“Black Tiger,” an independent comic book created by John Hervey II, has not been on any bestseller lists or received an Eisner nomination. Yet at WonderCon earlier this month, Hervey celebrated a milestone for his project — the premiere of the short film adaptation “Black Tiger: Hunter Hunted” at the UltraLuxe Anaheim Cinemas at GardenWalk represented the culmination of 10 years of effort.
Angela Fong stars as Jenn Fong, a female vigilante known as the Black Tiger, who is investigating the murder of her father, the original Black Tiger. (Watch the trailer for the short above.)
Hero Complex caught up with comics creator and co-screenwriter (with director Patricio Ginelsa) Hervey to discuss his indie comics-to-film journey.
Hero Complex: When did you create “Black Tiger”?
John Hervey: It all started back during Memorial Day weekend 2002. Priscilla and I had recently started dating and went on a trip to Santa Barbara where I asked her to read the screenplays I had written to see what she thought. After arriving back home, she told me that they were good, so I excitedly told her about the other idea I had for a movie. After brainstorming, we came up with the name Black Tiger for the heroine. As I was putting the story together, I decided this was an idea I wasn’t willing to sell, so I thought about what media I could tell this story in that would enable me to keep the creative rights. That is when I considered producing this vision in comic book form.
HC: What was involved?
JH: The first step was forming a company, so I called up Priscilla [Hervey] and asked her to come up with a business name. She gave me a list of names, and the first one on the list, Beyond Time, was the one that stood out. Once the company was formed, I set out to write. Despite my background in writing comics, self-publishing was a new animal for us. Priscilla had no background in comics or business, as she was a science educator at the time, and I had never had to manage the process of comic book production before. Priscilla and I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas and working on character development, and I sought out talent to bring the visuals to the story. It took about two years of production before we published “Black Tiger: Legacy of Fury” No. 1 in March 2004.
HC: Did you ever consider taking your indie title to one of the bigger comics companies?
JH: Like any fanboy-turned-comic producer, my knee-jerk reaction was to go to a bigger company. We didn’t go to the Big 2, because they don’t really have a vehicle for properties like this, but we did try submitting to one of the larger self-publishers. They didn’t bite, so we had two options, cry ourselves to sleep or publish the books ourselves. After a little bit of the former, we did the latter and in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to us. It forced us to really learn the business, including the bane of most creator’s existence, promoting your brand.
HC: You’ve now created a short film following the exploits of Black Tiger. How did you choose which tale to tell?
JH: We wanted to tell a story that was self-contained enough to be told as a short, but also rich enough to give people a glimpse into the world of Black Tiger. I feel we achieved that goal with “Hunter Hunted.” I’m so pleased with the production — from the acting and production to the sound, [special effects], editing and all elements of post-production. There was a previous production we worked on in November 2010 that didn’t get in the can. It was a story centered around Det. Salem Chow. We still hope that we’ll be able to tell that story, but I got the idea for “Hunter Hunted,” and after sharing it with Patricio Ginelsa of Kid Heroes Productions, decided to move forward with that tale. These short film plots continue where the “Black Tiger: Legacy of Fury” series end.
HC: How was the crowd-funding experience?
JH: When we embarked on crowd funding, we first did one through Indiegogo because we would still get the funds contributed even if we did not reach our goal. It was a bit last-minute, and we had the help of Mish’al Samman, who worked on the appeal video for us. We thought it was a “if you put it out there, it will fund” type of thing, so we did not properly prepare for it. We had some close friends and family contribute, but all we had were our comics and the idea of a film to share. We only got about $7,000 of the $50,000 goal. That was a real disappointment, but we also thought it was better than nothing. So, we moved ahead investing our savings for what we planned to be a $10,000 budget short film. This helped us get through production. The focus was to get it in the can, and it did.
However, we still needed funds for post-production. Patricio had just successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for his project “Lumpia 2” prior to beginning production on “Black Tiger: Hunter Hunted.” Once we finished production, he helped us embark on our own Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for post. He pretty much walked us through it, from preparing the campaign to strategies in reaching out on a daily basis and how to offer rewards and incentives to backers. It was a really humbling experience, but gave us a new appreciation for community support through crowd-funding. We ran a 19-day campaign and hit our goal in 12 days. While the budget eclipsed what we raised through the crowdsourcing campaigns, the financial support was just what we needed to complete post-production and get it ready in time for our premiere at WonderCon Anaheim.
HC: From print to digital to a short film, what’s been the biggest obstacle to gaining mainstream success?
JH: Gaining eyeballs. As people have become exposed to the property the reaction has been favorable, but without a marketing budget or a larger publisher behind us, it has been a grass-roots effort over the last decade that has enabled us to build our fan base and brand.
HC: What’s next for Black Tiger, both the character/comic title and the film?
JH: Another comic book miniseries is currently in production, with pencils by Rod Pereira and colors by Omi Remalante Jr. The street date for the series should be towards the end of the year. On the film front, doors have been opening, and we will be discussing some different options. We’re pursuing both a feature film and series opportunities.
– Jevon Phillips | @LATherocomplex
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