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Skipper Martin: An Interview with the Creator of Bizarre New World

Written by: Ron Bricker

ImageCC2k Comics Editor Joey Esposito recently got to talk with the very talented creator/writer of the comic series Bizarre New World, Skipper Martin. Along with his advanced review of the series’ latest installment, Population Explosion (found here), Joey chatted with Skipper on the series, it’s future, and his inspiration. Read on!

Skipper Martin: 12 1/2 inches but who’s couting… (just anticipating your first question)

CC2K: (laughs) So first I’d like to thank you for taking the time to sit and talk with us. Bizarre New World, to me, sort of represents a day dream come to life, but with real world consequences – the stuff that we don’t think about when we day dream. How long as this idea been floating (no pun intended) around in your head?

Skipper Martin: It’s that extra 1/2 inch that reeeallllyyy….oh damn, boy was I off…

CC2K: (laughs)

Skipper Martin: BNW began as a wet dream with a really hot…damn there I go again…Uhh…it just came to me. WOW, that’s bad. Starting over…In 1999, I was walking, just every day walking. Specifically I was moseying, yeah that’s right, moseying. I was groggily making my way to my car for my graveyard shift grind. I was still half asleep mind you, eyes barely open. I was so out of it, I wished I could just stop putting in the actual effort to walk and just float to my car. That led to the quick second thought, screw the car, can I just fly to work? Immediately my mind went logical. Wait, if I flew, I’d probably need a jacket, it looks pretty cold up there. By the time I made it to my car, the basic idea was born. What would happen if a regular guy like me could fly? My mind pondered a bit as I made my way down the road. Then my mind took a sudden leap I wasn’t expecting. What if I was only the first? What if the entire human race soon joined me, all at the same time! It was an exciting thought. It made my brain bubble with a barrage of ideas. In those first few loose ideas, Bizarre New World was born!

CC2K: Just out of curiosity, what job were you working the graveyard shift at?

Skipper Martin:
I was doing what I still do now, television post production. I now work at Universal Studios, but at the time I was working for a post production facility that’s no longer in business.

CC2K: And BNW’s main character, Paul Krutcher, has the same job correct? He’s kind of a super-everyman, besides your shared jobs, are there any other similarities between the two of you?

Skipper Martin:
Truth be told, he was created with very specific motivations in mind. In my mind, the real core of the story is how a normal person would deal with something like this. So as far as I was concerned it just didn’t matter who this guy was. I’d never ‘created’ a character before, so I cheated and just modelled him after Kevin Smith. I was so petrified about writing the story, the whole task was just too daunting. I knew the entire human race was going to fly, and it all starts with this normal nobody. The canvas was just too big for me to grasp. So I just took the path of least resistance, and made the guy similar to myself thinking I would change it later. It was not intended to stay that way, but it got the ball rolling. Then once I got moving I realized that my own life had some basic unique qualities that worked for the story. I then realized the only reason I ever thought of Kevin Smith was because he reminded me of myself. So I decided to drop all the pretending and just went head on into making him a ‘sort-of’ version of me. It solved a lot of problems. I could never get busted for any type of copyright nonsense, and it made him very easy to write. Soon, my training wheels came off, and the writing started to really come more naturally to me. In retrospect, I can see why I did it, it primed the pump, and got me writing. It turned out far better than I ever imagined possible. He has a job similar to mine, drives my car, has a son like mine, lives a normal life. But really, when I stop and honestly think about it, I don’t see me when I look at the character.Weird but true. He reacts like I would react, that’s for sure. But he feels very separate from me.

Was it difficult to sit down and actually think out, realistically, what kinds of problems would occur in the event of the entire human race being able to fly all of a sudden? You mention things like jail breaks, and getting caught in power lines…not exactly the quintessential day dream.

