“If you wake up from a sound sleep at 3 AM and want to buy comics you can” The creators of Subatomic Party Girls Chad Bowers, Chris Sims and Erica Henderson talk digital comics and the best band names!

Subatomic_Party_Girls_01-1What happens if you take a kick ass power-pop girl band and shoot them into space, only for it to go horribly wrong and for them to end up on the wrong side of the galaxy? Add in some space pirates and you have the brilliant new MonkeyBrain series Subatomic Party Girls. It’s a brilliant mix of everything from the Powerpuff Girls to Scott Pilgrim via the Fantastic Four, so to find out more we contacted the creative team of writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sim and the woman who bring the girls’ band Beryllium Steel to life, Erica Henderson, to find out the secret to the Subatomics space world and also to book the ultimate pop-culture super festival!.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration for Subatomic Party Girls, where did the idea come from and how much have the characters evolved since their inception?

Chad: Once upon a time, Subatomic Party Girls was about shrinking debutantes, mad scientists, and a submarine that explored the oceans of other worlds. Only the mad scientist and the other worlds made the journey over. But so much of SAPG comes out of me and Chris roadtripping around the south and just mashing-up all of our favorite things, I suppose. Dan DeCarlo comics, 80s cartoons, Star Trek, and rock n’ roll. Hopefully it’s a good recipe.

Chris: To be honest, a lot of it is falling into place as we go. I think we’re hitting on some of the sort of typical rock band archetypes. Chad and I have had dozens, maybe hundreds of conversations about David Lee Roth being a superhero, so Cleo kind of has that big, brash frontman attitude that gets them into trouble. Visually, it was one of those things where Erica sent us some designs and we had nothing at all to change. They were just perfect, and the way she’s drawn them in the book has just gotten better. There’s a lot of personality in what she does that comes through.

Chad: Cleo’s exactly like Chris said. Libby’s kind of become the voice of reason in the group, and probably who most readers will identify with, as she’s the only one who really seems to be freaked out about being lost in space. And Vette’s almost completely unfazed by the entire situation, really… until it’s not time to be nice. When the series starts, the girls are like all 20-somethings, and they think they’ll be who they are now for the rest of their lives. But getting tossed across space has a way of changing your outlook on most things. Or so I’ve been told.

Erica: From an art standpoint the characters were pretty fully realized from the start. Except for Libby, I had pretty strong ideas about what they should look like early on. Libby just took a few iterations of drawings that I hated until I hit on the current design. Although what’s funny is that I didn’t have a script and didn’t really know who these girls were until after the designs were done and never really thought to ask if their personalities were influenced by the art until just now. So, guys?

Subatomic_Party_Girls_01-3The book seems to have a ton of inspirations from Scott Pilgrim and the Powerpuff Girls to Guardians of the Galaxy and the Fantastic Four, but what writers, artists and titles have inspired you all?

Chris: Chad and I have done a lot of comics together, but we’ve never really done a big sci-fi book, so that was a big motivation for us on this one. We really wanted to do weird aliens and spaceships and strange worlds, but as a big goofy rock ‘n’ roll adventure comic, and we were talking about it one day and hit on the idea of structuring it like The Warriors, stranding this group in an unfamiliar, hostile location and then watching them try to get back. That was what made it all fall into place for us, even if the book has a completely different tone. Beyond just that kind of specifics, there are a lot of great, fun adventure stories that hit that tone I think we’re going for. Jeff Parker does it a lot in his books, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener do it in Atomic Robo — especially with showing how people react to weird stuff.

Chad: For Party Girls, for me it’s all of Star Trek and 70s Marvel comics. Particularly the classic Trek family of writers. D.C. Fontana, Richard Mattheson, Robert Bloch, Art Wallace, Harlan Ellison, etc… From comics Jim Starlin’s a huge inspiration, and so are “the Steves” — Ditko, Engelhart, and Gerber. Especially Gerber. Now that I think about it, Gerber’s influence is going to be embarrassingly obvious when people get to read #2.

Erica: Bryan Lee O’Malley is definitely a big one for me. I was reading his work online early on and got Scott Pilgrim when it first came out because even though we had a lot of alternative and non-superhero comics at my house growing up his work at that time felt really new to me. Other influences are Bruce Timm, Carl Barks, Dan Decarlo, Darwyn Cooke and Carol Lay. They all have strong personal styles and are great at visual storytelling. I also enjoy old sci fi movies as well. The retro visuals are cool, but I also love the creativity that came from not being able to show the things you’re talking about.

Subatomic_Party_Girls_01-4How did the three of you come to work together on the title? And how did you get involved with the MonkeyBrain team?

Chris: We met Erica last year at HeroesCon and I immediately just loved her stuff. It turned out we had mutual friends, so we became pals, and at one point, we were even going to do a book called Golem a-Go-Go that might still happen, but all I really had for that one was a title, so we decided to do SAPG instead.

Erica: My part in this was pretty simple. Chris asked if I wanted to work on a project with him and Chad, I was given two choices and I picked this one because it really does nicely sum up many of my interests and there aren’t many comics like it out right now.

Chad: – Yeah, what they said.

MonkeyBrain have carved out a brilliant niche for themselves as a digital only publisher, what are your respective takes on the digital comics revolution and do you yourself read comics on an iPad, if so what do you recommend?

