Sidekick 4 Hire – An Interview with KRISTIAN HERRERA, RICK ALVES, JIMMY GREENHALGH, & TOBEN RACICOT
You can’t be involved in comics, be it fan or creator, and not be familiar with crowdfunding. There are big projects we all know and likely have supported. But there are as many successful ones that haven’t got as much press. Today in the Yeti Cave we speak to a creator of the latter. With us is Kristian Herrera and the creative team to talk about his book SIDEKICK FOR HIRE, currently in the midst of his fourth issue Kickstarter launch.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Good day, Kristian, thanks for coming by and sharing this book with us and our readers. Let’s start with you telling us what SIDEKICK FOR HIRE is about and where the idea came from?
KRISTIAN HERRERA: Thank you for allowing me and my collaborators to hang out while talking about our comic book!
I’ve said the elevator pitch so often that I feel like I’ve perfected it by now. Sidekick For Hire follows a sidekick named Leonardo Moss that gets hired by millionaire vigilantes, like wannabe Batmans and Iron Mans, but sucks at the job and gets the heroes hurt, or worse, killed!
The idea started in high school when my friends and I talked about how there were no real-life superheroes. We would’ve been them if we could, but there were two big problems; it was incredibly dangerous, and we didn’t have enough money. Fast forward to college when I was extremely broke; I started to write more and played with that idea for a story. It didn’t really click until I put myself in the character’s shoes and realized I could only be a sidekick at most. I realize that makes it sound like the story is about me, which it isn’t! However, I would be lying if I didn’t say I put parts of my own personality into the character of Leo.
CBY: Write what you know, as the saying goes. I find the idea of superheroes hiring sidekicks blindly is interesting. I can see someone selling out as a sidekick (who hasn’t done something risky at some time to make money). You are doing a good job in showing the hazards for both sides. Where is SIDEKICK FOR HIRE going next? How many issues do you have in mind to tell the story?
TR: "I feel like I'm more a "guy in the chair" than a sidekick fighting beside a Hero. Or I would be the sidekick who picks up the hero and feeds them, does their laundry. So I'm Alfred, basically. I'm not a fighter, but I'll make sure they get the calories they need to keep fighting."
KH: In a world full of superheroes, Leo is the first real-life sidekick in the story. We’ve seen him working with multiple heroes and followed him trying to balance this lifestyle out in the first few issues. #4 was the perfect time to introduce the first villain into this world. One that would add an extra problem for Leo.
When I outlined the story, I planned for 5 issues to tell this Sidekick story, and surprisingly, I haven’t strayed far from that path. There are stories of Leo working with other heroes in the past and ideas of what will happen after the 5 issues, but 5 was all I needed to tell a compelling story about a Sidekick trying his best!
CBY: When I first started reading the book I was reminded of 1990’s BRAT PACK by Rick Veitch. Are you familiar with that miniseries? It’s a very dark take on the superhero and sidekick dynamic. As much as I love that series, I enjoyed SIDEKICK FOR HIRE being in the PG-13 zone. Did you have any books that influenced your work on SIDEKICK?
KH: I’ve actually never heard of it, but that is now on the top of my reading list! The obvious influences were Kick-Ass, Invincible, and Teen Titans. The other thing that was a big influence was Ultimate Spider-Man. I read it as a kid and was immediately attached to this version of Spider-Man more than the main version. That series made superhero comics a little more realistic despite the unrealistic nature of superheroes. Realistic in the human aspect between the characters' relationships, their emotions, and the very danger of death. I love most of the superhero comics out now, but there was something special about the Ultimate series that still makes me geek out over it.
CBY: Crime fighting is serious business with serious consequences. Leo loses his first “Employer” but still wants to continue on. Does he think he’s doing good or is he addicted to the life or is he that broke?
KH: Actually, it’s not his first. There is a brief mention that Captain Ultra wasn’t the first hero he worked for in the first issue. I’m hoping to make some short comic stories about the others he worked with in the future.
