Conversations with Comic Book Creators #4.2: Ricky Lima & Shane Heron

[Welcome back, faithful ones! As promised, the conclusion to this two-parter. This entry is more jam-packed and chock-full of facts splashed with humour!! Hope you enjoy as much as me and the men did ^_^]

Now to get into the meat of this interview: your joint creation!!! I was a bit taken aback that the first issue was only 14 pages.

SH: Twelve!

Twelve? Even shorter!

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB #1The subsequent three were about the same length but then by #5 you had the current typical length (20 pages) and #6 another two added!! Why the shortness followed by the expansion?

SH: BHHC wasn’t a thing I was going to do long-term. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. I just wanted to work with Ricky. I didn’t have time to commit to something bigger so we agreed upon that. Comic Book Lounge was having a 12-hour Comic Book Jam. Ricky and I decided to put something together for that. I threw some ideas at him. He took those and transformed them into what basically became the first issue of BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB. The first issue came out well since it was supposed to be one page per hour (12 pages = 12 hours). I did them smaller size. That way, we could get through them in twelve. I’m not fast. That was supposed to be it. The one issue is complete. If you weren’t to read any others, you’d be content with it. It definitely wasn’t ‘to be continued’. We collected it and sold it at Free Comic Book Day 2013. It sold extremely well. We decided to continue and that evolved. We decided to expand the story. Our decision was to stick with twelve pages per issue. Once we hit issue #5, we realized we wanted to wrap up the story for #6. I told Ricky to make a fuller-size comic if necessary. This is why the last two are normal length. From now on, they will be a regular-sized comic book. I like twelve pages but it is a little too short and a little too quick a read for people’s liking.

RL: By the time issue #5 came around, we had so much to write about that I messaged Shane and explained the limitations. We’ve done pretty well. I’ve always liked doing short stories. It’s impressive to tell a really good story in a short amount of time.

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB #5True! I suppose it is a little more challenging because you have to compact many things.

RL: Going back to DEEP SEA, the first one was eight pages. I don’t find it difficult.

It’s obvious this is an indie self-published book. Who is the ‘company’?

RL: Shane and I never discussed this but I always see others putting company logos on their books. I see that as crappy. Who you fooling? You don’t have a company!

SH: I think with Diamond, you’re supposed to have a company name to be featured in their catalog and order forms. We haven’t submitted to Diamond at this point. We’re on our own. It’s just BHHC. We’re pitching to some publishers for a bigger distribution. We want to focus on creativity rather than the business aspect. I don’t want to deal with all the minute details like shipping schedules. I just want to draw the book.

RL: There’s one thing we thought about when launching the book. We need to get prints and T-shirts, etc. Shane refused that.

SH: What about action figures? [sarcasm]

RL: At first, I was bummed out. I thought T-shirts would be good. Upon reconsidering, I would not want to do tees. The hassle and the money to put into that. There’s no point.

SH: Plus, you’re not a T-shirt guy.

RL: It’s not like we have a brand or anything.

SH: Ricky really wanted to do action figures as well as tees. In my mind, I’d ponder: Do you really want to allot half your table at a con trying to figure out the amount of different sizes. I don’t really care!! Action figures would be cool and fun but our book isn’t big enough for people to seek those things. I’d rather increase awareness of the book. Once that level is reached, you contact professionals about that franchise.

RL: Let me just say you did make a Lars figure. [laughter]

SH: Out of Lego®!

I like how you scoff at the notion of fake logos. It could be ‘RL & SH Productions’, or something like that. For example, Heroes of the World decided to expand and create their own merchandise mainly tees, posters. Now they have intimate apparel too.

RL: They have underwear?? Oh, that’s cool! I’m not dissing that stuff. I’m not opposed to making products. For us, at the end of the day, we like a hassle-free experience. We wouldn’t push our products even if they were made. It should arrive at a logical course. I think I’ll buy some HoTW underwear 😉

Since it’s you two, you’d have to foot the bill in terms of printing…[interrupted]

RL: We used to.

