Mixing it Up: Johnny Zito and Tony Trov
Welcome to Mixing it Up where breakout creators create things, break things, and hang out. Every week, David Gallaher experiences the world beyond comics to discuss the influences, hobbies, and thoughts of your favorite artists and writers. This week, David heads to Philadelphia for the Zombie Prom with Black Cherry Bombshells creators, Johnny Zito and Tony Trov.
In torrential rain, this intrepid writer ventured boldly to the City of Brotherly Love, where he met up with Johnny Zito and Tony Trov, the ever-eclectic writers behind the apocalyptic zombie webcomic, Black Cherry Bombshells . Decked out in the finest horror make-up, the duo was prepared to show their dates the night of their unlives at the Zombie Prom.
"Of course, it would rain on Zombie Prom. It rained on zombie homecoming and zombie spring fling too. Man, what is up with this school, it’s like the zombie seniors are cursed," Johnny Zito quips.
"This is our first year at Zombie Prom, but we did the Zombie Pub Crawl on Easter last year," Tony Trov adds.
The two start playing off of each other like an expertly crafted comedy duo. Even in zombie make-up, it’s the kind of synergy that is refreshing in this day and age.
Zito flashes a ghoulish smile, "In the Spring, we weren’t prepared for how serious people take their zombie make up."
Trov nods in agreement, "Yeah, I made a conscious decision then and there that I would be a master of latex in time for prom. This stuff is an old family recipe: Toilet paper, corn flakes and modge podge. Repeat."
"My purple velvet tux and Tony’s plaid suit are on the cheap from Philadelphia Aides Thrift. On 5th just off South Street," Zito notes, concluding the pre-prom activities.
As we venture through the streets of Philadelphia, Trov notes that is "where all the cool kids live." The South Philly natives grew up together. "This really fantastic creative community sprung up around us that wasn’t here before," Zito remarks. Trov concurs, "If there isn’t a free gallery or comedy show going on up the block, there’s a Zombie Prom."
Of course, when they aren’t causing havoc at Zombie Prom, these self-professed film junkies enjoy occasional episodes of Lost and It’s Always Sunn7y in Philadelphia, but coming from a film and production background, their first love is definitely cinema.
"I’m not a junkie, I could quit anytime," Trov states emphatically.
Zito calls shenanigans, "You’re kidding yourself. You know exactly where your next hit of Fritz Lang or Fellini is coming from."
Trov lowers his head in shame, "Yeah, I have a problem…"
Listing everything from the cartoons of Windsor McCay to the works of James Jean, Zito draws his influences from ‘every bit of nonsense imaginable,’ while Trov finds inspiration in The Go Team, The Philadelphia Roller Girls, and appropriately enough, Zombie Jesus.
Of course, all this talk of zombies naturally brings us to the Black Cherry Bombshells, Zito and Trov’s story of an ultra-violent girl gang, fighting for survival in a world of flesh-eating man zombies.
"It’s half zombie survival and half gangster epic with an all female cast," Trov remarks.
"The whole thing takes place in Vegas and the big crime boss is a female, ninja Elvis impersonator: The Woman They Call The King," Zito adds.
More Tarantino than Meyers, the girls in the Black Cherry BombshellsS are tough and sexy, without being exploitive. Citing George Romero as a primary influence, Trov and Zito often reference the Argento cut of Dawn of the Dead and Reservoir Dogs in their series.
Of course, it doesn’t pay to be a red head in their strip. They have a dreadful habit of meeting an untimely demise.
Zito’s morbid make-up adds a little something sinister to his laugh, "Ha Ha! Yeah, we have offed a few in the strip, I guess.
"My rotting date tonight is a red head so you know it’s nothing personal," Trov shrugs.
As I note my life-long affection for redheads, Zito counters, "Yeah, I think everyone likes redheads so maybe it was a quick tug at your heart strings."
The discussion leads Trov to discussing the incredible, dynamic talent of Bombshells artist, Sacha Borisich, who "totally gets what we are going for and is so enthusiastic. All the Power Puff Girl stuff and cartoon violence – she is all about it."
Tony starts detailing the process of what goes into making their series,"Johnny and I are roommates so all our work starts with us hanging out."
"Then, it’s a lot of telling the other guy how stupid his ideas are," Zito interjects.
"I generally think all of our ideas are stupid. But, if we can both agree that something isn’t absolutely terrible we’ll put it in the story," Trov continues.
"We mapped out the season and broke it down into plot beats by strip. The way the series is released (twice a week, Mondays & Wednesdays); each page needs to tell its own story like a Sunday comic strip," Zito adjusts his tie.
"Then we fleshed out – pardon the pun – a brief description of each screen and finished with a detailed script. And, when the season bible was finished, we started scripting with input from Sacha on pacing and composition. It made the work much tighter, over all."
The zombie hordes start building in the streets, as I ask the creators about the importance for promoting their series at events like this.
"Oh yea, hell yea. Plus it’s fun," Trov points out.
"We hang out with zombie fans, get drunk and give away pins," Zito gives a nod to all the zombies flooding the streets, "And, we get all kinds of promotional mileage out of the pictures on our MySpace Blog [ insert url myspace.com/blackcherrybombshells]. We’ve really adopted a guerilla marketing strategy to promote the comic. We use the social networking tools on MySpace and Facebook to introduce new people to The Black Cherry Bombshells. And, we look for feedback. We really wanna make sure people dig it."
Trov explains, "At the same time, you don’t want it to be fan service. We get MySpace messages from people wracked with anxiety over Megan’s actions – certain she’s going to get found out or killed. And, we love Megan too …"
Zito interrupts, "We love all the Black Cherry Bombshells."
"Yeah, but she’s got a story, and we’ve gotta tell it. We can’t go soft on her because it would make the readers upset," Trov concludes.
For these two undead gentlemen, Zombie Prom is just the start of the promotional festivities they have planned.
"October 26th is World Zombie Day. There’s supposed to be some craziness in NYC to celebrate," Trov mentions.
"Yeah, we’re going to try and make it up for that," Zito notes. "As for Halloween itself; The Henri David Halloween Ball in Philly is where we’ll end up. It’ll be fun."
"Beyond that, the season finale of Bombshells drops at the end of December. So, we’re ramping up the girl gang on zombie action along the way," Trov points out. "And, we also have a webcomic mini-series at Thrillabuster.com right now, too. It’s a political cartoon about John McCain and his misguided attempt to run for President of the World. So, we’ll be promoting that too."
I make a little crack under my breathe about Zombie McCain, as the prom festivities move into full swing.
"You know, in the long run, we’d like to keep writing," Zito says, "Our ultimate goal is to work on established properties like the Ghostbusters or Ninja Turtles comics. Beyond that, who knows? We’re film junkies and this zombie make up wasn’t so hard to do… we might as well just produce a Black Cherry Bombshells’ movie."
"Until then, we’re gonna get back to our dates," Trov adds.
"And, the braaaaaiiiinssss," Zito concludes.
Black Cherry Bombshells updates Mondays and Wednesdays at ZudaComics.Com [insert url: http://www.zudacomics.com/the_black_cherry_bombshells]. You can also check out the blogs of Johnny Zito and Tony Trov at http://johnnyzito.com/ and http://www.tonytrov.com/, respectively.
David Gallaher is the author of High Moon Johnny Dollar, and Vampire the Masquerade: Tremere, among several other projects. When he’s not busy hanging out with zombies, he writes for the New York City Police Department. He can be found in Brooklyn or at his website: davidgallaher.com.