In the world of
An Interview with ‘Rival’ creator Brien Cardello
Anyone with enough ambition,
some time and a little extra cash can put out their own self-published comic
book. It takes a little more work to make it a quality book and there are far
too few of those floating around. It’s even more rare to find a self-published
book with as much originality, heart and execution as ‘Rival’, the latest
offering from Tears Like Water Productions, headed by creator Brien Cardello.
Brien recently talked to GHM about how he got to ‘Rival’ and what comes
Haven: What made you want to put out your own comic?
Cardello: My own comic meant my own characters. I started young, and the
How long have you been self-publishing?
I've been writing and drawing issues and throwing them in a box for years. My
first comic, Tears like Water #1, came in July 1999. The character I used, The
Civil Warrior, a superhuman vigilante, was also the first one I created. I put
sentimentality ahead of originality with that, and I've since learned my
What other work do have you done?
Since TLW#1 bombed, I made sure to do two more issues of that title (laugh).
And a Civil Warrior color special. Another series of books is The
Killmegirl #0, Killmegirl: At the Con, Killmegirl: Blood sugar ( Drawn in blood,
no kidding). They're a series of one shots featuring (get ready for originality)
a girl with a gun. They outsell every title I've done. Thankfully, we've
actually pulled off some of the most original scripts when
What are some of the stumbling blocks you've run into self-publishing?
Diamond distributors. When I first inquired about using them to distribute the
series, they told me that they needed to see three issues in advance. I
understood, because I'm sure there were a million people before me who promised
completed series but never came through. I sent the first three books, and they
told me they wouldn't distribute it. When I asked why, they said they sent a
letter stating why. They never did, and every time I called them, I spoke to a
different person who had no idea why. That's just unprofessional of them. I
started my own company so I had no editor, no person to tell me what I could or
couldn't do, and no barriers, but somehow a distributor with a panel of six
judges that decides whether or not the public will like you, became an editor.
The Rival trade paperback is due out next year, I will approach them again, and
we'll see what happens. If they are as unsound as before, I will be less civil.
GH: Have you been pitching 'Rival' or any other work to other companies? Any feedback?
No. Rival stays here. I know many, many self-publishers look for that big break
when a company decides to publish them, but I'm not interested in that. I want
my ideas close to me, and I don't mind dealing with all aspects of production.
Down the line, perhaps some ideas will be cast, and we'll see who it brings in.
For now, I like being a big fish in a small lake, instead of vice versa.
What is 'Rival' about?
The series centers around Sadie Thomas, a young girl dealing with the death of
her superhero boyfriend, who was the masked hero, Rival. It's a darkly told
story that takes place on the industrial island of Bettano a year after his
death. A new Rival has appears just as Sadie has been trying to convince her
friends her old boyfriend is alive. Its strengths lie in the characterization of
the people involved and less in the heroes and villains, which usually take the
spotlight. It's a schizophrenic mystery.
How did the idea for 'Rival' come about?
I've always had a bad habit of making my characters strong, mentally and
physically. Between the Civil Warrior, a superhuman, and the Killmegirl, a
killer, there was no room for honest emotion.
I needed a character who was weak, powerless, like us when no one's
looking. I needed someone human, to portray certain thoughts and feelings that I
wanted to explore, and that people would relate to. I wanted an opposite of the
work I had done, and I wanted an opposite of the work that was out there. In
usual 'death of hero' stories, we always focus on the strong that survive, but
the weak we forget. I'm not sure why that is, since I believe weak to be so much
What has the reaction to the series been?
A lot better than I ever expected. Everyone sees something different in the
series, and so many points of view have been created, and I'm glad my own voice
didn't overshadow the ideas of the readers.
Have you gone to cons to support the work. What's the attitude been there?
My first convention was San Diego, 2000. Of
course, Killmegirl is the impulse buy, but Rival gets better next day feedback.
The simple fact that someone comes to my table to tell me they read my books the
previous day and enjoyed them...well, I'm just glad they took the time.
Everybody's tremendously supportive, the fans, the dealers, the guy holding my
spot while I sneak a cigarette...
What comics are you a fan of?
All. I try not to choose favorites. Granted, I'm more likely to shop in the
small press section, and the schedule simply doesn't allow reading all the new
stuff out there. I try to catch up
on the older issues of Marvel books. I always enjoyed a nice mix of Lee
classics, Vertigo titles, and a pile of black and white indies. Up until a
couple of years ago, that's what I read. Somewhere along the line, creating,
writing and drawing became my favorite thing to do on an empty day.
