Band of Bards with Tim Stolinski and Chris Benamati!

Today Renee is joined by Tim Stolinski and Chris Benamati from Band of Bards Comics!

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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas

Theme music by Ardus and Damn The Cow

Announcer: Nathaniel Perry

Tim Stolinski and Chris Benamati

Renee: [00:00:00] awkward. Face-time welcome back to spoiler country. Hey everyone. I’m Renee and today’s episode. We are joined by Tim Solinsky and Chris Ben Amati Tim and Chris are the brains behind band of bards, an independent publisher of comics and graphic novels telling uninstall untold stories that break the mold, including the new comic out now.

Final gamble. Hi guys. Welcome to spoiler country. How are you doing today?

Chris Benamati: Thanks for having us.

Tim Stolinski: Yeah.

Renee: I have to start you’re both in Dunn. You’re both from Dunkirk. Is that

Tim Stolinski: correct? I went

Renee: all the way back and you call it a forgotten town, but for those on those of us on the west coast, it’s like. It’s New York, but it’s actually closer to Cleveland and like Toronto than it is in New York and Boston, [00:01:00] which is just like, or New York city and Boston.

But it, it kind of boggles my mind being a west coaster. The idea of like, what is the Midwest? What, what is the east coast and how does Dunkirk fall into that? And how did that kind of like influence you guys?

Tim Stolinski: I think we’re still considered east coast, right? I mean, Eastern United States, Eastern United States.

Chris Benamati: I claim east coast. Right?

Tim Stolinski: I wouldn’t, I don’t want to claim Midwest.

Chris Benamati: No, I, you know what I was, I always scratch my head when people call Ohio the Midwest, because it’s like.

Tim Stolinski: Twice.

Chris Benamati: Yeah. It’s more like the great lakes region really than anything else. And. I would say your breasts, just calling us thrust belt babies. Cause like that’s the best way to think of, I think the Buffalo area in terms of reaction, [00:02:00]

Tim Stolinski: you can actually refer to us as Canada. We’re close enough. And right now it’s probably the better.

Chris Benamati: Yeah, it would always call me south Canadian.

Renee: I had, I, when I looked it up, I was definitely enthralled by how close it was to Toronto. And I thought, oh, I wonder if you guys went there a lot, because you talk about being in the punk scene growing up. Right. And that I’m, I’m imagining that maybe Dunkirk didn’t have the biggest punk scene, but maybe Toronto did or because international city, right?

Tim Stolinski: Yeah. It was weird growing up and I’m, I’m showing my, my roots. I got my little Asian man records for the young today, so I gotta, I gotta support my favorites, but I feel like, yeah, Google scholar, I didn’t even notice until now to dunker. We used to joke back in high school had more punk bands per capita than pizza parlors.

And then once a year, [00:03:00] There’s pizza parlors everywhere. So like, no matter where you go in Buffalo around the corner, there’s a pizza parlor. So there were a lot of bands. There was a, we had shows all the time, right? Like, yeah. And

Chris Benamati: then like all those shows at like the Legion hall or the VFW, they were great.

I can remember one where like somebody found a stolen shopping cart in the parking lot and we were riding around in it and like the driveway of the parking lot had a big drop off and everybody’s daring each other to like ride the cart and go off of it. So of course I was a dummy. Finally, he

Tim Stolinski: wasn’t able to do it.

I feel like I remember that

Chris Benamati: happening. Yeah. But I think I still have some of the things I want from doing that

Tim Stolinski: later on the stitch scar in the back of your head, there’s two many, but I think like we were, we had the more hardcore bands and then like Buffalo, we all thought was like, pop. And then we didn’t know what existed beyond that.


Chris Benamati: a couple of times that like a Pittsburgh [00:04:00] bang come up,

Tim Stolinski: I used to, you know, I’m 15, they were a Scott bands though. Yeah. I used to have I’m friends with Jeremy. He runs jumpstart records. He bumped

Chris Benamati: them through the lungs.

Tim Stolinski: Yup. Yup. Yvonne came through once. That was cool. That was random. And they played like what post 62?

Because some of you, huh?

Chris Benamati: I think they had shown Jamestown. They got canceled and we just happened to be having that local show. So they popped up and they like set up a merchant table and they’re like, all right. If we sell 250 bucks worth of Merteuil play,

Tim Stolinski: Those are the, those are the days that was a long time ago.

Renee: So you, you two obviously know each other really well. This is very clear. How has it been working together versus just being friends? Oh

Tim Stolinski: God. This should be fun. Can I go first?

Renee: Maybe, maybe it’s just like, you know, somewhere I do Dr. Phil moment where it’s like, well, let me tell you Renee, how it really is

Chris Benamati: going.

I’ll preface it by saying I’m the Dick out of the two of us

Tim Stolinski: is kind of a deck, but [00:05:00] I I do this thing and I’ve, I’ve done it all my life, but I do this thing where I will preemptively agree to things and then I will let them percolate for a week. And then out of nowhere, I’ll be like, yeah, I don’t know if I feel good about that.

And then yeah. Then we have talking or texting or getting annoyed, but even work it out. It’s you know, it’s a business, so there’s a little bit of give and take. And I don’t think either of us has been like, yo, you suck,

Chris Benamati: you know,

Tim Stolinski: can you do being in the mines?

Chris Benamati: Yeah. I mean, I think we have very complimentary skill sets for one thing.

So like, we don’t really step on each other’s toes very much. You know, if I really want to be annoying for, for no reason at all, I’ll start like criticizing Chris, his logo designs. Yeah. Yeah. That gets under his skin. But

Tim Stolinski: my graphic

Chris Benamati: designer, like I can’t [00:06:00] draw. So like, Chris is awesome with all the artistic stuff and you know, the web hosting, those kinds of things.

