Hello readers! Today we have 2 badasses for the price of 1 Creator Spotlight!
We are delighted to have the opportunity to pick the brains of the creative team behind the jaw-dropping, action-packed, delightfully comedic and beautifully illustrated, RAGS: Prologue. If you haven’t read the first issue of this comic, stop right now, (well read this spotlight first) then, go get a copy, immediately.
“RAGS is a comic involving two military veterans and their quest for a sense of normalcy during a zombie plague that has wrecked the liberal state of California. But this isn’t a tale about Zombies. This is a tale about pants. A tale about PTSD. A tale about finding a purpose. About setting aside your own prejudice. About overcoming guilt and insanity. Things that most other authors are too afraid to tackle. Hold onto to your poopers and get your tactical onesies ready.”
So without further ado, may we present A Fireside Chat with Brian Ball and Trent Luther. Let’s do this! Oohrah!
To start, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Brian: Well my is Brian Ball, I’m a 14year Active Duty Army Veteran, currently in the San Diego National Guard. I’m the writer of RAGS, and my partner in crime in this is Trent Luther. He and I came up with the basic premise. My friend Rudy help us polish it up with the Unicorn Onesie. I’m withholding the name of my artist for the time being as I’m unsure of how he wishes to be credited.
Trent: My names Trent, I’m from Fargo North Dakota. I work at an auto salvage yard. I don’t think I really known for much.
What kind of comics do you guys like to create?
Brian: I’m actually unsure of how to answer this one, as RAGS is the first Comic I’ve actually created, from concept to what it is now. I’m not quite sure what I’d call the genre. Maybe Black Humor is the most accurate as I subtly make take jabs at lots of things.
Trent: Zombie comics I guess. Though I used to draw some dope stick figure comics that had to do with the civil war and the supernatural (Ethan Allen was my main protagonist.).
What made you decide to start making comics and get into the business?
Brian: So what got me to create? I would have to say that I’ve always enjoyed writing. That’s been my passion since I was 8years old. The military came a very close second when I was 10. But what really pushed me is that Comics now, Marvel in particular, no longer speak to me as an Individual. I see a lot of push towards inclusivity and diversity but I’m not really seeing any characters with personality. I’m half-black, ¾’s Latino and there has yet to be a character that I could really get behind. So I figured, rather than complain about it, I’d just go out there and make my own.
Trent: Brian’s ambition. He’s been a rock that waves break themselves upon this whole time.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle to your success?
Brian: Right now, the biggest obstacle to success is marketing. Marketing, marketing, marketing. Some early feedback I’ve seen is that ‘Oh, it seems like another by the numbers zombie story.’ It’s not. In many ways, the zombies are a bonus.
Trent: Marketing. Marketing has been rough. Mainly lack time and funds to do so. I try to make an enticing post on Imgur and Reddit. But getting them rolling can be tough
Coffee or Tea?
Brian: Coffee. Definitely Coffee. There’s this saying amongst me and my battle buddies; “If it wasn’t for caffeine and hate I would have no reason to wake up in the morning.”. But honestly, I need about three cups of coffee just to get the old brain synapsis plodding along.
Trent: If you ain’t down with Alwazah tea you can get outta my life.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the comic realm?
Brian: My biggest inspirations are Adam Warren, the old crew from Antartic Press. Eric Johnson, if you’ve ever seen his work, he’s drawing the book for Vikings. Masamune Shiro, Kentaro Muira, Hajime Kanzaki, I read a lot of manga. Akira Toriyama for his pun-based naming structure. John Kantz and Christopher Reid for their EXCELLENT book: Legends from DarkWood. I was really sad they didn’t continue this, it was great series!
Trent: For me Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller and R.A Salvatore (I know he doesn’t do comics, fight me.) But I grew up with Spawn comics and toys and everything Drizzt.
Where the inspiration for RAGS come from? Tactical onesies? WHERE?! We love!
Brian: So the inspiration from RAGS initially grew out of a drunken night of Left4Dead2 with Trent. The initial plot we came up with was just some chick running from store to store trying to find a pair of pants while fighting off a zombie horde. And each time she found pants, she’d lose them somehow or some way and have to go find some new ones. It was funny in our heads, but after initially writing the whole thing, I knew I could tell a better story if I just changed some things, so that story evolved into what RAGS is now. The idea for the tactical onesie though, that grew out of me, being absolutely sick and tired of seeing the skin-tight spandex suits that you saw in all these female superheroes run around in. I’m sorry, but Black Widow, in that lycra she runs around in, would constantly be splitting her the backside of her pants. Also, I dislike the idea of a woman in 5-16”inch heels being able to beat up 210lb guys with just her fists. So while trying to come up with a suit that would be practical, my buddy Rudy simply suggested ‘Why not a unicorn onesie…like they have at Wal-mart.’ Then it just grew from there.
Trent: The inspiration for RAGS. That’s tough. Brian came to me one day with a small idea of a story and it just kinda evolved. Tactical onesies…It seemed like a joke at the end of our story. However, it just worked so well. Then when we got a few illustrations and it was so damn amazing seeing it on paper.
You clearly love zombies. What made you decide to throw your talents into the zombie storytelling world?
Brian: I’m a HUGE Resident Evil Fan. I have the S.T.A.R.S logo and two of Rebecca Chambers tattooed on my arms. Since the inspiration for the story came from Left4Dead2 it was only practical that the zombies followed. But there’s a slight twist to mine, that make them much different….much more lethal than what we’re used to seeing. Creating a new plague was tough because I’m just a soldier and not much of a scientist. But I have figured out something that is very realistic and COULD come about if the right minds got together and were able to put two and two together.
Trent: To me… a Left for Dead 2. We talked a lot about it while playing an impossible to beat player made campaign. Also, Zombies fit perfectly for Regina’s main struggle in the story.
