Red Dot Island's small land mass and market size have sometimes been a bane to those who desire to dream bigger. It is also one of the reasons that many local artistic talents have flew abroad to find the success they dream of.
There is also a constant tricky balance with being too localized or too Westernized (mainly Americanized) when it came to putting up an artistic piece of work. For pop-culture to succeed, it has to appeal to the masses. Not just in Red Dot Island.
So it was with utter delight that Red Dot Diva stumbled upon a muscley-strapping comic superhero named "Salvation Sam". Locally created by the guys at Jove Pater.
During the STGCC weekend, Red Dot Diva noticed the guys working hard at their booth, giving out free copies of their special edition of the first issue of "Salvation Sam". The relentless self-promotion paid off when popular DC comics writer, Gail Simone, picked up the comic and tweeted: "Read a very fun and entertaining superhero comic by locals at jovepatermedia.com. I wish these guys lots of success!" W0000t!
After chatting with one of the writers Aravind Menon during the convention (where they both commiserated over the arduous need to carry "sarcasm" signs sometimes), Red Dot Diva asked him to share more about "Salvation Sam" and what went on behind the scenes.
1. What made you guys decide on the name Jove Pater?
This was back in 2005 actually. My dad was doing some company rebranding and one of his partners was into the whole numerology thing and all of that and they called me and asked for a name that would start with J. So I suggested "Jiminy Cricket". That got rejected and I suggested "Jove Pater". So effectively Jove Pater Media is a sister company to another Jove Pater headed by my dad.
The big issue now is that people just seem insistent on not getting its spelling right. Business Times spelt out name as Jove Pata and one of the STGCC promos did so as well. In fact, on the day before the event our signboard thingy said "Jova Pater." But The most embarrassing incident would be when one of our own partners - Sathya - spelt it as "Jove Parter."
2. How did you guys get together for this venture?
Secondary school! All 4 of us were from the same secondary school, Teck Whye Sec, and we decided to work together in 2006. Which was pretty miraculous because we never got any work done during secondary school. After NS and a few other distractions we finally got the chance to get serious and push "Salvation Sam" forward as our first independent project. Although "Salvation Sam" was written by Alex and I, Sam and Sathya will soon be working on their own titles and we're aiming to see those in print soon as well.
3. Were there secret super powers suddenly manifested during meetings? Do you each have a not-so-secret superhero identity?
Over exposure to air-con coolant has gifted us special abilities. We're all now able to sit in one place for hours on end and only get up for food. It's a gift that could make a Kryptonian jealous. As for our not-so-secret identities... well Sam, Alex and I play World of Warcraft but we'd rather people not know too much about that. Haha!
Like most of our stuff, "Salvation Sam" started off as an in-joke. Back in 2007 whenever Alex and I tried to get Sam, he would usually be unavailable and more often than not, his reason would be his helping his mom out with events at their church. Alex and I eventually realized that this was untrue and that Sam was actually a superhero protecting the world as "Salvation Sam"!
It would be 2 years later when Alex and I were at Pizza Hut having dinner, discussing what we could do with our company and new found time with him having just finished National Service, that we would actually decide that "Salvation Sam" would be a pretty quirky and fun thing to do as a project.
A lot of our themes developed over time and some of it came about even late into the writing process. But one of the earlier and more driving ideas we wanted to explore was the significance of villains in a superhero's existence/ career. As great as Superman and Batman are, a lot of their fame has to be attributed to the likes of Lex Luthor and the Joker. So this was a driving force that pushed us forward and led us to find more ideas and themes that we wanted to explore.
5. Were any of the characters depicted based on people you knew?
A lot of these characters were based on in-jokes. Alex was frequently referred to as the master of allusions due to his unfortunate love for puns and allusions. And I got the branding of the grammar nazi, though I often pointed out that I was more of a vocab nazi. There will be more characters and story ideas that you will see over time that'll pretty much allude to many things from pop culture.
6. What do you look for when searching for an artist for "Salvation Sam"? Tell us a little about how you found Lucio Daniel Mercado/Renzo Rodriguez?
During the process of finding an art direction we went through many ideas. We spent a fair bit of time considering something closer to Jonthan Lau's style as seen on Kevin Smith's Green Hornet and I was also personally in love with Francis Manapul's run on Adventure Comics. These were really contrasting art styles and somehow we landed back on something quite traditional. But a lot of the direction was decided when Renzo came on board.
I originally met Renzo when I was contracted by a different company to write a comic for their IP. At that point of time his art was rather Disneyish and it was well suited for that comic. However, when he read the Salvation Script his style seemed to evolve and he achieved something more suitable and highly befitting of the feel we were aiming for.
Also, we're glad to say that Lucio Daniel Mercado, better known as Merbitt, will be coming on board as an inker for Renzo's interior pages. Previously we had this scheduling problem and we resorted to using multiple inkers for the preview issue, but with the standard release it'll be him on inks and Renzo still ruling pencil-land.
