Friday, May 23, 2014

June's Peculiar Person of the Month: Creator Rich Bernatovech

David Rondinelli

Rich Bernatovech
Rich Bernatovech is a man of many things. Actor, writer, creator, and artist. His latest project, Neverminds, follows an organization of super empowered women who fight threats across the globe. As the founder of his own comic book line Drum Fish Productions, Bernatovech has built a substantial fan base by offering stories that are unique to readers and cover all types of genres.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Bernatovech made New York City his home for many years after he graduated from the Actor's Studio for his MFA. He shares his time with his artist Jamie Fay and colorist Danielle Alexis St. Pierre as well his Comfort Retriever. 

He has worked in various plays, television programs, music videos, print and films, but now holds steady employment for the New York Times

He commented on how the events of 9/11 brought a change to his life and brought him back to his first love of comics.

This led him to found Drum Fish Productions, which features several comic book titles that are written and created by Bernatovich and his talented team of fellow artists. 

Bernatovich sat down with This Peculiar Life NYC to tell us how he got started, what his creative process is like, and some of the upcoming projects that he has in the works. Read more as Rich Bernatovech is June's Peculiar Person of the Month.  

This Peculiar Life NYC: What got you into comics?

Rich Bernatovech: For me, it was about the art. I got into comics until I was about 12, and the sequential art and storytelling pulled me in. George Perez drew two of the first comics I read. the art told the story before I even read a word of dialogue. I love that about it. Once I actually read the story, I was hooked.

TPL NYC: Who are some of the characters that inspired you the most?

RB: I'm a big fan of the underdog. The character that people write off and don't think is good enough. Characters who strive for something also inspire me. I'm not a big fan of slow moving stories or characters that don't change.

TPL NYC: What do you feel independent comics offer readers more than mainstream?

RB: For me, it's very clear that independent comics offer more diversity in characters and genre. They also give creators freedom to have their characters grow and evolve. I often find independent comics to have more passion in them because the creators are more connected to their own creations that they are to company owned characters. I feel they tell ore engaging stories that readers can enjoy.

TPL NYC: Tell me about your book Neverminds? How did the concept come about?

RB: I wanted to create something different and that wasn't superhero at all. I began working with artist Jamie Fay, and we came up with an interesting story of a girl torn between two worlds. It was a fantasy story, and we were excited. As we were working on the book, we discovered that there was another book coming out that was very similar to what we were doing. After a log time considering what to do, we re-evaluated Neverminds and decided to do something different. One of Jamie's strengths as an artist is the way he draws women. I played upon those strengths by adding new characters and changing the setting of our main group. To make it different, we kept some of the other worldly elements that we had from the earlier version.

A cover from Neverminds

TPL NYC: As a writer, how do you go about plotting the story? Give readers some insight into breaking down the process? What are the best parts, and what are the challenges?

RB: Plotting varies for me depending on the format I'm writing for, but I always need to know the beginning and end of the story before I start. I need to have my main characters fleshed out. Once I know where I'm starting, going, and who I'm writing about, I find it pretty easy to drive in. I daydream a lot before I start and develop elements of the story as I create characters and ideas. Then, once I think everything is good, I sit down and start typing out the story and go from there focusing on the dialogue. Honestly, I enjoy all of those aspects of writing, but I think the best part is when you're able to sole a problem that you encounter and have it work into the story perfectly. It feels like completing a puzzle. 

Original artwork
by Rich Bernatovech
Original artwork
by Rich Bernatovech
TPL NYC: As an artist, tell us the process you take to bring a page together? What the best parts and the challenges? 

 RB: As an artist, my favorite part is creating characters and getting a visual that feels right for the character. I also love changing looks and facial features from character to character. 

TPL NYC: You also have a toy line. How did this come about? Is there a figure that you feel turned out the best? 

RB: The figurines came after a toy company saw our designs and contacted us. I looked at their work and after discussing possibilities with them, we decided to work together. We have a total of seven figurines. They have been selling well and we are proud of them. I couldn't pick a favorite as I think they are sculpted beautifully and I love them all. 

Figures for Neverminds

More figures from the Neverminds toy line
TPL NYC: There is a great component to the creative side, but what the business side? Being an independent creator, how do you get your books in people's hands? 

RB: That is by far the hardest part about being an independent creator... getting the word out about your book. It's taken me a very long time to build up an audience. You have to be willing to do the work and get out there and promote yourself. It's very important for you to write reviewers, contact comic stores, interact with readers and get to know people who purchase your work at comic conventions. The only way you're going to get your book into reader's hands if for you to make them want to read it. So, plan on spending hours of time promoting, marketing and networking.

TPL NYC: Do you feel that the market is becoming friendlier towards independent creators?

RB: The marketing changes I've seen recently, in regards to independent creators, is that more reviewers are now willing to look at independent comics and promote them. It's easier to send them copies digitally and get a quick response. Comixology recently opened its doors for submission from independent comics and has been spotlighting many of the independent comics they accepted on their site.

TPL NYC: As one part of a collaboration for Neverminds, how much freedom does the other have over the project?
RB: I can't speak for everyone, but with all the collaborators I've worked with, I've felt extremely fortunate to have gotten along so well with all of them. I think it's important to like and respect the people you work with. Then you take their feedback and criticism better and aren''t so sensitive about part of your work.

TPL NYC: For new people wishing to collaborate with each other, what are some healthy ways that people can collaborate the make a successful partnership?

