The curtain opens and we are introduced to Nikki St Clair, the Tap Dance Killer. She’s a sweet woman who started out as a talented actress—until she took the wrong role. Now she and her stage mates are trapped, believing they are deadly, badass gangsters who need to bring Cleveland to its knees.
Written by Ted Sikora with art by Donny Hadiwidjaja (aka Nikolaus Harrison), and inks by Hadiwidjaja and Chis Arieswendha, the first volume of the Tap Dance Killer collects the first five issues of the series, with loads of bonus pinups, concept art, and more. Currently being kickstarted, Tap Dance Killer is a deadly romp that captures Vaudville glamour and gauche, wrapped up in brash costumes and characters.
Sikora took the time to answer a few questions about the series.
Where did the idea for this story come from? Why this era?
Ted: Back in 1994 I wrote the story, principle score and lyrics to a horror show musical titled Nothing Like Vaudeville. It took place in a surreal 1920s, and was about a runaway boy who clashed with bizarre vaude-villains and a diabolical ringmaster.
Flash forward 25 years and I’m working on our comic series Apama The Undiscovered Animal which is about an ice cream truck driver in Cleveland who becomes a superhero by unlocking the spirit force of the most savage creature mankind has never known. For issues 10 and 11 I decided to bring the characters of the old musical to life. So our lead character in Apama, Ilyia Zjarsky, auditions for the Nothing Like Vaudeville musical, and during the rehearsal process three of the villains—Tap Dance Killer, Sir Terror, and Fletcher—get locked into the headspace of their character roles and embark on a mission to become the new crime power in Cleveland. Apama gets stuck in the middle of this budding mob war.
So the era is modern day, but this gang acts like they are in the 1920s.
What was it about the characters and concepts that made you decide they needed to be fleshed out in their own title?
Ted: It was crazy because images on social media of Tap Dance Killer were being liked and shared by the thousands by people who didn’t even know who the character was. Then at New York Comic Con the reaction to people who saw her image was pretty strong too. Usually you have to get people’s attention and draw them to your booth, but people were coming up to me asking, “What’s she about?” I knew there was an appeal here that was worth developing.
Your Kickstarter video features an image of your daughter modeling for the character. How often did she play model? How does she feel to see her contributions come to life on the pages of the comic?
Ted: Heeere’s Jada!
Jada: I model every now and then. Maybe around three times per issue. It’s amazing to be able to see your ideas come to life. It makes me feel really good inside, and I’m so happy for my Dad as he’s doing what he’s always wanted to do.
Ted: Jada is always the first one to see the stories, and we often proofread them doing character voices. She catches typos, and lets me know if things need a tweak. She did the voice of Hurricane Lizzy in the Kickstarter video too.
Who composed and performs the song in your video?
Ted: CoCo Smith is the vocalist. I met her when I was doing a documentary on Cleveland’s Near West Theatre. The tap sounds are by dancer Matthew Roberts. I wrote the song and did the arrangement. The version on the video is brand new, and everyone that reserves a Kickstarter reward of $15 or more will get the MP3 included as our first stretch reward.
You mention in an earlier interview that Cleveland is a character unto itself in your work. What is it about the city that compels you?
Ted: I’ve lived in Northeast Ohio my whole life, so it was natural to write about what you know. I was a hospital courier for years, and have a decent sense about the cinematic locations. The artists on both Apama and Tap Dance Killer live overseas, so I take scouting shots to help establish that authentic vibe. For me, having larger than life characters set in a very real believable place creates a nice balance. Also, our main character, Nikki St Clair, is named after Cleveland’s St Clair Avenue.
Check out the Tap Dance Killer Kickstarter to learn more about this series.