Monday, April 20, 2015

Pheaturing Rich Bernatovich

Hello, welcome to the Phile... I am your host Tony Stark. I feel like Iron Man, I am currently hooked up to a holter EKG that I have to wear for twenty-four hours. My doctor wants to check to see what is going on with my heart. I told him I didn't have one. Haha. Just kidding.  Hey, kids, it's 4/20, and you know what that means. Yep, it's the 20th day in April. It's also Pot Day or something. I don't need pot to be hungry, lazy, and paranoid. It's actually called National Weed Day and tomorrow it's National Surprise Drug Test Day.  Okay, what else is going on? After a quarter-century, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering changing its stance on homeopathic remedies and requiring their approval to be based upon science and evidence instead of wishful thinking and good intentions.
Wait, you're telling me a Nothing pill does NOTHING? Whaaaaaaaaaaat?   GOP primary frontrunner Jeb Bush seems about to throw all of his conservative credentials away by kind of stating in sort of plain-ish words that climate change could possibly be a real thing that we might maybe have to deal with eventually at some point down the line. "The climate is changing, and I'm concerned about that," Bush told a crowd of certainly stunned supporters at an event in New Hampshire. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker could be heard immediately afterwards yelping victoriously from several states away.  HBO is reportedly seeking legal action against Internet brigands who downloaded and shared the four leaked episodes from the first half of "Game of Thrones" fifth season. It makes you wonder: where could fans of the show have come up with justifications for such amoral behavior? 
The vast majority of discerning comedy fans do not need to be reminded of the somewhat humdrum state of late night comedy these days, but longtime "Conan" writer Andres du Bouchet did anyway. He entered into an unnecessary and unnecessarily vitriolic tirade on Twitter. "Comedy in 2015 needs a severe motherfucking shakeup. No celebrities, no parodies, no pranks, no mash-ups or hashtag wars," he wrote, capping it off with a profound call for Americans to "shove your lip-syncing up your ass." Strong words. Strong, silly words. Conan himself Tweeted "I wish one of my writers would focus on making my show funnier instead of tweeting stupid things about the state of late night comedy." Twitter is the new Human Resources department. Conversations like this have probably occurred in more than a few writers rooms, stemming from the content shift in late night comedy. du Bouchet has since deleted his tweets, but I found it interesting to hear a writer's opinion about his own field. This was clearly stream-of-conscious writing, because at the end of one tweet he added "I'm fat" making it my favorite Tweet in the rant. I hope when this issue is discussed in HR at TBS, du Bouchet doesn't lose his job over his Sunday afternoon spas.  So, you now Hillary Clinton is running for President, right? Well, I thought this was funny. A Phile reader sent me this real life sign at a muffler shop...

Pretty funny.  So, are you still watching that Star Wars trailer again and again? I watched it again today and I noticed something that was pretty familiar.

Haha. That is so stupid. Clever... but stupid.  I'm not going to go into my thoughts about if kids should gat vaccinated or not... I don't need that anti-email right now. But I thought it was funny that Disney released this Captain America poster...

Haha. By the way, this poster has nothing to do with Disney... just saying.  The new Jurassic World trailer came out today, but the movie is not called Jurassic World. Take a look...

Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Phive People Have A Worse Monday Than You
5. Jon Stewart, because he doesn't enjoy "The Daily Show" anymore.
4. A passenger who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for jabbing her snoring seatmate with a pen.
3. Big Sean, because Ariana Grande's father warned him not to give her the D.
2. Zooey Deschanel, because she never wanted to be called "adorable." And the number one person having a worse Monday than you is...
1. A British soccer player fired for having sex with a fan in the opposing team's dugout.

Hahahaha. That's the best one yet! If you spot the Mindphuck let me know.

Drug Enforcement Administration 
The Drug Enforcement Administration (or DEA) is the government agency in charge of losing the War on Drugs.

Okay, today's guest is the writer of the graphic novel "Bugged" which is the 37th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Yes, a graphic novel is a book as well. Please welcome to the Phile... the head of Drumfish Productions... Rich Bernatovich.

Me: Hello, Rich, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Rich: Great! Thanks for asking.

