Art Baltazar and Franco climbed aboard the CBR yacht during Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk all things Aw Yeah Comics, from the storefront to the Kickstarter-funded comics imprint to the customer base they're fostering in their store. The duo also talk about meeting their fanbase in person, the main challenge in transforming Mike Mignola's most famous creation into Itty-Bitty Hellboy and why writing DC Comics' "Green Team" really isn't such a stretch for them.
On making the decision to fund Aw Yeah Comics' publishing imprint via Kickstarter: "When we decided to open up a shop, I had Action Cat and Adventure Bug as our mascots," Baltazar said. "We knew, even before the shop opened up, that we wanted to make comics with these guys for the shop. We were thinking originally to make those little Kinko's copies, little mini-comics, staple them in the kitchen kind of thing, But then as we kept talking and talking...we were like, why don't we actually print them and get them in color. And then we looked at the prices and the time it would take..."
"We would have been able to do it, " said Franco. " But we would have been able to do it like we did old-school, where we printed on comic and then waited until we sold enough of that to afford to print the second comic..."
"We looked into Kickstarter and saw all the work it took and we were like, aw, we can't do this," added Baltazar. "Our buddy Zod, Chris Smits...he goes, 'Well, I'll do it for ya.' So now, he became out publisher brother, so we call him our 'brublisher.' He arranged a Kickstarter, we did a video, we waited for the right time -- threw it out there, and we were sold, overwhelmed that we got funded in less than 8 hours... We got funded for twelve issues, two annuals and we have a doll coming out, an Action Cat doll coming out, end of August."
On the reactions from fans -- particularly young ones - to their work over the past several years: "It's kind of weird that, when we come to the show, we're so overwhelmed," Baltazar said. "The most awesome thing is seeing the little kids come up and, 'Are you Art Baltazar? 'Yes, I am!' '[Gasp] Dad! It's him!' That kind of thing happens. Last year, we walked into a convention, and we were stopped in our tracks, because when we looked down, we had kids who were holding our legs -- they were giving us hugs, and we were like, 'what do we do? And [Franco] reached over, and bought a Superman toy off a shelf and gave it to the kid..."
"And we signed it, we drew on the package and stuff," interjected Franco.
"Quick thinkin', 'cause we would've been stuck there!" continued Baltazer. "That kind of stuff happens, and it's so cool that -- it goes right to the heart."
On the challenge of taking a universe like Hellboy's, which was created for adults, and turning it into a kid-friendly comic: "The hardest thing was re-designing Mike Mignola's characters so it looked like I drew his guys," Baltazar said. "They're all so distinct to him that when I drew 'em, none of it looked right. It took me about 40 different little designs to make Hellboy. But now, you look at him and he looks like Patrick the Wolf Boy, he looks like Robin from Teen Titans... [Mignola's] characters are tough to draw, because he makes them for himself. That was the challenge.
On launching "Green Team" for DC Comics, a very different sort of comic than what the duo is known for: "Well, every comic we approach, we write it from a fan perspective," Franco said. "We grew up reading this stuff. We grew up reading 'Teen Titans' and all that stuff, so we know stories inside and out... This is stuff we've been doing all our lives, so for everybody else, it might be a surprise, but for us, it wasn't really that much of a stretch."
"We're like, 'Finally!'" Baltazar said. "We do action/adventure, relationships in comics -- we grew up on them, reading 'Teen Titans' and 'X-Men!'"