RB: I think you need to agree on certain ground rules before you begin. What is the goal of your collaboration? What is the time frame planned to complete your work? What's your agreement for compensation? What is your ownership deal? Once you get all that worked out, then it becomes about respect and putting the work in. Respect your partner's opinion if they give feedback on something. Respect their time and dedication. Also, don't forget to respect yourself and the time you put into a project. If you feel things are getting off track or your partner is not putting the work into the project as needed, then perhaps you need to rethink the collaboration and move on. Starting over is not the end of the world and your project will benefit from not forcing a collaboration that isn't working out.

Bernatovick with artist Jamie Fay

TPL NYC: With emerging technology, how do you feel this will change the comic market for independent creators?
RB: Good question! Right now everything is changing for independent creators. Technology has made it much easier to get your work seen by people all over the world. Sites lie Comixology are a great way to reach people expand your readership. Having digital copies of your comic is no longer an option, it's a necessity! About half of the fans I've met at conventions lately are people who know me or my work through the Internet before they even came to the show. They now seek me out at conventions whereas before they discovered my work at the con. It's amazing how quickly independent creators can build a global audience through Facebook, Comixology, DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

TPL NYC: Tell me a bit about the color palette for Neverminds? It is very vibrant, how did you choose them?
RB: The color palette for Neverminds was chosen by the artist Jamie Fay. Jamie really has a great eye for color and he is working hard to make each character individual. He uses color to help achieve this and works closely with Neverminds colorist, Danielle Alexis St. Pierre. Danielle is crazy talented and adds to the vibrancy of the colors within the book. Between the two of them, they have created a unique look for the book.

Latest copy of Neverminds

TPL NYC: Same thing with the character designs, how long does it take you to find the right look for the characters?
RB: With my series Sentinels, I had much more input on the design of the characters than I did on Neverminds. For Sentinels, I came up with all the initial looks and then Luciano Vecchio used them as a base to evolve and expand the characters into more contemporary looks. With Neverminds, Jamie came up with all the looks of the characters and then I developed each character from that. I'd say in both cases through, that we made changes to the characters designs throughout the creative process until we got them the "feel" right.
TPL NYC: Is there a character that you enjoy writing or drawing the most?
RB: I lover writing characters that are confident, yet flawed. Even the strongest and most indestructible character needs a reality to ground them and make them relatable. Without any kind of a flaw, they become boring and too perfect. As far as drawing, I love drawing very expressive people.
TPL NYC: Is there a character that you find to be challenging to write or draw?
RB: For writing...villains! I believe that you have to know exactly who your villain is and what motivates them. Without that, you won't be able to sell them to your audience as a big threat or a worthy adversary. It's fund to write characters who are out there and you can get wild with. As for characters I find challenging to draw, I guess I'd have to say older characters. I've been told I draw very young looking and I'm trying to work on that. I want to be more diverse in my character designs.

The characters of Neverminds

TPL NYC: How has Neverminds been received by the public?
RB: So far, we've gotten a great response from Neverminds. Most people seem to get what we're trying to do and understand that we're building towards something. There have been a few people who have rushed to judgment based on only part of our story, which I can't do anything about. The artwork by Jamie Fay has been getting rave reviews and it's amazing to see his work develop and grow. The same can be said for the coloring on the book by Danielle Alexis St. Pierre. Jamie and Danielle make an amazing team. That's what brings people to Neverminds first. However, readers have also responded that once they read the books, they really enjoy how hard we've worked hard to create a unique set of characters who are all strong female types. My hopes are that by the end of the first arc, we've given readers a reason to care about the characters and that they want to see more.

 TPL NYC: Why comics as opposed to other forms of artistic mediums?  
RB: I love comics. I find the visual medium of storytelling in comics form fits perfectly with my ideas and abilities. It's just a way of creating that feels right to me.
TPL NYC: Outside of comics, what do you like to do? Any other artistic endeavors or hobbies?

RB: I used to be an actor and graduated from the Actor's Studio in NYC. I also used to paint a lot with acrylics and watercolors. My artistic endeavors have focused mainly on comics for a while now. Who knows, someday. I might go back to both of those forms of expression.
Bernatovech with his book Bugged
TPL NYC: What are some of your upcoming projects?

RB: I just recently released the original graphic novel Bugged, which is a very dark and humorous book about a teenager and a talking roach. It's been getting great reviews and I'm extremely happy with the response that we've gotten on it.  
We hope to finish the first storyline of Neverminds in a few issues and we are almost finished with a second Sentinels anthology, which will reunite me with Sentinels artist, Luciano Vecchio. This is in celebration of our 10th anniversary and release of the revised and colorized version of Sentinels on Comixology.
I also have a web comic that is still being developed that I will actually be the artist for, as someone else will be writing. I have two other original graphic novels that I'm writing and have amazing artists that I'll be working with.  

TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have seen while at a con?
RB: Hmmm, that's a tough one. When I first started, I probably would have had a bunch of answers for you for this. I do find the "free hugs" signs on people a little disturbing through. Ha.
TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have seen while in NYC?
RB: Oh, I think you'd want to keep this PG rated and all my answers would be a bit adult, ha, ha. I will say though that all the things I've seen (that have been peculiar to me) have all been things that I see early in the morning, at like 5:00 a.m. when I'm walking my dog. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that happens right before the sun comes up.

A splash page from Neverminds

To find out more about Rich Bernatovech and his projects, check out his website at