Fresh from Heroes Con, Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen corresponded on the convention floor with Kristian Herrera, writer of Sidekick for Hire, and the surreal one-shot Prolong, to discuss his approach to balancing mental health and writing comics along with his favorite superheroes and comic books.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Kristian, thank you for joining me at this lovely Heroes Con interview for Comic Book Yeti.
KRISTIAN HERRERA: Hey, it's my pleasure man. Thanks so much for letting me be part of this.
CBY: Of course. So, just for context can you give us an elevator pitch for Prolong and Sidekick for Hire?
KH: Sidekick for Hire, I'll start with that one cause that was one of my first comics. It's about a sidekick that gets hired by millionaire vigilantes, like want-to-be Batmans, but sucks at the job and gets the heroes hurt, or worse, killed. That's the current series that I've been working on. My one-shot comic, Prolong is tonally different. It's about Death not wanting to say goodbye to someone they really care about.
CBY: Awesome, man. So I read Prolong and I'll talk about that one. Believe me... I will. And I got to read the first two issues of Sidekick for Hire. I didn't have a chance to read the other two, but one thing I was curious about is the ending for Sidekick for Hire issue one. That was a real gut punch of an ending. Did you write issue one knowing about that ending?
"...That's the other message that I wanted to share, even when people are gone you're never truly saying goodbye forever."
KH: Yeah, it's been out since 2019, so I don’t mind spoiling the first issue. I planned it out from the beginning where Issue one is a good one-issue story that you don't have to continue reading and be like, "Okay, cool story!" I love sidekicks but being a superhero is dangerous, and sometimes you're put into situations that you don't enjoy, like getting shot at a lot. My main character, Leo, or Kid Alpha in that issue, is dealing with dangerous points, and so happens that not only did he escape with his life, he killed one of the bad guys and left with his life because of it. But that's the first time he's ever killed somebody and heroes don't normally kill people, so how is he going to deal with that? I planned that from the beginning because I thought it'd be cool to like trick people into thinking that the twist was the superhero dies, but really, the twist is that a sidekick killed somebody.
CBY: Yeah, like a double emotional whammy.
KH: That's why I have a hard time calling it a superhero story and call it more of a vigilante-style story. Pretty much the same thing, but I just like the sound of a vigilante story and what they will be put through.
CBY: Yeah. Obviously, you're going to be dealing with the fallout of that in future issues. And that's up through Issue five, is that right?
KH: No, Issue four is out. Issue five we're working on right now. Rick Alves, the artist who lives in Brazil, he's working on the pencils and the inks right now. I'm so excited because it's our finale for the series right now. We might do something in the far future, but for right now, it's only gonna be five issues.
CBY: Excellent. Is that something you'll put onto Kickstarter or are you still looking for the right platform?
KH: Right now, Kickstarter is the best option for me. I've been looking into other ones like Zoop and Crowdfunder, but we'll see. I mean, I'm going to be posting online if I decide to change my mind, but I might do this last one through Kickstarter, and see what other options I can do for other comics.
CBY: Makes sense. So as far as superheroes go, kind of curious, do you have an all-time favorite superhero?
KH: So ironically, I love Red Hood, even though he's kind of like an antihero. I just love all the Robins. That's why I've made my superhero comic about sidekicks. Red Hood has so many layers, and he has every reason to be evil and angry at Batman, but he still kinda does the right thing. He just keeps messing up when doing the right thing. So I love that. I know it's a generic answer, but I do love Superman, too.
CBY: I mean, it's a generic answer for a reason. He's a great character.
KH: He has all the power to do anything he wants, but he is continuously a good guy despite the power, and I love it. I think it's the best thing in the world.
CBY: Awesome. And what are a few of your all-time favorite comics in general?
KH: God Country by Donnie Cates and Geoff Shaw. It partially inspired Prolong, because I had such an emotional gut punch from it. That's what I really want to do with my stories. Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. That was the first comic I really remember reading as a kid and went to the library and got like every single graphic novel and then just started buying all the issues. I've read it from issue one all the way to Ultimate Fallout with Miles Morales.
CBY: It's funny. I've read through most of that original run, I just haven't gotten to The post-Ultimatum stuff yet. But I agree that it's incredible that they were able to write and illustrate that book for as long as they did.
KH: I think it's the longest-running comic in the past two decades. You don't see that very often. Also, that was my Spider-Man growing up! Obviously, I wasn't born in the 60s. So, Ultimate Spider-Man was the Spider-Man I grew up with. That's why I still love it. That's why I have a soft spot for the Ultimate Universe.
