A Chat with Johnny Cavooto

Few years ago I got to meet Johnny Cavooto aka Johnny C at a Creator Aftercon.  Its an event held every year after NYCC at Twins Pub. We have become good friends over the years trying to get our names out there as creators. Johnny is passionate about his comics that he has gotten to create and he also has a pretty damn good coffee.

Johnny C, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Johnny C!  A Creative Writer, Director, and Producer from the Boston MA area. I’ve got three comics self-published that are available currently;  SARTANA, a spaghetti western loosely based on an old series of films retold and tied together by me and my collaborative partner Joseph Arnold.  SURROUNDED BY DEATH, a ‘Zomedy’ of a group of survivors living out the zombie apocalypse in a mid-tier mall from the 80’s illustrated by Joe Martinez (and both colored by Eugen Betivu), and THE POND a throwback to old-school horror comics and anthology tv shows fully illustrated by Renatus.    I’ve also directed short films (Reggie’s Dance, Brett’s Day Off), Co-Produced the upcoming indie horror film VIBRATION. I am also a Convention MC and you can usually hear me as the voice of ‘Saratoga Comic-Con’. I also work with a wonderful group of people who strive to connect and unite indie comic creators through the Creator After Con Network.  Last but not least I am the Editor in Chief for ‘Movie (P)Review’, a fan site for movies, tv, comics, games, music, and pop culture.

What inspired you to write comics?

I’ve always had a creative spirit with a motivated driving need to create.  To flesh out ideas and concepts that I’ve become struck by and obsess over. A desire to write has always seemed to come naturally, even as far back as grade school.  My creative writing projects in class then would usually consist of fan fiction, like sequels to movies; I remember turning in my version of Terminator 3 in the 5th grade and getting a D on it for not writing an original concept.  After learning my own writing process through reading and writing film scripts, when it actually came time to produce these projects I learned through many rigorous films shoots that comics were a lot more manageable than film work. I’ve had an almost lifelong obsession with comics which made learning writing to that format an easier transition, it all seemed to come to me quickly when envisioning the work.  But I took the time to read the material. I picked up Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. I read Write or Wrong by Dirk Manning and through all of it, more often than not the stuff just seemed like common sense.

What is your creative process like?

My creative process is usually based on what the project needs.  If I craft a story from scratch, I tend to find what the central point is and then build around it.  I like to follow a development method where I draw a bubble, write as much as I can think of about whatever the central notion is of the inspired idea within that bubble, be it character descriptions, actions scenes or general concepts; and then branch off lines with new bubbles that are pertinent to connect to the story.  Usually by the time I am done I have a nicely fleshed out roadmap of detailed characters or story beats, actions, or locations that help immensely in forming my outline or pitch draft, allowing me to enrich my story or concept with finer detail to what I feel is the fullest extent without toiling too much on it.

One of the books you got to write is a spaghetti western called Sartana. Can you tell us a bit about Sartana and what inspired you to create this awesome world?

SARTANA is actually pulled from an old series of Spaghetti Western films centered around the character of the same name who is much like a James Bond of the old west.  Much like Quentin Tarantino took the spaghetti western character of Django and rewrote it to make it his own, I did the same here for SARTANA, only I started mine back in 2012, and Issue #1 didn’t make it first publication through CCP Comics until late 2013 early 2014.  In 2018 I self-published a Special Edition #1 with new content and Issue #2 is in development now for a July 2019 release. I have always loved the Western genre, something that I shared with my father and my grandfathers on both sides of my family before him, this was my chance to dabble in that world and pay tribute.  I couldn’t have done this book without the support of my illustrator Joe Arnold and My Colorist, Eugen Betivu. Both are immensely talented and wonderful friends. 

 I like the little side story you did with Sartana called Jasper’s Starlight Tavern. I found it pretty funny, what lead to the creation of this little side story?

Jasper’s Starlight Tavern is actually an ongoing comic strip produced by Bob Salley of Source Point Press.  Bob is a friend and I told him that I had an idea to send Sartana to space and put him in the Tavern, so I wrote the strip.  He loved it and decided to produce it, which I am grateful for. It was a fun challenge to write in such a short format. I have also done one for Surrounded by Death too. 

Another title I know you have worked on is Surrounded by Death. What’s interesting about this particular comic is that it inspired its own coffee brand. Which by the way is great.  Please, you got to tell me the story behind the coffee tie-in.  