KH: "As a pro-wrestling fan, I would definitely go for a Luchador-style costume. Full mask and bodysuit with outlandish designs of a bird on it. Like Rey Mysterio or the Lucha Brothers. Then add all the cool-looking gadgets (no shark repellant). As for the hero I’d want to sidekick for, that would be Nightwing. Who better than the original sidekick? He already knows all the hardships and could train you the best because he learned from the best himself. Plus, I think he would be tons of fun to work for!But to answer your question, it’s a bit of all three. That was a big hurdle to overcome; why would Leo keep doing this after what happened to his “employer”? Leo was raised on comic books, and it taught him to be the kind of person never to give up. Leo wants to be a hero more than anything else, and he believes that heroes never give up. I’m not saying it’s the right thing, but Leo feels he is being a good person by continuing his sidekick-ing."
CBY: You have the idea, now you have to find creators to help make it a reality. Did you have the team in mind at inception or did you search around?
KH: Since this was my first full-size comic series, I wanted to make sure I wrote the entire outline and the first issue entirely before finding a team. I feel like I’m not alone when I say that I had a style in mind when writing the first issue. I’ve had other people that I planned on working with before a script was written, and then halfway through, things don’t work out one way or another. So I wanted to be prepared this time.
After I had the first part of the script done, I went to look for an artist to team up with. Surprisingly, I found the entire team through different sites online. Rick Alves was the first person I found whose art style would fit a realistic sidekick story with comedy. Then Veronica Saraceno was the colorist for the first issue, and she helped establish a strong coloring style, but when Jimmy Greenhalgh came aboard for #2-4, he made it his own while staying true with the kind of story we wanted to tell. Toben Racicot was the person who reached out to me and helped a lot, not only with the lettering but with the designing aspect. He is the final piece that made this comic go from good to extraordinary, in my opinion.
CBY: Rick and Jimmy, when Kristian pitched this story to you, what did you think? What was your reaction?
RICK ALVES: Sidekick for Hire has a differential over other ideas, Leo, the main character, has good intentions, but makes mistakes like all of us. This makes the character more human and makes Sidekick a perfect read, where the unexpected can happen. Kristian also has a differential, he really believed in the project from the beginning and this makes him not discouraged and always works in the promotion and publication of Sidekick for Hire. An example for other independent writers, for me too... If you have a project, do it! Let it come to life and show it to people. Sidekick is an example that you will improve and achieve your goals.
RA: "This is a good question. My favorite character is Spider-Man. I like how the character works in various styles: Dramatic, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Suspense. But I believe Spider-Man wouldn't have the money to pay me, so I would be Batman's sidekick, but without wearing tight clothes. I would choose Iron Man style armor, with lots of foam inside and with games and autopilot for long trips. I would be a lazy Sidekick."
JIMMY GREENHALGH: I loved it. The idea of a high school student earning extra cash as a vigilante sidekick is so funny and unique and I love the fact that at times he kind of sucks at it.
TOBEN RACICOT: I don't remember if he actually pitched it or rather said, "Here, this is what's next." That was a long time ago. As I worked on issue one I really fell for the charm of the characters and then, of course, the last page reveal was spectacular. I think Sidekick is great because it goes against the grain of typical superheroes. There's a sprinkle of Invincible in it, in how it subverts tropes. So after issue one, I was hooked, and it's only gotten better from there.
CBY: Rick, I saw your work improve with each issue. As you worked more with Kristian did you contribute any visual ideas (designs, looks) or thoughts moving forward?
KH: I feel like Rick, and I have grown each issue. He is still lightyears ahead of me, but it’s been really fun coming up with the different designs with each other. I wanted Rick to have more creative freedom because if he put in a good chunk of his own time in this story, he should have some say in this series.
RA: Some uniforms we created together. Kristian gave me ideas and I showed him how to correct them. He gave me a lot of freedom to create, including the scenes. The narrative is my first and foremost concern. Kristian's script helps me a lot to imagine the scenes and before worrying about the drawings, I try to make the story well told. The colors in each issue helped to tell the story even more and I'm glad to hear that people are enjoying it.
CBY: I enjoyed the dichotomy between money strapped student and millionaire vigilantes. I really enjoyed that the art reflected that as well. The color palate was bright when we focused on Leo as a citizen and darker (but not dark) as a sidekick. Was that a conscious decision by you or Jimmy?
