Meet the creative team behind our all-new anthology project, Tales from The Cave, featuring three fresh short stories plucked from the Mad Cave pumpkin patch by Mad Cave Studios’ 2022 Talent Search winners!
We had the chance to sit down and chat with each contributor about their contributions to the anthology, their inspirations, and more!
Check out our interview below with the team behind the short story, Battlecats: Not All Cats Go To Heaven, below:
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Keith: Hi, Mad Cave readers, my name is Keith! My first comics love was Peanuts, but it
wasn’t until high school when I read Sandman that I discovered a passion for the medium. I started writing prose while studying at Georgia Tech, and spread into comics towards the end of my tenure there. I’ve been in Atlanta ever since, putting one word
after another. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at keith_frady, and Bluesky at keithfrady.
Riccardo: I am an Italian comic book and storyboard artist. I’ve been drawing comics since childhood, and in 2019 I decided to turn my passion into a career. My first graphic novel will be published in Italy in 2023, and I’m currently working on a sci-fi miniseries for Red Sea Comics. In 2022 I won the 5th annual “Mad Cave Talent Search” in the “artist” category. I also work as a storyboard artist for ads and movies. I have a professional degree from the Italian “Scuola Internazionale di Comics” (“International Comic Books school”) and an MSc in computer engineering.
Marco: I’m from Brazil and I started my first jobs as a digital colorist for comics and children’s books for the national and international independent market in 2017.
Q: What is your contribution to Tales From The Cave?
Keith: I’m the writer for the Battlecats short comic, “Not All Cats Go to Heaven.” I’m
excited to be playing in this universe, and that I get to leave a little thumbprint on its
worldbuilding with Riccardo.
Riccardo: I did the pencils and inks for the short story “Not All Cats Go To Heaven”, set in the “Battlecats” universe
Marco: Battlecats, this project was the turning point in my career as a colorist.
Q: Which Battlecats character would you say you resonate with the most?
Keith: Maybe not resonated with, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Darkats. I’m fond of
stories with dark foils for the protagonists to wrestle with; for the Justice League to face
the Legion of Doom.
Riccardo: I feel like I owe a lot to Keltan, the leader of the original Battlecats, because he was the main focus of the short story I’ve submitted for the 2022 “Talent Search”. I also love his design by Mike Camelo, and in my submission I tried to give him my own take but at the same time I did my best to keep all the elements that make him such a badass character.
Marco: AQUINAR, the Cleric.
Q: What does your creative process look like, and where do you draw inspiration from?
Keith: I spend a lot of time working out a story mentally—figuring out what themes will
dominate, how the characters will challenge each other, and overall brainstorming the
larger aspects of the story.
Once I’ve worked those out, or I’m stymied by the roadblocks that arise, I turn to
the page, where I most often figure out what the story’s actually about. This short comic
is a prime example. My first story pitch was much darker, with moral and thematic
ambiguities. It wasn’t until I sat down with the editorial notes and had written the first few
pages of script that it came together.
As for inspiration: it comes from everywhere, and most often without warning.
That capriciousness is what’s leant it a quasi-mythical demeanor. The apple hitting
Newton’s head, the ringing cry of “Eureka!” The trick with inspiration isn’t unlike
love—you’ll find it when you open yourself up to it.
Riccardo: Even if I’ve been drawing on paper my entire life, in 2022 I moved to a full digital workflow, mainly to keep up with the tight deadlines of the US comic book market. At first I used Photoshop, but recently I switched to Clip Studio and I find it to be way more helpful when it comes to drawing a comic page. I use a pen tablet – not a pen display like many of my colleagues, ’cause I spend almost my entire waking life drawing, and I realize my posture has greatly improved since I no longer have to look down at the display screen.
My main goal when I draw is also the thing I struggle with the most, which is to keep a good drawing pace and hit my deadlines. That’s why, when I draw a page, I try to move to the (digital) inking phase as soon as I can, even if my pencils are still pretty rough. I think young artists (myself included) tend to underestimate how important it is to draw quickly, especially if you’re working on a monthly publication. This is why, these days, I try to plan my pages with my timing constraints in mind – an art that I haven’t yet mastered.
I have a ton of artists that I draw inspiration from, but among those that are most active in the current US comic scene, Dan Mora and Jorge Jimenez are the ones I admire the most.
Marco: Good coffee and good music.
Q: As a winner of Mad Cave Studios’ annual Talent Search, do you have any advice to aspiring creatives?
Keith: While the IP may change depending on the year’s submission requirements, a
good rule of thumb is to be sure you are writing for those characters and that world, not
despite it. An important skill to demonstrate is that you can match the tone, style, and
themes for an existing IP; that you can establish, reinforce, and develop
characterization in a short space.
Riccardo: Beside the thing I’ve mentioned above about being fast, I’d say to make sure your foundations are very solid: if you want to be a comic book artist, you should at least master human anatomy, perspective and storytelling. Composition, body language, face expressions and inking should also be considered a must. Also, be aware that nowadays, especially in the US market, the number of artists that draw digitally and ink their own pages is higher than ever – so maybe you should too.
The best way to learn these skills is to put them in practice: so start drawing comic pages as soon as you feel that your theory is solid enough, even if there are still a lot that you don’t know (there will always be). Your goal should be to build mileage: 100 good-enough pages have more to teach you than a single perfect page – so focus on drawing a lot instead of drawing good. Also remember that drawing a comic book page is a completely different beast than drawing in general, so draw PAGES. Even better: draw pages IN SEQUENCE.
Ideally, you should practice by working on a real project, because it helps you build the mindset of a true professionist. I know, when you’re just a beginner the big publishers might be out of reach – but lucky enough there are a lot of other opportunities out there: from small Indie Publishers who accept unsolicited submissions to young talented writers who are looking for someone to draw their crowdfunded project. I know countless Facebook groups and subreddits where young creators can meet and build a team. And if you can’t find anyone who’s willing to work with you (which I doubt, especially if you’re not too picky about your page rate), just create your own project and draw it. Or draw one of the hundreds of scripts that are available for free on the Internet.
Beside the practice, focus on building connections. Like it or not, this is an industry where knowing people can be as helpful as being good. If you have a reputation of always meeting your deadlines, being dedicated, and being someone people enjoy working with – then there’s no reason these people shouldn’t feel confident to mention your name when an opportunity arises.
Finally, just remember that hard work always pays off. So, more than anything else, make sure to periodically ask yourself “Am I working hard enough?”.
Marco: In January 2022, I sent my portfolio to MADCAVE through instagram, without getting any responses and I believe that due to the demand for messages and projects it would be difficult to even get a response, but I always had hope. I really wanted to have an opportunity because I thought the projects were amazing to follow on social media. In April I entered the site and a banner appeared “Mad Cave Studios’ annual Talent Search”, in the meantime I had prepared many samples and sent them. And when I received the email saying that I had been awarded this opportunity, it was the greatest happiness in the world. So having constancy, focus and dedication were important factors for me.
Q: Any projects or events on the horizon that we should be looking out for?
Keith: I have a short comic with Sarah Stern in the wonderful LGBT+ anthology Sharp
Wit and the Company of Women, published by Extra Pages Press, as well as upcoming works in my ongoing collection of short comics called The Usual Choices, which can be
found at www.theusualchoices.com.
Riccardo: I have two projects coming to Kickstarter this fall, and a third one early next year. I publish regular updates about them on my socials, especially Instagram. I also have a graphic novel coming out next year by an Italian publisher – funny enough, this will be my first comic in my own language.
Marco: Today I’m part of LEGO’s colorist board, like many projects (Star Wars, Lego City, Avengers) done and about to be published. But with a special space reserved for MADCAVE.
TALES FROM THE CAVE
Writers: David Hazan, Keith Frady, and Rachel Pinnelas
Artists: Shane Connery Volk, Riccardo Cecchi, and Marco Pelandra
Colorists: Luca Romano, Marco Tortella, and Marcello Iozzoli
Letterers: Justin Birch, Renato Quiroga and Andriy Lukin
Synopsis: Just in time for Halloween, Mad Cave Studios is proud to present readers three treats: a spooky Nottingham story from Hazan, Volk, Romano, and Birch; a Battlecats “tail” featuring teenage felines tempting fate; and a Hunt. Kill. Repeat. battle over technology.
Fans of all three worlds are given “pumpkin” to talk about with stories crafted by MCS Talent Search winners from past to present.!
Be sure to check out the Battlecats side-story, Not All Cats Go To Heaven, by author Keith Frady, artist Riccardo Cecchi, colorist Marco Pelandra, and letterer Renato Quiroga in Tales From the Cave, available September 27th, 2023!
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