Rachel Pandich is an ambitious writer. I first became of her eight-issue miniseries, Aspire (Movement Comics), when I ran across it at this year’s HeroesCon (Pandich and series artist Ashley Lanni were invited to peddle the series at Teenage Satan‘s booth by Marsha Cooke). The miniseries aims to tell the tale of Destiny, a 12-year old girl who wants to fight crime. In addition to discussing this miniseries, Pandich discusses her upcoming involvement in Womanthology.
Tim O’Shea: Is Movement Comics your own publishing entity established to publish Aspire?
Rachel Pandich: No. I’ve had the script for the first issue of Aspire since late 2006 early 2007. It took a lot of shopping around for both a publisher and an artist. Finally a friend sent me an email directing me to Movement Magazine. Movement is an indie music zine that had dabbled in the local comic book scene before so I figured “Why not?”
O’Shea: How did you and artist Ashley Lanni first decide to start collaborating?
Pandich: Like I said, I’ve had the script for the first issue for a while. I was on my fourth artist, who was very quickly giving me every excuse in the book as to why he could not finish the first page, when I met Ashley. It was at Jacksonville’s monthly artwalk. Another artist that was next to her was handing out fliers for a pop-culture art show the next week. I went and Ashley was there too. I liked what I saw and a few months later we had agreed to work together.
O’Shea: What prompted you and Lanni to develop Aspire, a series with an African-American lead (as opposed to a character of some other race)?
Pandich: I’m from Yuma, Arizona. My schools were always at least 60% Hispanic. When my mom married a Marine we moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, for four years and there half of my classmates were non-whites (bi-racial, African-American). Then I moved back to Yuma to live with my dad until I came to Florida, which is also diverse. Even though I’m a blue eyed white gal not everyone is. I think having more diversity in entertainment mediums to reflect society is a good thing. Oh, and Destiny is bi-racial.
O’Shea: In future issues will there be flashbacks with Destiny’s dad, or do you want to focus on the present and not delve too much into the past?
Pandich: The readers will get some more explanation to what happened to Destiny’s dad but the books will focus mostly on Destiny moving forward.
O’Shea: What kind of supporting cast do you want to build for Aspire?
Pandich: They are Destiny’s biggest obstacles really. Almost every page is of the adults telling Destiny she can’t do what she wants to do and that’s how most kids feel. If the darn adults would just get out of the way the preteens and teens could fix everything right?
O’Shea: How much did it bolster your creative spirit to see this recent rave review?
Pandich: That was just so amazing to see. The host of Brain Food, Jamie, had “circled” me on Google + a week prior to that. When I saw that in the stream I yelled with excitement. To have someone like something you’ve done enough to make a YouTube review of it is overwhelming. It made me want to get onto paper all of my story ideas. I was also very VERY pleased how much he praised Ashley for her illustrations. She is more talented than she knows.
O’Shea: In trying to build an audience for Aspire, how much has Free Comic Book Day and attending conventions helped spread the word about the book?
Pandich: FCBD and cons have been my bread and butter on this book. Lots of current and former readers go to FCBD for the free comics and goodies. Aspire has brought back some of these former customers to a couple of the local shops because they want to get the book for their daughters. Going to the conventions have been great too. Aspire is not in Previews so word of mouth is the way people are hearing about it. Heck, going to MegaCon is how I ending up going to Heroes Con. Marsha Cooke (co-writer of Teenage Satan) was so impressed at MegaCon she insisted that I come to HeroesCon. She was kind enough to give Ashley and me time and space at the TS booth all weekend AND she brought copies of Aspire back to Canada to Strange Adventures Comics.
O’Shea: In terms of marketing your work, how much does it help to have made your way through college managing a few comic stores–and have the perspective of a retailer to a certain extent?
