Here at PunkHouse Press we are focused on DIY comics, the underground comic scene if you will. That’s why we are always excited about upcoming Kickstarter projects. I recently had the privilege to ask Mike Bloom, the creator of Italiano, a new Kickstarter project a few questions. Enjoy!
PHP: Let’s start out with a little bit about the man behind Italiano. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
MIKE: I was born and raised, and still live in Wisconsin. I’m 36, married for 15 years, I have an 11 year old daughter and a 7 year old son. I also have two English Bulldogs. I work from home for the most part, and we are a very close family, so I tend to not leave the house too much, lol. I’m happy to get through my day job and spend the rest of my time drawing comics, and hanging out with my wife and kids.
My passion has always been in comics, I’ve been drawing since I can remember, and I created my first comic using my own characters when I was just 7 years old. Since then comics and art have been a huge part of my life. There have definitely been times when they have been on the sideline, but I’ve never stopped drawing.
I’m a huge kid at heart and love to have fun. I love collecting toys, playing video games, watching movies, and working out.
I have an insane work ethic and I’m huge on self-improvement. I’ve been tuning my abilities and working for over 15 years to build this world of Italiano. It’s now time that I bring it to life and really give comics a shot as a career.
There is more you can find about my story on www.italianocomic.com/press
PHP: As stated before, we’re talking to the man behind Italiano. The only man. You’re doing the work of six or more people. How did you learn/decide to do all of the essential roles that go into making a comic book?
M: I’m completely self taught, and this refers back to my thirst for learning and self improving. If there is something I need to do and don’t know how, I learn it and practice it until I’m good at it. I really just dive in with all I have. You can really learn how to do anything on the internet, then it’s just practice and putting your own spin on it. So that’s the how
As far as why…. When I first started creating this world in 2001, I talked my brother in law into helping me. He jumped on and us two kids had a lot of fun for a couple years, really just going through the motions and getting better. This didn’t last long, as he moved away and I was back to building the world by myself. He jumped back on about 5 years ago, when I wanted to make the iOS card battle game, and after, we did an unpublished issue together, but he just wasn’t into the mobster violence and he wanted to pursue his own stuff. I also had a colorist for that issue, and he did a great job, but ultimately, I couldn’t give him enough creative control and I found myself asking him to change things way too much, or worse yet, changing them myself. I still hadn’t made the book in color, and I had to figure out the feel on my own.
Moral of the story… I have a very clear vision for this series! It’s my baby, and I will not waver in my vision. So I decided that to accomplish this, I would have to do the book alone. So I spent some time figuring out a coloring stlye that fit, made some custom brushes, and started to digital paint like a mofo.
This has it’s positives and negatives, but the positives outweigh the negatives. See, when I get stuck on pencils, I start to ink, and when I can’t stand inking anymore, I color, and when I need something easy for the day, I do the rest of the little things, and ultimately, it all gets done and the book looks and feels exactly as I want it to! The only negative is that it takes a lot longer, and in the future I may have to look for some help, just to be able to put the book out quicker.
There’s also a part of me that takes a lot of pride in saying that I do the book by myslelf.
PHP: In your Kickstarter description you talk about your love of Mobster movies and the like. Where do you think that stemmed from?
M: Well, my mom’s side is a bunch of Italians through and through. So growing up in that culture definitely had something to do with it. My great grandma was directly from Italy, and she could cook like you wouldn’t believe. Being part Italian I could relate to the family aspect of the mobster movies, and the rest was just plain badass!
PHP: The Mobster genre is something that has done many times before, but you have managed to bring a fresh new take on it. Where did that inspiration come from?
M: So as you have seen, my art style is not traditional at all. I never wanted to draw the “Marvel” way. I learned anatomy and took classes in realistic drawing in high school, and I can do it. But to me that is just too boring. I have always been fascinated by the artists that bend reality to through their own lens. My heroes were guys like Sam Keith, Simon Bisley, Martin Emond, guys that push the limits. So I had always worked hard to be my own and I knew that my art style would bring a new twist for sure.
That was just the beginning, what I set out to do was to make a book that scratched all my itches, the book I wanted to see! I thought it would be great to create this overly violent, foul mouthed, mobster book, but contrast it with hilarious characters, crude humor and a very in your face art style. So I started with the Mobster theme, added a crazy art style, turned the action and violence up to 11, went off the deep end with the crazy characters, gave them funny and clever names, built in hilarious backstory and wrote the book kinda like a dark comedy, used the dialogue to really give the reader a feel for the characters, cranked up the foul language and crude humor, slapped on a bright and shiny coat of paint, and BAM you have Italiano. A mash up of all the things I love, a sensory overload of entertainment, a one of a kind.
PHP: When people back your Kickstarter what are some of the ways you will reward them?
M: I wanted to do the series a little different. I tend to get carried away with my page counts, not wanting to skimp on action or story, so the book will be produced as a 48 page trade for every issue.
I also have a lot to give the reader as far as lore and backstory with so many great characters, so I’m doing another backstory/character art book called Italiano Case Files that contains 28 pages of characters and lore from the world of Italiano.
I’m also doing some boss portraits printed on holographic stock.
A panoramic poster of a hand drawn extremely detailed Capitol City.
And a bunch of different custom drawn options where I will create you into a character and place you in issue one or two. (surprisingly, these are almost sold out! I may have to add something here soon.)
PHP: You are developing an iOS game to accompany your comic book, tell us a bit about that.
M: Actually, when I first came back to Italiano in a serious fashion, it was to make this game. It’s a card battle game that has been live for a couple years. It just never took off. It’s a cool concept, cool game engine, but it got swallowed up in the million app pit of the app store. My brother in law and I built this game, and farmed out the coding, this was a disaster! Another reason why I have a hard time thinking about getting anyone else involved in this book. I was ripped off by multiple coding firms and I lost a lot of time and money on this game, enough to make most people vomit, and then quit! But I look at it as a stepping stone. It’s building the game that got me reinvigorated to do the comic! I spent almost 3 years, drawing, inking, coloring, writing story, and building Capitol City for this game. I created and learned so much that it now seems like the cost of admission to be where I am now. Don’t get me wrong, the games not dead, it’s fun to play, and I do plan on going back at it if I can find a team in the future. Connecting the story of Italiano between the game and the comic would be so awesome. We will just have to see what the future holds.
PHP: What can people expect in the future after Italiano is funded?
M: I’m working solely on this series, so after these books are in the printers hands, I’m on to issue two, which is written and waiting. I will release issue two through Kickstarter the same way, and I plan to continue this process through the entire series.
PHP: Obviously playing all of the roles in creating a comic book keeps you busy, but do you have any other projects on the horizon or even just the drawing board?
M: Nope, I have some other games I would love to make, and a physical card game using the Italiano world that I have shelved, but for now Italiano the graphic novel series has my full attention. The next step for me would be to land Italiano as an adult only HBO cartoon. I really think that would be kick ass, and well received.
PHP: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about Italiano!
M: Thank you Tommy!
You can check out Mike’s Kickstarter page here.