I handle a lot of like the financial stuff and like a lot of the marketing. And we just have like both in our work experience and in our educational backgrounds, like we just fill each other’s weaknesses. I won’t

Tim Stolinski: lie. If I did any of the finance stuff, we would be in big trouble.

Renee: You have complimentary skills, right. That. With running a business, you know, like, you know, each other’s strengths and weaknesses. How did band of bards? I mean, you’re really new publisher just founded this year. How did you, I mean, the idea was long coming, but how did you get to this point where you’re now sort of a full fledged publishing company

Chris Benamati: and he definitely read a lot of Bard blogs.

Tim Stolinski: Thank you for doing your research. [00:07:00] I appreciate it. It was a long time coming. Yeah.

Chris Benamati: Like, in fall 2016, they approached Chris who was doing as a webcam at the time about trying to develop like, what was initially conceived as in that profit or business to basically interview veterans, collect our oral history as to, along with the library of Congress national archives and excuse me, and then turn those stories into.

Yeah, graphic novel mythology. The whole premise, there was to give better authentic stories for like what military service and veteran life is like, because you basically get either the big, cool Navy seal commander type story, or a story about like a veteran. Who’s got always different problems and is homeless and has PTSD like a Rambo was right.

That’s how that at least how rainbow started off,

Renee: like every story about Vietnam vets.

Chris Benamati: Exactly. And, you [00:08:00] know, you’re, you’re dealing with in one case, something that represents like less than 1% of military service. And then the other hand, like just a disingenuous stereotype, that’s dangerous to veteran populations, but also just anybody who wants to talk about mental health and the healthy way.

So that’s a big problem. And I had obviously personal beef with that and how that was being, those were being represented in popular media. And this idea about the civil military divide is kind of more of an academic thing, any hear about it in those types of circles. And people have like a personal connection to that.

So that wasn’t anything. I got it. I wasn’t going to go after a PhD research, but I did think that it, something I could do for that would be to go down this kind of avenue and approach it from more of a popular media in a very accessible format for just greater consumption. Stimulate that conversation and thought and [00:09:00] the society and you know, for a lot of reasons, things kind of fills it out for us at that time.

It wasn’t the right time. You know, the concept itself needed to be thought through a little bit better. And during the pandemic, we just started talking about what we would do differently, how we could make it something that everyone, one thing would be self-sustaining and have more broader appeal.

And I don’t think either of us were really super comfortable with the whole idea of like starting a nonprofit organization and being like it weren’t charging, you know? So, that’s kind of evolved because we thought, you know, when we started thinking of. And really diving into like, what was the core of that original idea?

And it was about addressing a lack of authentic representation, but for like a super small niche and

Renee: you’re

Chris Benamati: right. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort time to just look around and see how the comments industry [00:10:00] fails in their ideas of giving representation to all their fans. And I, you know, it was very obvious that the problem I saw within my own little community was pretty freaking widespread.

And you know, why just attack this littlest issue? Why not use this like soap box that veterans have in America to address it in a broader way. And. Instead of lifting up this little bit of society lift up, you know,

Renee: and Chris, I’m curious, are you a veteran? I know. Okay. So, so what, what motivated you to get behind this project beyond, you know, was it just the friendship or,

Tim Stolinski: I mean, he and I, so at the time we really talked about this I don’t, I, it, it was hard for me to kind of get motivated.

Like I, I was in like neck deep into the web comic thing and you know, I had my own personal [00:11:00] issues to work through around that time, but I wanted to hear the idea out and I thought, I always thought it was a great idea because I thought I felt that that was important because I have a lot of friends that were in the military and a lot of veterans, especially from this terrific 20 year field war, you know, and, and you talk to them and, you know, after I talked to Tim about it, and I don’t remember where we met at a brewery or something, I just remember eating a giant plate of Mac and cheese.

And we, we, we talked through the idea and, you know, I started thinking about everybody that I had previously talked to because their stories don’t match up. And, you know, you hear, you have this kind of like glorified image of what it is. And I think after we talked to you had, you know, Got in my ear with it.

Unfortunately, like you said, it fizzled out, but it was always kind of there. We had, we had started working on it and the times that we would talk, we talk it be back and forth. It’d be briefly, but, you know, once we [00:12:00] really started rolling and had all this extra time in the pandemic, it just kind of just all fit together.

And I think that from my background, you know, art school and, and I went to college at Edinburgh university. I went for animation and graphic design, obviously not working for Disney like previously planned. But when we started talking about it again, it started to, it made more sense because it was.

Really the crux of it all is representation and inclusion. And all the people that I made friends with through college or growing up, or being in a band are all these, these different types of people that seem just in comics and not just in the stories, but in general, as far as like writing and drawing and coloring and all the different things that go into making a comic just seem not represented as well as they could be.

So I think it really picked up once we really had the [00:13:00] idea ironed out and I think not to not to discredit the original idea of what band in band of bards was going to be, because we do plan. Building on that later. Yeah, the, the under the underscore of the original idea is still there. We’re going to call it the a, it’s going to be a series called in your service where we’re going to explore that.

And we’re still going to be able to, to carry out the original, you know, mission and the idea behind it.

Renee: Nice. I was going to ask us like, oh, do you have any veterans projects coming up?

Chris Benamati: We have been starting to build like basically a guest list for you, the, in your service podcast. And we expected that actually to be what we’re doing right now.

And we were just really shocked when the submissions opened up and we got so many great projects that were high quality and some that were ready to go. And we’re like, no, we’ll just handle it just to play on it. Our focus is going to need to change because we can move a little bit faster on actual [00:14:00] publishing.