Me: Okay, I have to ask you about Drumfish Productions. Is a drumfish a real fish? I never heard of it.

Rich: Yes, there is actually a fish called a drum fish (spelled with two words), but it’s not what I named the company after. I just combined two positive things from my childhood memories together and came up with the name for the company.

Me: Rich, you are the creator, writer and inker for a lot of Drumfish's comics... but did you found the company?

Rich: Yes, I founded the company once I decided that I wanted to jump into the world of self-publishing.

Me: Your graphic novel "Bugged" is pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. That's not the only thing you have written though, is it?

Rich: No, I’ve written many things over the years from plays to prose. I love telling stories through visual mediums. In addition to "Bugged", I’ve written the graphic novel series, "Sentinels" as well as the on-going comic series, "Neverminds" through Drumfish Productions.

Me: Where are you from originally, Rich?

Rich: A small town outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I loved growing up there, but eventually moved to the big city… NYC!

Me: I have been reading comics myself since I was like six or seven... okay, I admit at first I used to just look at the pictures. I started off with Batman but over the years I am more of a Marvel fan. How old were you when you started to get into comics?

Rich: I was about 12 and a friend had loaned me a few of his comics. I was immediately hooked and starting buying my own at the local store where they sold them 3 for 75 cents.

Me: So, what was the first comic series you got into, Rich?

Rich: Anyone who’s read my Sentinels series can immediately tell I was a HUGE fan of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s "New Teen Titans." It was one of the first comics I read and I’m glad it was. To this day, it’s still one of the most classic series done that influenced a generation of comic creators.

Me: Do you watch the "Teen Titans" TV show? Whatcha think?

Rich: Yes, I watched the first 5 seasons of it and I loved it! It was great for all ages and really captured the Wolfman/Perez characters and storylines. I think the series that’s on now is clearly aimed at a very young audience, but the first series was great and even help get my nephew into reading comics.

Me: So, are you more of a DC fan or a Marvel fan? 

Rich: Growing up I was definitely a DC fan. But over the last ten years, I’ve found myself more into what Marvel is doing. I fell DC has abandon most of their past audience in favor of getting more media hype and attention. All of their books feel like they’re on the Indy 500 going around and around at 200 mph, but going nowhere. Nothing moves and when it does, they reboot or create a new universe, multiverse, alternate version, etc., to just explain it away. And while Marvel might have alternate realities and universes, no matter what you think of their story-telling, they continually moves forward at a natural progress. They might change things, but at least they don’t say it never happened (ie. "One Day More", Jean Grey alive, dead, alive, dead, etc). My only hope is that all holds true for them with their up-coming "Secret Wars" that is rumored to combine their alternate realities and universes.

Me: So, when did you decide you wanted to work with comics?

Rich: I’ve always know I wanted to tell stories since I was a child. At 6 years old, I wrote my first book, which I would do spot illustrations for. I didn’t know about comics back then, but my natural instinct for graphic story-telling was always there.

Me: Did you go to school to study drawing or writing?

Rich: Yes, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration and Design from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and I received my Master’s Degree at the Actor’s Studio in NYC.

Me: For a while you went off and became an actor, am I right?

Rich: I was an actor in New York for about ten years before I decided to stop and focus on creating comics.

Me: You appeared in several TV shows and movies and even a few videos. What are some of the shows and movies you were in?

Rich: I mostly performed on stage and did many plays throughout the city. The only TV I did were small parts or background extra work. I also did a bunch of independent films, most of which never saw the light of day and I did a few music videos and print work.

Me: What did you like being in better, Rich?

Rich: The stage was where I was most at home. I enjoyed the interaction with other cast members and the live reaction of the audience. There’s a thrill to not knowing what might happen. You really get to be in the moment and continue through with a scene without having to stop. Film, TV and print is slow work and you spend most of your time standing around waiting. I know it sounds odd, but I found that exhausting.

Me: So, do you still act?

Rich: No. I’ll admit that occasionally, I miss it. But I truly love writing, drawing and telling stories through comics that I don’t think about acting too much. But, I also never say never… who knows, one day I might jump back into it.

Me: You got back into comics after 9/11... is that THE 9/11? I know, that's a stupid question. How did that day get you back onto the comic world, Rich?

Rich: Yes, I made the decision to start self-publishing after the event of 9/11. Being in New York City that day and experiencing what happened, you can‘t help but be changed. I looked at the life I was living and decided I wanted to change it and do something more fulfilling. It was as easy as that. Once I made the decision, I spent a lot of time researching and developing a publishing plan for "Sentinels."

Me: Alright, let's go through the few titles that Drumfish has. First though, how long has Drumfish Productions been around?

Rich: Our first original graphic novel came out in December 2003 and it was the first book from our "Sentinels" series.

Me: What is "Sentinels" about?

Rich: "Sentinels" is the story of a second generation superhero team who parents disappeared when they were young. As they step into the role of heroes, they get pulled into the mystery of what happened to the first generation. We did a total of 4 trades that carry that storyline through the series. We ended the series as we always intended to with the fourth volume. In 2006, I met Jamie Fay and we started developing "Neverminds." It took us a while to get the series started, but our first issue of "Neverminds" came out in 2011. It focuses on an all-female covert-ops team of super-powered, but not superheroes, characters. The last of Drumfish Production’s published work is "Bugged", a story about a teenage boy and a talking roach, written by me and artwork by Facundo Teyo. "Bugged" was a straight to trade original graphic novel that came out in 2013.

Me: Which one is your favorite?

Rich: I honestly love all of the titles in different ways. I could never pick a favorite. I feel each is unique and special to me.

Me: As I mentioned before you are a writer, and inker and creator. Which one came first and do you like inking or writing better?

Rich: I definitely love writing more. I’ve always been creating stories since I was young and was lucky enough to have some artistic abilities. So, I usually would write and draw all my own work. But since starting Drumfish Productions, I’ve been mostly focused on writing. I hope to change that this year when I start my webcomic that I will be writing and drawing. But as a writer, it’s amazing to see what other artists will do with your ideas and plots. I’m really fortunate to work with all the talented artists that I’ve been able to. It’s a thrill to see them bring my words to life!

Me: You also are a fantastic artist. I like your Batman piece and of course your Rocket and Groot pieces. I have to show that here...

Me: Those are panel pieces, am I right? For readers that don't know, tell them and explain what a panel piece is.

Rich: Thanks for the kind words on my art. I wasn’t so confident in my art until recently when I made a conscious afford to try to really develop my style. I found that the comic convention scene changed over the last few years and having just books at your table alone, doesn't draw people to your table. So, I started doing small headshot sketches and would put them on my table for sale for $10 each in hopes of attracting people to check out all of the Drumfish Productions books. And it worked! I couldn’t draw fast enough. I was selling out of all the headshot sketches I did at shows and had very little time to replenish my supply for the next show. Jamie Fay (artist of "Neverminds") shares the table with me at shows and he sells prints that work very well for him. So, I decided that it would give my art much longer life at shows if I did prints instead of original art. But I didn’t want to compete with Jamie, so I thought I would do a different size other than the 11 x 17 size prints he was doing. I saw a print by someone that was an off-sized print and it gave me the idea to do prints in half of the 11 x 17 size. Cutting them straight down the middle. This gave me a unique size to draw in and looked similar to a screen panel to me. So, that’s why I called them Panel Prints.

Me: Okay, so, I am sure I also have readers that don't know what an inker does. He or she pretty much inks over someones pencil drawings, doing the shading, am I right? 

Rich: Inkers are embellishers. They enhance an artist’s pencil work by defining the line weight and shadows. They often add detail for artists. In the past, I would say you were right about the shading, but today, most inkers let colorist handle that.

Me: And then it gets turned over to the colorist?

Rich: Yes. The art usually gets handed over to the colorists after inking. Today, more than ever, I believe that colorists are a huge and integral part of the comic making processing. They really set the mood of a comic with the color palette they pick and the techniques they use. They are absolutely “world creators” along with the writer and artist.

Me: Okay, in the titles there seems to be more women characters, am I right? Why is that, Rich?

