If you’re at Boston Comic-Con right now, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about Teenage Satan, an online, multimedia comic project unveiled just today by the creative team of artist Stephanie Buscema, and writers Marsha Cooke and Candis Cooke. All-female, creator-owned comics are a rarity, and these days, any comics for young adults are scarce. Teenage Satan will fill that niche with the adventures of Luc, a 14-year-old high school freshman who just happens to be the future leader of the underworld. Home-schooled by his mom, Jezebel Satan, and clueless about life outside the nest, Luc is about to enter Hades High, where he’ll deal with crushes, douchey jocks, and have close encounters with the Goth Kind. Buscema’s retro-cool illustrations and the cheeky character bios suggest that Teenage Satan will be great fun to read, and with its accompanying app and games, it’s certainly designed for the iGeneration.
Teenage Satan begins publishing in September, but Marsha Cooke gave G3 plenty of insight into the concept, the characters, and getting tweens to read comics again. (For those wondering, Stephanie is the daughter of late comic book artist John Buscema. The Cookes are related to Darwyn, who is husband to Marsha and uncle to Candis.) For now, you can follow Teenage Satan on Twitter.
Girls Gone Geek: How did the three of you come up with the concept for the comic? Had you worked together before?
Marsha Cooke: I came up with the initial concept. I was trying to think of a character for tweens that would be not vampires, not zombies, and not magic, but something they were familiar with. I brought the idea to Candis, we worked out the characters and the premise. Then, we went to Steph and asked her to come on board. We hadn’t worked together, but Stephanie and Dar have been friends for a while so we did know each other, but only as friends. This is my and Candis’ first professional writing job. We are counting on Steph to show us the ropes.
G3: Luc is surrounded by some colorful, eccentric characters — especially his parents. But he seems pretty normal teen, all things considered. Is he going to be the straight man of the series who reacts to the wackiness around him?
MC: He will see the absurdity of things, but he’s too naive to understand a lot of what the other kids are going on about. He’s never been to real school or had kids as friends, so he’s about to get a crash course. The sober mind is Gabe. He’s going to help Luc along the way.
G3: The art has a really delightful, retro quality, but there’s definitely a modern edge judging from the character descriptions. Did anything in particular serve as inspiration for the book’s look and tone?
MC: That’s all Stephanie. She brings all the gorgeous to this. Her husband Rob did all of our design work, and they both hit it out of the ballpark. We lovingly call ourselves Family Unity Comics.
G3: Was the idea always to be online only? Since this is a comic aimed at tween readers, it makes sense to reach them where they are and to make it interactive.
MC: Yes. Kids have already moved from paper anything, so our challenge was to figure out how to get them interested and stay interested. In our dream world, every teen checks Teenage Satan before they log in to Facebook for the day. We have thought about using any income from digital to fund a print run, but for now we are focused on digital.
G3: What can you tell us about the accompanying app and game?
MC: The games will be twists on familiar ones, 666oduko, word jumbles, jigsaw puzzles, etc. Each week we’ll have something to play. Games and comics are the new PB & J.
The app is the most exciting part. We’ve developed our own distribution system where we will sell Teenage Satan directly to the consumer. It’s cross-platform so you can access your account from your desktop, your phone (not just iPhones), or your tablet. We think this is the future for creator-owned digital distribution. We aren’t excluding the other methods out there, but we think we have developed a fair and accessible system to bring comics to digital without *insert huge company name here* taking the lion’s share.
G3: Given Luc’s lineage, will we be seeing any … divine guest appearances? Though having Gabriel and the Virgin Mary as characters is hilarious.
MC: You’d be surprised how many haven’t noticed that. Yes, we are drawing on the biblical and other historical versions/interpretations of Hell for inspiration. Where I grew up, all schools were religion-based. Daily religion class and prayer was mandatory, so this has been brewing for a while. I told them they should have let me take chemistry in that block.
G3: There’s been a lot of talk about how kids aren’t reading comics anymore, and that it’s largely become an adult pursuit. As the creators of a comic for younger readers, what are your thoughts on that? I’m wondering whether that audience — not little kids, but not adults — is under-served in the comics world.
MC: We saw a huge gap in the market and tried to hit it. These kids love to read. Look at the success of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Twilight, even Harry Potter. It seems everyone else in comics is aiming at more adult content; we wanted to bring it back to PG. I’m uncomfortable with pointless violence, sexual violence, or mature themes in traditional “heroic” comics, so rather than complain about it …
G3: All of you obviously have knowledge of/experience with the comic book industry. What are some of the advantages of this being a creator-owned project as opposed to launching it through a major publisher? Will that make it more of a challenge to get the word out to young readers?
MC: I don’t think kids are even aware comics are still published. Major comics have forgotten the new generation, or is it the other way around? There are a few reasons we are doing this creator-owned: We are all very strong minded women, and coming to decisions is a very collaborative process. Having a traditional publisher pushing us in any direction would confuse what we’ve already done.
Then there’s the subject matter. I doubt any legal department would allow us to do what we have planned. A church boycott of Teenage Satan is good for us, but not so great for Haus of Maus or Time Warner. Then there’s the ownership. Why would we give anyone a stake in this? So our children can sue in 75 years for their rightful share of what we’ve done? We have our creative team; we have our tech partner. What can corporate give us? If we went with a major publisher, the numbers don’t work. The rate you get from digital sales from a major publisher is a fraction of what we will make selling it ourselves. Kids find what they like. If a video of a penguin being tickled can reach a million people, then Teenage Satan can.
G3: Anything else you’d like to add?
MC: Give in to sin. Join us.