New Comic SlickForceGirl: Girls Gone Hero Interview With Nick Saglimbeni and Stephanie Jones
The dynamic duo of writer Stephanie Jones and photographer Nick Saglimbeni joined forces to create a new a story that will be an exciting experience for comic fans everywhere. SlickforceGirl: Girls Gone Hero, was birthed from the live-action SlickforceGirl art photography series. The story centers around three women: Vanessa Valentine, Erika Arias, and Kaitlyn Connor. These women aren’t just pretty faces, but they are superheroes. Each one of them brings a unique power, and skill set to the table. This aids them in fighting crime, saving the world, and keeping each other out of trouble. I had the opportunity to read the SlickforceGirl demo short at Stan Lee’s Comikaze, and comic fans are in for a real treat. This is not a run-of-the-mill comic where women are the damsels in distress, and its good to see more of these type of narratives in print. Anime Complexium got the opportunity to interview Stephanie and Nick about the writing process and the challenges of making SlickforceGirl: Girls Gone Hero a reality.
When did you decided that writing is your passion?
Stephanie: My passion for writing started long before I ever wrote one word with my absolute love of reading. As a child, I read voraciously, taking out 20 books at a time. I had a little wagon for just that purpose! I was in love with the art of storytelling, which fueled my love of films and later filmmaking. While preparing to become a director at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, I discovered I had a talent for writing. After graduation, I decided to cultivate my writing talent with the goal of becoming an auteur. I find that the more stories I write, the more my love of writing grows.
What’s your favorite comic?
Stephanie: Superman has always been my personal favorite. He has a special place in my heart because I love what he stands for. I hear a lot of people say nowadays that Superman is “too perfect” and they can’t relate. But for me, that’s what I love about him. I love that no matter what happens to him, what evil comes his way, he will stand up for what is right. He will not waiver, he will not falter. It takes great strength to be this type of person – more than just super physical strength. I also like the fact that the female characters in the Superman comics have been strong from the beginning. Even in the 1930’s, when the comic was introduced, Lois Lane was gutsy, beautiful and a highly skilled reporter who could take care of herself. Seeing strong women in films and reading about strong women in books have always been a special draw for me. So, when Nick Saglimbeni approached me about writing SlickforceGirl, a series which showcases strong, beautiful and talented women, I jumped at the chance.
How long have you been involved in comics?
Stephanie: I have only been writing comic books for about a year now. SlickforceGirl is my first foray into this world. However, when Nick Saglimbeni approached me, I was thrilled because I am a big fan of comic-book superhero movies and television shows and have watched them since I was a child. So, even though the writing style was new to me, I already had a good understanding of how to develop the stories. To undertake the writing of SlickforceGirl, I did extensive research on comic-book story structure to make sure I could write our stories skillfully and authentically. However, ultimately, it is my extensive feature film writing experience that gives me an edge–the ability to write fully developed, exciting stories. Once you know how to write a good feature film script, literally the hardest form of writing, you can write just about anything.
What was the inspiration for SlickforceGirl: Girls Gone Hero?
Nick: As a photographer, I’ve photographed close to a thousand models in my career, and I’ve been fortunate to know many of them on a personal level. I’m continually saddened by how much sexual abuse still exists in society, and it’s much worse than the general public believes or acknowledges. SlickforceStudio has always been actively involved with charities such as The Breast Cancer Charities of America and RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). I decided to create a timeless universe of strong female heroes as an ongoing vehicle of support. Everyone needs heroes—though many publishers and creators have historically ignored about 50% of the population.
Our art depicts women using their beauty, courage and intelligence to fight for good, and we donate a portion of profits to related charities. Some people say art can’t be for a good cause if it’s fun or sexy, but you don’t have to be grim or humorless to fight for something you believe in. The “Girls Gone Hero” tagline is also a play on how women have been historically valued in society. I wanted SlickforceGirl to be representative of women today, rather than some archaic stereotype.
What was the inspiration for your characters Vanessa, Kaitlynn and Erika?