Thank you, It means a lot that you enjoy the coffee blend.  The first story arch of Surrounded by Death, Issues 1 & 2 introduce our core characters and impose the dilemma that a particular coffee blend everyone who lives in this mall during the Zombie Apocalypse loves, runs out.  Our gang’s leader Matt realizes he must take it upon himself to venture into the dangerous portions of the mall that have been blocked off, to retrieve more and keep the status quo. Throughout high school and some of college, I worked in the coffee industry, about 8 years between a local coffee shop and that large green chain.  I approached the owners of that local shop from my high school days, who is also a coffee roaster and we developed the blend based upon the way it’s written in the book. Two parts Vanilla, one part French Roast, making it a bold cup of coffee with a sweet tone that takes the edge off. We put a lot of work into bringing a part of the comic book to life.       

The last book you got to work on is called The Pond. Being the horror fan I am and seeing how you and I drew from the same inspiration pool. What I mean by that is drawing inspiration from John Carpenter’s the thing as well as other horror movies. What was the creative process for this particular book? And please give our readers a brief description of this series.

The Pond originated as a challenge given to me by Charles D. Mousaint of Silver Phoenix Productions for the Anthology series “The Haunted Tales of Bachelors Grove”, which is an 8 pg short written in the horror genre surrounding the concept of a haunted Pond.  As a great short example of my writing, I had brought it with me to the Creator Connection at San Diego Comic-Con run by Toucan Learning with Doug & Corey. There I met Renatus, who had loved what he read and had a vision of expanding the story even further beyond the 8 pages into a two-issue limited, with possible potential for more. 

The story is not far off from your classic horror comics or an episode of Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt.  In short, it’s about a haunted body of water in a small sleepy town that produces a horror very much inspired by Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ that rampages the streets terrorizing the residents.  It’s up to a small Sheriff’s department to combat the monster.

Bringing up these three books that you have worked on and these awesome worlds you have created. What was the most challenging thing you encountered when creating these worlds and characters? How did you overcome certain challenges and what advice would you give to someone who is trying to create a character?

From memory, I can’t pinpoint any particular challenge that really prevented any progress on my projects aside from myself.  I am my own worst enemy. Be it taking on too much at once, or falling into a creative block or cycle of procrastination or even an overall lack of motivation, that is all just natural to being a human being.  It’s how it’s dealt with that can help you overcome it. For me, if I ever fall into a rut, I’ll try my best to rediscover my inspiration. Even if it means putting the brakes on actually producing content and absorbing the things that I love and inspire me the most, typically being Comics, Music, TV, and Movies in no particular order.  In turn, I find it helps refuel my creativity and it puts me back in the game. Even more, so is leaning on my creative peers for inspiration through friendly concept pitching helps immensely. 

There are many writers out there who have trouble finding or even communicating with an artist. What do you look for and how do you communicate your ideas to the artist you work with?  What advice would you give to a writer looking to work with an artist?

The best advice I can offer about seeking out and working with an artist is to communicate and to keep an open creative heart.  Be very direct and clear-cut with what you are seeking from your collaboration or commissioned work, but leave enough space for the artist to put their creative input into the project and have an open mind and an open heart to accept that input and implement it.  As a writer, it’s very easy to fall into a tunnel vision with your project and be so ultra-focused you can’t see the forest for the trees and you’ve put a stranglehold on the project (all of this said from personal experience). A collaborator once told me (sic) to kill my darlings, and it was the best advice ever given to me for that project. 

You and I have met through the creative after con network. We have become good friends and have even bumped into each other at other cons. How important is it to network within this industry and what advice would you give to someone who is afraid to network?

One of my personal credos is ‘quality, consistency, and travel’ and under travel a large portion of that is networking.  It’s largely important to meet your creative peers, to learn from them as much as they can learn from you in your paths to creative success.

Now we know you have created your own titles, but are there any dream titles that you would love to work on?

I have a Marvel Knights Story involving Daredevil, Punisher, Ghost Rider, Heroes for Hire and Man-Thing, framed in the story structure of the films ‘The Raid’ & ‘DREDD’ that I’d love to one day be able to produce at MARVEL. 

Finally, what does the future hold for Johnny C?

Hopefully, my future is filled with a long healthy life of creativity that I can share with the world, to help inspire and be inspired by the people I connect with everywhere I go.

Johnny, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us. Also for those that are interested, you can find all things Johnny C in the links below. Thanks for reading!

Online Shop: http://johnnyc.bigcartel.com/

Twitter & Instagram: @JohnnyC138Facebook: facebook.com/YourJohnnyC                  facebook.com/SartanaComicBook                   facebook.com/SurroundedbyDeathComic

                  facebook.com/CAfterConNComixology: SARTANA –http://bit.ly/1AMoi6r                     Surrounded By Death – http://bit.ly/2p9JeiG