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Creator Interview – Nick Marino and Daniel Arruda Massa, Creators of Holy F*cked

We had a chance to chat with Nick Marino and Daniel Arruda Massa, the writer and artist, respectively, on the comic books Holy F*ck and Holy F*cked. Things got a little goofy in this interview, but I tried to keep us focused as much as I could. Here’s what they had to say:


Can you start by telling us about yourselves as comics creators? Have you always wanted to make comics?

Holy F*cked #3 cover art by Daniel Arruda Massa
Holy F*cked #3 cover art by Daniel Arruda Massa

Nick: I think I’ve always wanted to make comics – I’ve always wanted to make them. I got into comics very young, so I don’t remember all the details. My earliest memories are buying comics at the supermarket with my parents. I always remember cartooning, even though I don’t draw so much anymore. Now, I make comics.

Daniel: I started making comics about twelve years ago or something, when I was like ten. That’s the first time I got published in an independent comics magazine. Since then I’ve mostly been doing small press and stuff like that.

What can you tell us about your series Holy F*ck and Holy F*cked?

Nick: It’s a sacrilicious action comedy about this nun named Maria, who teams up with Jesus and Satan to stop this horde of mythological deities. It was something I originally thought I wanted to do as a story called The Bible 2, which is maybe a little bit more of a movie parody than what it ended up turning into. I found a fantastic collaborator, Daniel Arruda Massa, and we sorta rebuilt it into what it became, and I’m pretty stoked about it. So the first book finished up in the Spring, and you can pick that up as a trade, and now the second book is releasing, it’s in shops. (Editor’s note: you can get the first three issues digitally on ComiXology).

Did your independent work help you get to where you’re at now, publishing comics through Action Lab?

Nick: I kinda had to learn. Some people can kinda jump full into it, but I wasn’t at a place in terms of my ability where I could just leapfrog small press and self-publishing and all that stuff. So I kinda trained myself, or as I would tell my family and friends, I gave myself a “graduate degree” in making comics by just making a lot of comics. Another metaphor I used the other day was that I stepped on every rung of the ladder to get the place I’m at now.

Does your process change when you are working through a publisher, rather than publishing independently?

Daniel: Technically it changes a little bit because you’ve got a little bit of an extra filter, but the way we work in particular, we try not to have it influence us too much.

Nick: I think it’s inevitable that it’s going to change some things. We completed our first volume (Holy F*ck) before we pitched it, so we didn’t have a publisher dictating the process. But, we really only made the sequel because the publisher asked for a sequel. Even though they didn’t tell us what to do, they maybe didn’t even read it before they published it – no, I’m just kidding, they did read it –

Daniel: At least the first issue as far as we know.

Nick: Yeah, haha. But they didn’t tell us what to do. They didn’t have any input in terms of the content or turn anything down. Except for covers – they have approval on all covers at Action Lab Danger Zone, our particular imprint. But we never would have made the book they way we made it if they hadn’t requested a sequel. So even though working with a publisher may not have changed the way we work on a page, it definitely changed our direction as creators.

Daniel: But we didn’t ask them like “what would you want to see in a sequel?” We just kinda started.

Nick: And our publisher is small, so it could all be totally different with a different style of publisher. With ours, there’s no like official employees or anything like that, it’s just a small collection of people who are just sort of pooling their resources to be a publisher, to be in comic shops, you know? You gotta get in the catalog, you gotta get yourself printed. You know, it’s a pain in the ass.

Do you have any plans to independently publish future books, or solicit them to another publisher?

Holy F*cked #1 interior art by Daniel Arruda Massa
Holy F*cked #1 interior art by Daniel Arruda Massa

Nick: I don’t know, it depends. We’re halfway through our next project after Holy F*cked, and we decided to just dive into it. It’s something totally different from Holy F*cked. Well, to us it’s totally different, I can’t speak for anyone else.

Daniel: In a way, it’s similar in tone. It won’t be a surprise that we made this book for most people, but other stuff in the book will be a surprise.

Nick: Well said. Yeah, it all depends on what the publishers want to do. We’ll be pitching to them.

So you wouldn’t publish it independently, by Kickstarting it or something like that?

Daniel: We’re not opposed to it. If for some reason no one would want to publish our next book but we’re really into it, then of course that’s an option. If we wanna do something we’ll do it by any means necessary, pretty much. Including murder.

Nick: I’m not against self-publishing, certainly –

Daniel: Or murder.

