How Mike Costa Made Me The Man I Am – Jai Nitz On Hellina

Jai Nitz writes,

Some years ago at San Diego Comic Con, my friend Zander Cannon introduced me to an up-and-coming comic book writer. This writer was living in LA, writing comics full time, and complaining about it. Meanwhile, I was living in Kansas, barely scraping a comic writing career together, and living as a pauper. I thought this writer was a loud-mouthed jerk. His name was Mike Costa.

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Many years later, 2012, I was at MorrisonCon in Las Vegas. It was a unique gathering of the best-known comic creators in the world. Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jason Aaron, Jim Lee, Robert Kirkman, and Jonathan Hickman just to name a few. My pal Alex Grecian and I attended, and the promoter of the show called us "celebrity attendees" because (by this time) I was working full-time as a comic book writer. I was writing titles at Dark Horse and Dynamite and things were going very well for me. There was a regular old comic con going on that weekend in Las Vegas that was unaffiliated with MorrisonCon. So one night a lot of the pros from that con came over and mingled with the pros at MorrisonCon. There I met a comic book writer who was a guest at the other con. He was funny, charming, and humble. We were on the same page as creators and people. We ended up hanging out most of the night and really connecting as friends and peers. His name was Mike Costa.

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A few weeks ago I got an email from Mike. He told me that the people at Boundless were looking for new writers and he wanted to know if it was okay to give them my name. I told him of course it was. This wasn't the first email of this kind. Mike has always looked out for me when it came to extra work. He's a busy guy, writing for TV shows and monthly books at Marvel Comics, and a lot of stuff crosses his plate that he can't do for a myriad of reasons. When that happens, I get an email. But this one was different. This wasn't a book he was turning down; instead this was an offer to get me in alongside him. Mike was doing a Boundless book, Belladonna, and quite happy about it. He'd told me about his research and his take. I was excited for him and eager to check out the book. Boundless wanted to expand their line and bring in new writers. They asked Mike for suggestions. Mike knew I'd go the extra mile. I'd do my research and put my heart into it and write a book I was proud of (and, hence, one Boundless would be proud of).

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So I got an email from William Christensen of Boundless Comics. I'd met him once years before at an old Chicago Comic Con after-party. He was a nice enough guy, but the way creators spoke about him was purely reverential. He was all about comics (not movies or toys or games or alternative revenue streams). He was all about creators (hire the best writers, hire the best art talent, let them do their thing). He was all about communication (pay on time, lucid editorial notes, find the best solution). Guess what? He's all of those things. He asked me to revive the old property, Hellina. He challenged me to come up with a new take that could be the springboard for an ongoing series, but deliver a solid complete story in the first three issues. I took a crack at a few pitches and approaches. One bit I wrote stuck out to William and became the tagline for this new direction and the foundation of our story: Heaven and Hell battled for millennia. Hell won. From there, the rest of the arc fell into place. Hellina is one of Hell's adjudicators; she polices the monsters of Earth. But if she gets called in, pretty much everyone involved is dead; they just don't know it yet. The pitch combined my horror sensibilities (I won the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for my comic Heaven's Devils) along with the action of Judge Dredd and the mythology of Lucifer/Sandman. I was excited to get writing.

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William wanted to show his support for the project by bringing on one of his best artists, Gabriel Andrade. I did my due diligence and dug up as much of Andrade's work as possible. Holy cow. This guy could draw anything. He could draw fights and action. He could draw quiet character moments. He could draw dogs and cars. He could draw demons and ray-guns. He had a full tool box just waiting to be tapped. Getting Hellina pages back from Gabriel was a real treat. I was grinning from ear to ear, and I know the readers will too.

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Boundless Comics launched a Kickstarter for Hellina a few days ago, and the response was overwhelming. Seriously. I've never seen anything like it. I was informed the project launched, and by the time I went to bed that night the project was funded. Soon after, the stretch goals started falling like dominoes. Now Hellina is a guaranteed three-issue story thanks to the fan support. With a few days left to go (as of this writing) we're trying to hit our last stretch goal to increase the interior content and provide every fan with far more bang for their buck. Why is that important? Because so far William Christensen and Boundless Comics have lived up to their reputation: great comics, top creators, clear communication.

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The good news? I'm Jai Nitz, a comic book writer and professor from Kansas. I wrote the award-winning Dream Thief at Dark Horse Comics, and co-created El Diablo at DC Comics. I'm writing Hellina with the incredibly talented Gabriel Andrade handling the art. And thanks to your Kickstarter support, we're guaranteed three issues.

The better news? I'm going to be writing several new projects for Boundless Comics. Announcements for them will be coming soon. But for right now I'm doing my best to make every page of Hellina worthy of your commitment as fans.

The best news? This is all thanks to William Christensen and Mike Costa. Both of whom will be bringing you Belladonna in the coming months.

Thanks for your support and please check out Hellina #1.

Jai Nitz

Lawrence, Kansas

December, 2015

Boundless is a sister company to Avatar Comics, owners of Bleeding Cool.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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