Tony Trov and Johnny Zito are the co-writers of the Harvey-nominated Zuda comic Black Cherry Bombshells, a bloody, joyous mixture of grindhouse cinema, female pro-wrestling and apocalyptic fallout. They recently launched a new Zuda series,LaMorte Sisters, which deals with the reformation of wayward young vampiric girls by a group of frightening Catholic nuns. They may also be the two best dressed men in comics.
Surfing the Bleed sat down with both men yesterday to talk aboutBlack Cherry Bombshells, LaMorte Sisters, grindhouse cinema, crazy names and even the lord of the oceans, Aquaman. Without further ado, the Sufing the Bleed Interview: Tony Trov and Johnny Zito.
Surfing the Bleed: Welcome to Surfing the Bleed fellas. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.
Tony Trov: Our pleasure. No trouble taking time away from our afternoon power naps to talk shop.
Johnny Zito: I feel charged.
Surfing the Bleed: First off, are those actually your real names?!
Tony: No, mine was changed at Ellis Island. It was a class trip but I paid for the full tour package.
Johnny: My name and face are altered every four years to stay ahead of the credit card companies.
Surfing the Bleed: Could you both give the readers a quick recap of your educational and professional backgrounds?
Johnny: We're graduates of Temple University with Masters from the School of Hard Knocks.
Tony: John started in political cartoons and I'm art department on film and tv productions.
Surfing the Bleed: Do you remember what got you interested in comics in the first place? Was there a specific title that you read as a kid that made you think, "I want to make this when I grow up?"
Tony: It was the cover of MAD where Alfred E. Nuemann is on the dating game with Bobbit, Fisher and Tonya Harding. It was like, oh man, Cartoons are about real life.
Johnny: I skipped out on my own birthday party to buy Kingdom Come #4 as soon as it came out. That's when I knew this was a forever thing.
Surfing the Bleed: So how did you guys both meet and what led to you decide to work together?
Johnny: We actually met at a comic shop but became friends a little later.
Tony: The writing picked up in film school. We were always taking projects too far.
Surfing the Bleed: The two of you co-write your hit Zuda seriesBlack Cherry Bombshells and your new series LaMorte Sisters. Can you tell us about the process of writing something together and how it goes from concept to finished product?
Tony: Black coffee and compromise.
Johnny: There's shame. Lots of shame.
Tony: We like to come at it from character and relationship. The high concept grows out of that.
Johnny: BCB is about being your own badguy and LaMorte is about growing up fast. The zombies and vampires are a helpful metaphor to that end.
Surfing the Bleed: Do you find it easier to work with one another on projects? That is to say, is it a fairly organic process where both of you are taking cues from one another and operating in sync? Do the two of you ever disagree on the voice of a character or the direction an arc is taking?
Tony: Once the character is solid we're always trying to one up each other. To really push their personalities into the unexpected.
Johnny: We're on the same page about a lot of stuff because of our almost identical influences. Things like the Bombshells' baddie, The King.
Tony: She's a cross dressing, kung fu, Elvis impersonator. Who else is gonna run Vegas? Things like that are intuitive between us.
Johnny: We just wrote/produced a 48 Hour Film Project together; Kingpin of Pain. The script was put together in 19 minutes. Each of us typed at the same keyboard with only our left hands. The only communication necessary was a series of telepathic pulses.
Surfing the Bleed: Black Cherry Bombshells has been described at times as a "zombie comic." Zombies have become almost cliche, safe even, in the world of genre fiction. Does it ever bother you that you're well-layered book with varied influences is being so generically labeled?
Johnny: Haters wanna hate, playas go to spaaace.
Tony: Horror is always cool. When people's mouths are open and screaming - that's when you shove a lil knowledge down their throats.
Johnny: There's a reason these iterations of the undead have been around so long. They say something about living people.
Tony: Zombies are the last NEW movie monster. The idea is still fresh. Zombies haven't even had a crossover with Abbot and Costello yet.
Surfing the Bleed: I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories so I really enjoyed Black Cherry Bombshells. The book reads as an homage to horror punk, grindhouse cinema, and the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Personally, I feel like it has a lot in common with the works of Memphis filmmaker John Michael McCarthy (The Sore Losers). Are you guys a fan of his films? Was there an active decision to be so referential to those type of stories, to try and capture that specific mood and aesthetic?
Tony: We're fans of McCarthy's music videos. But I've never caught The Sore Losers.
Johnny: Our strongest influences are probably Go! Team and the Philly Roller Girls
Tony: Black Cherry Bombshells is experimental and super referential. We wanted to pour everything we loved about music, monsters and grindhouse into it as we could. We're 120 pages deep athttp://www.BlackCherryBombshells.com
Johnny: Growing up there were still actual grindhouses in Philly. Tony had one down the street from him. Ninjas and Monsters were in constant rotation.
Surfing the Bleed: You guys were recently nominated for a Harvey Award. It must be nice to get that sort of recognition for your work. Do you feel like web-specific content is starting to get more recognition in the industry?
Tony: Absolutely. The new distribution model is internet to comic book to movie.
Johnny: Or reverse. Inglorious Bastards had a web comic to promote it's release.
Tony: Zuda has two graphic novels out based on their web series Bayou and High Moon.
Johnny: Night Owls, another Zuda Comic, is coming out soon, too.
Surfing the Bleed: A lot of fans still aren't overly familiar with what's going on over at Zuda. Can you explain the process to the readers and talk a bit about how (if at all) it's different writing for that format instead of traditional long-form comics pages?
Tony: Zuda is DC Entertainment's digital imprint. They publish original, creator owned web comics. Some of those web comics go to print. Look for them at Borders or on Amazon in graphic novels.
Johnny: The format is horizontal to fit the wide screen monitors all the kids are sporting. It presents more opportunity than challenges. We find it helps up maintain a cinematic pacing.
Surfing the Bleed: You've got a new series coming out for Zudacalled LaMorte Sisters. Give the fans a little preview of what they can expect from this book.
Tony: LaMorte Sisters is about a vampire orphanage run by a strict order of catholic nuns.
Johnny: It's a very personal story for us. It's about South Philly, Frienemies and faith.
Tony: We follow Maddie, she's just been turned into a vamp and she doesn't have a friend in the world.
Johnny: We update with new pages every Friday. Check it out at http://www.lamortesisters.com .
Surfing the Bleed: You're joined on this book by Christine Larsen who has a style quite different from what we're used to onBlack Cherry Bombshells. Can you talk a bit about what it's like to work with different artists on different titles and how, if at all, you have to change your style to get the best possible results out of a new collaboration?
Johnny: Christine's work is beautiful and really suits the scary intense atmosphere for LaMorte Sisters. Sacha's powerful cartoons on Black Cherry Bombshells make the violence palatable, even fun.
Tony: Big part of that is our colorist/letterer on BCB, John Daillare. He draws a mean desert sunset.
Johnny: We're lucky to work with such talented artists. Right now were kicking around an Aquaman idea with another Zuda creator/artist, Dan Govar.
Tony: Dan draws Azure, it's a sleek, undersea adventure so this is totally his thing. Plus we have a lot to say about Aquaman.
Surfing the Bleed: Well, that should just about do it guys. Thanks again for taking the time. We wish you the best of luck and continued success!
Tony: Guten tag.