Nick: No, I’m not against murder either. *laughs* I’ve certainly done a lot of both in the past. Wait. I can’t be incriminated by this, can I?

Daniel: Not if we say it’s a joke.

Nick: Riiiight, I’m joking. Just joking. So I’ve done my fair share of self-publishing, years of it, but I just got a little burned out on dealing with printing and other issues. Right now I’m enjoying this opportunity to work with someone else who’s willing to print and pay for that aspect of it.

Daniel: I like that as well.

Nick: I think Daniel would probably be a little bit more into it than me, but he’s in Europe, and that changes things, since we’re typically aiming our stuff at the North American comics market.

Daniel: Yeah I like the idea, but the amount of effort it takes to put together a package or anything, especially since I’m on the other side of the world pretty much. I’m not looking forward to that effort.

What advice do you have for new comics creators?

Daniel: Make comics.

Nick: Give up now. No, I mean, have fun. Don’t worry about your finished product, don’t worry about your image, don’t worry about whatever. You’re not gonna make money in comics for a while. We’re talking years. I couldn’t give you an exact number because I’m still trying to figure out when I’ll start making money at it. *laughs* So just f*cking have fun, and learn to love the process of making comics. I wish somebody had told me that, because I was like “oh, if I hate making comics, at least I’ll love the book at the end,” but that’s actually not enough to keep you going.

Daniel: Some stuff I’ve worked on I’ve certainly hated until the end.

Nick: You hate Holy F*cked, don’t you?

Daniel: Possibly.

Nick: Just say it now. Just say it baby, just do it.

Daniel: I holy f*cking hate it. *laughs*

Nick: Way to give away the name of the third one.

Daniel: What’s the third one? “Holy F*cking?”

Nick: Yeah.

Daniel: I like that. We should write that down.

Nick: It’ll be a choose your own adventure, that’s why it’s an “ing.”

Do you think independent publishing is the way to go for new creators, or should they try to approach a publisher directly?

Holy F*cked #1 interior art by Daniel Arruda Massa
Holy F*cked #1 interior art by Daniel Arruda Massa

Nick: There’s no wrong answer to that.

Daniel: Either works. It kinda depends on your personality and stuff I guess.

Nick: I actually feel that unless you’re coming out of a school where you learned cartooning, and your sh*t is just the tits, you should probably self-publish a bit first. This is what I’ve been saying to people who ask me about starting out in comics: Let’s get real – how many people’s first project is just amazing and blows you away? Most of the time you gotta kinda work out the kinks. Your first few books might be just okay, or they might even suck, and that’s okay. Mine certainly did. Instead of going to a publisher and saying, “hey, here’s the first thing I ever did, It sorta sucks, but I don’t wanna publish it,” you should probably print it up yourself. Learn that aspect of the business – because it’s valuable to learn every part of the business – and then start seeking a publisher once you’re objective enough that you can say, “okay, I’ve reached that level of quality where a publisher will want this, I can tell.”

Daniel: It might sound weird from the market perspective in the U.S., but in Holland I’m actually working toward self-publishing. The biggest artists in Holland, they work at publishers until they have a name enough that they can make money without a publisher in the middle.

Nick: So it’s like prestigious to self-publish.

Daniel: In a way. If it’s just like small press level then it isn’t, but the biggest artists here, they stop, because it’s like “I have a big name, everybody’s gonna buy my book anyway, why would I go through a publisher?

Nick: But they still have to have a distributor and stuff like that, right?

Daniel: Yeah but there’s like literally one dude who is the distributor. Literally, in Holland, the Dutch distributor guy is like one guy.

One last note: How did you two meet and start working together?

Daniel: On a dating website.

Nick: Yeah, we were on … I don’t know any of the sex websites.

Daniel: I can Google it … I think the joke is up now.

Nick: Yeah…. It’s too late. Anyway, I used to podcast, and I was talking about  a story called The Bible 2, which I mentioned earlier, and I was like no one’s going to want to work with me on this story. Daniel heard the episode, and he left a comment that said “I’d draw that.” *laughs* And then he did. We tested a few pages together, and we thought it might work, and then we plotted everything together, and it did work.

Daniel: So my tip to every writing out there: Just say crazy shit on podcasts. Somebody might like it.

Holy F*ck and Holy F*cked are currently available on comiXology.


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About the author

Caleb Palmquist

Caleb is a freelance writer living in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida. He loves comics and science fiction, and he won't ever shut up about either. Writing about his passions is a dream come true.

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