Difficult? Impossible is more like it. I really didn’t ‘write’ this story in any normal sense of the word. I’d been thinking about it for years ever since the first brainstorm all those years ago. I knew I wanted the guy to suddenly fly, and then I wanted the human race to also suddenly take off as well. Other than that, I knew very little else. So with those basic thoughts in mind, I kept imagining the possibilites. All of my thoughts would usually turn very rational and literal. It just made sense to me that if a person could really do this, just strip away any normal kind of plot, and just keep asking myself ‘what the hell would I do?’ How might my decisions play out? That led me to logical thinking, like practicing over a lake. Not being the bravest person in the world, that’s what I would’ve done! Who knew others would feel the same? Then I just kept moving the story forward in a very natural way, and that pretty much made up the first mini-series. It all kept moving forward to my inevitable big second act. It’s the story I REALLY wanted to tell. Yes, a regular guy flying is fun, and that basic concept worked out far better than I ever dreamed. In fact, I wondered if I could even make that part of the story worth reading. I knew I wanted to get to the really fun stuff, but now I was not only saddled with telling a quiet, personal, mundane story, I needed to make it so damn good that it would be enough to convince people it was worth reading on it’s own. I didn’t want to let my cat out of it’s very well hidden bag.I was petrified that the big second act was terribly obvious and predictable. Turns out I just couldn’t see out of my own head. No one saw the big leap forward, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Then I simply took the basic stuff I learned in the original series, and applied it globally. I was finally writing the story I wanted to write. It was incredibly daunting.

CC2K: How did BNW come together as a comic? Did you consider writing it for another medium?

SM: I had no clue what I was doing. I thought it could work in a bunch of different ways, still do as a matter of fact. The idea is so basic, so simple, it could apply to any medium as far as I’m concerned. But I soon learned that comics was a superb place to showcase it because I got some wonderful added bonuses using the medium. I could SEE my story come together very quickly. It was exhilerating to actually SEE those ideas I had in my head come to fruition. But also I had incredible freedom to tell the story any damn way I wanted. The publisher Ape Entertainment really let me do my thing. Christopher Provencher, Wes Dzioba, and myself were really able to just make it the best way we thought, no hinderances.

CC2K: How did you hook up with them?

SM: Through Tone Rodriguez. Backing up, another bonus creating the story as a comic, the basic story went against established comic book themes. Without trying, I was doing something very unique. I was telling a basic superhero origin story, minus the superhero part! It was fun to watch audiences expect certain story beats, because everyone knows these kinds of stories. But since my guy never bothers to actually try to be a hero of any kind, the story takes it’s own natural unique path. Again, all by accident. Happy accident of course.

When is BNW: PE being released?

SM: It hits stores in April. The TPB for the original series is now in Previews. It’s called "Flying Man Discovered." Did you read the sequel first, or the original series first?

CC2K: I read the original first.

Some people read it backwards because the sequel is coming out now, that’s why I ask. I’ve heard people are enjoying it on it’s own without reading the original. Strange to hear that, but cool regardless. Was there a favorite moment for you in the original series? A favorite in PE?

My favorite moment in PE was actually the scene in the diner, with the waitress discussing her first thoughts after 9/11. This to me rung very true, and I think is one of the most humanistic moments in the series.

SM: REALLY?! You just never know what people are going to react to as a writer. I really sweated putting that in there. I thought it could very easily be seen as preachy, but I did my best to avoid that.

CC2K: I think it’s more of "thank god, someone finally said it."

SM: She’s just telling her point of view to the most recent tragedy in comparison to the chaos going on around her. Wow. Yeah, that’s really me talking there. Not my best moment as a human being.

CC2K: Most moments aren’t.

SM: But I was very cynical when I first heard the news. It just seems like Hollywood can’t wait to exploit something like that. I imagine some jerk sitting in his office wishing he could make the movie the next day after it happened. Hey, maybe get a camera crew down there now and get some great DVD extra footage. It’s just sick, and I’m not surprised at all my mind went that way. It was a horrible day, but those were my real first thoughts. Oh well.

Well, you definitely weren’t alone.

Were you surprised by the very ending of PE?

CC2K: I thought it was very clever! And I was just going to ask you: what can you tell us about Dubious Miracles?

