When Black Mask Studios was formed by Matt Pizzolo, Brett Gurewitz and Steve Niles back in 2012, it came with the ambitious mission statement of serving as “advocates for subversive artists, building bridges and breaking down barriers so their work can reach new audiences.”
Well, perhaps no title they have released thus far better reflects that ethos than Space Riders, a gloriously insane sci-fi romp from writer Fabian Rangel Jr. and artist Alexis Ziritt. We recently reviewed the second issue, giving it a glowing five-out-of-five rating, with reviewer Chris admitting that “It might be batshit crazy, but I love it.”
Well, we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with the crazy twosome responsible for this bad boy, and – as you might expect – it was certainly a lively experience.
Big Comic Page: First off, can you tell us a little bit about the inception of the series? How did Space Riders come about?
Fabian Rangel Jr: Alexis came to me with the characters, series name, and the ship. He asked if I could write the story and I was like “OH HELL YES”. I had been wanting to work with him since seeing his cover work on Loki Ragnarok and Roll. I made of list of crazy shit I wanted to see Alexis draw, and got approval from him (Space Whales, Viking Space Vikings, hallucinations etc). Then I came up with a one-page outline of the whole series.
BCP: With the yellowing effect of the pages and saturated colour, and a real ‘pulpy’ feel to the book, there’s a definite nostalgic 70s feel to the Space Riders. Was this a conscious decision?
FRJ: Yeah, that was Alexis’ idea.
BCP: Speaking of nostalgic… favourite kids cartoon?
Alexis Ziritt: Starzinger, Capitan Futuro, Ninja Kamui, Mazinger Z, Space Adventure Cobra…
FRJ: Oh, man. I grew up on He-Man, Transformers, Voltron, Thundercats, and Silverhawks. Then came TMNT, of course. Hard to pick a favorite. I loved them all equally. If I absolutely HAD to, I’d probably go with He-Man.
BCP: The colour palette of the book is beautiful. Was it a style you were always going for, or did it just fit naturally?
AZ: I hate the Photoshop super layered shiny shit in the new comics. I was going for flat colors like SpaceHawk with a mix of the 80’s early 90’s coloring. I used a lot of colors directly from Captain Victory pages.
BCP: Alexis, your style manages to be both retro and modern at the same time. Who were your main influences when you started to draw?
AZ: I started tracing Superman and Tarzan comic when I was like 5 years old. Around 2004 I meet Sam Hiti and saw him using a Pentel Pocket Brush and that become my weapon of choice.
BCP: I honestly wasn’t expecting to see a “Space God” in the second issue. Was this a one-off thing, or are there more religious subplots to look out for in the rest of the series?
FRJ: Well, without giving too much away…Space Gods will come into play again. This is a giant, strange universe we’ve built, and there’s no limit to the stuff we’re exploring. I just love the idea of humans being dwarfed by insane alien gods from outer space. That’s mostly due to all of the Jack Kirby I’ve read. Specifically, Fantastic Four, New Gods, and especially The Eternals. And his adaptation of 2001.
BCP: There’s a real late 90s/early 00s Punk feel to the book. Was there any particular music you had on in the background as inspiration when you were writing/drawing?
FRJ: That’s strange that you would pick up on that. I definitely came up in that scene. I listened to punk in the mid-late 90’s, and played in hardcore bands from 2000-2009. Not really sure how that stuff shapes Space Riders. During my scripting sessions, I really only listened to Mastodon: Once More Round The Sun.
AZ: I came out with the characters listening to space rock and stoner metal. Here are some bands; Pyramidal, Ufomammut, Ampacity, Electric Wizard, Sleep, White Hills…
BCP: Black Mask is knocking it out of the park recently with new independent books. How did you find yourselves working with them?
FRJ: I wrote a 5 page short in the back of the Liberator trade (shout out to Matt Miner and JBS). So that’s how I got on their radar. I knew Steve Niles from the internet and from when he lived in Texas briefly, seeing him at cons. Matt Rosenburg introduced me to Matt Pizzolo, and I had been talking to BMS about a different book. Me and Alexis made an ashcan of Riders, and when Frank Barbiere saw it at Heroes last year, he suggested showing to Black Mask. They dug it and here we are!
BCP: So, let’s talk spaceships. Do you have a favourite, and why is it the Millennium Falcon?
FRJ: Not sure I have a favorite spaceship. The Falcon rules but I’m gonna go ahead and say The Santa Muerte is the baddest one in the galaxy.
AZ: FUCK STAR WARS!!!
BCP: More spaceships… There are some definitely some ‘interesting’ designs in the book. I particularly loved the Voltron-esque ship in issue two. Are there any more in the pipeline, and can I suggest a middle finger?
FRJ: Ha! That’s up to Alexis. I don’t even try and tame that dude when it comes to ship design.
AZ: Mhhhhh… no.
BCP: What does the future hold for the Space Riders team, then? Any plans for another mini-series or, or any other work on the horizon?
FRJ: We would love to keep it going. At least for another 4 issue mini. But that’s up to the sales of the trade. Alexis and I are also talking about a different pitch we’re hoping to put together soonish. Other than Riders I’m doing a three part story in Dark Horse Presents starting in June with artist Pablo Clark, a supernatural mob story called Black Past. Ryan Cody is busy drawing up Doc Unknown Volume 3, I have a short story with Aaron Conley in Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #4, and me and Logan Faerber are about to pitch off a book called ‘NAMWOLF.
AZ: I hope for more Space Riders and have this pitch idea for Fabian about a pulp/crime/black sabbath/fumetti, but I think the world is not ready. Also working on some projects with Ralph Niese.
BCP: Thanks for this guys. The series has been an amazing read so far, and I’m really looking forward to the last two issues.
FRJ: My pleasure! Thanks!