Monday, September 23, 2013

Night of the 80's Undead - Sequential Tart interview

Here's a really good interview for 80's Undead that was posted to Sequential Tart recently...

The ask some great questions and get really in depth!

You can find it HERE on their site, or click below to read it here...

It's Like, Totally Zombies, To The Max
Jason Martin

By Roz Young

September 9, 2013


As the popularity of the zombie genre continues to spread, Jason Martin took to writing his own take on the living dead. In Hollywood. In the 1980s. In neon. Martin's comic, Night of the 80's Undead, is a fun and crazy rampage through L.A. with coked up, zombified celebs and everything that's totally 80s fabulous. With pencils by Bill McKay, the pages ooze 80s and Martin's story and colors make the book completely radical, to the max.

Sequential Tart: The first issue of Night of the 80s Undead came out in July. Tell us a bit about the concept and what inspired this crazy story. How long was the concept in development?

Jason Martin: The concept is to marry, just as the title suggests, 1980s themes to a zombie story, so in this case I came up with the hook that it was a Cold War driven last ditch attempt by communist Russia to strike at our American capitalist society via a zombie virus in contaminated Colombian cocaine. Basically they dispatch KGB agents to Colombia to corrupt the source of coke supplied to the states, and ground zero becomes a big Hollywood party in 1986. Coke zombie carnage ensues ....

I created the concept, wrote the comic, and also color it, from pencils that are done by my partner in crime here, Mr. Bill McKay. It's Bill's first full comic, but he's done lots of work on the series Zombies VS Cheerleaders previously, and I previously did a comic series called Super Real. The concept was first conceived about two years ago, shortly after I published a comic called Zombie Tramp, by my friend Dan Mendoza.

ST: You talked about George Romero and John Hughes in a letter at the back of the first issue. How do the films of the 80s influence Night of the 80s Undead? I love the suggested viewing list you provided as well. Return of the Living Deadis classic! (I would also recommend Night of the Creeps.)

JM: George is the lord of modern zombies, and to me, the 1980s are the golden era of filmic zombies, plus a treasure trove of genre/horror cinema that blossomed from the birth of the VHS format, and I'm a huge fan of both. So, Not80sU is very much inspired by all of that, with it in essence being an 80s VHS film, if the filmmakers had traveled back to 1986 from today, and were sure to focus on all of the quintessential flavor of the era.

And yes, Return of the Living Dead is one of my favorite movies, andNight of the Creeps is actually on an extended recommended viewing list that I'll have in issue 2!

ST: You discussed that the comic isn't satire but relating zombies and consumerism creates a social critique that people find fascinating. Do you feel like Night of the 80s Undead has a theme? If so, what is it?

JM: Well, many zombie stories also weave in social commentary, similar to a lot of science-fiction, but I haven't really set out to do that here. That said, I think when you tell these kinds of stories, that are driven by culture and a specific way of life, they become fairly reflective and open to those kinds of observations. The only theme I have here though, is to tell an over-the-top thrill ride through 1980s and zombie/horror/genre pop culture, and to have as much fun with it all as possible.

Click to enlarge.

ST: The art and colours of this comic are a lot of fun. Do you feel like the style is right out of the 80s or inspired by the decade? How did working with Bill McKay come about?

JM: Thanks. Yeah, as I mentioned, I'm doing the colors on this, from Bill's pencils, and doing it all in a way so as to attempt to serve both the horror/zombie elements, and the 1980s theme. Utilizing the pencil art hopefully gives the story more grit, to drive home the gore and horror, and the colors were always being calculated to accent the pastel and neon day glow of the 80s. So I took some time to work out a color palette, or approach, that would work for both of those themes. Plus, Bill is a great fit here because he can do very detailed work, as well as gore, but has an almost cartoony style that balances things out perfectly for the tone of this book.

He and I met via Deviant Art a couple years back, I'm an artist too, and I instantly took to his style, but not only that, he had lots of really cool splash pages of zombies and carnage, girls and guns, and all this stuff that were the hallmarks of the story I was developing. So he seemed like the perfect fit for the book. I was really happy to have him as a collaborator on the series. I think he really helps bring the concept to life!

ST: It's fascinating to think about the comic as a period piece. Has writing about the 1980s given you any interesting thoughts about the decade? How much research did you have to do?

JM: Yeah, I'm of the age... the dreaded middle-age...where you start to look back in the recent past and go, "Shit! That was 20 years ago??!! Really?! 1994 was almost 20 years ago?!?", you know? I was born in '71, so I'm Generation X, and so yes, revisiting the 80s is nostalgic for me. And no, I didn't have to do a ton of research, it was really more focusing in on my own recall, lol. I did carve out some time picking a fixed date in the 80s, and lining up all the references and elements to sync up correctly (mostly) with that. It's funny, Bill is also about the same age as me, and so again, he's perfect, and can add little 80s Easter eggs too. Or conversely, he's not researching this stuff, so I'm constantly like, "No, Bill, Crystal Pepsi is from the early 90s!", it's very fun.

ST: Do you think teenagers now are different than 80s teens? What are the defining characteristics of Sarah, the quintessential 80s teenage girl in the Valley?

JM: Oh, well, yeah, I would assume. Though I'm pretty far removed from that, I do comics and am a voracious pop culture and music lover, so I tend to skew much younger then my age in many regards, but with technology and all that's brought in social change and lifestyle, I'd assume they're pretty different animals today, but yet the same at heart. So, yeah, that's part of the fun of the story, exploring that. "The little differences," to quote Tarantino in Pulp Fiction...

But yeah, Sarah, our lead in the story, is meant to capture the essence of an 80s teen girl, but hopefully have her own arc and voice too.

ST: Night of the 80s Undead has a female lead character who strikes a pretty badass pose on the cover page. Did you always intend to have a female hero? It's more common in horror than many other genres; do you think that's still true in comics?

JM: Yes. Very much, I just find writing female leads much more interesting. I feel like, male leads are boring, we've seen just about every scenario there, and in comics, often if it's a female lead, it's mainly in a bad girl capacity. Now, it gets tricky because I also write and draw overtly sexy women, but I'm not doing so with the sole purpose of exploitation, I genuinely feel these ladies can be strong and sexy, and smart, and anything a male character could be, and more. So it's a fine line, and I know it puts off some people, but these are the stories I want to tell. Sexy and exciting. But also often times, big dumb and fun. So there's always a balancing act at play, because while things may be that way on purpose, or on the surface, I try my best to infuse more levels to all of it.

ST: Horror and the zombie genres have a lot of rules and conventions. Do you feel limited at all by what people demand from a zombie comic, or do you like to play with those expectations?

JM: Definitely the latter. Everything I do creatively is about playing with people's expectations. I love mashing up different themes or genres, both in story and art. And having worked in a publishing capacity in comics for some time now too (I published books under mySR Graphics imprint, and now with Action Lab and the Danger Zone line), I'm drawn to genre defying material too.

And when I put that fine a point on it, it makes me wonder why that is, and I'd guess it's because I'm really pretty sarcastic in nature. So, having fun with things to me, is about looking for new angles and spins on things that people already love. Doing that with the zombie genre was a challenge, and one I resisted for quite some time, despite my love of post-apocalyptic survival/horror stories. But I think I was fortunate enough to settle on a mix of ideas that really takes it in some new directions. I'd say that's the hope, but ultimately, the hope is to just tell a fun story. If I can leave a mark on zombies in some way, that's icing on the cake... er, brains!

ST: The zombie origins in a story can make or break it, andNight of the 80s Undead has a hilariously twisted concept. Once the cocaine fueled actor-zombies hit the streets, how much crazier can this story get (without giving away spoilers for Issue #2!)? How far ahead do you plan when you write a comic?

JM: Great question! That's the thing, these are coke zombies, so, you kind of have to extrapolate that things are going to move very fast, so I want to reflect that in the story. But yes, these guys, they hit the ground running, and we do explore that in issue #2 (out in September) ... without saying too much. This story is only three issues, so I can't give away too much without covering good portions of the action! Just, expect, more crazy, more action, more more more!

In planning, I have many projects or concepts that I'm kicking around, way too many stories bouncing around my head and plates spinning to get to all of them, which can be a bummer (calling all artists!). The nice thing about that though, is that I have the luxury of time in that, I can keep developing the ideas, and making notes that really build the concepts and help make them so much more than if I likely just forged straight ahead with them. And that's the case here. I got the concept quickly, and the general plot straight away –- a group of teens trying to survive in the eye of the storm, set around Hollywood –- but it took a couple years to get the book going, so I had tons of notes and ideas to help build the script. Which hopefully translates to tons of fun reading it!

ST: Including a playlist available online is such a great way to make a comic even more immersive. How does the music provided for Night of the 80s Undead help to tell your story?

JM: Thanks. Yeah, to me it's more about the immersion then the music helping to tell the comic story. I'm a big movie geek, and it's no small detail that the best movies all have amazing music at their core (sound effects, score, soundtrack), so often people overlook that aspect of film -- sound. Movies aren't just visuals, they're a marriage of picture and sound. And to me, I approach comics in a very filmic, decompressed kind of way, and I'm very passionate about music, so, as I'm writing, I can't help but think of a soundtrack that goes along with the visuals. Even though I know the comic won't really ever have this soundtrack, I can't help but picture it as a movie as well, and if it were a movie, what bad ass music would it have? So Zack Snyder can't come in and fuck it up the ass with his AM radio pastiche. (I love the guy, Dawn of the Dead and 300 are pretty masterful, great movies, but yeesh, Watchmen and Sucker Punch are a master class in soundtracks gone horribly wrong.)

Uh, so, tangent/rant aside, lol, it occurred to me the soundtrack could be more incorporated, or at least shared, with modern streaming music apps. And well, it's 80s undead, so, cool 80s music is a natural, and I've got some beloved mid/late 80s dance / alternative mix tapes chock full of hidden gems to dust off for said purpose!

ST: It's busy to be on the road doing promotion, like at San Diego Comic Con right now, while continuing to generate creative content. What's next for you and this zombie series?

JM: Right now we're coming into the home stretch, starting work on issue #3. To be completely honest, it's well plotted, but I'm a seat of the pants type guy, so I still have to sit down and fully script it (probably this weekend, or in the next week).

Also, being a control freak, as I mentioned I'm an artist too, so my scripting is pretty dialed in visually (and my overall vision of the book). I like to truly collaborate with Bill, and get a feel for what he's doing with the art, where he's taking the script, to really nail down the final details of the story and dialogue. The whole process is really organic in that way.

So yeah, look for issue #2 in September, and issue #3 (and a trade) a couple months after that.

JMart — Blog for artist/comic book creator / publisher Jason Martin

Bill McKay — Pencils from Night of the 80s Undead and More

Night of the 80s Undead Blog — Learn more about this crazy, coked out zombie story!

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