It’s a funny thing. I was told by some that the ending of the original series (everyone taking to the sky) was a bummer. As if I’d written myself into a corner I couldn’t possibly get out of. I was told there was no real place I could take the story after that! Recently I was told the same thing about the ending to PE! The fact is the basic fundamental story plot has not changed since I really nailed it down in October of 2005. The final arc is LOADED with material I can’t wait to write. Seven years have passed, the human race treats flying like walking. It’s as ordinary as breathing. How does humanity really cope? But at it’s core, just like the everything that’s come before it, the story is really about Paul. He’s not just the anchor, he IS the story. One more arc to go, and I can finally put to bed this crazy tale that’s been bopping in my head all these years.

Do you have an interest in continuing in comics?

Yes and no. I love so much of the process. It’s a wonderful pool of people to work with, which was really one of the things I was hoping would happen. Getting to step away from my day job and work with a whole new group of people. It’s been incredible on that front. But I really did pay for all this myself. I can’t say I’m dying to pour more money into another comic. But, continuting to work without actually flipping the bill for it, yeah I’d like to. But only on the condition that I get to tell stories worth telling. If it’s not fresh, new material, something I haven’t seen before, then I really don’t have much of an interest. That’s not to say I can’t work on a traditional superhero book, vampire book, etc…but if I can’t think of a way to make it something new, than I just don’t want to bother. I get excited telling new stories, not regurgitating old ones. But that’s just me. I won’t confirm or deny anything, but do you have expectations of what you’ll see in BNW:-DM?

CC2K: The only thing I’m pretty sure on is not getting an explanation on why it all happened. Which, I think, is one of the best parts of the series.

SM: You are correct sir…no explanations. But plenty more Matthew. He gets sidelined in PE, but is definitely front and center for DM.

CC2K: Obviously, it’s convention season. Any plans to hit them up to promote the book?

Just got back from WWLA. I’ll probably stop by SDCC. If I can afford it I want to try Heroes Con this year. Out of curiosty, there was definitely an underlying motive of the series. I was hoping to get the reader the to honestly imagine really flying themselves. Did you ever find yourself actually imagining the possibilty personally?

CC2K: Oh, of course. It’s weird because for me, you think about how great it would be at first, but then the logical problems enter, and you sort of second guess yourself. Suddenly, it’s not as exciting.

SM: Well I didn’t mean to crush the fantasy entirely! (laughs)

Yeah, thanks for that.

But I was certainly enjoying the fantasy myself while working on this whole long endeavor. I still believe there are plenty of great fantasies worth thinking about when it comes to flying. If I didn’t, why would I bother writing DM?

CC2K: Is there any sort of schedule set for DM? A release date?

No. Like last time, we’re waiting to get the current one released to see how it’s received. So far the reviews have been very kind, so unless something really strange happens to cause that to reverse, I see no reason (outside of a little thing called money) that stands in the way of beginning work very soon.

CC2K: Well I’m definitely looking forward to it.

So am I, believe me. I have this perfect ending in my head, and I desperately want to see it. I want to finish the story I started. I’d love to see the whole story sitting on the shelf. My book is a small little indy title. It’s not setting the world on fire. My hope is that it gets passed around. Really fun memorable stories are in short supply these day. I hope down the road it gets discovered as this little lost gem. But it can’t really get discovered properly until it’s complete and finished. At least that’s the way I see it.

Speaking of short supply, do you read mainstream comics on a weekly basis?

SM: Used to, ravenously. When my son Sean was born, I had to give it up. I still pick up books, but not nearly what I used to. I’m always on the look out for great stories. Pure and simple great stories.

CC2K: I think that’s all I’ve got for you. Is there anything you’d like to add?

If people want to give BNW a try, just head to my site right now. I’ve got the entire issue #3 from the first series up there for free reading, and an 11 page preview of Population Explosion. If they like what they read, please pre-order the Trade Paperback for the original series in Previews this month, order code APR08 3543. And of course look for Population Explosion in comic stores in April. And of course, don’t forget to look up every now and then.