I. Comics


Q: When did you and Tavisha publish your first comic book?


A: December, 1993. It was a 32 page, black and white comic titled (by the publisher) Vampire World. It was published by Acid Rain Studios. We were first discovered by Mark Paniccia. He found us in the "artist alley" in a California anime convention called Anime Con (March 1993). It was Mark who referred us to Acid Rain Studios, and entirely by coincidence, it was Mark who we met up with again ten years later when he became our editor for ShutterBox at Tokyopop.



II. The Vampire Comics


Q: Your first comics were "vampire" books?


A: Yes, we made three books in all, from December 1993 to August 1994, and each of these was in black and white, and 32 pages. The first publisher to ever take a chance on Tavisha and I was Indiana based Acid Rain Studios. They specialized in publishing comic books with a vampire theme only. The first book we made for them was called Upon a Black Spire, although the publisher had changed the name to Vampire World. The second book was called The House of Donovan Divohsh but was retitled by the publisher as Vampire's Promise. Third and final vampire book didn't even have a vampire in it. It was called Morbinjaw, and was a chapter from a novel I had been writing at the time. The publisher retitled Morbinjaw as Vampire's Prank, and I suppose that the fact that there was no vampire in that book must have been the prank. These comic books are all out of print. We have no idea where you can find them.


Q: What were these vampire stories about?


A: Upon a Black Spire/Vampire World concerned the life of a Vampire named Basil Bjorncroft who existed in a dark and haunted Earth called Shade Terra, 30,000 years in the future. In this story, Basil must defend his castle from a Mountain Wraith who seeks to destroy Basil's home to make a cavernous refuge for more of her kind. There's a Jabberwocky in this one as well.


The House of Donovan Divohsh/Vampire's Promise was about Basil's father Donovan, a type of ghoul known as a Zietratanz, who spent all of his time altering his body, and who lived in a 400 foot tall mechanical skeleton called Shekratet, the Rungle House. Donovan is at war with the Harvest Demons, and his wife, Lorelei, has crashed her own Rungle House behind enemy lines. Basil must rescue her, and use his supernatural cat mask, Durante, to protect himself against daylight.

Morbinjaw/Vampire's Prank I wont go into, because, as was said earlier, it was a chapter to a novel I was writing. I am in the process of rewriting the Morbinjaw and I hope to publish it correctly (this time) once the ShutterBox series is finished. The artwork on the index page of my www.rhumbaghost.com site is a cover I painted a long, long time ago for Morbinjaw.


I also hope to one day revisit Basil's world and possibly rewrite his old stories.



III. Robotech


Q: You made some Robotech comic books?


A: Yes. In the later part of 1994, Acid Rain Studios bought the rights to publish Robotech comics when the comic book company Malibu gave up the license. Acid Rain Studios changed their name to Academy Comics and Tavisha and I were then hired to continue a Robotech series started by Bruce Lewis at Malibu. Bruce's Robotech series was called Robotech: Aftermath, of which we did issues 7, 8, 9 when Academy/Acid Rain acquired the rights. We later broke off to do our own series, called Robotech: Clone (as titled by the publisher) (but later called Robotech: Mordecai (our title)).


Q: How many Robotech comic books did you make?


A: Here is a list: Robotech: Aftermath 7, 8, 9; Robotech: Clone 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Robotech Clone Special 1 (illustrated by John Sharmen); Robotech: Mordecai 1; Robotech: Academy Blues 2 (written by Robert W. Gibson); Robotech: 1996 Calendar (various). Issues 7, 8, and 9 of the Robotech: Aftermath were collected into a graphic novel called The Threadbare Heart Collection. Tavisha and I are going to use this Threadbare title again for one of our own stories soon, because we like it a great deal, and it seems like a waste to simply leave it with Robotech. All of the Robotech books are out of print. We don't know where you can find them.


Q: What was Robotech: Clone about?


A: Robotech: Clone concerns a group of people who, after stealing technology from the SDF-1 Macross, build their own space ark called the SDF Mordecai. They fly to the Andromeda galaxy with the intention of colonizing the worlds there with their clones. Things become difficult for the 30,000 member crew of the Mordecai when a personality devouring alien appears and we throw in some odd references to Rembrandt's Lucretia paintings. It's very early work with experimental computer graphics that sometimes didn't work out too well.



IV. Reality Check! (aka Super Information Hijinks: Reality Check!)


Q: What is Reality Check!'s publishing history?


A: Super Information Hijinks: Reality Check! was originally self-published in October, 1995, by Tavisha and I under our own Studio Tavicat (called Tavicat Comics at the time). We published 2, 24 page black and white comics before we ran out of money and decided that we weren't very good with the business end of things. Reality Check! was then picked up by Sirius Entertainment, a New Jersey based publishing outfit. With Sirius, we republished the original 2 Reality Check issues in full color, and then proceeded to continue the series up to issue 12. The first 6 issues were collected into a full color graphic novel, called Super Information Hijinks: Reality Check! Trade Paperback Vol. 1. Sirius agreed to collect issues 7 through 12 of Reality Check! into a second Trade Paperback collection, but they stepped away from the deal when their company became financially unsound. The second volume was never published and our contract with Sirius ended in February of 2001 after a bitter dispute. Our irreconcilable split with Sirius is the only contentious separation we have ever experienced in our entire publishing career. Later, in March and May of 2003, Tokyopop republished all 12 issues of Super Information Hijinks: Reality Check! collected as 2 graphic novels called Reality Check! Volume 1, and Reality Check! Volume 2. The Tokyopop version is in black and white.


Q: Is it true that you edited Reality Check! and turned it into a Rated-G comic for Tokyopop?


A: Reality Check! was always a Rated-G comic book, but Tokyopop had concerns about whether or not Reality Check! could be marketed under a Youth 7+ rating. What worried them most was that the main character Catreece, a humanoid cat-girl, looked "too sexy" for the younger crowd. Catreece, although covered in fur like the Pink Panther, was thought to be too curvaceous and busty. We agreed to edit clothing over Catreece and the clothed Catreece is what readers see in the Tokyopop version. We find it rather humorous that, quite by accident, because of the natural way Tavisha draws the human female, Catreece looks even more "busty" with clothes on.


Q: What is Reality Check! about?


A: Well, here's the official synopsis for Reality Check! book 1 as used by Tokyopop: "Tenth grader and deep geek, Collin Meeks, thinks he's a very smart boy - that's until he purchases a True Virtual Reality (TVR) Helmet, the most important tool for plugging your mind into the world wide Virtual Internet System (the VIS). What Collin expects is total VIS access. What he forgets is that he is a cat owner! Offline, little kitty Catreece is an ordinary house cat. Online, Catreece is a pesky little sister with a knack for trouble and mischief! From adventures with virtual ghouls and online super heroes to the hungry Puffy Cat computer virus, Collin and Catreece blunder into the world of Super Information Hijinks: Reality Check! “


And the official synopsis for Reality Check! book 2: "Virtual Internet surfing geek Collin Meeks thinks he's an Internet genius. But his cat, Catreece, may be even smarter! Offline, little kitty Catreece is an ordinary house cat. Online, Catreece is like a pesky little sister with a knack for trouble and mischief! As hard to believe as it may be, something even stranger happens. One day Collin and Catreece set to cleaning virtual house when they happen upon an escaped computer game rabbit named Riggi. Before Collin knows what's happening, Riggi starts up the largest Internet company ever: Nibble Panic Planet! His goal: to fulfill the hopes and dreams of his creator. And what's weirder still is that Collin and Catreece soon find themselves working for him! But is that wise? Mr. Pandawiener, a giant angry virtual panda, is out to settle an old score with Riggi - and whoever WORKS for Riggi is in TROUBLE!"


Q: Will Reality Check! ever be in color again? And will you ever do a third Reality Check! book?


A: We are hoping that if our sales do well enough, we can one day convince/beg Tokyopop to allow us to rerelease the first two books in color. If that day ever comes, we would then like to make a third book to the Reality Check! series - but only if it can be in color.  UPDATE (October, 19, 2007): Reality Check! is no longer with Tokyopop.  Both black and white versions are now out of print.  The entire series is now available in full color on this very site.



V. Sushi Girl


Q: Why did you make Sushi Girl?


A: When things began to go badly between us and Sirius in August of 1998, Tavisha and I needed a project to stay published. We met Stu Levy, then head of Mixx Entertainment, and now CEO of Tokyopop at San Diego Comic con. Stu had an idea he called Sushi Girl and he was looking for an artist and writer to help him make it happen in comic book form. Stu's idea was that a girl named Kemmy would deliver sushi in space on a flying surf-board-like bike, and that she would also be in a band. I suggested the idea of a future society where karma is used for money, Stu liked this scenario, and so we were hired to make Sushi Girl. It was published in 10 page installments in Smile Magazine and later collected as a 96 page, full color graphic novel. Sushi Girl was a work-for-hire project and Tavi and I do not own any of the comics we created under that title.


Sushi Girl is something that, for many reasons, Tavisha and I usually don't promote — and one of the reasons is because it's not a story we own. For my part, it's a bit too happy for me to feel comfortable with as one of my stories. I experimented far too much with the background graphics and I think the book suffers overall because of this. This book is out of print and we never made a second Sushi Girl book. Also, this was a work-for-hire, which is not a big incentive to put a great deal of your best loved ideas into — because in the end, whomever you're creating the work for owns everything, and you get nothing if the creation ever becomes a TV show. Tavisha and I can't remove our love for any of the creations we devise, and it does bother me that, instead of saving it for one of our own projects, I basically gave away the idea of "karma for money" on a pun-oriented project that originally didn't require any complex science fiction ideas. A lesson learned and not to be repeated.


Tokyopop owns the rights to Sushi Girl completely and now Tokyopop's DJ Milky has written a young reader novel version of Sushi Girl called Karma Club. Tavisha and I have painted the cover to Karma Club but we are not doing the interior art. (Update Jan. 21, 2005: Tokyopop is not using our cover now, either, and the the characters have been completly re-designed by someone else.)

Update (Jan. 21, 2005): http://www.icv2.com./articles/home/6317.html

"An animated series based on Karma Club, an Ameri-manga title by D.J. Milky, is being written by Emmy Award-winner Mark Seidenberg (Jackie Chan Advenures)."




VI. Ranklechick and His Three-Legged Cat


Q: The characters Ranklechick and Pumpernick first appeared in Reality Check!?


A: Yes, Ranklechick and his pal, the three-legged cat, Pumpernick first appeared in issue 3 of the original Reality Check! series (later this became chapter 3 of the collected edition of Reality Check!). In Reality Check!, Ranklechick was an Internet Ghoul who escaped onto the Virtual Internet System, much to the delight of Catreece. I think, looking back now, I placed Ranklechick and Pumpernick in Reality Check! because I really wanted to make these two little guys their own series, and I became impatient.


Q: How many Ranklechick comic books were made?


A: There were two full color Ranklechick and His Three-Legged Cat comic books published by Slave Labor Graphics. They are still available and can be purchased at the Slave Labor web site ( www.slavelabor.com).


Q: And now there is a Ranklechick illustrated novel?


A: Yes. This is the latest update on where we are with that: "08/31/2003: editor-in-chief at Slave labor Graphics, Jennifer de Guzman has informed us, 'The quotes have come back for the Ranklechick novel, and it's go for color. It's going to put the price up around $20 or a little more, but it was going to be there if it were black and white, too, so there you go. We'll solicit the book once everything's put together, so it'll probably be an early summer (2004) release--May or June.'

This is very exciting news for us, for we've always seen the finished book as a full color effort. As of this date, Ranklechick and His Three-Legged Cat, an illustrated novel of 232 pages, is fully written and edited. The only labor that remains is about 24 full color illustrations, which, considering the work we are still doing on ShutterBox for Tokyopop, will take us until the end of the 2003 year to finish Ranklechick. Some oddities about the book - it is written with British spelling (colour instead of color) but with American punctuation. This is done to reflect the grammar convention of the characters' world. The book itself, 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches, is a third person narrative prose with a different illustration per page, plus three comic sections"

Edit (01-21-2005): The Ranklechick novel has taken a bit longer to finish. As of this date, all of the paintings for the book have been finished. We expect to wrap everything up by February of this year (2005). Expect a 2005 release. We will post when we know an exact release date.