Oh, you used to? Can you mention who does that for you? Is there a printing press you go to specifically?

SH: We still pay for all our own printing. Basically, we put our own money into the first two issues. We have a BHHC bank. We’re not paying out of pocket anymore. It’s paying for itself. We cover the costs for attending conventions: the tables, hotel accommodations.

How many print runs do you do?

RL: We use Guerilla Printing. They’re wicked!

SH: That’s what I was going to say!! They’re in Chinatown, south of College on Spadina. We’ve used them since day one. They’ve been great to us. Excellent prices and quality. When they were moving offices, we had to find someone else. It was not a fun experience. We’re very happy to continue with Guerilla Printing.

Guerilla Printing logoGuerilla Printing adI was very curious. That’s all. Not to knock your efforts…[interrupted]

R: That’s part of the interview! Curiosity!! [laughs]

Not a reflection on you, but since you don’t mention anywhere the printing company…

RL: That’s true. The first issue actually does have an ad for Guerilla Printing. Not the first printing of the first issue 😉 When they moved, Stadium allowed us to sell the books without commission. We figured it’d be good to insert an ad for them. Maybe we should have an ad for the next birthday. [laughs]

Stadium Comics adIt’ll be on record as of today!! Shane, you must be reading my mind because I was bemused at the fact that some of your initial issues went to second and even third printings. That’s Diamond-status right there!! Also, having variants for the majority of the issues. That’s ramping things up!!

RL: We’re taking print runs of fifty issue here. [laughs] Nowhere near the thousands of issues that some books have.

That’s what qualifies it as a sell-out!

SH: In this day and age, you don’t have to print thousands at a time to make a book profitable. Now, we’re into the trades. We’re not going to be really doing single issues anymore. Yeah, we ‘sold out’. The reason we did variant covers was to acknowledge From a Hat. They’re a group of young creators: Paris Alleyne, Jahnoy Lindsay, Jamal Campbell, Matt Simas, Dylan Burnett, Te’Shawn Dwyer. They have a Facebook group and focus on themes. One week, all of them will draw Robin, for example. Ricky was friends with them at the time. He got them to draw for BHHC. We liked some of the versions and decided that if we do another print run of issue #2, why not use one of their covers. Jamal Campbell is now doing work for Marvel. Dylan Burnett, who did the cover for issue #5, he just had a book announced with HEAVY METAL, “Interceptor”. They’re all really super-talented guys. Some guys are just better at drawing covers than me. [laughs]

Looking at my stash, I have #1 fourth printing, #2-4 second printing, first printing for #5-6. That’s okay.

RL: Issue #1 first printing was only one hundred issues. We wanted to keep the low numbers. Other than that, we never kept track of the others. That’s something that was inconsequential in the beginning. It’s nebulous in terms of how much we sold. It’s well into the thousands.

The only person I’m going to blame here is myself since I jumped on the bandwagon too late.

SH: I was looking through my own personal collection. Ricky and I keep one of each of the original prints. I have a few of the original print runs. I’ll give you them, Paul. I’ll make it happen.

AAAWWW, thank you so much 🙂

SH: The very first print runs!

RL: They’re worth tens of dollars. [laughter]

SH: I think I have three for some reason. I’ll give you one of each.

Thanks! Much appreciated!! The main genre is sci-fi but it’s mixed with a dash of adventure and space opera. I imagine smidges of the Indiana Jones universe coupled with Star Wars, especially the father-sons conflict.

RL: YES! We were discussing westerns in space.

SH: It’s space because I like the idea of having a world where we make up the rules as we go along. It’s sci-fi because of aliens and space ships. We don’t really get into the technology. I’ll draw random bursts of energy. I’ve come up with this idea where their binary language has geometric shapes – squares, triangles, circles. We don’t get too deep. It’s fun to focus on the weird. The heart of BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB is me drawing weird, ugly creatures. Issue #5 has a monk talking in a different language. Completely deliberately gibberish. He’s chanting. The computer screens have these shapes too.

