Friday, March 8, 2013

The Nature of Pursuing a Dream

Sarah Bitely is the creator and writer of Pimpkillah comics. She recently published her third issue of Pimpkillah, a new comic book series that focuses on a violent tale of revenge. I ran into Sarah at the LA Zine Fest, and she agreed to sit down with me and answer some of my burning questions about the journey of pursuing her childhood dream.

Kristen: First, let's get everyone up to speed. What is Pimpkillah about?
Sarah: Pimpkillah is about Sloane Stone’s journey to find her sister. The first two issues are just the beginning. I feel like this second issue is the boiling point for Pimpkillah. We’re ready to kick it into gear and get into the the thick of it. The Descent depicts Sloane Stone’s transition from Sudan back to Los Angeles. Uncovering a shocking discovery about her estranged sister, Naomi, propels her deep into the dark world she never wanted a part of. A path she worked hard to avoid. A path of darkness and despair. A path her sister wasn’t as determined to escape.

Kristen: Why this story of revenge? What draws you to revenge tales?
Sarah: Revenge stories have always intrigued me and it’s one of my favorite genres to explore. I’m fascinated by the idea of a somewhat “normal” and functioning human completely snapping over an injustice or wrong done to them. A kindhearted person turned stone cold over a traumatic event. The loss of innocence. And of course I love the idea of vigilante justice and questioning mild prosecution of those who have done horrible crimes.

Kristen: What were some of your childhood influences Were you into comics?
Sarah: As a young girl, I loved Archie comics. I was obsessed with Betty and Veronica, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Batman was another comic I loved to read. When I was about four years old, I remember putting together this little booklet made of colored construction paper, and I made a Batman themed story with my crayons. I’ve always had a passion for telling stories, especially through images, both in comics and film.

Kristen: How have your inspirations changed as an adult?
Sarah: Today, I am much more into darker themes and noir comics, which I never knew existed when I was in high school. Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips’ Criminal series was my first noir comic love, and definitely set the pace for Pimpkillah.

Karl Edward Wagner’s “Tell Me, Dark” is another amazing noir, horror comic that is drawn and written in such a hauntingly beautiful way. Right now I love Hernandez Brothers’ Love and Rockets, I read all their collected works too, like Maggie the Mechanic, Penny Century and Luba.  A lot of the Hernandez artwork is heavily influenced by Archie comics so it seems I’m drawn to similar classic artwork. I love the way Hernandez draws his ladies, of all shapes and sizes. I’m very much inspired by the shape of female figures and I hope to bring some of that voluptuousness to Pimpkillah. But I think more than anything I’m inspired by films. Cinema translates to comics so naturally, and when I am working on something I draw most of my inspirations from movies. I like to think that when I create a comic it’s like I’m storyboarding a movie. Which is definitely in the works for Pimpkillah in the upcoming future.­ Here’s a link to a short film I made called “Baby Blue.”

Kristen: What are some of your favorite films?
Sarah: My all time favorite movie is Mean Streets by Martin Scorsese. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. All 70’s Scorsese cinema is the best in my opinion. I love that unfiltered, raw edge you don’t really get in his films anymore. John Cassavetes’ Woman Under the Influence also has that quality that is hard to come by these days. Catherine Breillat’s The Last Mistress is one of my favorite movies from the last decade. Such a passionate story and Asia Argento is outstanding in it. Sloane Stone, Pimpkillah’s heroine is loosely based off her. Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love and Fallen Angels are two of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. Specific films that have influenced me genre-wise for Pimpkillah include Coffy, Foxy Brown, Oldboy, Switchblade Sisters, Kill Bill – okay, I could fill up pages with my favorite movies, so I suppose I’ll stop here.

Kristen: Have your parents always been supportive of your career in film and comics? Sarah: My parents have always been my number one supporters who would do anything to help me achieve my goals.  I think no matter what I would chose to do they would be behind me a hundred percent. I love them so much and wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

Kristen: What are some of the struggles you've encountered in pursuit of your dreams?
Sarah: It usually starts with money. When you’re fresh out of school, thousands of dollars in the hole, and hardly making enough money at your desk job it can be quite trying to get something published and off the ground. My first two comics were mini-comics, and no longer than ten pages so it was relatively cheap to print. My next issue is more than double the length and full size. But you have to expect people not to buy your comic, and you probably won’t make your money back. But the keys are trading your comics with people, and spreading the word about your work. I have yet to make an Indie GoGo account or Kickstarter, but I think I will definitely start one for the third issue.

The next biggest challenge is finding someone as passionate as you are about your project. Finding artists is always difficult and sometimes working with others can be painful as well. I prefer to work with close friends of mine who understand the way I think and envision. Since I’ve been developing, writing, and re-writing Pimpkillah for the past four years it can save a lot of time when you meet someone who truly understands where you are coming from and where you want to go with the project. The last hardest thing is finding the time to work on your projects. Balancing time is imperative. I was working full-time and then I worked on my comics or writing after work, on my lunch break, and on weekends. Currently, I’m on hiatus. I’m taking time to gather all my thoughts for Pimpkillah 3, not titled just yet. Now more than ever we need people’s support to continue printing copies and issues. There are comics and prints available at Also available in Stores: Meltdown Comics 7522 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA. Pop Hop Books and Print 5002 York Blvd. Eagle Rock, CA 

Kristen: What have you learned from completing your first three comics? What are you going to do differently in the next issue?
Sarah: Issue 3 is going to be so different! I’m thinking of coloring it myself, and working with different artists. I digitally inked Pimpkillah: The Descent and have been learning more Photoshop as I go along.  The story is really going to get going in this one because I feel I know what could have been done in the previous issues. I want issue 3 to engage the reader more. I want Sloane’s inner dialogue to have much more of a presence and really get our readers into her subconscious. When I reprint issue 2, I will be adding more of her thoughts and feelings into it. Rosendo Santos, artist for Descent, will also be working on the ending to tie together a few loose ends. So when we run out the first prints, the second print will be a bit different. But you’d have to check out both prints to really observe the added details.

Kristen: As you know, one of the primary themes of my blog, “Cinematic Escape,” is escapism. How do you personally and also your comics relate to escapism?

Sarah: I feel as though my entire life has been centered around escapism and creating my own realm. From playing cowboys and Indians as a child to directing films, I’ve always found other outlets to live my life through and cope with my surroundings. Now, my career path is focused on creating alternate realities through writing, drawing, and making films. I’m entranced by crafting another universe that is so foreign to me and yet still making it relatable to anyone. When I write a story, rather it be a comic or screenplay, I love diving into the depths of my character’s subconscious and discovering what drives them. While directing actors, empathizing with another and connecting with them on an emotional level is what initially sparked my inspiration to make films.

I can put myself into anyone’s shoes and escape through doing so. My hope for Pimpkillah is for people to want to put themselves in Sloane’s shoes and go along on her journey.

Kristen: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring comic book writers just getting started? Sarah: Network, go to festivals, and spread the word about your comic! Pimpkillah Press:

Pimpkillah Productions is located in Los Angeles, CA. Call for Artists: Have your work featured in the next Pimpkillah comic! Internships also available. For more information on how you can get involved email

Pimpkillah the series is available for purchase at:
Available in Stores: Meltdown Comics 7522 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.
Pop Hop Books and Print 5002 York Blvd Eagle Rock, CA
For exclusive updates and upcoming release dates visit the Pimpkillah facebook page:
Follow Pimpkillah on twitter:
Zine Fest photo credit: Brodie Foster Hubbard