Pandich: Loads. Knowing how to talk to the owners of comic shops help build a good working relationship. I also know what can kill an indie comic real quick because I’ve seen it happen but I can only do so much. Right now as we’re doing this interview issue #3 is running late due to circumstances on Movement’s end. I apologize to everyone about that. Being late for an indie comic can destroy it but if the creators stay engaged with the shops and the fan base that can usually save it. As a comic fan, as someone who has worked and managed the shops, and now as a creator getting my work out there I have had the opportunity of seeing the different point of view. It really all boils down to communication. That is also why I have so many social networks that are open access. Talk to me. Tell me what your bottom line is as a retailer and we’ll work something out. Tell me your opinions of Aspire as a reader. Have a question about ordering just hit me up on: Tumblr, Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, Google + and I will do my best to get back to you. Or hey, if you just want to pick each other’s brain over a pint of beer or a cup of coffee that is cool too. Back to the question of marketing. I’m still a newbie on this but it is very clear communication and knowing how to communicate is key. It sounds easy right?
O’Shea: Do you envision Aspire to be a finite series or would you like to be working with the character for the foreseeable future?
Pandich: Aspire is only going to be 8 issues. However, I have been playing with the idea of one day maybe doing shorts of the supporting cast.
O’Shea: Producing the book in black and white, is that a fiscal choice or do you prefer the b&w medium for your stories?
Pandich: 100% fiscal.
O’Shea: Creatively, what else if on the horizon for you?
Pandich: I’m one of the contributors to Womanthology, if you want to talk about that.
O’Shea: How did you come to be involved with Womanthology? Can you talk about your story in it?
Pandich: I had started following Steve Niles on Twitter and one day he retweeted Renae De Liz asking if there were any ladies willing to do an anthology for charity. I responded with a quickness saying I was interested and asking for more info. It is a good thing I did too because Renae got so many women interested that she had to start a secondary list within a week.
My story for Womanthology is called The Tea Totaler, in it a child’s tea set becomes self aware and decide to rise up against their evil overlord Suzie. It will be a story in the Womanthology sketchbook and will be drawn by Kate Carleton.
O’Shea: With the profile about you for Womanthology that “I would LOVE to write Swamp Thing one day. My heart exploded when I found out DC was bringing him back.” What is it about Swamp Thing that makes writing the character your dream job?
Pandich: My dad is a sci-fi junkie. I remember watching monster movies and sci-fi movies on t.v. with him as a toddler, including the Swamp Thing movie. I still love these kind of movies to this very day. I’m also a bit of a treehugger. Through my preteen and teen years people would joke that I was a hippy born in the wrong time. The combination of having the sci-fi/monster elements and the environmentalist undertones just makes Swamp Thing the perfect storm for me. I also love love LOVE the fact that Swamp Thing shows that someone can be scientifically smart, physically strong, and still have a heart filled with kindness. People like to put others into these little boxes and leave them there. Superman is a boy scout, Emma Frost is a bitch, Tank Girl is insane. Swamp Thing has multiple attributes in one character and they are shown. That is why I love him as a character and would love to one day write him.
One step at a time though right?
O’Shea: Given the current groundswell in some circles calling for Womanthology contributors to be paid something, do you have a problem with not being paid–or did you always consider it a charity project–no matter how much funds were raised via Kickstarter?
Pandich: For THIS project I am fine with not getting paid. I signed up knowing that I would not get paid. I wanted the opportunity to work with other women who were known, unknown, and those in between. If suddenly I got a pay check I would totally take it but that is not what Womanthology started as nor is that what it is about. Renae De Liz has since broken down the money trail from the Kickstarter on the Womanthology Blog. All PROCEEDS from the SALES of the book are going to Global Giving and then distributed to smaller charities. The fact is the more money that Kickstarter brought in the more rewards have to be shipped out. Shipping costs money. Also, both Kickstarter and Amazon take a percentage NOT a flat fee. The more that came in the bigger the percentage those two would take. It is just math. Yes it sucks that we cannot use 100% of the funds for publishing, shipping, or flat out charity donations but Kickstarter is a central way to get the word out.
I totally understand where people are coming from about wanting to get paid. Hell, who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what they love? THIS was not for that though. The internet is a great tool for communication and bringing people together, Womanthology is a perfect example of that, but it is also the container of raw stream of conscious. Live and learn then move on I say.
O’Shea: As you mentioned, Aspire has no presence in PREVIEWS, how can folks get ahold of Aspire?
Pandich: If anyone wants to order Aspire they can go here OR if they want to see Aspire in their local comic shop they can have their shops contact me at AspireComic@gmail.com.