I recently did an interview with Ed Garrett for TMStash.com to promote Night of the 80's Undead.
Originally posted HERE
Interview with Jason Martin – “Night of the 80′s Undead”!
Earlier this year, we spoke with Jason Martin, head of the Danger Zone imprint at Action Lab. Now, we get to speak once again with Jason regarding his own title, “Night of the 80′s Undead” coming out now at your LCS. You can check out a preview atthis link, and at this link we have our advance review. Let’s get to the interview:
TMSTASH: Last time we spoke was back in April about the Danger Zone Kickstarter. Since then the first titles from Danger Zone have come out with great success, with the first titles selling out their first printing. That’s great news!
JASON: Yeah it’s exciting to have them coming out into the shop.
TMSTASH: Now you have “Night of the 80’s Undead” coming out tomorrow. You have something unusual with the book – a soundtrack with a suggested playlist! It works, and it really enhances the reading experience.
JASON: Oh thanks, there were some specific songs that I had in mind when I was writing the book that kind of helped inspire the back story of the characters. So, I thought it was a natural fit to a book set in a past era to kind of incorporate that stuff to build that world.
TMSTASH: There was so much of the 1980’s included, and having lived through it I recognized all of it. Some is clearly announced in the script while other pieces are more subtle, like the kids fighting over the Stretch Armstrong doll or the kid in the cap with the Pac Man logo. But, a lot of the audience who will be picking up the book, even the college-age crowd never lived through any of it, catching the 1980’s through movie references and what they were told by others.
JASON: A lot of that stuff is built into the script. And Bill McKay, who is doing the pencils for the book, we’re about the same age, we’re both Generation X and so we both grew up in the 80’s. He’s adding a lot of things like the stuff you mentioned. It’s a lot of fun. Like you said, someone who’s lived through the 80’s can enjoy going back through that time. But everything’s kind of cyclical and different decades and fashions come back around and so even people that were barely alive then or weren’t even born then will appreciate looking back at the crazy things that we as a culture once did.
TMSTASH: There’s a lot of fun in the book and it is truly hilarious, though in some ways it seems more like a love letter to the 1980’s and a love letter to the zombie genre.
JASON: That’s a good way to summarize it, as some people mistake my work for satire because I have fun with it. The previous book I did was “Super Real”, a comic book that merged superheroes with reality TV, and similar to “Night of the 80’s Undead” it was really built around a lot of themes and ideas that you’ll find in the source material. You’ll find that I’m not really out to make fun of these things. I’m just looking to tell a fun story with them.
TMSTASH: What comics were you into growing up, and what artists/writers inspired you?
JASON: I started reading comics with the original Star Wars adaptations that Marvel did in the late 70’s. I started following comics through the newsstand, mostly Marvel comics. They were doing a lot of licensed comics at the time, so it was Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and ROM. You know, I was really into sci-fi, really getting into comics and just loved the art. I would trace the Star Wars drawings from the comic books. So, comic books were just a natural fit for me because I was a huge fan of Star Wars like so much of my generation. I started following different superhero comics from Marvel, and then in the 80’s you had the independent boom, so I started following book like Cerebus and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and stuff like that. And, I’ve just been a fan of that along with movies and TV and pop culture in general.
TMSTASH: It’s surprising how many comics creators were influenced by Cerebus.
JASON: Yeah, the early Cerebus stuff kind of evolved into a more complex, literate thing, but I was into Cerebus from the earlier run. I loved the stories and the humor of it but even more so his artwork, and always loved the more animated style of art. So, I was a big fan of Dave Sim and his work was a big influence on mine.
TMSTASH: It does seem like we’re in an Indie boom right now, with several titles hitting the top 100 and several creators jumping over to Indie publishers like the recent announcement of George Perez going to BOOM! Does is seem like most of the creative energy is in the Indies right now?
JASON: Well, it’s an overall creative time, a booming time for the US comics industry. Because to your point Marvel and DC, the big two mainstream publishers have been successful for a number of years now. But, Image Comics with a certified blockbuster like “The Walking Dead” and then other books that have come along and have done really well have started to really catch fire. And a lot of creators as you mentioned have started to move back to those creator-owned properties, doing their own stuff instead of just working for the bigger publishers on franchise characters. So yeah, it’s cool to see so many good books coming out from companies like Image and our own, IDW and others offering a lot more books to choose from. That’s what’s so cool about the medium, that you can literally do anything with it. I love superhero comics and that genre, but I’m more focused on the medium and the way that we can tell exciting and different things through visuals, with artwork, the whole medium of comics. So it’s fun to see all the different things we can do with it.
TMSTASH: How did you get the idea for “Night of the 80’s Undead” and how did you and Bill McKay get together on the project?
JASON: Well, I was creating and publishing my own books with my imprint Super Real Graphics and I had a friend who was working on a book called Zombie Tramp. We published that and did ZombieCon, a zombie convention. I’m a fan of genre movies, horror and sci-fi and all that. So, it was really fun just to go to that show because they had so many zombie luminaries there. They had George Romero, Bruce Campbell, some cool people there. That was exciting, and that was the release of the Zombie Tramp book that we published. And for so long I had kind of resisted, because I love zombies and I love horror but in doing that show I realized it was kind of silly to resist it. I started thinking up a zombie anthology that I could do that would feature Zombie Tramp and a few other zombie titles. I wanted to create one title of my own, and I just came up with the idea – just a single image of a zombie in profile like in silhouette and it kind of looked like the iPod ad and it all just jumped out from there. I had met Bill McKay, the artist online and I was talking with him about working on a number of projects that I was working up, and then I started talking to him about “Night of the 80’s Undead” and it just came together. Once I came up with this concept I immediately thought he was a perfect fit for it. In his portfolio for work he had a lot of splash pages and poster images with massive crowds of zombies, and I thought he would be really good at doing the kind of over-the-top storytelling that I wanted to do with the comic.
TMSTASH: It certainly came out very well. This is just a three issue series – is there any more to expect later on?
JASON: It’s designed as a self-contained mini-series, so there’s one three-issue story from start to finish. It’s centered on the outbreak of this totally 80’s zombie virus where you’ve got the climax of the cold war in 1986, and just imagine what if the Soviets had a zombie virus. They could unleash it on the Columbian cocaine supply and kind of subversively strike at the American 1980’s culture of excess and everything that is the opposite of Communism. So, the story is really about the big Hollywood party where it is ground zero that the virus happens and there’s a group of kids, teenagers who break into the party and try to survive. It’s just three issues and then it will be made into a trade. Certainly if it does well enough we could have sequels, we could have “Night of the 90’s Undead” or any other number of things.
TMSTASH: It does seem like something you could continue to have fun with. What other projects do you have coming from Danger Zone (Action Lab’s mature readers line)?
JASON: We’ve had the first three books come out, starting with “Ehmm Theory”, a fantasy adventure that can be gory and funny, and really straddles a lot of genres. It’s just a really fun comics book, and then there’s “Ghost Town” which is co-created by my buddy Dave Dwonch, the Creative Director of Action Lab. That one’s more of a political thriller where you’ve got a weaponized time device that’s caused Washington, D.C. to be evacuated and tells what happens when most everybody leaves town and those left behind have to survive. And then there’s “Final Plague” a zombie-like book centered on the story of what if there was a viral outbreak that started with animals and how would a zombie outbreak play out if it was everything but the humans, at least at first. We have “The Trip” which is a horror graphic novel, and then there’s the “Double Jumpers” TPB which collects the series from last year, where video game programmers get stuck in the game and their characters transfer into their bodies in Las Vegas.
TMSTASH: It’s all been excellent so far – I haven’t read an Action Lab or Danger Zone title that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. With your book, there wasn’t just the playlist to accompany reading the book –there was a rather extensive list of additional 1980’s songs and movies to check out as well. Where did you get all of those references?
JASON: Well a lot of it’s from memory, like with the music there was a checklist of songs that I had on a mix tape from 1986 or 1987. There were a lot of tracks on it that seemed to make it a good playlist for the book, but then I did spend some time exploring other key songs from that era that would be cool to include that are not necessarily Top 40 hit, songs that stand the test of time but not everybody may be aware of. So yeah there was some time in putting that together and Bill had some playlists too. Then for the movie list, like I said I’m a fan of genre films so that came naturally to offer some fun movies that were kind of in the same vein as the book that they can check out if they want.
TMSTASH: “Night of the 80’s Undead” does a great job in depicting all the excess and craziness of the 1980’s, including the cocaine use of the era. Some of the characters come across somewhat misogynistic and very un-PC, but that’s kind of what it was for some back then – more or less a spot-on hit for some of the characters.
JASON: That’s part of the fun of doing something set a little ways back in time, to use a Tarantino term it’s the little differences, both in technology and social structure to look back at all of the things that we’ve kind of left behind.
TMSTASH: Looking forward, the book comes out tomorrow at the LCS, and should be available soon as well at actionlabcomics.com.
JASON: Yes, it’ll come out at the stores and then it’ll be available online digitally at any of the major digital outlets like Comixology. It’ll be in shops tomorrow and then over the next couple of weeks it’ll be available online. Then there’s two more issues to come, and if you like issue #1 we’re taking it to a whole other level with the next couple of issues. Cocaine zombie action, you never know what off-the-wall fun we’ll have.
TMSTASH: Is there anything else you’d like to add about “Night of the 80’s Undead” or the Danger Zone lineup?
JASON: We have a lot more coming up for the Danger Zone. We’re re-releasing the book “Zombie Tramp” in August. The original graphic novel with the origin story of Zombie Tramp will come out first, and then we’ve got a sequel series that comes out in single issue format in October in time for Halloween. And then we’ve got a few new titles that we’re about to announce with an even wider variety of genres and styles. So keep your eyes on Danger Zone because we’ve got some exciting projects coming up soon, debuting at San Diego next week. And we’re also going to start a digital first initiative for Danger Zone and Action Lab, so there will be some content that you can only get online, at least initially. So we’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline.
TMSTASH: Sounds great – thanks for your time, and best wishes for “Night of the 80’s Undead”!
JASON: Thanks for having me back on I appreciate the chance to talk about the book.
And that’s it! Be sure to check out “Night of the 80’s Undead” at your LCS!