7. Will there be a kick-ass female supervillian/ superhero appearing in "Salvation Sam" any time soon?
Yes. In fact there will be more than just 'a' kick-ass female. You've already met the Mistress of Illusions in this preview issue and in that last fight we actually get a glimpse of 2 more villainesses. But they'll be playing a much bigger role in upcoming issues.
8. Give us some teasers as to what will happen in the next issue of "Salvation Sam".
THEY DIE! THEY ALL DIE!! (- Red Dot Diva death-stares at Aravind -)
Sorry, just really wanted to be able to say that. Hmm... teasers eh? Well, I think we kinda revealed a taste of what's to come in the first issue. Also, Sam, Mr Awesome and The Guild won't be the last of our special guest star heroes. This world is a world that has grown accustomed to superheroes over the decades and we definitely have more to show off. We'll also spend some time to show how superheroes work in this universe and so on.
Don't begin prep for an event 6 months before it begins. Haha! Of the many lessons, I think that was one of the biggest. We also learned a lot more about the technicalities that go into actually publishing a comic. It's quite surprising that no matter how many Director's Cuts you read or how many interviews you watch or how long you spend on Wikipedia it still doesn't prepare you for the sheer magnitude of entering the industry largely unguided.
10. How have the general reactions been at the convention, when you launched the first issue of "Salvation Sam"?
The reactions were surprisingly positive. I last attended STCC back in '08 with a client. And there was this strong element of "Local product? Don't want." We certainly had the fear that a heavily westernized concept coupled with the general misconceptions/ stigma attached to local products would affect "Salvation Sam". But all of that was laid to rest with the reaction we got during and post-event.
It's also incredibly gratifying and encouraging that there are people who want to read our stuff. We had hoped that by giving out the first issue for free, it would convince people to give us a chance and to promote a medium that is still not getting the attention that it should. A lot of our focus right now is also on increasing our Facebook following, because come January, we'll be releasing free content online and we don't want people to miss out on that.
However, all that being said, we still had a number of people actually refusing the free item simply out of instinct to say 'no' to handouts or due to it not being a manga. There was one guy who actually said "I don't read English," and another who told my colleague, Sam, that she didn't want free items.
11. Did you guys geek out over anyone or anything at the convention?
Well, on the day before during prep, we ran into Phil Ortiz and Sam and I were just taking two steps towards him and turning around each time. We finally got bold and got him to sign the first issue of Bartman. We got to meet him that very evening at GnB Comics during the Members' Appreciation Night and we got in like an hour long conversation with him. It's amazing how animated and entertaining he is. It was like all the energy that The Simpsons had bottled in a person.
Another mind boggling moment was when I managed to get Gail Simone to sign my comics. That was just reaching the point of surrealism. I actually had an opportunity to have speak to her husband, Scott, a couple of times and it was he who put a copy of "Salvation Sam" in Gail's hands and she actually tweeted about it as well as wrote on our facebook page. I actually made a Twitter account just to thank her and have since forgotten my password. But I think Sam steals the award for Best Moment of Geekism. When Gail visited our booth (and offered to sign my other comics by her!!) Sam walked up to her and asked "Could I shake your hand?"
12. Will there be any other projects that you will be interested in doing?
Right now "Salvation Sam" is our number one priority. But we did originally start off focusing on script writing for our own idea for a television series so that is something we're definitely still interested in. Also we're always looking for local/regional talent who'd be willing to work with us. But of course building traction and becoming stable as a company so as to be considered a participant of this industry is also very important to us.
13. How much do you all like geek girls? Or geek guys. (Red Dot Diva is very open-minded *g*)
Two words: Felicia Day. Haha. Geek girls are definitely on the 'like' list. Alex probably has dibs on Felicia Day already, so get me a Superman reading, Buffy watching girl and we're good. I'll also accept Eliza Dushku.
Red Dot Diva zaps a super-powered Red Dot on the "Salvation Sam" comic. She found the pacing and the writing to be snappy enough. The humour was mostly very spot on... especially if one is into snark. Most of the art was pretty good, although rather uneven at some parts. And some panels looked a little crowded.
This was most probably due to the different artists used in trying to finalize the comic. Both Lucio and Renzo will be involved full-time for the next issue, which she hopes will bring more consistency to the images.
All in all though, it was an enjoyable read and the comic ended in a cliffhanger that made one dying for the next issue. Red Dot Diva thinks "Salvation Sam" does hold a lot of promise. So make us local homies proud, Jove Pater!
Red Dot Diva has to mention that one can view the premiere issue of "Salvation Sam" serialized online by heading to I.Z. Reloaded!! Two pages will be posted each day for two weeks! Don't miss it!
To get into the festive-giving mood for the season, the folks from Jove Pater have donated a part of their "Salvation Sam" comics to the Salvation Army.
For every $5 spent there, one can get a copy of "Salvation Sam" at $1 and for every $20 spent, it's free!
All proceeds go to the Salvation Army.
And to show support and to keep updated about the comic, don't forget to follow "Salvation Sam" on Facebook and on Twitter!