Agreed. Not everything has to be explained.

SH: I really don’t want to get into it. Most of the story evolves from me drawing an ugly-ass character and asking Ricky if we can use him/her. We have a new fave who will be in the next arc starting with issue #7. He’ll join the team at the end of the arc.

RL: Zamra. Shane drew something else. I asked for a woman. He obliged. All of a sudden, that’s a new character! It’s all just about making ugly people.

The choice of non-humanoid aliens is more reflective of actual science-fiction. In fact, the only human is found in #1 and he lasted half the issue! What species are the characters?!? Lars is a larva (nice play on words!), Hector is whatever the heck he is? Get it?? An ant? Trev, a giant-sized flea? Lilliam, a seductive pussycat. Tug, a dog/insect hybrid.

SH: Basically, the idea was that Lars and Hector are brothers. Yes, Lars is a larva. As he gets older, he’ll turn into what Hector looks like.

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB #1 creditsThe rest of them are just weird, ugly creatures. Lilliam is the most humanoid of the characters. She has elf ears and rocket boots.

Lilliam is miam miam

Tug is literally a puppy face on a gross insect body. That’s what I was going for.

TugCockroach? I don’t know.

SH: Not a cockroach. I can’t draw those because I’m so grossed out by them. [laughter] Zamra is just a giant blob with four legs.

And boobs!!

SH: Yeah, huge breasts. We haven’t revealed their origins. They’re just weird, ugly creatures. In the next arc, we’re going to Zamra’s homeworld. All will be divulged eventually. They’re just a team of ugly weirdos.

RL: We don’t have names for the races. They’re just aliens.

I have to leave it up to my imagination. You expanded the cast by #3 introducing the other members of the BHHC.

BHHC Cast of CharactersAlso, you made Lars’ wish come true in that his father Vyson is resurrected!!

RL: OH! You caught that, eh? [smirks] [laughs] That’s the crux of issue #2 that propels everything else. Congratulations! [laughs]

This group has some ineffective members. The two brothers, specifically. Not only do they get into all sorts of trouble, as is their wont, they can barely rub two credits together.

BHHC Whole crew

R: One of them I equate to Shane. He seemed a bit surprised at that observation. Those guys are real fun to write. I enjoy them.

SH: Ricky made one of them drunk all the time. Apparently, I’m like that. Just on weekends 😛

Must be that Irish blood!!

RL: To emphasize the evolution of the characters – Kravit and Davit don’t have genders but I write one as male, the other as female. It was a bit confusing for the webcomic. Colton worked on it and asked me. I told him flat out that I didn’t know. Either one! [laughter] The drunk one is probably the male.

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB #6That’s very progressive thinking even if this is “sci-fi”. Maybe it’s set in the future. I totally agree. In 2015, it really shouldn’t matter what gender is. I’m appreciative of the origin behind the group’s purpose as well as nomenclature. I won’t spoil the end of the first arc but there were twists and turns, and heart strings being tugged.

RL: YES! We really wanted to humanize everything to give it a familiar feel. Shane asked me why I wrote such dark material given my normal upbringing. It’s what makes good writing.

Nitpickiness: the title originally had an apostrophe s then it was dropped. Are you good grammarians? 😉 The change in logo is an improvement. It has an eerie feel to it. Who made that decision? No dedication in #4?

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB original logo B&WSH: You really caught all that, eh? A lot of people really like those dedications, which are mostly tongue-in-cheek.

Especially the children one in #2!

SH: We crammed so much into #4 because we had two pin-ups as well as guest art from Jason Loo. I was under the wire. I couldn’t think of anything clever. As far as the apostrophe goes, we put one in because we thought it was grammatically correct. [Ricky laughs] People kept talking about that! We’re still not entirely sure the correct way to go about it.