Rich: "NEVERMINDS" is definitely intended to showcase female leads and I believe that "Sentinels" had a fairly equal balance of male and female characters. I make a very conscious decision to try my best to define the female characters in my books so that they aren’t just powers and boobs. I honestly see just as many female fans of my work as male fans, so it would be an insult to them if I didn’t develop the female characters I write about just as much as the male. I like strong and complex women and feel there should be more of them in comics. I also enjoy writing them, LOL.

Me: I have to ask you about "Bugged" which you write as that is the pheatured book. That's an interesting story, can you tell the readers what it's about.

Rich: "Bugged" is a story about a boy named Felix. He’s unpopular, awkward and misunderstood. He tries his best to do the right thing and be a good person, but he really just can’t seem to win. That is until he meets a talking roach (Bob) who teaches him that he has special abilities that enable him to see the wrongs others have done and that he must enact vengeance on them.

Me: How long does it take for you to write, Rich?

Rich: It really depends on the subject. The more characters you have in a book, the long it takes. You rethink lines and actions a lot to make sure they are true to the character you’ve created. I find writing one character or just a few characters works very quickly. I wrote "Bugged" in about a week. But team books take me much more time and a single issue can take two or three weeks.

Me: Are you constantly coming up with different ideas?

Rich: Always! I have so many ideas that I find myself frustrated that I don’t have enough time to get to all of them. I have three other titles already under development and that I can’t wait to start working more on. There’s just never enough time in the day!

Me: Is there any idea you came up with that you thought was stupid and lame and didn't use?

Rich: Of course, LOL. I think every creator and writer has written something lame or stupid. The trick is to catch them before they get out there in print. I believe the key to be able to avoid that is two-part. One, you have to be able to step away from your work and come back to it a day or two later and re-read it with an open mind. Usually, you’ll see things in a different light and catch a blunder before it becomes a big deal. And then, two, have someone you trust read over your work and be objective. Whether it’s a collaborator or a friend, just be sure they will give you an honest review. 

Me: Okay, if someone approached you and said they wanna make "Bugged" into a movie, what would you say?

Rich: Hell, yes!

Me: Is there anything new you are currently working on, Rich?

Rich: We’re two pages shy of being finished with our second "Sentinels Anthology." I’m really excited to get that out and show off the amazing work that the 37 (yes, thirty seven!) different creators have done on the "Anthology." It’s a big deal for fans of "Sentinels" as it shows the third generation of the Sentinels team grownup and on their own. I also have the next two issues of "Neverminds" in the works that will wrap up the first storyline. After that, I’m really eager to start on my own webcomic called "Kowa" that I will be writing and drawing. It’s an all-ages story that will be free and on our Drumfish Productions website. Then I have an all new dark and kind horror-ish series that I’ll be doing with Ihor Loboda (colorist on the re-visioned "Sentinels" issues and on the 3rd Gen "Sentinels" in the anthology). And finally, as if I didn’t have enough in the works, I have two other original graphic novels in the works. I guess you can say I’m pretty busy, LOL.

Me: Alright, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Are you ready? What was your favorite family vacation?

Rich: Definitely going to Ocean City, Maryland every summer when I was growing up. You have the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. There were so many things to do and the weather was always great. Plus, back when we first went there, I went to my first mega-comic store, Geppi’s. It was amazing.

Me: Rich, thanks, so much for being here on the Phile. Go ahead and mention your website and where a Phile reader can pick up your comics.

Rich: Our website is and you can get all of our latest news by following us on Facebook at  There is a link on our website that leads to our store where people can buy all of our books and even our 7 figurines, but here is it too: And readers can also get digital version of "Bugged", "Neverminds" and the re-visioned and colorized "Sentinels" on Comixology here:

Me: Good stuff. All the best, and take care. Please come back again soon.

Rich: Thank you! Best to you too. I appreciate the interview request!

There, that about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Rich for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Friday with Phile Alumni Mike Gent and Pete Donnelly from The Figgs. And then on Monday it's music legend Boz Boorer. I wonder how many of you readers heard of him. Surely you heard of the Polecats, right? Anyway, spread the word not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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