KH: I wanted it to reflect on who Leo was around in the story. I didn’t tell Jimmy what colors I wanted in the story, just how the tone or the feeling should be for each scene. Then let him do what he does best! Jimmy could probably give you a better explanation than I could about his decisions.
JG: "In a superhero world, I'd definitely go super dark and broody. No capes and domino masks, but probably a comfy helmet and a healthy number of pouches. But in a more down to earth universe, it's basically just dress yourself from the military surplus store I think. I think you'd want to be a sidekick for Batman or Superman, that's where you'd be safest (despite Bruce's track record with Robins)."
JG: Absolutely. There's more color and vibrancy in those teen, almost sitcom, moments and it really tones down for the hero side. There's also more texture in the scenes where he is working in the vigilante gig, just to give them a little more grit and depth."
CBY: I’m glad you didn’t slip into the dark palate whirlpool that often runs in vigilante characters. But this world doesn’t have “super” heroes so the bright colors wouldn’t be great for nighttime crime fighting. I do love that Leo has poor “costume” sense. In any medium, in any universe, how would any of you dress as a sidekick? And who would you be a sidekick for?
KH: As a pro-wrestling fan, I would definitely go for a Luchador-style costume. Full mask and bodysuit with outlandish designs of a bird on it. Like Rey Mysterio or the Lucha Brothers. Then add all the cool-looking gadgets (no shark repellant). As for the hero I’d want to sidekick for, that would be Nightwing. Who better than the original sidekick? He already knows all the hardships and could train you the best because he learned from the best himself. Plus, I think he would be tons of fun to work for!
RA: This is a good question. My favorite character is Spider-Man. I like how the character works in various styles: Dramatic, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Suspense. But I believe Spider-Man wouldn't have the money to pay me, so I would be Batman's sidekick, but without wearing tight clothes. I would choose Iron Man style armor, with lots of foam inside and with games and autopilot for long trips. I would be a lazy Sidekick.
JG: In a superhero world, I'd definitely go super dark and broody. No capes and domino masks, but probably a comfy helmet and a healthy number of pouches. But in a more down to earth universe, it's basically just dress yourself from the military surplus store I think.
I think you'd want to be a sidekick for Batman or Superman, that's where you'd be safest (despite Bruce's track record with Robins).
TR: I feel like I'm more a "guy in the chair" than a sidekick fighting beside a Hero. Or I would be the sidekick who picks up the hero and feeds them, does their laundry. So I'm Alfred, basically. I'm not a fighter, but I'll make sure they get the calories they need to keep fighting.
CBY: Was crowdfunding always the plan or did you pitch to publishers?
KH: The original plan was to make a whole comic book the way I wanted. I didn’t even think of crowdfunding until the second issue of Sidekick For Hire came around. I was the one who funded the first issue 100% myself. It probably wasn’t the smartest move to start with, but it was worth it, and I would do it again!
After the first issue, I did try to pitch to any publisher that was willing to listen. I had some good feedback, but no takers yet. I’m still pitching it to any publisher I’m able to. However, I didn’t want to wait around for something like that, so I decided to go headfirst into crowdfunding the rest of the series.
CBY: You have had quietly successful Kickstarter launches on early issues of SIDEKICK FOR HIRE and are currently launching one that collects issues 1-4. Comic Book Yeti is a keen supporter of Indies and our readers love indie stories and creators. Is there things you can share about your crowdfunding experiences?
KH: So much! Despite this being my 3rd crowdfunding campaign, I still feel like I’m learning as I go. The first one was crazy because I did not know what I was doing, to a pandemic being announced in the middle of the campaign, and set my goal a little too high. Still pulled through though! The second was much better because I felt that I had a better understanding of how to promote Sidekick For Hire.
My current one is already off to a better start than the other two because of one really important aspect: the community! I’ve honestly never felt more supported than I do by people in this world of comic books, not only from readers but from other creators and people like you guys at Comic Book Yeti. Sometimes, I feel like an imposter waiting to be found out and asked how I got in.
CBY: Thanks to the SIDEKICK FOR HIRE creators for popping in and sharing. If you want to know more or support the book, visit them at the following.
SIDEKICK FOR HIRE on Kickstarter: