The Kid, The Suit, The Comic — Zooooom!
Rebecca Buchanan From Sequental Tart Interviews John Taddeo
by Rebecca Buchanan
Life-long comic fan John Taddeo has achieved every fan’s dream: publication of his own comic. Popular with parents and kids alike (even girls!), Zoom Suit follows the adventures of an ordinary teen who finds an alien super-powered suit … unfortunately, he’s not the only one interested in it. Taddeo took a few moments out of his very busy schedule (comic, film, cons) to answer a few questions for ST.
Sequential Tart: Which comics did you read as a kid?
John Taddeo: I read everything, and I mean everything! I couldn’t buy them all, but when I was about eleven the man that owned the smoke shop where I bought my comics took pity on me and gave me a job sweeping up and stocking candy. For about a half hour’s work I could hang out there all day and read every comic on the rack.
People would come in and I would start talking to them about various comics and he noticed his comic sales rise when I was hanging around, so when I was thirteen he gave me a job, got rid of much of the smoke stuff and expanded the comics. The pay became actual money, and I could still read the comics for free.
I should have never left that job. Sweeping the floor and reading the comics. You could do worse for a job.
ST: Which series do you read now?
JT: Well, I was at about 100 comics a month until about June of 2004, and I had to cut some of my hobbies to work on Zoom Suit. I started doing the comic as a little hobby. I had no idea the workload involved in making a comic series. There is nothing little about the workload involved in making a comic book.
ST: How did the idea for Zoom Suit come about?
JT: When I was a kid and saw the cover Iron Man #118 I came up with the basic concept. See, way back in the early eighties some of us suckers actually believed the Marvel and DC characters were in oxymoronic real fictional mortal danger … so when I saw Tony falling from the SHIELD Heli-carrier without the armor I was sure he was a dead man. I immediately wondered who would find the armor.
I hope I’m not ruining it for anyone, but Tony lived
I was disappointed because I thought it would be exciting if someone else found the armor, and of course, like any little kid, I imagined it was me. (There were a group of bullies I would have liked to use those repulsor rays on especially Anthony Amonto. And Anthony, if you’re reading this, now that I’m 6 foot 230, I don’t need the armor, and I haven’t forgotten about that little “Back pack in the sewer incident.”)
So I rewrote the story as an extra credit book report � man, I can’t believe I’m saying this, between the bullies and extra credit you’re finding out what a friendless loser I am.
That story kept evolving over twenty years into Zoom Suit #1, so you figure at this rate I’ll get maybe 3 books out before I’m dead.
ST: What is the target audience for the series?
JT: The primary target is everyone! It’s a feel good story about a loser getting a break and becoming a winner so we’re taking on all comers … 8 to 80, blind, cripple or crazy … and if they can’t walk we’ll drag’em.
Zoom Suit is written sort of like Shrek or the old school Bugs Bunny cartoons. The kids like this about it, but the adults like this other stuff. It’s not a kids book, but kids love Zoom Suit. It’s definitely not mature audiences, but adults dig it. It’s a great family comic in the sense that a parent and kid can read it, both find it cool and then talk about it or share the secrets that they’ve found in the book.
I’m also very surprised at the number of girls reading Zoom Suit. Of about 2,000 Team Zoom Members almost 500 are girls. Further proof that chicks dig a man in uniform.
If you want to get all the inside gags it helps if you’re a longtime comic and pop culture fan. It’s a very broad audience.
JT: Actually you can find out more about who they are and why they are here by dialing the phone number that was hidden in Zoom Suit #1. Since the book came out I’ll give you the number to help get you started, it’s 1-866-6VOODOO.
There are hidden web sites, hidden gags, hidden pop culture references throughout the series. I wanted Zoom Suit to be the most bang for the comic buck so aside from the card stock covers and MetalFX you also get 36 story pages and a ton of clues that can lead you to internet games, flash movies and hidden web sites. It’s a very interactive comic.
ST: Would the suit have fit anyone, and it was just chance that Myles found it? Or did fate play a hand?
JT: Well … there are more clues about that in issue #3, so without ruining it I can say that all the main characters’ lives are much more intertwined than they might know. If you read Simon’s choice of words in issue #1 carefully you’ll find clues that could lead you to the answers you seek.
The fun thing for readers about Zoom Suit is that I wrote 13 issues at once, so you’re getting clues every step of the way. In issue #1 a major villain made a cameo, did you see her? Also, issue #2 reveals another major villain that won’t officially come to light until the second limited series.
I even hid anagrams and other clues in interviews such as this so make sure you always read carefully. It’s a mistake to rush through Zoom Suit.
ST: Brittany suddenly changes attire on page twenty-two of the first issue. So, was that really due to forty-straight hours of pencilling or was that a joke? 🙂
JT: Well, we made it a joke, but that’s exactly how it happened. I received the page and was like wtf? So I called Billy and said, “Dude … this is your brain on drugs. You screwed up a costume on the same page, neighbor panels?”
And Billy was like, “Ugh, could you put an editors note that says ‘Moments later after a quick change?'”
So I said, “Well, I could … but I won’t. I’m going to celebrate our screw ups by pointing them out.”
The impetus to point out when we screw up is that’s what friends do. We break each others stones. I want Zoom Suit fans to feel like they’re on the inside. Not that your reading just any comic, but you’re reading your friend John’s comic. Comics isn’t my business, it’s my passion, so it’s all about having a good time, making friends, and breaking their stones in public.