Well, if I may interject…

SH: Please!!

RL: Are you an English teacher?

I’m an English teacher! It depends on the meaning. If you want to specify one hunter and whatever belongs to him/her, then you must use the apostrophe s. If you want to emphasize that it’s a group of people, leave it at the s. But, if you want to indicate the group of people and the club belonging to all of them, the apostrophe comes after the s.

SH: We just got rid of the apostrophe! [laughter] We found people stopped talking about it if it wasn’t there. Regardless of proper grammar, no one said anything. The font for the original title cover was done through Photoshop by me but it was horrible. This one [current] was designed by Kris Johnson. He’s created logos for Fred Kennedy, Adam Gorham, Phil McClorey. We love his stuff! He’s going to do MORRIS for me. He’s just a really good designer. He put that together for us. It has an eerie old sci-fi feel to it.

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB new logoI picture the letters vibrating or materializing on the screen. Know what I mean?

SH: Yup! Almost like a Twilight Zone feel to it. We loved it instantly. Everyone else responded really well to it. Such a cool logo! I wish I knew a way to plug Kris.

I’ll find one ^_^

SH: He does voice acting but his design work is stellar.

My jaw dropped when I saw that Jason Loo drew two pages for #4. This was months before he released PITIFUL HUMAN-LIZARD #1. Coincidentally, I interviewed him almost two months ago and researched all his previous efforts. I didn’t come across this tidbit nor did he mention it :0

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB #4RL: It’s only two pages. [smiles] This came out before PHL #1??

SH: Issue #4 – we’re friends with Jason Loo. We like what he does. He was working on PHL but it hadn’t come out yet. Our book came out March 2014 and his was Sept. 2014. We had a two-page flashback scene and we thought that it’d be cool having a different artist on it. In the works: a crossover with BHHC and PHL.

Oh, man!! :0

SH: We’re figuring out a release date. We get along really well. Jason Loo is a friend of BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB.

Ricky and JasonRL: There’s an ad for our book in PITIFUL HUMAN-LIZARD.

That’s right! In the first issue!! I noticed that in your sixth issue, there’s an ad for PHL.

ads for Of Stone and Pitiful Human-LizardRL: There’s also an ad for David Bishop’s OF STONE which I made but I’m so sorry if it’s garbage. [laughs]


RL: [laughs] It’s the worst! If I saw that and didn’t know David, I’d think this book looks like $#!+

Truly, you guys are so humble and very honest. I am too.

SH: I’m not humble. Not at all. [laughter]

I already stated that I’ll readily admit a mistake. I don’t care if I’m judged for that. I’m only human! I mentioned this to Jason and I’ll do the same to you. You cast aside any ego and acknowledge the struggling artists who deserve a chance to rise through the ranks. You already mentioned some names but please elaborate on the cover contributors and pin-up illustrators one more time.

SH: The group From a Hat. Dave Bishop coloured the original covers for BHHC. It’s the cover for the trade as well. He coloured the first three issues for us. Jason Loo, whom we’ve mentioned. For #6 we had two variants: George Todorovski and Josh Deck. I wish I could plug them somehow. Look them up on Google. Anyone else?

RL: Jeff Longstreet did a pin-up in issue #6.

BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB #6 pin-upSH: Jeff will be doing one of the webcomics. He’s currently tackling it. Ricky, name the webcomic creators!!

RL: The first one was Te’Shawn from From a Hat. The others are Colton Gilson, Tina DeRuiter, Oliver Castañeda. Jahnoy Lindsay will do one. This guy from the Czech Republic. His name is Jiri. That one should be next. Shane is probably going to do the weirdest one. It features lots of sex toys.

Celebrity endorsement: Ah-nold, Miley, Obama, Ozzy, Hulk Hogan, Tom Cruise & more!!! Say what???