CBY: So now I've got to talk about Prolong. That book, really hit for me, man. That book was just a wonderful read from cover to cover. I just want to let you know that just straight away. And for something like at the end, you clearly wrote about the background of that. So I'm curious, like, were you really precious with the story when you were making the script for that? Like, were you agonizing over it to "get it right?"
KH: I will say, when I first wrote it, I just needed something to write out. Because I talked about at the end, that I was dealing with my heavy depression, which I'm sure a lot of people were during the pandemic. My girlfriend, my significant other, was the one who said, “Hey, maybe you should write something that makes you feel a little bit better now.” I love working on Sidekick for Hire and other stuff, but I had to do something different. I was dealing with why I was getting sad, and luckily I had that support system, but as I was writing, it helped me understand where I was and why I was so upset and missing some of my friends who were going off and doing bigger and better things. I was happy for them. I was just missing them and felt lonely, I guess.
After I wrote it, I wasn't really planning on printing it or putting it out into the world. However, a part of me wanted to see how it does in the world. After editing it for a little while longer, then talking with an editor Devin Arscott, I decided to contact an artist. I found Hernan Gonzalez and Damian Felitte, and they did an amazing job! They mostly do horror stuff and I wanted that realism, but I didn’t want it to be scary. It has some horror aspects to it, but I don’t think it’s completely scary.
CBY: I'd say, definitely don't want to spoil it. But I feel almost like the first page or two is kind of a horror thing. But then it just kind of takes a different turn, in a nice way. I guess speaking to the experience that could be naturally terrifying at first, but it just progresses differently than what you would expect something like this scenario to be. So I guess I kind of buried the lede a little bit on this. But would you care to expand on your elevator pitch a bit more with Prolong?
KH: Yeah, it's Death not wanting to say goodbye to someone they really care about. It starts with the character Taylor Young, who meets Death, and Death is supposed to send him to the afterlife. But they have to go through basically what I call limbo, which in this area is a beach. This brings up fond memories for Taylor. Death talks to Taylor and feels there's something different about this person. They know if they send them to the afterlife, they may never see them again and Death doesn’t want to do that yet. So instead of sending them to the afterlife, unknowingly, Death sends Taylor back to life.
CBY: And like I said, it's a really moving story, and for the purposes of this interview, I'll also say I'm literally gonna be buying a copy of this book off of him, and you guys should do the same because it's just wonderful.
KH: I wanted people to read this comic, too. I made sure people can read the entire comic on my website for free. I want people to read more comics. I like putting comedy in some of my comics. This was one of the few books I don't put any comedy and I kind of feel bad making people feel a little sad. So I decided I was gonna put it online for free and then people said to me, "Hey, I want to buy a physical copy." Which is why I started printing it!
CBY: Well, I'm glad that exists for people because I'm glad that that could be there for someone if they're a little bit financially strapped for cash. But I'm also glad that you can get some money for your efforts.
KH: Haha Yeah, so I can keep making more stuff!
CBY: Yeah, of course. I think that's a touchstone book for you. I think that some wonderful stuff can come from that going forward. So relating to that. Do you have any tips for other writers who are going through a story, whether it's, you know, a type of depressive episode, or I guess anything really like how to go through similar feelings and construct a narrative around it?
KH: So this worked for me. I don't know if it works for other people going through a hard time but definitely talk to someone else. That was the first thing I did. I talked to my significant other, and I talked to a few of my friends about it. Then when I started to understand my depression a little bit, that's when I started writing and using that energy for something good. Yeah, I think that's the most important thing.
If you want to make art from something that you're feeling bad about, I don't know if that's the best-case scenario, but this just helped me out, and now I feel better. There's gonna be a time in the future when I'm not gonna feel better. I fully expect that, but I have the support system.
I also know how to treat myself better. That's the important thing just knowing that there are people out there who care about you. We want to help you and talk as well. You're never alone. That's the other message that I wanted to share, even when people are gone, you're never truly saying goodbye forever.
CBY: That's a wonderful message, Kristian. Thank you for sharing that
KH: Oh my God. Yeah, it was something I wanted to do as well. So if it brings joy to people, then that makes it even better.
CBY: Well said. Where can people find you on social media?
KH: I am on Instagram and Twitter @YesThatKristian and my website is kristianherrera.com. I'm usually on both of them. I'm very easy to get a hold of as well if you want to email me, DM me, whatever. I've been doing comics for a couple of years now. I just want to help other people out while continuing on my own journey.
CBY: Absolutely. Thank you so much for your time, Kristian.
KH: Thank you so much. This was fun!