What interests you in general?
Christopher Walken movies. Married with Children reruns. Old school wrestling.
Howard Stern. Pearl Jam, Manson, REM. Redheads. All of these things are usually
playing on the radio or TV in the background while I work on my comics. The
redheads are there to change the tape. I think I'm also in a constant search for
something I totally relate to, and I haven't found it yet.
What's your creative process like? How long does it take for you to complete a
The process is simple. Fuck everyone and enjoy yourself. That's not how they
usually work it in the big leagues, of course, but I do indeed have that
freedom. My work is not work at all. I
think I'm writing a lot different than a lot of people out there, and I hope
people see and feel that each month on any one book. I try to keep a
professional level speed, while getting the main idea across. Rival, because of
it's intricacy, wicked and convoluted as it was, did take me slightly longer.
Killmegirl books never take long to write, because she hates the world as much
as I do, and there's plenty of hateful, philosophical jargon to spout between
the two of us. Sometimes I write and draw three at a time, sometimes I spend
days on one page.
What's your worst moment been in comics?
See that stumbling block question up there about Diamond? That was it.
What's the best moment you've had in comics?
That would have to be the San Diego con. I've had plenty of experience
Besides Comic Book Galaxy, Psycomic, Savant, and Fandom, what's your
favorite on line comic related website?
That stings. After Ebay?
Well, I'm kinda new to this online world, and if I'm ever looking for something,
I never seem to find it. Loganeast.com is a pretty cool small press site.
Sequentialtart.com is always a pleasure to read. I try to look for mostly small
press stuff. And by all means, www.grayhavenmagazine.com.
Okay, are you the artist for 'Rival' or not?
(laugh) Well, if you put my last name up to a mirror, you'll get the name of the
artist. I started giving different aliases to the different jobs in the book
because to open up my comic and to just see my name and my name alone seemed
egotistical. It's a very weird thing, but I usually credit 66% of the work to
people who don't exist, even though I do it all. Besides, people like the name
Ollie Drac better than mine. I think I do too, come to think of it, and after
you read Rival, it actually fits into the story....
If you could write any character in comics, who would you pick and why?
Morbius. If there was any character in the world that had so much potential but
yet was pathetic time and time again, it was that character. Down the line, I'd
like to put some proposals together, but I'm having too much fun with what I'm
What do you think about the state of the industry right now?
I don't think about it at all. If there were no books, I'd write a diary.
GH: What do you think can/should be done to bring new readers into the industry?
I met Neil Gaiman not too long ago and I'm totally going to steal his answer to
this question. ' Write good comics.' You know something? It works.
Organic or non-organic web shooters?
Organic tequila shooters.
The Simpsons or Futurama?
Futurama's still around?
If you could spend the day with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
I would like to spend the day with one dead person.
If you could fight one person, no consequences, whom would you choose?
Probably the guy that I was disqualified against in the Golden Gloves. Either
him, or Speedball. Maybe the guy who created Speedball.
What other projects are you working on?
I'm currently working on about thirteen books right now. On tap is Leash,
Dreamwitch, Rainland, and a slew of other titles all unique unto themselves.
Including the King Kong Bundy comic, easily the greatest wrestling comic ever,
and I'm not saying that because he can crush me like a flea and he knows where I
live. Also, the next Rival series, 'Interior Mirrors', the next Killmegirl one
shot, 'Cold daze of Hell'.
GH: What can you tell us about the next 'Rival' series? When's it come out? Length? Content?
Without giving too much away, the next Rival series will again feature Sadie,
more distant and less weak, determined to find out who has been impersonating
her boyfriend. It will be four to six issues, and will each of them will be
narrated by a different character. It will utterly define if Sadie is as
mentally undone as the first series made her out to be. It'll be out by toward
the end of 2001.
What's the biggest reason someone should pick up and read 'Rival'?
It's always cool to be the first person who discovers something good, instead of
being the last one to find out about it
How can someone find out more about your work?
Brien: The way I promote? Never. Actually, TLWcomics.com should be up and running in a matter of months. With my schedule, creating a website on the side, even with help, aint easy. Also, I hear Killmegirl:Bloodsugar is getting banned from stores, so you might find out about that sooner than you think. Of course, if anyone wants a Rival set now, they can just email Sales@tlwcomics.com, and we'll give 'em the lowdown.
Copyright©2000 Barry Wolborsky