A Romantic Comedy about Superheroes

by Gene Turnbow

 

While it’s obvious that I’m a Superman fan, I’m an even bigger fan of the independent creators who are always coming out with fresh new original content. Sometimes you have to wonder how many different ways you can re-tell the creation of Batman, or Superman’s birth before fans become permanently burned out. That’s why it’s always a thrill to mingle with those in the indie comics industry, and I had the chance to do so at the Long Beach Comic Con on Oct 30, 2011.

At the convention I met with and interviewed Mr. Thom Zahler,  the creator of Love and Capes, an honest to goodness situation superhero romantic comedy inspired in part by the television series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Thom who is a fellow Superman fan, looked at the average Superhero story and thought that no one had really focused on the actual romance between the spandex clad hero and his love; but instead always had the typical sequences of heavy action with the small side story of romance, mixed with the hero’s turmoil of being blessed or burdened with his powers.

Love and Capes follows the adventures of Mark a lantern-jawed yet unassuming accountant, and Abby the bookstore-owner love of his life; who must come to terms with Mark’s secret of being The Crusader, when he decides that he must tell her the truth about his past when professing his undying love for her. Faster than a speeding teen-drama, and able to leap tall soap-operas in a single bound, it’s Love and Capes!

Thom Zahler Interview at Long Beach Comic Con

KR:  Hi Thom!, really good to meet you! I’ve heard about your work and seen bits and pieces of Love and Capes on the internet, so tell me what it’s all about and how it got started?

Thom: Great to meet you too! Love and Capes is superhero romantic comedy; it’s about a superhero kinda like Superman who says” I love my girl friend, but if I’m gonna tell her that, I gotta tell her everything”.  So, is there ever a good time to tell your girlfriend you have x-ray vision? What does she want for Christmas when she knows you can crush coal into diamonds, things like that.

I was looking for a new project in 2005-2006 somewhere around there, I had written a spec sitcom strip for a contest, and found I really liked doing that. But I knew I worked in the world of comics, and knew that I wanted to do something fun to do with comics. Then I had that chocolate and peanut-butter moment, when I realized no one had really tackled the superhero/superman relationship stuff. It’s kinda like Lois and Clark, but Delta Burke never ever shows up in it.

KR: (laughs) So, you’ve been in the comic book industry before doing Love and Capes, what else have you done?

Thom: I had been working for ten to fifteen years, and started off with doing lettering for the longest time, also doing inking. Love and Capes has gotten me more work than anything else.

KR: That’s really cool, so you’ve got fifteen issues of Love and Capes so far?

Thom: Eighteen issues actually! I had thirteen issues done when I self published, and five issues done through I.D.W this year. And there will be also a sixth issue mini-series coming out from I.D.W next year.

KR: Wow, so I know this is a tremendously popular title and..

Thom: Everyone in my family likes it, yes.

KR: Well a few people in mine like it too. (laughs) It’s such a clean fresh start and it’s got a little Disney in it, and a little Saturday morning cartoonish flavor about it. How did you arrive at this style – or were you planning on going this direction when you started out, or did it just evolve on its own?

Thom: It was conscious direction, the project before was standard superhero looking stuff, and I’m ok at that. But once I started doing a lot more cartooning, that was really my wheelhouse and I stopped trying to fight it. Darwin Cook who wound up doing a cover for issue #3 of the I.D.W series was my big inspiration. I had the DC New Frontier book with me the whole time I was doing that, I also had Steve Silver’s Art of Silver book and a couple other really cartoony stuff. I wanted to go into some new graphic dimension, and it became a lot more organic after that. You can really see the growth from the first issue to like issue 6 or 7, where things really start to come together.

KR: Did you take the route of a lot of these other publishers and start with a web-comic, in order to drive the sales of the physical paper?

Thom:  No, actually I did the comic book first, I also work as a graphics designer during the day and as such I have a lot of printing contacts, and knew I could do the book cost effectively. I put the first issue online afterwards, after it came out in stores. And waited until I had more content done with issues 2 and 3 before I put those up; now the book is done in a eight-panel grid, so every fourth panel is a (unintelligible) like a comic strip. It’s built to section up in that four-panel grid, which fits on a computer screen much better, pre-iPad days, so I’ve been able to put the older stuff up. Right now issue eleven is showing online, so ideally you can go to the website, read the comic and get hooked. Decide if you want more, and the only way to get more is that you can buy it.

KR: I see, excellent. Well thank you for speaking with me, it’s been great!

Thom: Thanks, you too!

Now personally, I’ve read a fair amount of Love and Capes online – it reads as a four-panel strip, and has ongoing storylines and memorable characters. The superheroics is central to the premise, but not central to the story.  As goofy as some of the situations are, the characters aren’t just throwaway cardboard cutouts.  You really get a sense of who these people are and why they think they way they do, and the conflict and comedy comes out of this solid foundation.  Add some really appealing character design and strong drawing to that and you’ll be able to see why Love and Capes really hits the mark.

Excerpts from Thom’s Official Biography:

The origins of the man who would become Thom Zahler are shrouded in mystery. Historians currently believe that he was part of the top-secret government super soldier breeding project code-named: “The Zahler Family.”

After twelve years of Catholic school, he was sent to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art by a military court for a crime he didn’t commit. Zahler promptly escaped the maximum security art education facility to the Northeast Ohio Underground. Today, still wanted by the New Jersey government and several desperate women, he survives as a freelance cartoonist and graphic artist. If you have a job, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire…Thom Zahler Art Studios. Blam, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam!

Thom Zahler is many things to many people, including: cartoonist, penciller, inker, letterer, caricaturist, illustrator, web designer, writer, producer, director, game show contestant, prize in a bachelor raffle, and right-handed relief pitcher. One of his favorite roles, however, is Godfather to his lovely Goddaughter Erin, in which he tries to teach the precocious two-year old that Superman really is cooler than Batman, and that, despite what she may hear on the street, Greedo never, repeat never, shot first.

Zahler’s work has been seen nationwide. He designed the bus seen in the Prilosec advertising campaign, worked in many capacities for various comic book companies including Marvel and Claypool Comics, and has done cartooning for both the Cleveland Indians and the Colorado Rockies. He is the designer and webmaster of “Angel” star Andy Hallett’s website, and has designed logos for companies large and small.

He currently lives at his palatial estate, Zahlerdu, in Northeast Ohio. Okay, he really doesn’t call it “Zahlerdu,” but if he did, it would be because of “Citizen Kane” and not that Olivia Newton-John disco movie. It’s not really a palatial estate, either, but it is a pretty nice place.

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