So, you know, in your servicing. We’ll probably get to that then in our little winter break that we’re going to have as we reassess how we did with Kickstarters and play in our initial fulfillments beat down the doors of distributors. So that’ll be coming. We just had to adjust our priorities and, you know, it’s important for us to still kind of always carry that original idea.

And, you know, while, you know, being in the nonprofit, wasn’t the right thing for us. It wasn’t the right way to establish a company, but we can still kind of follow through on the initial intent and work our way towards becoming like a benefit corporation, which people are really super familiar with that.

That’s like Tom’s or Patagonia, what things that they do, where there’s a lot, you kind of have the ability legally to be able to, instead of have. The responsibility [00:15:00] to distribute your profits, to whoever your shareholders are, whether you’re publicly traded or not. The benefit corporation allows you the legal attitude to take you know, so much of your revenue is and use that towards something that’s of a public good

Renee: by.

I feel like I’m really hearing the MBA degree come out there and I can see where the strengths are now, Tim, and I’m seeing this like strengths here you know, speaking of veterans and sort of, band of bards and how you’re trying to be more inclusive, right? The face of veterans, you know, primarily is white sort of CIS men, right?

I mean, it’s, you know what, 7,500. Y 80% male and our military. But one of the things that I really loved what you wrote, Tim said I recognized an intersection of what veterans experience along with many other social groups in [00:16:00] America. Moreover, the veteran population is composed of people from each of these groups.

And that’s not really talked about in certain circles. And I, I just really love that because. It is a group that we don’t talk about very often and equity and inclusion that like, especially with mental health, which I think is the one that most people recognize, but LGBTQ, right. Sort of all racial demographics, all abilities, right.

A lot of veterans are disabled or have other sorts of disabilities you know, sort of men, women, right. They’re like all genders. And I, I just really appreciated that because I saw how that tied to band of bards and your mission of being inclusive. And I’m going to push just a little bit because of that stigma of veterans and sort of like white dudes in comics, like also pretty represented area.

So I’m curious, like, [00:17:00] how are you, right? Like how are you to work? How are you to navigating that? I guess? Yeah.

Chris Benamati: Oh, I think a big part of it, you know, when we talk about intentional publishing and that probably sounds like a little bit buzzwordy and stuff, but, and that’s definitely something where you could ask anybody what the hell that means, and you get a different definition, but it’s the best short way for us to say that what we put out in, you know, the business practices that we’ll see from us.

Are not just can, you know, they aren’t thoughtless things, there’s intention and thought and planning into things that we do, right. Keith ledger will be coming to schemers. We’ve talked a lot about, you know, how someone might reconcile the things they’re seeing written out on the Bard blog on social media.

And then when they see our pictures and we don’t say, [00:18:00] please be skeptical because there are plenty of freaking Grifters out there who would try to like, just cash in on thinking that this is a great

Renee: thing.

Chris Benamati: different corporations who will, you know, want to see, you know, you’re not going to see us put the right, you know, the right kind of colored picture up at the right time for the right month soon, you know, We’re going to celebrate pride 12 months out of the year, we are not just going to talk about black history in February.

We’re not just going to focus on women’s some stories in March. Like this is just who we are. And part of it is we need the time to build a history and the track record to just show people like, eventually you don’t need to listen to me blabbing about what we’re going to do and what we are as a company.

You’re just going to be able to see a whole string of actions that, [00:19:00] you know, at the end of the day, it’s deed over word, over word. So

Renee: let your actions speak.

Chris Benamati: Yeah. But the other part of that, I like, I appreciate what you highlighted there because I think what drives me on to that is the fact that like, you gotta get beyond the superficial things.

You. In these different groups and what people would initially assume when you think about the military is just a bunch of like usually right, right wing or right leaning guys that look like me and are all fitting in a pre-made nice box. Right. And part of that, because of the way we trade, either in popular media or the loud mouth bastards to get on the news all the time, talking about how they’re the ones who shop on louder, you know, the Navy seals that get out there and are the most vocal people do not do a lot justice to the rest of our community.

So the passion [00:20:00] for driving and very authentic stories that give best representation to different populations stems from that. And the resentment that I have over. The loud, obnoxious guys, the commodity veteran community, and can skew the perception for all of us and make it an uphill battle for all of us to claim.

Renee: Yeah. And I think the ladder, oftentimes the louder you are, the less you have to back it up. I find, you know what I mean? So, Chris, what are your thoughts on all this?

Tim Stolinski: You know, this is where I tried to form coherent thoughts and I always mess up. I think I’m at the beginning of all of this, we, I, you know, Tim and myself recognize we have, we inherently have a lot to prove.

Right. And I’ve always kind of tried to put my best foot forward as far as where I come from and understanding where I’ve been, because.[00:21:00]

I just remember growing up in you’re in, you’re in this tiny little town in Dunkirk, New York, which, you know, they throughout history with an urban renewal plan and, and all these different things, you know, segregated the city and where certain people are allowed to live and where they’re not. And I grew up in, I’m not going to say a racist household, but you know, racism all around me coming, going, coming up through high school and you know, That Tim knows it’s a

Chris Benamati: kind of bite my tongue.

Yeah. I

Tim Stolinski: just, it was so frustrating growing up and none of us are perfect. And when you look back or when I looked back and I realized that there are times where I should have said something, or I should have done something differently [00:22:00] because I didn’t agree with what was happening around me and I chose not to do it.

And that’s, that’s my privilege, right? To just say, oh, I don’t have to worry about this stuff. But I was also young. I was also, this is, you’re talking about a 16, 17 year old kid doesn’t know any better or who is going to get his ass kicked if he did open up his mouth because I was a little back then now I’m like you, but 38 year old guy with an opinion.

But you know, as, as I, as I grew up and my mouth got bigger, I started to complain more and. Okay. In separate from that. And in retrospect, and looking back at w I honestly wish I had done it sooner, you know, and this is,

I never agreed with any of that stuff and the growing up, and it was difficult. And I, you know, I went to art school and I experienced a lot of different things. You know, when I was in college and met people, I would’ve never [00:23:00] met if I had, I stayed in Dunkirk, New York and you know, it can happen. We say that those ass backwards opinions that I grew up around were completely wrong.

And but you know, nowadays you still see it and you see it everywhere. And it’s, to me, it’s frustrating. Yeah. Part of the reason jumping into this and with the, the mission and the message that we’re trying to convey is that, you know, I, I grew up in and listening to the dead Kennedys and bad religion and all these different punk bands and, you know, those, those values and those ideas have stuck with me over the years, even if they didn’t stick with, you know, the bands of band members themselves.

Right. And I just, I I’m, I’m not ever going to sit back and. But someone be treated poorly again.

Renee: And I think a lot of us, right. May, you know, especially if a certain age, [00:24:00] sorry, I won’t say how old that is. Maybe we didn’t know better, like you said, but I think something that I always resonate with is like once, you know, better do better.

Right. And, and I think a lot of us are coming to that point, especially, you know, as you see social movements, grill and people learning and some people, you know, sort of actively push away from it. For sure. I definitely see that, but I see, I also see a lot of I’m very optimistic. So I’m like, how is see a lot of hope because there’s like all these movements that are organizing and the, the fact that like, you know, people, you know, have yard signs that maybe one of even ever said things before, you know, I see, I see optimism there.

One of the phrases that comes up a lot with your company band of bards is the idea of comics doing good or yeah. Comics doing good. And I’m [00:25:00] curious, because for me, I think of art as being very transformative and having the power to change. Do you think, and I say art music, I put all of that. How do you think comics has that power?

And, and, or do you even think that comics has the power to change? Mine’s

Chris Benamati: the best storytelling medium with,

Tim Stolinski: yeah, I, so that’s what I think. I think that there’s so much you can do with comics that You would, you would think with the amount of people that complain about you know, these types of changes in comics and inclusion and, and, and all that stuff.

They complain a lot on the internet, whether it’s like a select five people. Yeah. Make a hundred thousand fake profiles and just keep complaining about it.

Renee: That’s the ration box. I tell you Russia. Russia.

Tim Stolinski: Yeah. It’s something you, you think that they’re, they’re a bigger population, but you think comics would have come [00:26:00] a bit further than they are at this point.

So I think for me, it’s, it’s pushing it to the limit as far as it’ll go. It’s it’s about time.

Chris Benamati: There’s a long history of being centered around social justice and, you know, the kind of things that more people would call woke.

Tim Stolinski: Yep. We got called woke a couple of weeks ago. Nice. All the time we haven’t talked to,

Renee: you know, you’re doing something right.

When someone uses that against you. Right.

Chris Benamati: Well, let me say it’s the ultimate storytelling medium. Something that the accessibility cannot be matched, right? Because people of all ages will pick up comics. People of all ages will not pick up poetry or regular prose

Tim Stolinski: or a history book,

Chris Benamati: form novels, and after your books, and I wish more people would, but that just doesn’t the reality.

And that’s not enough to on any kind of other medium. It’s just [00:27:00] the accessibility is there with comics, right? And comics are a way that a lot of people start reading and start liking to read, you know, at a young age and what you get when you marry the pros, narration, and dialogue in a comic and the gorgeous artwork that comes along with the comic, you handed belly to make an emotional connection with the reader that is just unmatched.

And part of it too, is that. A person reading a thick novel, you know, or reading Moby Dick, you’re devoting so much of your energy to try and to imagine the scene as Melville was imagining it. And you’re worried, am I seeing what he saw when he was writing these words and that’s kind of distracting, right.

And in a comic, you don’t have that. You’ve got it right there. Right? I mean, I guess a cynical person could say it’s a simplified version, but [00:28:00] like

part of the great thing about it is it, it Slims down what you have to be thinking about, and it allows you to have greater focus on the story itself and the artwork involved and getting connected with those characters that you see in the panels. You just can’t get that with anything else.

Tim Stolinski: So beautiful.

Got away with the word stunning.

Renee: Yeah. I was much better than me. Why is where it’s 10? Well, Thinking about comics, you both have talked about your love of comics. Was there a comic that was that sort of transformative moment for either of you? Did you have a comic growing up or maybe later in life where you read it?

And it was like, whoa, this is, I know for me it was lumber Janes, for [00:29:00] example, because I find, I know it’s for like young people, but it was finally a story that I felt like represented who I was. And I had never seen that. Especially being female, especially sort of being in the LGBTQ community. I definitely was like, what is this comic that finally captures what I want to see in my stories?

And that was huge for me. And I also bat woman I’ll give nods to bad women too, but it, you know, I remember, I didn’t think comics was for me for a really long time until I read those comics. And now I’m huge comic lover, but was there one for either of you that really sort of shaped your love of comics or who you are Chris feelings to you?

Like you’re like, yes.

Tim Stolinski: That’s, that’s the mission though, right? Like that is. Like, I think like Tim and I continue to [00:30:00] just say that, that like anybody should be able to walk into a comic shop and look for a book that they can see themselves in. Right. And like that’s awesome. But I I’m trying to think of something and I, I, oh my gosh,

Renee: you loved how about that?

Maybe it’s like a con I read Archie comics as a kid. I also loved Archie.

Tim Stolinski: My first, my first comic book that I ever got was like a, like a DC. It was like a multi-story like comic book. It was only like 20, a regular 24 page floppy. But I remember there being a swamp thing comic. I remember there being dark night comics. Yeah. I remember there being I think it was like Huntress or something and my dad got it for me, weirdly enough. From the supermarket back in comics were in supermarkets.

And like that was when I fell in love with comics, which is weird because that’s so long ago, but it’s [00:31:00] ingrained in my head. Right. Just like I remember looking through the pages and I was like, wow, swamp thing is like the coolest thing ever, like literally a thing from a swamp. Like this is so cool. I don’t know.

I was like six. I was like five or six at the time, you know? And I remember it and I don’t know.

There’s so there’s so much, but more recent, not, not super recent, but within like the west like eight, seven to eight years. Indie indie comics, you kind of get into it. And a lot of the indie comic companies like, you know, like TKO and scout, haven’t been around that long. But back at the beginning of Kickstarter and it was one of the first Kickstarters that I ever found of an indie comic, which is what actually pushed me to start my own web comic back then is an illustrator writer named Jason.

Brewbaker not that Jason [00:32:00] Brewbaker, but a lesser known Jason Brewbaker and he had a graphic

Renee: novel, but Jason brew bakers are there out there.

Tim Stolinski: There’s only like a thousand bird bakers, and they’re all in comics weirdly enough. But he wrote he wrote a great comic, a great series called remind and it’s about this woman and her cat.

And at some point, the cat gets this robot too. It’s, it’s very steampunk and there’s lizard people in it. And the art is gorgeous. I mean, the guy, basically, he, he drew everything posted online as a web comic. And then I don’t know, some, 160 pages later ran a Kickstarter and turned it into a book. And, and at that point, you know, 7, 7, 8 years ago, I’m like, this is like groundbreaking that you could even do this.

Like number one, he’s hosting his own comics. He’s doing everything by himself, including self publishing it for people to [00:33:00] look at for free. They can just get it if they want to get it, look at it. And then, but then he runs a Kickstarter and then publishes it. I have dig it out. And unfortunately, all my stuff is still in boxes.

I’ve been in this house for three years, but I’ll all my important stuff is to move boxes, come no shelves or anything to put it on, but it’s this, it’s this great hard cover book. And there’s two volumes and I got the first volume and I’m just blown away because he uses in, you know, instead of like real flats, he picks, he picks a color pallet that he’ll stick with per, you know, per page or, or any number of pages.

And did this really great layering technique with With like hand done brushstrokes. So you’d take acrylic paints, watercolors and stuff like that would paint on paper. Why didn’t dry obviously. Cause that would make a mess if he didn’t and he’d scan them in, digitize it and then layer them on over the colors.

And it, it was, it was beautiful. [00:34:00] So I’m just like, this is an amazing book. And if this is something that you can do as an artist these days, and that’s what I want to do. So that, that was kind of my moment to like kind of push it. So he started a publishing company at that point. Coffee table comics.

And he’s got a, he’s got a bunch of different graphic novels now, but I just remember his first Kickstarter for the first book raised like $15,000. And I was like, wow, that’s super good. And my 50 bucks for the book is part of that. Then like a year, year and a half later, he goes to a volume two and starts to kickstart for that and goes over $80,000.

It’s like this guy’s a nut. Not that like financial greatness is any sort of achievement, but that’s the following that he built from the bare minimum grassroots at that point, Kickstarter was barely a thing at that time. It definitely didn’t have the the kind of support that you know, we’re experiencing now.

So [00:35:00] it’s, it’s just. You know, seeing his book succeed and seeing his idea succeed is I think the motivating part to get me to jump back in, I had right. Very cool. The seeding it, and you know, you could do that. Yeah. Going to college for art and then. You know, I have a, I recently published a blog about my own struggles, my own mental health stuff with, with stuff that happened to me in college.

And I like imposter imposter syndrome. Yeah. Oh my gosh,

Renee: that art teacher, I was like, I was seriously like, who does that guy think he is? And I work, I work at a college and I tell my students all the time. I’m like, it is so crucial to get the right teacher and the right for the right subject. Because if you get one bad teacher, it can screw you over [00:36:00] forever.

And then I read. This is what I’m talking about. And it’s

Tim Stolinski: a, you know, that, that thing that followed me around for decades and you know,

Renee: I had the band of bar blocks for those of you who want to know the backstory of the story,

Tim Stolinski: we’re trying it. I think with that, we’re trying to be really upfront and transparent, you know?

We’re, we’re normal people and have our own little quirks and, and issues too. But like with, even with that you know, it was hard like that whole time, you know, I’m, I’m going between mediums like photography and then back to art, but it always came back to the second. I started to do something, you get that creeping feeling like coming behind you, it’s like, you’re just not good enough.

And it doesn’t stop. And then, you know, some other personal things happened, which caused me to drop off the whole web comic thing. And I had to kind of set that aside and, but, you know, Period of life until we kind of got some moving again, it really was, I really want [00:37:00] to do this, but I don’t know why would even bother because I suck at it.

Right. And that’s, that’s the constant struggle. But when you know, Before all this. And when I first got him back into like illustration and web comics and stuff, that the Brewbaker stuff, that the remind book just the art net was, that was the motivating force. And I have talked a lot.

Chris Benamati: I’m sorry.

Renee: I love that story though. Chris, I will say it, you know, I think that’s a perfect example of how reading something can set you in motion to some, you know, something that you didn’t think was going to happen. And now look at where you are. So I think that’s

Tim Stolinski: awesome.

Chris Benamati: Gosh, I can’t think of a single

Tim Stolinski: given him so much time to think about it. You would think that he’d be ready to

Chris Benamati: go right there. I don’t think there’s a single comic that I can remember from being a kid. Right. Because we didn’t really have a local comic shop. We had a bunch [00:38:00] of stands, not a huge like selection and there was not anything that weren’t any like supportive people that would’ve just pushed me into that.

I see, I had like a fascination with comics just because growing up, like in late eighties and nineties kid but like bigger,

Tim Stolinski: the comic shops in our area were just out for money. Yeah.

Chris Benamati: And they all, you know, I think the biggest thing I remember from those newsstands was just the, the, the tobacco smell in Egypt, one, which was this really sweet kind of tobacco smell and

Tim Stolinski: everybody of us news and medics.

Renee: Yeah.

Chris Benamati: Tobacco.

Tim Stolinski: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. I get my issue of spawn every month.

Chris Benamati: There is I can remember like the death of Superman and how big of a deal it was that it was even on CNN. And then randomly, when my dad came home one day and he had like the best that I can remember, it was like a trade paperback of that series.

It’s probably still in their house somewhere. I needed to find it, but [00:39:00] that would mean I’d have to.

Tim Stolinski: So your parents. Yeah.

Chris Benamati: Anyway like I can remember that. And I, this is like, if I have any comics, hot tickets at Superman sucks and he’s like the worst character. So I was always about like the death of Superman. I wanted to see it and I can remember like marbling over the design of doomsday and just like, you know, the younger kid that I was like, oh my God, this thing is like, terrifying.

You know, that one always sticks out to me. And I think other than that, it was more like the different TV shows and movies that will come out because you did have like, you know, the few that the bag’s named now, but the guy that played Superman and Lois and Clark.

Tim Stolinski: He was on the bills.

Chris Benamati: He was on the boats.

Renee: Yeah. Okay. We could be Cleveland

Tim Stolinski: fans. I don’t know. Distance Dean Karen was on the bills for a whole I,

Renee: that I forgot he played in the [00:40:00] NFL. That’s a good call back.

Chris Benamati: Yeah. So there’s that, there’s a swamp man series. That was really fun to watch. You know, you had Batman, the animated series. It was like really great chose the live action or animated.

And I think that’s what my interest in all these characters a lot more than being able to get out and collect a comic. And I’m still not like a comics collector. I’d always say like, I’m more of a reader I bag and board them and I save them, but I’ll throw them around. I don’t really care so much like to preserve their, their.


Renee: status and they’re meant to be read. I think I want to


Chris Benamati: them up. I want to like, not dirty in the soil, but you know, I just want to sit there and stare at them and Marvel at the

Tim Stolinski: art, but I used to buy two copies of every comment and I would bag and board one and forget about it and I would destroy the other.

Renee: I, you know, it’s funny, [00:41:00] you mentioned the, the, like the TV shows because I loved the animated. X-Men like, I thought it was the COO. I didn’t even know as a comic. I didn’t know anything about like any of the history of X men. All I knew was that the TV show was the best thing since like anything. And I would just sit and watch it.

My mom would be like, what are you watching? I’m like, mom, it’s very important. I need to know what rogue is going to do right now because she’s like favorite. I have like a whole thing. Yeah. And they’re

Chris Benamati: all on like Disney plus now. So like, so I’ll put them on with, you know, some of my grandson can watch and he loves Spider-Man Spider-Man and Batman.

And like, he knows those like

Tim Stolinski: that. Right. The mornings on Fox X-Men resign. Like I don’t like 10 30 and wrestling was on after.

Renee: I just turn it off on that line. I

Tim Stolinski: used to used to always watch X-Men [00:42:00] and then I would wander off into the neighborhood and ends, you know, we we’d like neighborhood kids and she’d be like, yo, did you see the episode of eczema?

Yes. And then it turned into like a neighborhood wide reenactment. So what just kind of, yeah, I was always gambit,

Renee: always camping. Yeah. I always, I always wanted to be rogue. This, you know, again, someone the coolest and very empowered, right. And something is something I appreciate about X-Men. Speaking of comics that you know, are more inclusive and tell more of society stories.

It’s something I’ve always gravitated towards them. I wanna switch gears just a little bit. We talked about the art, the bad art teacher moment and that whole situation. I feel like art can be so subjective. Right. And, and it’s something, you know, when I think about like, I’m a [00:43:00] writer pish and I, you know, it’s always so hard to put my stuff out there because I, you know, I get so attached to these precious babies that are like, this is my soul and my heart and I it’s my art and my heart.

And I, I can’t like, it’s hard to put that up for critique. So now that you, you know, two are critiquing, you know, these submissions and having to like go through all these submissions, how has that been being on the other side of sort of being, you know, the people deciding what gets to be made and what

Tim Stolinski: doesn’t, that’s great, because that blows my mind every time.

Like, I think that I let me harken back to when, when Bobby and, and when she sent us final capital, because I remember sitting there and reading through it and looking at the art, because I was just like, wow, [00:44:00] like, And it was our first submission, weirdly enough. Right. Final gamble was the first one that

Renee: came in.

And for those who are, who maybe don’t know what final gamble is, can you give us a little quick,

Tim Stolinski: final gamble is going to be our first series. As a, as a publisher, we ran, we’re running a Kickstarter now that ends on September 3rd and we hit goal yay. $6,300 so far there’s tons of support for Bobby’s project.

But that was our first series and our first submission coincidentally I just remember, you know, pulling it up and, and looking at it. Cause there we get emails when the submission comes through because I need to know immediately and you know, Tim and I are text messages. Oh my God, we got a submission and we go in there and I’m in there looking at him, just like.

What are we supposed to do with this? Because I’m just like, okay. So I have, do I have to, I have to look at it and then tell [00:45:00] you, tell Tim how I feel about it, where they really like it. So should I be overly critical? Do I have a right to be overtly critical? Right. So like, I just remember being like floored and, and done doing research and everybody that’s attached to it.

Like, like Jorge and Harry and George. And just seeing that, you know, especially with Jorge being on Spencer and LOC for as long as they were the artist for that comic, I’m just like, these are real, like actual. Artists big time now, right? Yeah. And then like, oh wow. This is our submission. And you know, the, the, the imposter syndrome in me says, we got it.

It always says that we got lucky, right? Like this is locked. It’s pure luck. It’s not because we know what we’re doing or anything, but we kind of do now. I think, you know, I think we earned it. I think that we [00:46:00] proved it. And I think that Bobby saw that too. So when she put her pitch together and submit all of that and in asked Jorge to do the art and all that stuff, like she saw something in us that said, I want to work with, you know, these two guys.

And I felt that, that gave me a little bit of comfort and I was able to say, wow, I don’t, you know, it’s like, I don’t know if we deserve this, but we’re going to do our best that we can for it. Cause

Chris Benamati: I know we’re just a couple of bozos. So when we see people trusting us and then they come to us with their babies that they’ve written that they’ve drawn and then they’ve put so much labor into it makes you feel like a sense of duty to perform for them.

The role that you say you can write, you want to do the best. You absolutely can to do justice to those [00:47:00] series or those stories. You, you have a, you know, obviously a sense of personal pride that you don’t want to look like a total goofball and can’t follow through on the things you say, but it goes, I think beyond that, Like so many great, fantastic stories and just gorgeous artwork being sent into us and saying, please make our story for us.

You know, please publish this foreign thing. It’s humbling. And it makes you feel like you really need to dig in and work your butt off for these folks. I think it also is a really good barometer for the health of that comics industry, which, you know, not very good, but there are so many talented people out there.

Just so hungry for a publisher to come and support them. And there just are not enough publishes and there’s just not enough money. There’s this, it’s a very expensive thing to create a comic. [00:48:00] And

Tim Stolinski: that there’s enough money. There’s just a certain number of companies that are hoarding it up.

Renee: Yeah. I mean, I, but I think it’s true. I think comics, I hear a lot about, I mean, obviously we hear a lot about publishing just in general being a dying industry, but comics and sort of the future of comics is really, I think, you know, it’s going to be curious to see where it goes because comic fans are getting her aging.

It’s like stereotypically there, we’re not getting as many younger fans in common. And you know, right now the best-selling car. Our manga, you know, and, and that world, and we’ll see if the big publishers can keep up, but it makes me really appreciate the world of indie comics and indie publishers like yourselves, because I think that’s where the future.

Of comics needs to go. You know, I think it needs to get away, not [00:49:00] nothing against DC or Marvel. I think we need to get away from sort of the big publishing houses and move more towards independent comics. So

Chris Benamati: I can channel the president from idiocrasy. I got a solution

I just need to get, I need to get the outfit for that. You have to get the

Tim Stolinski: outfit and you’ve been working. You’ve been holding on.

Chris Benamati: Well, I’ve, I’ve got those American flag pattern, keys ones hanging in my firefighter locker

Renee: outside the four seasons right now what’s happening.

Chris Benamati: So, you know, we’ve talked about how those different sales metrics and stuff are affecting the industry. Right? And we [00:50:00] almost sound like professionals, but

Tim Stolinski: you do

Chris Benamati: offer a full slate. You’ve got to, you’ve got to look at your product mix and understand that there are people who want to make a lot of difference.

So offer a lot different things, right? Don’t just offer floppies and mini series formats and that’s it. Right. Don’t just offer Maga. Like we have plans for a series of one-offs that would be sort of like a TKO short, right? We’ve got graphic novellas in production. We’ve got a whole bunch of stories that we want to do with Elise Russell that are going to be a bunch of like horror, one shots and stuff.

That will be a little bit longer story format. So that somebody’s. Isn’t going to like, pick something up and miss a few issues and completely sidetracked and fall off. They’re going to get a full, complete story [00:51:00] there. Right? We’ve got plans for light novel, which is a really popular thing in Japan. This was Chris’s idea giving credit.

And it’s phenomenal. Right? I like to get creative with these things when you’re, you know, the new kid on the block and I mean, I’m Dani.

Tim Stolinski: I’m Joey. Yeah. Or Jordan,

Chris Benamati: somebody picked up on that and then this, let me keep going. You have a bunch of other stuff like that. It’s really neat thing. Like when Ryan who’s right in targets when he came to us, he had this format for four, maybe five issue mini series.

And as we ran through the submission and everything, Chris and I were like, there’s a lot more story to flush out here. There’s like a lot more that could be told, like why just limit it. And in that conversation we have at Ryan the first time, or like, I think this could go up to like 12 issues or so like ballpark it, you know, would you want to do that?

Is it? Yeah. [00:52:00] Okay. And then when we talked about it, like came back around to, why did you pitch it then as like a four to five issue series? He’s like, well, you know, I just figured that would be. Something that publisher would more readily jump on them, the idea of a longer series. And, you know, that kind of kicks in like it’s, it’s too many freaking MBAs running around trying to make everything a mini max problem.

So, you know, all it’s infected the comic industry and that we need to minimize our inputs and maximize our outputs. And so you’ve got these cookie cutter solutions being placed into all the different comic stories. And that’s why we’re in this fight where, you know, people, aren’t going back to wine to get everything from their Indies.

You know, they want more stories from not from the big two and even like, you know, sometimes fully even lumping Lim image with the big

Tim Stolinski: take I think with, with us. And w w we really want to be able [00:53:00] to do with creators is give them the proper outputs and for them to make the story that they want. You know, like Bobby has the, this first arc is six issues, but you know, she is on fire with ideas up to 36 at this point, you know?


Renee: I was going to ask you, what can we expect from band of bread or band of bards. But then I was like, damn, you answered my question before I even asked it. So thank you. It sounds like you all have quite a lot in the works

Chris Benamati: nineties movies I’ll go with, don’t be a menace. And just tell you, we’re gonna, we’re gonna be bringing you all types of shit.

Tim Stolinski: I hope so. I that’s the

Chris Benamati: plan, right? I’m a very non-serious person. I don’t know why anybody trusts me to make there. Yeah, I had a different thought there. Oh, that’s

Renee: okay. But I mean, and again, going back to your [00:54:00] mission, right? This idea of there needs to be more stories out there where people see themselves represented.

So I think that’s, again, what’s great about indie comics is that’s a space where we can see those stories from the creator. You know, represented and we get more diverse stories and more diverse comics.

Chris Benamati: Following up final gamble was going to be prospects, which they’ll come to Kickstarter. We’re planning that for September 28th that are run through Halloween because it’s all about cyborgs and zombies.

Right. But it’s a really cool story to us because I think, I think if max had taken it to like a non rust belt publisher, they would’ve missed a lot of the nuances in the story. Right. And that you’ve basically got a town that was on the economic decline. Politicians community leaders, [00:55:00] desperate to figure out how to reinvigorate and re-energize the community, bring back some businesses.

And you basically had like a couple of scientists who were working on unlocking immortality that came to town, right. And basically it bamboozled them into saying, let us come here. And if we’re successful in our research, it’ll solve all your problems. Just stay the hell away. And don’t like bother

Tim Stolinski: us.

And honestly, it should be a cartoon on adult swim. Oh my God.

Renee: Who better to understand that then two bozos from Dunkirk

Chris Benamati: and it’s, it’s got the gorgeous, a animation style from Powerpuff girls. I can never say Grandy’s last name. Tire cops, ski,

Tim Stolinski: I don’t know. Yeah.

Chris Benamati: That’s

not going to get into the Polish Russian thing. But so the story, you pick it up [00:56:00] where like, after decades of these guys basically holding the town hostage, where they poached the best and brightest people out of the town, into their competing armies of cyborgs and zombies, because that’s what their two solutions to unlock it.

And mortality are turning into a sidebar, turning into a zombie, and it’s got to a lot of old, like fifties and sixties scifi kind of feel to it. And you’re left with a Jew, you know, a decades on brain drain on the town because the best and brightest poached into these armies. And it gets to the point where, you know, every graduated high school class, Like, it’s like being drafted to the NFL to get drafted into one of their competing armies and people like celebrate it and think it’s the greatest honor in the world.

And they push their kids towards it, to this, you know, really unhealthy damaging thing that they’re being forced into instead of getting to live their life. Like they want to school.

Renee: Yeah. Or joining the military. That’s another [00:57:00] analogy, right? You, yeah. A lot

Chris Benamati: of ways to connect to it because so many of us go through that and our high school time.

Right. Like being forced into the path to success rather than being able to just explore our lives and figure out what the hell we

Renee: want to do. Being told to get out of your small town, because that’s the only way to succeed is to get the hell out. It’s true.

Tim Stolinski: I mean, it’s

Renee: an, it’s a Harmon, but it’s a common narrative and it’s why.

Often suffers because people leave and yeah. So it’s a relatable story, for sure. Yeah. Like

Chris Benamati: the comedy aspect of this really freaking cool too, because right. If you’ve got that kids want to brain drain, you end up with a bunch of dummies running and everything, and then all the leadership positions. Right.

So he kind of got like the account, so

Renee: relatable. Yeah. Right.

Chris Benamati: So like there’s so many different really, I think [00:58:00] people can connect with and prospects. I’m excited to see how that’s received and there’s like three issues already complete out of a nine issue around. So that’ll be fun.

Renee: Well, for people who are interested in finding out more about your publishing company or the Kickstarters that are coming, how can people find out about band of Barts?

Tim Stolinski: Oh, well we have a webpage at Banda. . That’s the best place to go. Tim and I are super active on the Twitter machine, Twitter machine at Banda Barts, and I PR pretty much that’s. Those are the two, the, the number one and number two place to go to find out what’s going

Chris Benamati: on. Yeah. And you’ll find this on like Instagram and Facebook too, but we put so much algorithms, you know, Twitter is a lot greater tool for connecting and the comics community, I think.

Renee: Yeah, there wasn’t a lot of creators on there, for sure. So, well, thank you both for [00:59:00] being here and joining us and talking about. Everything from inclusion to veterans, to art school. I a really fun time. And I’m really, you know, looking forward to seeing what else you all come out with because it seems like your first one, your first one is so far a big success.

So that’s exciting.

Tim Stolinski: Thank you so much for having us really appreciate it.

Chris Benamati: Great.

Renee: Well again, today on the show we had Tim Salinsky and I’m Chris Ben Amati, who are the powerhouse team behind band of bards and independent comic publisher. The first. Comic from them is final gamble, which is out on Kickstarter right now.

You can go back it and support it, and you can find more information on the website, which we’ll put in the show notes and to all of you still listening out there in the spoiler verse I’m Renee, and this is spoiler [01:00:00] country.

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