Edit (06-06-2006): Ranklechick will not be published by SLG.  See this journal entry for an explanation.

    You can now read the color comic version of Ranklechick on this very site.

    I will update this faq when the novel version of Ranklechick has a publisher.


Q: What is the Ranklechick novel about?


A: Ranklechick and His Three-Legged Cat the illustrated novel is a far future science fiction story about a little ghoul named Ranklechick who hails from a living space station called the Europan Zoo. Ranklechick, being obsessed with talking to ghosts, flies to Earth to raise the spirit of Charles Dickens from the dead in an attempt to get his autograph. Unfortunately, Ranklechick accidentally awakens an assassin android named Nathan Burblepinch. Nathan enjoys pinching his victims and thus transforming them into candy. As Ranklechick and his three-legged cat, Pumpernick try to undo his blunder, dangerous artist Ghouls learn of Ranklechick's comic book origins just as he begins to transform into a comic book character in real life ... .



VII. ShutterBox


Q: How many ShutterBox graphic novels are you making?


A: We intend to make 6 books in total, each 150 to 190 pages. The story is split into 2 halves. The first 3 volumes are the first half, and the last 3 volumes will be the second half. The two halves separately are intended to make two complete stories.  The first 4 volumes are finished and available at book stores everywhere.


Q: What is ShutterBox about?


A: ShutterBox Book 1 is the story of Megan Amano, a photography attending Santa Monica College in Los Angeles. On the night of her high school graduation, Megan witnesses a quiet suicide; a young man walks slowly into the ocean fully clothed and disappears into the fog. Now, at night when Megan dreams, she leaves this world and finds herself as a living exchange student in the afterlife's University for muses, Merridiah ... and there she finds the young man waiting.


The whole series deals with muses, their human clients, the 10,000 history of the brothers Damien and Adrien, and what this has to do with Megan's past lives.

Here's an interesting aside: the main character in ShutterBox, Megan Amano, first appeared in a 4 page comic called Sub'Culture. Tavisha and I made Sub'Culture for Manga Newswatch in 1994 (published by Academy Comics). Here are the pages: 1, 2, 3, 4.



VIII. Invader ZIM, GIR, Nickelodeon, Jhonen Vasquez, and I Feel Sick


Q: You colored Jhonen's I Feel Sick comic book series?


A: Yes. All 2 of them.


Q: What did you do on Invader ZIM? Did Tavisha help?


A: I painted over 700 backgrounds. Tavisha freelanced and assisted with about 50 backgrounds. I was also a voice actor on the show, providing the voice of GIR, Bloaty the Pig, Government Man, Big Foot Baby, many monsters on the Halloween episode, and a smattering of background characters throughout the series.


Q: How did you get to be the voice of GIR?


A: While coloring Jhonen's I Feel Sick book 1 in 1998, he made it known that he was having difficult time finding the right actor for GIR. I half-jokingly asked if I could try out for the part. Jhonen replied, "Yeah ... I guess you couldn't screw it up more than anyone else ... . " Two auditions and one producer/director fight later I got the part.


Q: Will you ever do voice acting again?


A: It depends on if anything as darkly humorous as the Invader ZIM show comes along again. If I was offered a part as delightfully absurd as the characters I played in ZIM, then yes. Otherwise, I'd rather make books.


Q: Why did Nickelodeon cancel Invader ZIM?


A: They hated the show.


Q: Will Nickelodeon ever sell Invader ZIM on DVD?


A: Coming this spring, 2004, Anime Works (a division of Media Blasters), will release three double disc sets and a limited edition box set of the entire Invader ZIM series.


Q: Does Jhonen hate his fans?


A: I don't know.


Q: Can you show Jhonen my art?


A: No.


Q: Can you tell Jhonen I said, "Hi?"


A: No.


Q: What's it like working for Jhonen?


A: I don't remember.


Q: I can't get a hold of Jhonen. He doesn't answer my emails. Can you forward my letter to him for me?


A: No.




A: Um ... what?


Q: Can you tell Jhonen I think he's hot?


A: Here.




IX. Various Other Works


We once made a back cover for Anti Ballistic Pixilations' Gremlin Trouble comic book, long ago I painted Jhonen's line art for Ben is Dead Magazine, Tavisha story boarded and I painted 300 pages of Osamu Tezuka's Wonder Three comic book for digital book for Digital Manga, Tavisha illustrated a 10 page Wild Thornberry's comic written by Abby Denson for Nickelodeon Magazine, I painted a five page Invader ZIM comic drawn by Jhonen Vasquez for Nickelodeon Magazine, there were various covers illustrated by Tavisha and painted by me for Radio Comix, and I painted over 500 backgrounds for the third season of the Jackie Chan Adventures for Sony Pictures.




X. Various Questions



1. Publishers and Publishing


Q: Every American manga artist in the 1990's was published by Antarctic Press. Weren't you too?


A: No. Tavisha and I have never been published by Antarctic Press.


Q: Can you name all of the Comic Book, Illustrated Book Publishers, Magazines, and Animation Studios you have worked with:?


A: Yes. They are, in alphabetical order: Acid Rain Studios, Academy Comics, Anti Ballistic Pixilations, Ben is Dead Magazine, Digital Manga, Fad Magazine, Nickelodeon Magazine, Nickelodeon Animation, Sirius Entertainment, Slave Labor Graphics, Sony Pictures, Radio Comics, Tavicat Comics (as a Self Publishing/Vanity Press venture), Tokyopop.


Q: Do you publish other people?


A: No. We are a husband and wife art studio, not a publisher. The self-publishing we did was over seven years ago and we do not plan on repeating that venture.


Q: Where can I buy your books?


A: ShutterBox and the Tokyopop versions of Reality Check! books 1 and 2 are available at many bookstores and comic book shops that regularly stock manga, including www.amazon.com, Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc.. Ranklechick comic books 1 and 2 can be purchased at many comic shops and can also be ordered through the publisher at www.slavelabor.com. Once the Ranklechick novel is published next year, it will be available at all books shops.


Q: How do you and Tavisha divide up your work?


A: Usually one of us will will first propose a book idea to the other. With Reality Check! and ShutterBox, the initial story concepts and main cast of characters were Tavisha's ideas. Ranklechick, the old Clone series, and old Vampire books were based on my concepts. After we decide to work on a book or series, we have a great many conversations about where we want to take our story, then it is up to me to write it. For comic books, I write a script that is similar to a screenplay, with dialogue broken up into word balloon segments and the action divided into panel descriptions. Tavisha is then given the script and she begins to lay out and then draw the story, making changes to my script where she feels she must. Once a page is inked, it is handed back to me. I then scan the page into the computer and proceed to add backgrounds I have either drawn or I add line art I have rendered in 3D; I tone or color and clean up any mistakes. If Tavisha is finished illustrating, she will sometimes lend a hand at toning. My primary painting and toning tools are Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. After the art is finished, I then letter the word balloons in either Quark or Adobe InDesign.



2. California


Q: You and Tavisha live in California?


A: Yes.


Q: Why do you live in California?


A: We were born and raised here and we like it.


Q: You like living in California? Isn't that because you've never lived anywhere else and you just don't know any better?


A: Um ... no.


Q: But isn't California a communist state full of shallow, liberal democrats and barely a part of our God blessed United States? If you live there doesn't that mean you are just a materialistic Anti-American, who's only got ahead because of a jewish last name?


A: Here.



3. The Manga Art Movement


Q: What did Tavisha draw before she drew in "manga style?"


A: Tavisha has always drawn in the manga style.  She is half Japanese and learned her trade at a very early age.  For Tavisha, manga isn’t just a style, but it is also an art movement and a tradition, like a cross between Art Nouveau and folk dancing.



4. Personal Stuff


Q: I heard a rumor that Tavisha was once "transgender," that she spent 6 years legally as a male, and that she decided to change back to female when she met Rikki in 1990. Is this rumor true?

A: Yes.  Okay?!?  Okay.


by Rikki Simons