John Crowther talks about ROCHELLE

I interviewed John Crother about his wrestling bio-comic on Nikolai Volkoff. I had remembered Volkoff from my childhood and thought it was a cool thing to do. Now John is back with a cockroach-inspired superhero, Rochelle. While people may not like communists, they really don’t cockroaches. John was nice enough to stop by First Comics New to catch our reads up on all thing Rochelle and explain why this is on roach you will want.

First Comics News: How did you get Rochelle to be a flip book with Femforce?

John Crowther: When I first imagined the Rochelle concept, I reached out to industry veteran, and the current artist on the Rochelle series, Dell Barras (Web of Spiderman, Blue Beetle, Conan the Barbarian). Dell is friends with Mark Heike of AC Comics and is a longtime contributor to the Femforce series. Dell put Mark and I together, and we agreed to have Rochelle make her debut as Rochelle: The Teen Cockroach, as a way of testing the market by placing her in the hands of small press comic readers with an interest in female superheroes.

1st: Why move from AC to Antarctic Press?

John: After Rochelle’s strong debut with AC Comics in 2015, I began discussions with Joe Dunn at Antarctic Press about bringing her under the AP banner. I had discussed Rochelle’s future with AC Comics editor Mark Heike and explained that I wanted to convert the story into a color format, away from the black and white format we did with AC. AC doesn’t print color comics and Mark felt the series had a larger market appeal than AC Comics could provide. All of these things I found with Antarctic Press.

1st: Who is Ms. Planeta and how did she mate with a cockroach?

John: This one made me chuckle. Ms. Planeta is Rochelle’s mom, and she didn’t actually mate with a cockroach. She’s a single mom, who wanted a child. She visited an unsavory fertility clinic, where she left her egg, which was subsequently fertilized with donated sperm. What actually happened in the clinic will be revealed as the Rochelle series builds, but supposedly the fertilized egg was contaminated by a cockroach, infusing the egg with cockroach DNA. When Ms. Planeta gave birth to Rochelle, the first known human/cockroach hybrid entered the world.

1st: How old is Rochelle Planeta?

John: Rochelle was modeled after my daughter, Jaylen, when Jaylen was 15 years old. When the series began, she was 15, but readers will see her age as the stories progress, albeit slowly.

1st: What type of powers does she have?

John: Rochelle has all of the abilities of a modern-day cockroach (most people are unaware that, by size, the cockroach is the fastest creature on the planet)…flight, speed, enhanced strength and agility and heightened senses (vision, hearing, smell, and taste). In addition to her ability to generate a cockroach exoskeleton and wings (she typically remains in human form), she can also communicate telepathically with cockroaches.

1st: Kind of like a Cockroach Aquaman?

John: In a sense, although whereas Aquaman can communicate telepathically with all forms of sea life, Rochelle is limited to the various species of cockroaches.

1st: Before you created Rochelle, did you know… most people don’t like cockroaches?

John: Ha! Yes, and that’s exactly why I chose the cockroach. My intent was to teach an underlying lesson through the contradiction..the understanding that when people or other creatures are different from us, it doesn’t make them any less or greater than us, it only means they are different. People should recognize others for those differences and realize that those differences are what make each of us unique in some way. With Rochelle, I combined an innocent teenage girl with a “disgusting” cockroach, but where does Rochelle derive her superpowers? The cockroach. Even “disgusting” cockroaches have positive attributes if you take the time to understand them.

1st: I notice that her name is Rochelle Planeta and her superhero identity is Rochelle; is this a secret identity or public and what’s life like as a teen-age cockroach?

John: Rochelle is very public about her identity as a human/cockroach hybrid. She attends school, hangs out with friends, and participates in sports and other school activities (although she typically remains in human form without her exoskeleton). The citizens in her community have seen Rochelle mature so, although she leads the life of a local celebrity, the community has accepted her as one of their own. As the character is based on my daughter, I also use the stories to address everyday events that can occur in the life of the average teenager (albeit one with some interesting attributes).

1st: Who are Carmen and Taylor?

John: Carmen and Taylor are a pair of Rochelle’s female companions, both based in part on real life friends/relatives of my daughter, who make sporadic appearances in the different story lines. Carmen is Rochelle’s cousin and based on my daughter’s real life cousin, Carmen. Taylor is a friend of Rochelle’s and based on a real life friend of my daughter.

1st: Who is Dylan Sparks?

John: Dylan is a young classmate of Rochelle’s, who is teased for being a “nerd”. Unbeknownst to his antagonists, Dylan is one of the smartest beings on Earth, able to solve equations and formulate solutions to seemingly impossible puzzles with ease. On occasion, he assists Rochelle in her adventures as the masked teen superhero, Pure Genius.

1st: Who is Big Country?

John: Big Country is a burly henchman and the personal bodyguard of the Rochelle series’ primary antagonist, Fletcher Jakes, the founder, and CEO of Byrne Time Industries,

1st: Who is Angel and how did she become lopsided?

John: Angel is another of Rochelle’s friends from high school and another friend with “special” abilities. A “Goth” girl and a loner, Angel is teased in school for a peculiar limp, with jeers of “Lopside”, which she tries to hide under a full length cloak. In Issue #2 of Rochelle: Volume 1, Angel removes her cloak to reveal the source of her limp… an abnormally large and muscular right arm, which possesses superhuman strength. Rochelle befriends Angel and convinces her to defeat her antagonists by embracing the name “Lopside” as her superhero identity. No spoilers from me though. The cause of Angel’s lopsidedness, as well as the cause of many of the main character’s special attributes, will be revealed in a future story line.

1st: Who is Major Mess?

John: Major Mess made his debut in Rochelle, Volume 1, issues 2 and 3. He is a disgruntled former Major in the United States Army who, according to the Major, was enhanced by the United States government into a super soldier in the government’s Weapons of Mass Destruction project (WMD), and later secreted away following the Gulf War in an attempt to cover up the WMD project. Major Mess, with an assist from Big Country, is neutralized by Rochelle and friends in Volume 1, and locked away, after his failed attempt to kidnap and force then President Obama to admit to the existence of the WMD project. But, as in most stories, the supervillains are never truly gone, so expect the Major to return sometime in the future.

1st: Who is Teen Beetle?

John: Ah…I see you noticed the teaser reveal I had on an upcoming character for the Rochelle series. I don’t want to give anything away, as Teen Beetle will make his debut in Rochelle, Volume 3 (which is currently in the early stages of production) but he is a dynamic new character, distantly related to a public domain character who made his comic book debut in 1942. The Teen Beetle concept was created by me and brought to life by legendary comic book artist, Steven Butler (Spider-Man, X-Men, X-Factor, Sonic the Hedgehog).

1st: Is Obama going to return in the sequel, or will he be replaced by Trump?

John: If the need arises to use a public figure in the future like we did with President Obama in Rochelle, Volume 1, we’ll go with whoever is in office. That being said, there is no immediate plan for President Trump to make an appearance, but if Major Mess ever returns to finish what he started, he’ll have no regard for party affiliation, he just wants a piece of whoever is in charge.

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