Miley hoards BHHCObama endorses BHHCOzzy loves BHHCHulk Hogan pounds on BHHCTom Cruise loves BHHCSH: That was just a ridiculous thing I was doing for the Facebook group when we first started. I’d grab celebs like the Kardashians and Photoshop our book into their hands. We kept posting. I find it hilarious.

RL: We have some real celebrity endorsements. Phil LaMarr. We met him at FANeXpo. He was hesitant to take a pic of the book but he did it because I forced him to. [laughter] Shawn Benjamin. He didn’t care what was in it. Zack Snyder, the director of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Well, we don’t have photo evidence of that. [laughter] I was at an event for Man of Steel. Zack was there and about to leave. I turned around and asked him if he’d be interested in a copy of the book. He politely agreed. I gave it to him and he left. I had hoped to show that at his next pitch. I think I gave him first print for issue #1.

Congrats on the release of the trade. I read that you sold half the amount at FANeXpo much to your delight J

RL: That was pretty cool. It felt good to sell because with six issues, it’s $30. People may be hesitant in spending that amount. $20 is reasonable.

SH: It’s even better to have a complete story arc. It’s easier to read. I’ve reached the point where I don’t like buying single issues. I will wait for the trade.

Ricky and I were discussing this beforehand. It’s interesting how there are no divisions within. It’s hard to distinguish what is chapter one, two, three, etc. I mentioned to him how most trades will divide the story even if the credits or title don’t show, there’ll be a cover image. He told me that you wanted it that way. Basically, it’s just one long fluid story.

SH: I was busy working on issue #7. Ricky is the one who put it all together. It was his call. I asked him not to but he did it. It’s fine. [laughs]

RL: Maybe for the second printing of the trade, we’ll switch it up. We’ll see. It’s not that big of a deal.

Love the title: quite the nod to the 80’s and Lady M. I worshipped the ground Madonna walked on for a good twenty years.

RL: It’s a Madonna reference??

Yeah!! Papa Don’t Preach!!

RL: [to Shane] Do you remember what other titles came to mind?

Shane, did you know it was a Madonna reference?

SH: I came up with it!! I love that song. That era for Madonna was great. We needed something to name the entire arc.

Madonna Papa Don't PreachThat makes perfect sense!!

SH: There’s a lot of daddy issues in there. It just came to me! I threw it at Ricky. We both liked it. PAPA DON’T PREACH: BLACK HOLE HUNTERS CLUB vol. 1.

scan0040scan0041I already mentioned that I met you at Niagara Falls Comic Con, Shane!! I had met Ricky much earlier. I missed you at Montreal Comic Con. Literally!!! I must have had the blinders on. My bad.

SH: I busted up my rib in Montreal. Fun parties.

I kept walking through all the aisles continuously and never found you. I remember seeing Jason Loo and that was before I was fully aware of him too. I saw Heroes of the World. Had I not looked more carefully, they would have slipped by me too.

When is the anticipated #7 materializing? I’m astounded that you have a fan base across the pond. The good solid English connection there.

How many social outlets acknowledge your work? I came across Behance but am not too familiar with it.

RL: We don’t know about that one but we’re glad that it’s there.

OH!! Almost forgot!! Reveal the real you to our readers as well as your fanbase. Coming into being on Planet Earth.

RL: Our parents had sex. [sarcasm] [laughs]

SH: I’m from Toronto, born and raised in Scarborough. My mom is of Scottish descent. My dad’s Italian. I’m not that interesting of a fella.

RL: When sperm meets an egg, it forms a human!! [laughs] I’m from Brampton. Not much to do here so I write. That’s what I do.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the books, meeting and befriending you, and anticipate the next chapter!! Thank you very much for allowing me to interview you.

SH: Thank you, Paul.

RL: This was the longest, most thorough interview we’ve ever done!!

This is Almighty Oracle for Comix Asylum.