Nick: The goal was for each character to have her own self-contained universe. Anyone who has dealt with hardships will tell you they are uniquely personal experiences. I wanted our characters’ stories to represent the strength of the individual. Vanessa is the most literal example of this. She’s an astrophysicist who’s been marooned in outer space, left to fend for herself.
SlickforceGirl originally began as a live action shoot. It was fascinating creating comic-book concepts for live-action photography, since an illustrator can draw anything within their imagination. In contrast, I needed to be very precise and definite about what I wanted to capture—there are a lot of logistics to coordinate in live-action. To help the models get into character, I created a full backstory for them to draw upon. I gave each character a strong, interesting background that would lend itself to heroism. The models took to it so well that I even incorporated some of their traits into later-stage versions of the characters.
How did you and the featured artist decide on the particulars of the artwork? How did it help shape your vision?
Nick: I had a very clear vision of what I wanted before collaborating with Chris Williams, the penciler on our first story. As a photographer and cinematographer, I have to be very sure of the images I’m trying to capture—and approaching the comic-book art for SlickforceGirl is no different. The trick was to find an artist that could capture the vision for SlickforceGirl, while also being able to interpret my direction. Stephanie and I worked out the story in detail before sending Chris the concept panels. For the SlickforceGirl promo book, we wanted a fun, tongue-in-cheek story with big, colorful, and exciting panels that showcased our heroes’ individual personalities. I sent Chris these comically simple stick-figure drawings along with Stephanie’s story treatment for each panel and, Chris captured both the character and the story exceptionally well.
What were some of the difficulties or challenges you experienced while creating this comic?
Nick: I’ve been doing layout and printing for almost 20 years, so the physical comic book wasn’t very difficult. Finding and locking down our talented team of artists was our greatest challenge. It is rare to find an artist that has the skills necessary to tell a feature-film quality story who can also deliver on deadline. Some artists are great at action scenes, but are not good at capturing character emotions and subtle expressions. Others do beautiful work but all the characters faces look the same, so you can’t tell them apart other than through colors. As a cinematographer, I also look for pencilers who can frame and compose a shot like a movie—while some colorists aren’t capable of rendering cinematic lighting. I didn’t want to rush into hiring a team and then be stuck with the wrong people. Chris had been doing some beautiful pin-ups for us, and what first placed him above other artists in my mind was his ability to render likenesses. I’ve been working with inker Jake Isenberg for years, and he’s not only talented but also super fast. I hired colorist Splash! based on his portfolio. He really knew how to capture a hyper-color palette that we wanted for the SlickforceGirl universe.
Where do you hope to see the success of SlickForceGirl a year from now?
Nick: We’re developing a multi-book story arc right now, the first of which will be out in 2016. But we’re looking at SlickforceGirl as a 20-year growth brand. It’s important that the characters evolve as the audience grows, especially since we’re not used to a world with prominent female heroes. Our readers—especially the female readers—provide invaluable feedback with regards to making the characters relatable to their own lives. I didn’t grow up relating to the Hulk or Spider-Man per se, but rather to Bruce Banner and Peter Parker. The superpowers are only a fantasy. Joining the characters on their journeys as they overcome obstacles in their lives—that’s the stuff that sticks with you for a lifetime.
Can you provide any advice for those looking to write for independent comic book companies?
Stephanie: First and foremost, you must master structure. If you understand structure and know the story beats which are necessary to include in the type of stories you are writing, you will become a successful writer and be able to duplicate that success over and over again. Make sure your writing samples are tight and that you take chances. Stay within the story structure, but twist the beats to bring something original to your stories. Once you have writing samples that you know are amazing, call a company and request a meeting. All they can do is say no. And as they say, each no will bring you closer to that yes.
What can fans expect from you in the future?
Stephanie: I will be writing full comic-book issues of SlickforceGirl, which will be introduced in mid-to-late 2016. I am also working on several independent film features, of which I am very excited!
You can find more information about the Slickforce Heroes on their official website. But be sure to like SlickForce Girls on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram