The BS Crew (or Battle Scene Crew..or, to be honest, the Billy/Sonny Crew).

Back when Billy Foster and I self-published Mr Average our publishing moniker was BS Productions. Billy once said, “Everything we do is BS.” As he said B he pointed to his chest and S he pointed to mine. BS Productions seemed the perfect name.

This particular band of heroes is comprised of characters we created for other stories in the past. The Atomic Punk and Mr Average were created by Billy. Jack and Goat were created by me. And with the exception of Goat we worked together on the books they were in.

For those interested in the back story stuff I will elaborate further…

Billy created The Atomic Punk while listening to the song of the same name by Van Halen. We then put together a 10-paged story featuring him and managed to get it published by Antartic Press in their anthology Mangazine in 1990. This was the first time either of us had heard the term “manga.” They paid us $10 a page and gave me $100 to do the cover. Even then that was chicken feed but that didn’t matter to us..we were PROS now, bitches! That’s when I realized the validation that comes when someone who doesn’t have to give a damn about your work does.

That little bit of validation was all we needed to go one step further and self-publish Mr Average. It ran for 7 issues. We got a nice review in The Comics Journal (the only magazine about comics at the time) and while taking it on the road to NY and CA conventions it enabled us to meet some amazing people in the industry who gave us great advice. We even got invited to private parties by people we idolized.

Billy eventually quit comics to try his hand at stand-up. While I was at a convention selling old Mr Average comics an editor from Antartic Press came to my table and said he loved Mr Average and wondered if I had anything for them to publish. I had a 10-paged story in my portfolio about Anubis, the jackal headed god. I called it  Jack. When the editor said, “I’d publish this tomorrow.” I said, “Well, publish this tomorrow.” And they did. This time in another anthology about furries called Furrlough.  Luckily they paid a bit more than $10 a page. I believe it was $50. They also paid me $200 to do the cover.  I then asked Billy if he’d come on board as a writer since they wanted several of these 10-paged short stories. Well the next issue came out and our story wasn’t in it. I called the editor to ask what happened and he said they couldn’t find my artwork. I had never been so angry at another human being. I issued all kinds of threats but luckily 2 days later they found it. I said, “Okay, please mail them back to me.” The editor said, “But you’re going to mail them back in time for the next issue, right?” I said, “No. I will never work for you people again.” I thought that was the end of Jack. However…

That 10 paged story got the attention of another publisher in NY called MED Systems who specialized in furry stories. They wanted to publish it as it’s own title and it was going to be in color. The first issue sold amazingly well and we were finally going to be able to quit our day jobs and become full-time comic creators! Unfortunately the publisher didn’t get it printed in time and the distributors cancelled the orders. I was so furious I declared that “the comic book industry was run by idiots!” and gave up on comics altogether.

I got back into acting and 3 years later I was playing Krillin on the wildly popular TV series Dragonball Z. Suddenly I found myself going back to these conventions but this time I didn’t have to stand on my chair a yell at the attendees like a carny barker to get their attention, now they were waiting in lines at my table before I got there.  It was at one such convention that I met Wendy Pini, creator of ElfQuest. Turns out she was a fan of DBZ and drew pictures of the attending voice actors’ characters with her characters. Well, I have been a fan of ElfQuest since I was in high school so I drew a picture of her main character Cutter with our characters and she hired me on the spot to draw her series. I did two 58-paged stories and helped her kick start the next 58-paged story.

I then left LA to do a tour a tour of America in a Hummer decked out in Dragonball Z designs. It was called “Krillin Battle to the Max Tour” and it was to promote the DBZ card game. After the tour I moved back to Texas and devoted myself to Funimation full-time as an actor, director and writer. I thought my days as a comic book artist were done. I mean, I never expected to work on any series as cool as ElfQuest, so for me, I had climbed the mountain and exceeded my expectations. Cut to 2 years later…

I made many cool friends while working on Elfquest. I met Paul Storrie, a writer who’s been published by Marvel and DC (who eventually became my roommate in LA), Tone Rodriquez an artist who’s been published everywhere, Marv Wolfman creator of Blade, Nightwing, DC’s Crisis (to name a few) as well as fellow ElfQuest artists Brandon McKinney and Jeff Zugale. The night I met Brandon And Jeff I drove us to a local LA bar and was playing a Van Halen album on the stereo. Jeff started singing the next song on the album before it started playing…I knew we were going to be tight after that. Jeff, Paul and I hung out a lot together. When they learned that my real name was Don Rafael they changed their names to Don Jeffe and Don Pablo. We were known as The 3 Dons. One night Don Jeffe and I got really drunk and I told him about this epic comic book saga I had on the back-burner about a faerie called Goat. But I digress. Boy, do I digress.  As I said, cut to 2 years later…

Comics were behind me. I was living in TX and Funimation was my full time employer. I get a call from Jeff. “Don Jeffe!” I said,  “What’s up?”

Turns out he was doing a convention in Dallas and wanted to know if I’d like to split the cost of a table in the dealer’s room with him. I didn’t really have anything to sell but I thought, “Why not?” It would be fun just hanging out with Jeffe.

At the convention an editor from Tokyopop came to our table and asked who Sonny Strait was. I said “That’s me.” He said, “I read your ElfQuest stories recently and loved them. I was wondering if you had anything we could publish.” I said, “No. But thanks for asking.”

Don Jeffe turned to me and said, “Dude! What about Goat?” I turned to him and said “Goat?” Jeffe nodded his head knowingly and said, “Gooooat.” I returned his knowing nod and said, “Goooooat.”

The Tokyopop editor yelled “What the hell is Goat!?” I gave him a brief description and the next thing I knew Goat was starring in her own series called We Shadows at Tokyopop. Luckily, because of some of the terrible experiences I had with other publishers I knew what to ask for in my contract and when Tokopop went under I was one of the few who got the rights back to their series.

Wow…I don’t know what came over me. This is the longest blog I’ve ever written on a webcomic page. Anyway. There’s your history of the BS Crew. Hope you grow to love them as much as we do.

 

 

 

 

 

11177 Total Views 2 Views Today