I’ve been having a hard time with comics lately. I buy The Walking Dead trades and the Star Trek monthlies, but otherwise, the pickings at my local shop aren’t getting my attention and I’m leaving empty handed pretty frequently (although, loitering there is fun – they’re great guys). Every once in a while, I’ll get frustrated and google a title I’d liked years ago to see if there are new issues and where I can get them. One afternoon, I got to wondering:
Whatever happened to Southside Nefertiti?
We discovered her and her creator, Mike Sales, at San Diego Comicon in 2007. My google search that day happily led me to a new Southside Nefertiti story, “The Fist of the South Star,” which ran online at Komplicated in 2011.
I love Southside Nefertiti, who is a single mom and a superhero, and not in a condescending, ladymag marketing kind of way. Nefertiti does it in a way that smacks of hard reality. And you can love her, too: Southside Nefertiti books are included in our anniversary prize packs.
PRG: How’ve you been for the past five years?
Mike Sales: When we last talked, I was putting out the Southside Nefertiti comic myself and doing most of the work myself. That period taught me that I had a really good concept and story that would keep people’s interest. But, it also taught me that I had to step my game up to really compete on the shelves and to stand out.
So, in upgrading the property, I hired top notch artists and expanded the whole story line. I like to think of it in structure like The Wire. The first season of the show was about that one little corner of Baltimore. Then the second season expanded to the docks. As it went on, the show addressed other groups and how they all intermingled, while still focusing on what it was like to live in Baltimore. With Southside Nefertiti, we expanded the story line to make it more compelling in a similar way
I would also say I spent more time finding my audience, finding out who the audience really was and eliminating places I felt Southside Nefertiti couldn’t compete. Also channelling energy on areas where I thought it really could compete.
Recently I started doing a campaign called “Real Nefertiti,” where we highlight people in real life who are doing similar things to what Nefertiti is doing in the comic. Not necessarily as a superhero, but working in the same sorts of neighborhoods and helping people out. For example, there’s a lawyer in Los Angeles named Connie Rice (who is actually Condoleeza Rice’s cousin), who worked with gangs to help keep their truces going and helping to quell gang violence by empowering the residents in those neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
There’s also Ammena Matthews, who is the daughter of one of the founding gang members in Chicago. She’s the subject of a new movie called The Interrupters. She basically tries to reduce gang violence in Chicago. Her premise is that gang violence and gang mentality is a virus that has to be cured one person at a time.
At Type Illy Press, we’re going to start showcasing those people to highlight the great things they’re doing. But, we also want to show that Nefertiti, even though she’s fictional, is based on a real impulse that comes from these communities – which is to take control of your own destiny and help the people around you rather than sitting around waiting for someone else to do it.
MS: I first met Hannibal Tabu, the owner of Komplicated, at Comicon some years back. That’s when he read the first issues of Southside Nefertiti. He was looking for new content when he started Komplicated and approached me about distribution. I think Komplicated is a great site for independent artists and I was happy to be a part of it.
PRG: How was the response to Fist of the South Star at Komplicated?
MS: We are both pretty pleased with the response. I’ve been able to expand my audience and been approached by new fans about buying the upcoming graphic novel.
MS: Absolutely, but it’s a tricky balance for me. Different audiences like Southside Nefertiti – some are newer fans who are comfortable with digital content, but others prefer print. I will expand into the digital space, but I have to be sure not to leave my old school fans behind.
PRG: So many indie comic properties get started and then fizzle out. What has kept you going with Southside Nefertiti as opposed to dropping it and launching something new?
MS: ‘Fist of the Southstar’ was the story I wanted to tell from day one, not the single issues I put out early on. I wanted to be judged as a writer and a producer based on the whole story I had in my head. Until I did that, i couldn’t be satisfied.
Win copies of Soutside Nefertiti this month in one of our anniversary prize packs. To enter: link this post. Tweet it. Facebook it. Google+ it. More here.
Read the first season of Southside Nefertiti: Fist of the South Star at Komplicated.