March marks the 9th Anniversary of Broadsword Comics. Over that course of that time they have shipped every issue on time without missing a single deadline. Further, they have never raised their cover price. Jim Balent and Holly G! stopped by First Comics News to chat about their plans for the coming year.
First Comics News: Let’s start with a look at what’s coming up – first off, you have Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #54 that’s out now. It’s a story about Raven Hex in the land of fairytales. What recognizable characters can we expect to see?
Jim Balent: Raven Hex will meet Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. She will also meet a few of the side characters from the fables such as The Evil Queen, the Seven Dwarves and the Wolf. The look of these characters will be recognizable but also altered to give the tale a new twist.
1st: What type of impact does she have on them?
Jim: Raven Hex always hated these bedtime stories even when she was a little girl.
She feels that the main female characters are weak and pitiful. Always pining for some Prince or worrying about what to wear to a ball. Raven Hex gives them a dose of self confidence and the stories are dramatically altered.
1st: What do you think it is about fairytales that still entice readers as adults?
Jim: Everyone knows the stories. All you have to say is, Snow White, Red Riding Hood and readers know exactly what you’re talking about because they heard them so many times when they were children. So when someone comes along and does a retelling of these stories, whether it be in book form or movie; the public becomes interested in it because of childhood memories and now that they are adult, they want to see the twist in the new telling.
1st: After that, you have Tarot #55, the 9th anniversary issue. What can reader expect for the anniversary issue?
Jim: The 9th anniversary issue will have the traditional third cover, the “Photo Cover”. It’s usually Holly dress or should I say in a state of “undressed”, as Tarot in a magickal setting. It also begins a new storyline that will extend over 4 issues. Several friends and readers will be drawn into the book and I am very pleased to announce that Tonya Kay, Actress, dancer and one of the stars on Stan Lee’s “Who wants to be a Superhero.” will make her first appearance in the Tarot comic. At the end of the series, Award winning author and teacher of Witchcraft, Raven Grimassi, will appear in issue #58.
1st: What is the “Witches’ Market” in the story?
Jim: The Witches’ Market is where the story really takes off. It’s a place where Witches, Fairies, Shape Shifters all go to buy Magickal supplies or just to be entertained. Think of it as a cross between the Cantina scene in Star Wars and a wicked Renaissance fair. Tarot is searching for her sister, Raven Hex who has stolen the book of Forbidden Magick from the archives. Fearing that Raven will use it once again for destruction, last time she burned down half of Salem. Tarot makes her way through all the tents and sideshows to track down her sister. Unfortunately encountering a crazed Werewolf changes her plans.
1st: After March, what can we expect to see for the remainder of the year leading up to the big 10th anniversary next year?
Jim: I mentioned earlier that Tonya Kay will be appearing in Tarot #55. Throughout the year she will be appearing in the comic in various ways. One, as a “Broadsword Girl”. Broadsword Girls are female readers who are strong, independent and who are confident in themselves and their sexuality. Tonya Kay is all that! She is a remarkable talent! And two, Tonya will also be writing her own personal spell to share with the readers. Then she will be co-starring with Tarot at the end of the year. Tarot readers can expect the same high quality, on time comic that they have loved for 9 years. As for our 10th anniversary issue… “The Obama, Tarot all nude scratch and sniff team-up comic!” Just kidding, I don’t think his schedule has room for him to model for me. So we will keep what we have planned for the 10th anniversary issue a surprise for now.
1st: At the end of each of your comics there are magic spells, how do you choose the spells and witches to feature in the comic?
Jim: We invite readers who are Witches to share their favorite spells with the public. There are many paths in the Craft and this is a great way to show the diversity.
1st: I noticed in issue #53 the spell involved using the burning of sage to name your broom. In a way it relates to current events. Kate Clinton “Saged the White House” on January 19th. They gathered by the fountain in DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. and burned sage in order to get rid of the evil spirits from the Bush White House. Is this witchcraft going mainstream as you see it?
Jim: Wow! The Sage bundle must have been the size of several hay stacks!
Holly Golightly!: Sage is used as a purification smoke in many spiritual rituals not just Wiccan. But it’s nice to see any positive cleansing going on around the White House, by Witches, Wiccans or anyone with a broom! I don’t really think about mainstream much or left of center… it shouldn’t matter what position you’re in if you’re doing positive things.
1st: Do you think events like this indicate a greater acceptance forTarot and/or witchcraft in general?
Jim: We are a trendy culture. Sometimes it seems that we are more acceptable due to certain pop culture movies or books. Other times it seems like it’s an up hill battle for people of Pagan/Craft faiths to receive the same courtesies. I would hope we are becoming a more enlighten people.
1st: You are selling “Candle Magick!” on your website. Is this just a brand name or are they magical candles?
Holly: Our Candles are created by Juli Rice of Black Corset Candles, and she is a Wax Witch! Well that’s what I call her! Both of us practice the Craft, so when we plan a candle, we consider scent-colour and art to convey a certain intention while burning. So even though a person may not practice rituals we have all the good energy built in waiting to emerge and spread the Magick Goodness!
1st: I have heard of Candle Magick, but on your site there is no indication of what the candles are for our how to use them. Do they come with instructions, spells or some type of guidelines?
Holly: Juli and I have just put out new Mantra Candles. Since February is just around the corner, we have Romance & Passion available. If someone wishes to use any of our candles in ritual, most likely they know how to incorporate them in their Spellwork. If someone would like to learn more about practicing Candle Magick also known as Candle Therapy please check out this book, Candle Therapy: The Magical Guide to Life Enhancement by Catherine Riggs-Bergesen available on Amazon.com and info on her website, www.candletherapy.com Catherine was my teacher and her book is wonderful! Any Witch in training or curious mind will enjoy it.
1st: Fiona Horne was quite active with Broadsword last time we talked. Is she still involved?
Jim: Fiona Horne is a good friend, she is working on many projects, Movies, CDs, books… and we are still in touch with her. Yes, we have spoken about her appearing in up coming issues. I just haven’t set a date yet.
1st: What does that involvement bring to Broadsword?
Jim: I like having Craft superstars, like Fiona, Raven Grimassi and Tonya Kay, involved in the books because they bring a lot of personal knowledge about their own path in the Craft. I’ve always said that my goal in creating Tarot was to educate and entertain. And they are a big part of both.
1st: I noticed you have produced videos for Tarot #53, and 54. Is this something we can expect for each issue going forward?
Holly: I would like to create a trailer for every one of Jim’s books, new and old…just time and work prevents me from going backwards! I have always wanted to make movies since seeing Star Wars… and I love Movie Trailers. I even studied Film at Bard College and storyboarding at Parson’s School of Design. Using my natural obsession for film and my passion for my Mac, I entwined it all with our comic books! It’s all pure fun for me and also relays to our readers an enjoyable sneak peek at the new issues coming up! I intend to create some more for my projects as well. I’ve already produced a music video to School Bites: Blood Drinking 101… that took me a long time to complete but I think it’s some groovy eye candy!
1st: Looking at your expansion over the years, Panini is distributing foreign language editions of Tarot. What languages are available?
Holly: Panini started publishing the German version of Tarot for about 4 years now. They actually publish their trade before we do ours! So Germany will have Tarot vol 7 on the shelves in March 2009 and our English version will be out for June 2009! Other countries have approached us for other foreign versions of Tarot. We are also in negotiations with another publisher for the French translation and publishing.
1st: The German editions are translated by Christian Heiss. Do you have any contact with him?
Holly: Our main contact is with our German editor, Steffen Volkmer and the production head, Michael Beck. Steffen has been a fan of Jim’s art for many many years and he loves Tarot. I can’t imagine him not having the best translator on the project. We have received many emails from German readers saying that it is very good. I have to trust them since I learned most my German from a lovely restaurant on 86th street…
1st: Is any of the story or art altered in the foreign editions?
Holly: Very little I think on the art and none on the story.
1st: You have an Elite Hard Cover Edition Tarot Witch of the Black Rose Trade Vol. 1 coming out. What is the difference between elite edition and the standard edition?
Holly: For nearly 2-3 years since the first TPB sold out, we were getting e-mails, phone calls and in person requested to reprint the volume. People were buying them on eBay for $99! We have a bunch of reasons why we don’t like to go back to press, the main one being that we want to create new projects and go forward. And it takes a lot of time and energy to redo any project, you just don’t call the printer and say… “Oh yeah, print some more…” Files have to be translated into new software, tweaks here and there. But we understood that readers who missed the first issues wanted to see the beginnings of Tarot… hence the Hardcover Elite Edition! Something new and special… The Hardcover Elite Edition. The book itself is larger than the original paperback edition was, so you can see the full bleed of Jim’s art. I’ve added some pin ups and we have had Beth Wade do a fresh edited to the book. It is also signed by both Jim and I, numbered with a COA and colour print tucked inside. The volume is already out and available online and in one store, Harrison’s Comics in Salem, Ma. We’re keeping this a Studio only project, the quality is high and the quantities low. Anyone… store or reader interested in a volume must contact us through email@example.com or our order line (717) 982-0594.
1st: You are selling signed art prints of tarot cards, it this leading to a future deck of cards?
Jim: I am always working on a full deck of Tarot cards. I started them 9 years ago. The problem is I keep re-drawing them. Hopefully I will complete the deck soon.
1st: When will we see School Bites #4?
Holly: As soon as I can find a little time. I do have a chapter finish and we’re seriously considering making School Bites available online, so the readers don’t have to wait to see what adventures my little Vampires are having.
1st: Broadsword also published a Survival Guide to Orlando for Goth, Geeks and Freaks. What type of special planning is needed for Goth, Geeks and Freaks?
Holly: Well not much different from anyone else… but if you Manic Panic your hair… want to find cute groovy things to wear on vacation, love the delicious & yummy, don’t like planning a ‘Family Vacation’ and haven’t heard of all the Halloween and Star Wars celebrations that go on down in Orlando, this is a great travel guide for you! If you doubt it here’s a quote from a fellow ghoul Damien Glonek, one of the men who brings you “The Living Dead Dolls”!… “Damien from Mezco here. Kept meaning to email you to tell you I read your Ears and fears book. Loved it so much it convinced my girlfriend and to go back to Universal and Disney this Halloween as we had such a good time last year. Great book.”
1st: Are there any more travel/survival guide coming out in the near future?
Holly: I’m playing with an idea that would involve Comicon… but I have to grow another pair of arms.
1st: You seem to do a lot with multiple covers. How many covers dose an average Broadsword comic have?
Jim: NO! We don’t do a lot of multiple covers. We have only 2 covers per-issue, 3 for our anniversary issue; the photo cover. Each cover is printed 50/50 equally so the readers can choose which one he or she likes. We will be starting a limited Glow in the dark cover for the collectors market. The first one will start with issue #54. But we do not print 8 to 10 covers per-issue.
1st: Fair enough, and thanks for the clarification. In 9 years you have never raised your cover price. One of the things none of your competitors can say. How have you been able to maintain the same cover price?
Jim: We forgot to change it. No, seriously. Our sales are good. Stores and readers are happy. So we feel no reason at this point to change the price. Maybe for one issue I’ll raise it to $4,000 just to even everything out.
1st: Also in 9 years, I don’t believe you have ever missed a deadline or delayed a title. How have you avoided production problems, illness or printing problems all these years?
Jim: We have never missed a deadline at Broadsword! This even goes back to my Catwoman days where I penciled and did the cover art for 77 nonstop Catwoman issues. Making sure Tarot comes out on time is something we are proud of. It’s not easy. It’s Just Holly and myself running Broadsword. Yes, he had our scares. Illnesses, Surgery, and one time at a critical moment we lost all power to the studio due to an ice storm! Lucky for us we had friends in a local mall who owned a Gaming/Arcade store and they allowed us to finish the book right there in their store. It was insane; there we are finishing the book right next to a kid playing Halo on the next computer. But our books shipped on time.
Holly: To stay healthy… Airborne, saline solution and we cook & eat organic!
1st: Finally guys, what conventions can fans find you at this year?
Jim: San Diego Comic Con is where our booth will be set up. We will also be walking around Mega Con March 1st of this year. Holly, myself and our books have been nominated for 13 “Project Fanboy Awards” Including “Best Title”,”Best Indy Title”, and “Best Artist”. We won’t have a booth there but if you see us walking around please feel free to stop us and say Hi.