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DJ by Day, Hero by Night

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Winning the Platinum Studios and NBC 7/39-hosted and first-ever Comic Book Challenge, DJ Coffman has no one to thank except his fans, and above all, himself. After all, it was his hard work -- from initial concept all the way to the written, pencilled and colored page, and, ultimately, his strong pitch last Thursdaythat made the Challenge's team of judges select DJ and his creation Hero By Night as one of the final three finalists. Coffman's fan-following did the rest.

BROKEN FRONTIER: How excited are you about having won the comic book challenge?

DJ COFFMAN: I'm stoked. Never in a million years did I think I'd be back to doing a Hero comic or even attempting the effort seriously.

BF: Still, you took the challenge to heart and it paid off! You even stuck around for most of the day. As you overheard other people's pitches, did you think your own was up to par with some of the better ones?

DJC: I left for a short while and came back and finished out the rest of the day. It was actually interesting listening to the feedback these big names were giving. Honestly, I went up and did my pitch, they all seemed impressed and gave me some feedback and then everyone clapped—so I sat in for the next few and couldn't hear very well, but heard Oliver Jones from People really digging into someone, so I thought... WHEW! I must have done well!

I also had an inner geek out moment when Marc Silvestri said he was impressed by the pitch sheet and that I did it all. There were a few pitches I thought could be solid and competition for me, but they didn't make the cut.

BF: I take it you were impressed by the overall level of talent that entered the Challenge then?

DJC: Yeah, there were so many good ideas I heard passing around through the day. I think the pitch was the important part though. You could have the BEST idea ever and pitch it wrong. And you can pitch a totally bad idea and make it sound GREAT. At least that's what I was getting a vibe about.

BF: Very true indeed, how you pitch is of prime importance! Did you spend much time practising yours?

DJC: Well, I had only 7 days to put it all together, what you see at www.djcoffman.com, including the mock ring. I waited until Monday before the contest to REALLY memorize everything. I was memorizing the pitch in my head, boiling it down and taking out unnecessary info all the time. Like, it wasn't important WHERE in the apartment Jack found the hidden lair, just that he found it, you know?

Then the night before my flight, my kids caught me practicing to stuffed animals, and they all laughed at me. So, I made them sit down and be the judges, but they kept laughing at me, and making the stuffed animals make noises. I told them... "Look guys, Marc Silvestri is NOT going to be playing with a talking bear and laughing while I talk to him!" hah.... but I think it helped practicing with… distractions. 

BF: Did your kids have a clue as to who Marc Silvestri was, really? Are they into comics as much as their brave dad?

DJC: No, they have no idea. They are 8, 9 and 5, and my oldest JUST started reading comics; mostly G.I. JOE and stuff. It really did melt my mind when I made something that they were excited about. They know Dad draws Llamas and things on fire a lot, but when they saw this—WOW. They've been bugging me to do it for years. So, they were excited. And they want that ring!

BF: Speaking of Silvestri, was his opinion the one you valued the most?

DJC: Well, he was the first one to talk to me when I was handing out the sheet. But really, I thought the whole exchange with the judges was great. I KNEW the first question would be: “what does Hero By Night do by day?” so I had that all figured out. Actually, since I'm a comic nerd at heart, I have the next 5 years of Hero By Night figured out! [Laughs].

I felt like there wasn’t a story question they could ask, that I couldn’t intelligibly answer. So, it was more than just giving your pitch.. I knew that. I knew they'd ask questions. You had to think about that too so you didn't fumble around

BF: Indeed! And you did a great job at that! Let’s move on to the premise of the book. For those who weren't at the Comic Book Challenge last Thursday, what is Hero By Night all about?

DJC: In a nutshell, it's about a young man named Jack King who discovers an entry way to a secret lair of a super hero who had disappeared in the 1950s and left all retro stuff behind. Now Jack has to decide whether he's going to sell this stuff off and make a mint, or once he discover that the ring has powers... does he become a hero or use the ring? Pretty much, the decisions he makes drag him down a path where he HAS to make the choice.

I had also envisioned there being a daily webcomic with stories of the old Hero By Night taken from his nightly journals, so people could follow along online every day for free and get hooked, then buy the books, which would be with the new guy and the discovery and unravelling the mystery.

That’s how I was going to do it myself before on my own.

BF: So, the project started germinating in your head well before the Comic Book Challenge existed?

DJC: Yeah, I think it was 2003. I thought about launching it as a webcomic, but decided on the humor strip instead.

BF: Now that you've won the CBC, where does this put your other projects? Presumably, Hero By Night will now become your primary focus...

DJC: Well, I'm just going to be busier! We already had some deals in the works that I can't back out of now. I'm doing a poker webcomic called Life's a Bluff and we just signed a big sponsor for the month of August, Titan Poker, and I'll be doing Monday-Wednesday-Friday updates in August for sure. And then... Yirmumah continues on.

Yirmumah is pretty much ME. And I already made a contract with my fans that I would draw it until I was dead, and it's going back to more autobiographical territory with some humor mixed in. However, now that Hero By Night has won this thing, YES, as soon as Platinum says "JUMP", I'll ask "HOW HIGH!?" It'll be my laser beam focus.

I'm lucky that I don't have a day job anymore and Yirmumah has provided me with a little side money. Heck, it got me out there in a pinch! So I love Yirmumah. I love the fans and the work. And they're all excited about Hero By Night too! It's great!

BF: How much do you feel your fan support was responsible for winning this thing?

DJC: Well, getting into the top 50, let alone the top 3, was HUGE in itself. But once it was open to public voting, I think it really did help. All the hard work I've put in paid off. Actually, I think the Lesbian Pirates comic by Megan Rose came in second, and she's got a webcomic too.

All of this is really saying something for webcomics. It feels good.

BF: Why did you decide to enter the contest with a superhero story? Did you think it was a safe bet to opt for the most dominant genre in comics?

DJC: When I saw the contest, the logo, the sample graphics, I immediately thought HERO. And since I had Hero By Night, I figured this might be perfect. I was nervous though, because I thought maybe there's TOO many hero things out there, overkill.

Yet, when I was designing this, I specifically wanted to make it familiar AND different and fresh at the same time. So here's hoping on that one!  It has everything a comic book fan could want, I think.

BF: Ok. Bowing out, then, we have to know too: what does Jack do by day?

DJC: Well, Jack, the "new" guy, is one of those guys who got out of college with a fancy business degree but doesn't know what to do with it. His family owns these old tenement buildings and sort of gives him one to manage, but he didn't want to get into the family business… until you know, he found something under one of those tenement buildings! Heh.

All of a sudden, it seems like being a landlord of a broken down old building is the best job in the world!

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