Phoenix Comicon Spotlight
Billy Tucci: Fan Favorite Comic Book Creator
“Comics featuring female leads don’t sell.”.
That’s what the industry veterans told young Billy Tucci when he was working on self-publishing his creator-owned comic, “Shi.” And it’s the advice he happily ignored on his way to selling 3 million copies of this fantastic, female-focused, Japanese mythology comic series.
“Believe it or not, the character originally started out as male,” Billy tells us on his way to an appearance at Phoenix Comicon, “but very quickly Shi turned genders. This was a time where I was told flat out by several pros that, ‘girl books don’t sell.’ But like many a character, the more research I did into Japanese history/mythology and culture, the more the story took over…Even though I was being told it would fail, it just kept challenging me and kept me glued to it.
“I became obsessed with the story actually, even to the point that I was hyper-focused on it and all things Japanese. My wife and I were on vacation at Epcot and I just kept taking us back to ‘Japan.’ It was that crazy, but thinking back, I really needed it to be for Shi to become a success.”
Yeah, we’re talking to THE Billy Tucci today. (I know, right?) Award-winning creator of Shi. Chronicler of Christ’s birth in the unexpected hit graphic novel, A Child is Born. Top-tier artist for some of the biggest Marvel and DC Comics heroes in print (i.e Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Batman, Flash and many, many others). Patriotic power behind some of the best Sgt, Rock comics ever created, and…well, you get the idea.
Here’s how a conversation goes with THAT guy…
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How did you first discover comic books?
Always knew of them, but got hooked in Jr. High. I loved War Comics, though my first was Star Wars #1, and a Giant Sized Spider-man featuring “Werewolf By Night and Ghost Rider.”
Shi is awesome, but the surprise hit of your career has been simply retelling the Christmas story as accurately as possible in your graphic novel, “Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born”? Fill us in on that project.
“A Child is Born” follows the birth of Jesus and is based on the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The prophecy of Isaiah 9:2-7 serves as the books preface, foretelling the birth of the Savior who “…will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
As a Christian, it’s always been a mission for me to tell the true and traditional telling of the Christmas story, but with “A Child is Born” we added a modern astronomical element by offering a scientific explanation for the “star” seen by the Magi. We see the Magi referring to a triple conjunction of the planet Jupiter with the star Regulus in the constellation the Lion—representing the Kings of Kings of the House of Judah.
The science that came is all to the credit of Rick Larson who produced the DVD “The Star of Bethlehem.” Rick was instrumental in incorporating the extra-Biblical, but historically-accurate, account of the rare astronomical activity that would have drawn the attention of the Magi. And like the Magi, it was an extraordinary journey that I hope to continue with comics about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount followed, of course, by the Easter Story.
The prevailing wisdom is that traditional Christian beliefs are generally unwelcome within the comic book industry—yet you self-published “A Child is Born” anyway. What’s been your experience as a person of faith working in comics?
I’ve always felt Isaiah 6:8 deep within the core of my soul, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send Me.’”
Never fear those who hate or are unwelcoming. I’ve had some pretty serious insults thrown my way, but that verse sums up my entire life’s existence, work and mission. And we did find ourselves in the face of much resistance and even insults and name calling. It was frustrating I admit, but in the end, well, well worth the fight.
Among our readers are many kids who read your comics and dream of following in your footsteps to someday work for Marvel or DC Comics. What would you like to say to those kids?
If they have a dream then follow it. However, your goal should not be to work for DC or Marvel, but rather for yourself. Like “Shi,” “A Child Is Born” is self-published. You become your own boss, your own director the master of your own domain. It is far harder, but again the rewards are endless and you own it all.
Also look into Webcomics. They are easier to produce and far cheaper—there is no printing costs (which is the most expensive aspect of publishing) and you can reach a far great audience online.
All right, you’ve appeared at comic cons all over the nation. What are your favorite experiences at Comic Cons?
As for the Phoenix Comic Con well, let’s just say that there have been very, very, very few shows that treat the guests like PCC! We’ve made friends with the staff who really have become more like family. There really is just some amazingly positive energy about the whole convention. So many families attend all dressed up and everyone just having the time of their lives. In a strange way it’s almost like a vacation.
I do also recall our very first San Diego Comic Con. The lines were so huge—far greater than Marvel and DC—that they had to move us to the autograph area. It was just crazy! Here we were with our little book and it just exploded, I never would have dreamed we touched so many lives.
That was a great one but it might be topped by signing side by side with WWII American heroes after I did “Sgt. Rock - The Lost Battalion.” People had tears in their eyes thanking our amazing veterans. That’s a tough one to beat.
If you and I were just hanging out at a barbecue, casually solving the problems of the universe what would you say is the most important thing in life?
Wow! I’ve prided myself on never, ever having to whisper to anyone about anything. Always be honest with yourself and others and try to leave the most positive mark on history that you can.
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Everything you need to know about Billy Tucci in 60 seconds or less…
• Born where and when:
Long Island, NY August 13, 1966
Mostly, just “Billy”. I’ve tried to be “Bill” and even “William” but everyone just calls me “Billy”. Also, “Tooch” and “Kilroy”
• Favorite memory from your childhood:
Great Italian family get-togethers and holidays. Still can smell my Grandfather’s tomato sauce!
• Currently on your DVR playlist:
“Billions”, “Feud—Joan Crawford and Bette Davis”
• Hidden talent:
I’m a really good ice hockey player
• Thing you can’t do to save your life:
• Best gift you ever received:
Mementos from WWII veterans, gifts that have meant the world to them that were given to me to keep their memory alive.
• Worst advice you ever received:
“Comics featuring female leads don’t sell.”
• Some things you’d like to do before you die:
Learn to ride a horse really well. Direct a feature film. And jump out of a plane (again).
• One thought about God:
With God all things are possible.
• Best compliment anyone could give you:
You’re a great dad and husband.
• Best way for fans to contact you:
I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter:
--Jill Wuellner & Mike Nappa
All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher. Billy Tuccu photo credit: Phoenix Comic Con (https://phoenixcomicon.com).
Phoenix Comicon is a multigenre entertainment and comic book convention held annually in Phoenix, Arizona. It was founded as the Phoenix Cactus Comicon in June 2002, and originally consisted of a one-day six-hour event held in Ahwatukee, Arizona.
PCC plays host to comic related panels, programming events, art contests, and autograph signings for all ages. It is a four-day event (Thursday-Sunday) held during the summer at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix. On Thursday evening prior to the official opening of the event, there is a preview for professionals, exhibitors, and select guests pre-registered for all four days.