Your choice of coloring for RAGS is very unique. Could you tell us how you guys decided on this approach?
Brian: The coloring for RAGS is done that way, because I wanted people to focus on what the was important to the character, Regina. Her freckles are important, and obviously her tattoo’s, (which is a story arc I hope to explore much later.) I wanted to add to the tension by tricking the reader into focusing on things that I wanted them to focus on. I hope that makes sense. Color is going to come into play much later, I hope the audience appreciates what I have in store.
Trent: Brian’s call on that. I yes-manned cause it was a wonderful choice.
What would you say is your ultimate goal in comics? Where do you both hope to be in 5 years creatively?
Brian: My ULTIMATE GOAL is for everyone to be Cosplaying Tactical Onesies at all the cons. If that happens, I’ve met my goal. In five years I hope to have the entire story of RAGS completed and on the shelves of bookstores. Maybe a movie deal, or a t.v. series if it gets popular enough.
Trent: Super cheesy Syfy Movie with a dank cult following.
How far are you wanting to take RAGS? What do you guys see as the “Big Picture?”
Brian: I’d really like to get RAGS into the hands of a publisher. I have a story that’s actually inclusive, diverse (being set in California gives me a wide array of characters to choose from and topics to tackle) and I KNOW with the right backing would be a huge hit. Also, having someone else handle the marketing (you’ll see me spam twitter almost daily) would be nice.
Trent: All the way. I’d like to see our idea flower into a whole series of comics.
What do you find to be the most difficult part of creating a comic?
Brian: The most difficult part I would say is getting feedback. Especially when something is good and you personally know it. Sometimes I’ll hand over a copy for a friend to read and I won’t hear back from them for months….and when I see them again I ask about it and they’ll say “Oh, it was good.” Yeah, but how good? What did you like best? What worked? What didn’t? Finding the right people help steer you in the right direction. That’s pretty tough. Thankfully I had a few people give me honest reviews and critiques, so moving forward I know exactly what how to handle things.
Trent: Picking a genre. There is a lot of criticism jumping into any kind of genre when there is so much of it all readily available. Really have to make an impression right off the bat.
Are you for sale? I say that as a joke, but not really. Would you sell RAGS to a large publisher? And on that note, would either of you consider working for the Big guys?
Brian: I would SELL RAGS ONLY to the publisher that would handle it properly. I’m tackling lots of issues in ways that I have seen or experienced that are relevant to me and so I’d like to find a publisher that would appreciate the nuances that are baked into the story. I would LOVE to work for Marvel and write Spider-Man. I kinda feel old Peter could use some fresh blood. But IDW is actually my second pick if I had a choice.
Trent: Hmm. Definitely to Image comics. Spawn and RAGS mashups all day baby. Honestly tho though that’s a tough question. IDK?
How has the response to RAGS been? And what do you think you’ve learned for your next issues?
Brian: So far (for everyone that’s taken a chance on it.) the response has been positive. Usually, my pitch is what gets people raising eyebrows. “Naked chick running around town trying to find pants during a zombie plague!” I get it, it sounds perverted. I would be a skeptic too. But usually, after I show off the script and artwork…people get it. I’m getting a lot of requests for physical copies, which I’m only sending off to those who’ve supported me on Patreon as a reward, and it sucks to say ‘I can’t right now.’ But it’s also great to know that there are people out there that want to see this on shelves!
Trent: The response has been great but I feel pretty localized. Hard to get my old, gearhead co-workers into comics. I get called a nerd a lot. Marketing. Definitely, marketing is a must. It’s hard let me tell ya.
Trent: The Patreon and Facebook. I try to post teaser albums on Imgur and Reddit under the username Niehlis. I’m normally fairly busy with the daily grind so Brian tends to knock out this stuff.
It’s been awesome getting to know you guys and learn more about the stories behind RAGS. Is there anything else we can tell the reader about you?
Brian: Anything else I wish to add? Oh yes! I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but there are a TON of Easter eggs hidden within the prologue. One might be a little obscure and I have no problem giving this one away but Regina, the main character, her face is modeled after Liz Finnegan. If you do not follow her on twitter…you’re failing at life. There are some other things that are hidden too! Most of the other tidbits we probably won’t see until we’re further along. But this comic…it’s my magnum opus and I hope those that are tired of the big two right now, give this a chance. Trust me, if you think this is JUST another Zombie story you’ve barely scratched the surface. Even though I play up tropes, like say Regina quickly getting surrounded by zombies. Well, there’s a legitimate reason for that, but again, only someone with a very discerning eye will catch on.
The other thing I’d like to say, really quick, is that I really have to give a shout out to my friend: Balam, who taught me how to write scripts. And Jim, my old Army buddy from my first unit. Joshua Foster has been helping me maintain the website/blog. Rudy Vallejo and Heaven Perez have been my local support as has Deanne Vicedo. Everyone that supports me on Patreon. Morgan Marino, Candy Dax, Grace Harney (for the edits she did for my revision.) and Elizabeth Stryker. And my biggest cheerleader Samantha Johnson. All the boys in the Quality Control Discord. Captain Frugal the youtuber for his honest review. And Zetha202, one of my favorite Deviant Art Artists who let me borrow a character of his (check him out here: https://zetha202.deviantart.com/). There are so many people to shout out too, but I know that alone is going to be about 4 pages long.
Well, that’s it for this Creator Spotlight! Thanks so much for joining us. If you’d like to learn more about Brian and Trent, connect with them, buy their products or support RAGS directly, you can find the links to all that and more below!
ragszombie.com | twitter | teepublic.rags | CXC Profile | Patreon Rags
Trent also posts teaser albums on Imgur and Reddit under the username Niehlis.