ST: And Myles’ Mom’s reaction when she finds out what her son has been up to …?
JT: She hasn’t found out yet! After Simon smacked the snot out of her in issue #2 she was rushed to NSA. Funny scene coming up in issue #3 when she wakes up in an operating room next to a Zeta Reticulan. It ships July 5th.
ST: Who exactly is Dr. Tesla? And how does she know that Myles has the suit?
JT: Oh … you have no idea what a good question this is … that I can’t answer. Sorry. But I will say Dr. Tesla definitely knows more than she has revealed so far … she definitely seems to know an awful lot about Myles as well, doesn’t she?
You will get a huge clue to their secret relationship and what happened when they met in issue #3.
ST: All the references to other characters and comics in Zoom Suit are a lot of fun. How do you come up with them?
JT: I just make all that stuff up. I’ve been screwing around with comics since the 80’s. When I worked for Marvel I wanted to reprint a few of the series with a Mystery Science Theater 3000 slant. Basically reprint the books and just rip on them in fun like the MST3K tv show did with films. The suits/executives didn’t get it. They were baffled like, “You want to make fun of your own characters? We would never make fun of our characters.”
Well, maybe they’re brilliant and I’m a screw up. I don’t take myself to seriously. Life is too short to not have fun.
ST: Any favs? Any you had to drop?
JT: I try to hide a few things on every page, so it’s tough for me to keep track. The alien Zhan has what I believe to be the funniest line to date in issue #3, but he has another ripper in #4.
I didn’t drop or remove any jokes because the book has a comedic element in a South Park type manner, only clean and all ages. They’re only jokes, and more importantly they aren’t the type of gags that are meant to be malicious or to hurt.
The brand of humor in Zoom Suit is meant to celebrate our comic culture, not ridicule it. I love Marvel comics. I love DC comics. I’m a subscriber to CBG and Wizard. I love everything about comics; all the humor is done out of love.
ST: I love the fact that the characters complain to artist Bill Dallas Patton. Whose idea was that?
JT: I give my artists the script and breakdowns and let them crank out the pages. Once I get the pages I start adding stuff, and adding and adding. If Billy or Keron draw a character I’m going to give them a personality. I love backgrounds, but if the artists use people as backgrounds you’re going to know who they are and what they’re thinking. I think all that background chatter is funny and brings the book to life in a new dimension.
Great scene in issue #2 Four of the main characters are in this heated meeting, but Keron drew five people in the room. So while Tesla, Agent Mann, General Nails and Sutherland are arguing, here’s this other dude thinking, “I think I’m in the wrong meeting … how am I going to get out of here?”
Meanwhile the rest of the gang is wondering who the heck this guy is.
ST: What has gone into making the Zoom Suit animated shorts?
JT: Two years of ten hour days. I had no idea how much work would be necessary to make that happen when I started.
Zoom Suit #1 50X1 Variant by Jim Starlin
But I’m equally as surprised at how successful it’s been. The first animated short has been in 84 film festivals to date, which I’m told is a world record, so we just recently applied. Meanwhile the second film was accepted sight unseen to over a dozen festivals, that’s unheard of. If you get to the end of that internet challenge using that phone number I gave you, you’ll be able to view Zoom Suit 2 online, as well as get a free Zoom Suit comic.
These festivals get thousands of entries, so just to be one of the ten or twenty official selections is an honor. Once we are chosen, we’re competing with these incredible shorts including 3D projects that when they roll the credits it looks like a small country worked on it; meanwhile Zoom Suit is two guys and a few interns animating in Flash. Despite those facts, and the miniscule budget our “rag tag” Team Zoom still manages to hold our own. We’ve won dozens of awards and prizes over the past year and we all feel the second film is much better than the first.
ST: How are you attracting talent for the voices and narrowing the field to the perfect candidates? 🙂
JT: We put up a casting section at our site with photos of the characters and descriptions, then we accepted submissions digitally. Some folks were doing their readings right into their laptop with a $10 mic, so technology and prior experience were not huge concerns. If you had the voice we wanted we worked it out.
If folks are interested in doing a voice, check Superverse often because we update the site weekly and there’s always new info. When I’m ready to cast again for my next project the info will be at the Superverse site.
ST: What other projects are you working on?
JT: Zoom Suit 2 for 2007! We sold 20,000 copies of Zoom Suit #1 and 11,000 of #2. Orders for #3 are over 10k, so at that rate I’ll have sold 50,000 Zoom Suit comics over 4 issues. For a tiny company with no marketing budget that’s a serious number. It tells me that fans and retailers alike really stepped up for the book and after such a warm welcome I don’t want to let them down with sub par stories, art or lateness.
Plus, the letters are screaming for more info and “what happens next”, so I think if I’m late with the next series the fans will kill me. I’m staying focused on Zoom for thirteen issues before moving to or adding another project.
I’d rather sell 50,000 copies of a well received comic series like Zoom Suit than release five different series that each sell 10,000 total copies. Quite a few companies have come and gone because they over extended and moved too quick. Slow and steady wins the race.
ST: Which conventions will you be attending this year?
JT: Hero Con, San Diego, Chicago and anywhere else I’m invited. I love to attend shows so I go to as many as I can get out to. But if you can’t make it to a con, many of the Zoom Suit issues and some of the special editions that we have left are available at Superverse.