Chad: I’ve had an iPad for about six months, and I still buy tons of print comics, but it’s definitely changed the way I read comics, and the way I think about them in general. I’ve bought so many comics that I might have never tried in print purely because it’s so easy to. Having a portable comics store with me at all times is kind of amazing, but I’m by no means done with print comics.

Chris: Oh man, I love reading comics on the iPad. Everything looks so crisp, they don’t take up huge amounts of space in your house, they’re easy to get. Having a great local store is awesome, and if you have one, you should support them, but digital fills this great role in being able to connect directly to a reader on a level that you couldn’t do before. Plus, it’s always there, and nothing’s ever sold out. If you wake up from a sound sleep at 3 AM and want to buy comics, like, say, Subatomic Party Girls, you can. MonkeyBrain‘s done a great job of embracing that, and one of the things that’s really fun is how diverse they are in terms of genre. I’m a big fan of Bandette and Edison Rex, and those two books could not be more different, other than both being really fun.

Erica: I don’t read comics on a tablet but that’s mainly because I don’t have one. I’m very much in the middle of the digital vs print debate. I love that the digital revolution has given people a better chance to show their ideas to a larger audience since, outside of your own time, there are no overhead costs. On the other hand I fiercely support my local brick and mortar stores and I personally enjoy having physical books.

It’s great to read books with strong female characters, how important was it for you to create some strong female role models?

Chris: That’s another thing that’s neat about Monkeybrain. I mentioned this in another interview, but when you look at their lineup, they have all these great books that have women in leading roles, like Bandette and Wander and Amelia Cole. It’s good to see, because at traditional publishers, women are often really under-represented. For us, though, I don’t think it’s really a calculated move. This is the first time I’m realizing this, but I think it might just be that Chad and I have never written a book where the focus was entirely on women before, so that’s another thing we wanted to do here.

Subatomic_Party_Girls_01-5Chad: It’s more important for me to create strong characters period, but I do like writing these ladies, and feel a particular connection to them. I don’t know, I’m glad we didn’t go into this with an agenda of diversity or demographics, but it certainly doesn’t hurt for there to be more fun female characters out there for everybody. Give us a few more issues before we start calling them role models, too.

Erica: For me, it’s more important to have characters act true to themselves than to be role models. For example if you’ve got three female characters and they’re all described as slutty and then they spend the entire book trying to have sex with anything that moves then I say job well done. What gets me is when you’ll have “the slutty one” and “the shy one” and “the tough one” and they all act and dress like the same male fantasy except maybe the shy one has glasses (what a dog). This is a problem that I’ve seen come up a lot in art where a character in the text is feeling happy, or sad, or getting punched in the face and are somehow always in a seductive pose.

It sounds like you have mapped out the girls’ musical career with all the album titles, but if you had to put to compare them to any real bands, who would they sound like? And who would they think they sound like?!

Erica: Oh geez. This is hard. I think they fall under the category of music that I like but wouldn’t think to put on when I’m on my own (which is most of the time). I’m going to pass.

Chris: I’m with Erica on this one. We drop a few hints here and there in the books about their sound, and there are plenty of musical references, but the real answer is that they sound like whatever you think they sound like. I put a  video up on the Tumblr the other day of the Donnas, but that’s more because it’s one of the albums I listen to when I write than it being their specific sound.

Chad: Yeah, they sound like whatever you think they sound like.

Subatomic_Party_Girls_01-1If you could put together a festival featuring other bands from comics and movies to support Beryllium Steel who would you choose and why?

Chris: Definitely the Misfits and the Holograms. Mordecai and the Rigbys or The Tenmen would be a good fit, and if we could get Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids back together, I think that’d be fun Also, Libby definitely still has a DuJour poster, and I’m pretty sure I have a bootleg somewhere of the girls doing a cover of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams’ll Come Through” by the Gas Station Dogs.

Erica: Well, I’d imagine you would need some much smaller openers first so for that I would have to get Mystik Spiral and maybe The Lone Rangers, you know, to get in the man candy. For the bigger acts they’ll probably want some other female heavy bands and I’m sure they can get Dazzler to and Clash at Demonhead to headline with them. Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers will probably get an invite and then not show up, but Hedwig and the Angry Inch is always there as a backup in case that sort of thing happens.

Chad: Darn, Henderson beat me to Buckaroo Banzai! Let’s have Jesse and the Rippers on the South stage, and Eddie and the Cruisers on the North. A late night set by Cold Slither (I hear their front man hates daylight) on the main. We could probably get Sonic Disrupters and Scare Tactics. It’s not like they’re doing much these days. Oh, and one of those tents off to the side with Metamorpho, and the Orb inside the ball of death, and Night Thrasher doing sick skateboard tricks.

Since Beryllium Steel aren’t available, I want Rick Jones and the Nega-Band to close the whole thing out.

Finally, what’s the secret to a good band name?

Erica: Doesn’t everybody walk around with a notebook and write down when someone says an amazing two to three word phrase? That’s how it works right?

Chris: It has to look good on a t-shirt!

Chad: Puns. Definitely puns.

You can get Subatomic Party Girls exclusively via ComiXology for £0.69/$0.99 and for more info on Chris (@theisb), Chad (@ChadBowers) and Erica (@ericafails) by following them on Twitter