Tell us what that means.
PF: While WEBTOON utilizes a vertical-scrolling format (placing panels on top of one another rather than side-by-side) to make comics more easily consumable on mobile, “sequential” format is the traditional comic book page you would see in a printed comic.
As comic book lovers, Kat and I knew from the start that we wanted to collect the WEBTOON in print format. So we actually work backwards when creating Slice of Life. All art is done in traditional “sequential” style and then converted to the format you see on WEBTOON.
We think both versions are unique and amazing in their own right.
BM: As co-creators and co-writers of this Slice of Life, what's your process like from ideation to script?
KC: What a great question! Phil and I text each other almost every hour of the day, but we also find it important to have a weekly business meeting in person. During the week, we’ll text stray ideas that come to mind, but the in person meetings is where we get most of our plotting done.
We plot our overarching arc and then get into the plotting for each WEBTOON chapter. When it comes to the actual writing, we mostly write chapters separately and then come back to give each other notes until we get to our final draft.
BM: How did you go about building your team?
PF: Once we nailed down the script for our first four Chapters, we set our sights on finding the perfect artist. We searched pretty much all over the internet (Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook) and considered so many amazing candidates.
In the end, we connected with Valeria Peri who had an immediate love for the project. We knew from the get-go that she was a perfect fit. She has such an expressive, talented artist who can seamlessly switch from rolling-on-the-floor-laughing comical panels to earnest-and-heartwarming panels. And for a comic about all the intricacies of everyday life, that is exactly what we were looking for.
Our WEBTOON letterer, Garth Matthams, is an established WEBTOON creator who we already knew from his work on Witch Creek Road. We reached out to him for a phone call to get some advice on making the jump to WEBTOON. Garth was so enamored by Slice of Life that he offered to join the team as our letterer on the spot! And we’re so thankful to have him!
And finally, our sequential letterer, Taylor Esposito, did such an amazing job on our previous project (Bi Visibility: A Bisexual Comic Anthology) that using him for
Slice of Life was a no-brainer.
BM: What are some things that you've learned from each other, born only out of your collaboration?
KC: My partnership with Phil has helped me learn something new about how to make comic books almost everyday. We are always trying to figure out ways to reinvent ourselves and with every passing project better our work from a business and creative standpoint.
PF: When your work is your passion project, it’s easy to be overindulgent. Just because something is a cool idea doesn’t mean it’s a smart idea. Kat has amazing business sense, and working with her has definitely made me a much more intelligent and purposeful creator.
BM: What's the experience been like self-publishing through WEBTOON?
KC: It’s been a whirlwind. We’ve only been publishing on the site for a few months and as I write this we have over 16K subscribers. We’ve been to a few cons since posting and we already have readers that recognize the book.
You get immediate feedback through the comment section, which is so different from the echo chamber that can be traditional comics.
PF: Like Kat said, it’s been a real whirlwind. And it’s absolutely amazing seeing the passion and positivity of WEBTOON readers.
I think WEBTOON really fosters that dedication and love by encouraging the weekly release format. Compared to Kickstarters that we run every few months for our respective properties, readers of Slice of Life can tune in weekly to see what’s new with Yuriko, Lucy, and Ravyn. It really helps to foster familiarity that is more difficult to achieve with a staggered release schedule.
BM: As experienced Kickstarter creators, both together and separately having ran several others before this one, why did y'all first choose Kickstarter to self-publish, and have your reasons for continuing to use the platform stayed the same?
KC: I just love the community of people—ranging from other creators to the wonderful people that run Kickstarter. It’s such a great platform to truly connect to your readers and have them literally be part of the process.
BM: What's your favorite part of self-publishing comics?
KC: If I’m being honest—the control. We can take the risks we want (from a creative and business standpoint) and create the stories that we truly want to tell.
PF: I, too, am a control freak.
BM: What's one tip that you'd give to creators looking to self-publish their comics?
PF: You need to be your own biggest fan. There will be times when making comics (or anything for that matter) is grueling and unrewarding. But as long as you remain passionate about your work, it will keep you motivated to continue creating and help others to fall in love with your work as well.
KC: Making comics is hard work! You’re not just a writer—you’re a business owner, a PR team, a marketer, etc. But all that hard work will be worth it to get that physical book in your hand. There’s nothing more magical!
As for Kickstarter tips, I also do Kickstarter consulting where I help creators build their campaigns from a PR standpoint. It’s been such a gratifying experience working with such talented creators to get the word out there about their projects.
Get the Scoop on Kat and Phil
BM: How did y'all meet and get connected?
PF: I actually knew of Kat from her comic reviews on YouTube well before we met in person. We were connected by a mutual friend (someone who went to high school with me and college with Kat) and became fast-friends.
Funnily enough, we never really talked about comics for the first few years of our friendship despite both being avid fans (and Kat being an established creator). It wasn’t until 2019 when I began work on my first comic series that we started to really talk about comics—and more broadly, creating.
At that point, we were already such great friends that it was only a matter of time until we collaborated.
BM: What about comics do you love the most?
KC: It’s where art and literature meet, and the only limits of your creativity is your imagination.
BM: In your spare time, if you have any, what do you do to fuel your creativity?
KC: MUSIC! I listen while I work and when I need to step away and it truly helps the creative juices.
I’d also say our time just hanging out as friends helps us reset for the next time we want to be creative.
BM: What are some of your inspirations in general and for Slice of Life?
KC: Reading other people’s work, expanding my pull list. I’m always inspired by their wonderful stories, and it just makes me want to become an even better creator.
As for Slice of Life, reading more WEBTOONs and Yuri stories has been a huge inspiration in making Slice of Life different but also a commentary on the GL genre as a whole.
BM: Who is your favorite character in Slice of Life?
KC: That’s so hard! They are all our babies, but I’d have to go with Lucy. I really love the arc that we have planned for her, and writing her relationship with both Ravyn and Yuriko has been a true highlight!
PF: Also an incredibly tough call for me, but I’m going to say Yuriko. Her earnestness and emotional honesty that really resonates with me. And I love that even when she struggles, she never stops trying to figure herself out and become a better person.
BM: It’s always difficult to choose favorites, but it’s clear from your collaboration with each other and the team that you’ve all put a lot of love and care into each character and their arcs. I look forward to seeing more from y’all and Slice of Life.
Don’t forget that Slice of Life #1 is live on Kickstarter now and the only way they can print their story is by reaching that Kickstater goal. Support this awesome book at the button below!