Written by Neil Greenaway
At Phoenix Comic Con 2016 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Michael Martin of Nightshade Comics about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 6/05/2016, and you can read their version of it here.
Michael Martin and Adam Orndorf are putting together a new book from Action Lab called Blood and Dust: The Life and Undeath of Judd Glenny. The book (available this August from your local shop) follows the trials and tribulations of a family of vampires in the old west. I had the chance to sit down and talk with Mr. Martin about the book, and what to expect from the story.
Neil Greenaway: I am sitting here at Phoenix Comic Con talking to Michael Martin about Blood and Dust. So what can you tell us about the comic just by way of rough introduction to it?
Michael Martin: So Blood and Dust is the story of the first American vampire. After the Civil War, he was a pretty bad man and went out west to try and find redemption. And through a series of events went on a spirit quest and was possessed by the spirit of the vampire, one that they didn’t even think was real, only a legend. And so for 40 years Judd terrorized the west and was more myth than anything else. And through a set of circumstances he found out that he had descendants, he had kids that he didn’t know he had. So he went to go see them and he arrived in the night seeing his granddaughter dying and getting ready to orphan her 3 kids. Judd couldn’t let that happen so he turned her. She ended up turning her kids and attacking her kids and now Judd has to spend the rest of eternity protecting the world from these children and these children and his family from the world, because the only thing in the world he gives a damn about is those 3 kids and his granddaughter.
NG: All right. Now is this something that you and Adam created together? What was the creation process on this?
MM: So Adam and I met at work and we were talking about my recording studio and what I was going to build. Then he asked me are you a writer? Well yeah, I’ve written stuff, I’ve written a lot of horror and stuff. He’s like, well have you ever written a comic? And I’m like, is that thing? Do people write comics? I didn’t know that was a job. And he was all, well yeah. And he read my stories and he said we should write a comic. Adam is not really a horror guy, it’s not really his genre. So we were originally kicking around the idea of doing kind of like a Strange Tales or a Tales From the Crypt, where you would have this old man telling the really horrible stories to these little monstrous kids and that was kind of what we were talking about doing. But then how would you discipline a little monster kid, how would you discipline a vampire child? I said, well if it’s me I would pick him up by the neck and I’m going to shove a knife through their shoulder and hang them off the wall until they learn to mind. That’s page 3 of Blood and Dust issue 1 (laughs). And that’s really the thing we decided to go down this route, we started this almost 10 years ago. You know Twilight had started to become popular, I’ve loved vampires my whole life but even at that point so much had changed. The concept of falling in love with a cow is ridiculous to me, you know, so why would a vampire fall in love with dinner? That made no sense. And so that’s what we wanted to do – all of the normal things you will see in a comic, in a horror comic, in a book about vampires you’re not going to see in ours, that was the exact goal we set out to do.
NG: OK. If it’s been in production for 10 years or at least been a concept for 10 years, how did you guys get into Action Lab with it?
MM: Well when you say 10 years you’ve got to understand that this is the thing for creators, right? This is my very first book. I have never written a comic before in my life. Adam had done some anthology work and some very, very small indie work. You know, it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a learning process and this business is unlike any other that I’ve seen. I think professional wrestling is the closest you can get to it because you learn the rules, you learn the craft. Nobody lets you in, that’s the thing people don’t understand. We showed up to Phoenix Comic Con in 2009 with a script. We had written a script for issue 1, I was still recovering from surgery; I was still sewn together from having my kidney removed, ok? We’re walking around and showing people we’ve written a script we’d like to make a comic. And they were like, ok awesome go do that. And we’re like, well here it is, and they were like no, no you haven’t done anything. You know you need pages. So the next year we… this was before Kickstarter or anything, Adam put forward his own money to have pages drawn and we did that. So we stuck together a book and they were like cool, where’s the rest of it? Where’s the lettering, where’s the coloring? And that was what we learned. And in the time Adam had a baby and that became his world and I am very career oriented in my day job, I have a very intense career. So I moved back to Idaho for a few years. Then I moved back in 2014, Adam calls me and says I want to get the money back that I put into the pages, I’m going to try and do a Kickstarter to get that money back, are you in? I’m like, well if we are going to do this, let’s do it right. I’m more of the business side of things you know, so we looked at it all, we launched and did it and really we achieved our goal that we tried to do. Adam got his money back and we made our comic book and it was awesome. It was awesome to hold in my hand something that I didn’t think was possible that I could do, so that was awesome. And so 2014 Tucson Comic Con we debuted, we fulfilled our Kickstarter, everyone got all their stuff. We fulfilled all over the world, which was great to me that people in Switzerland and Norway were reading my book which was the weirdest thing. But the thing that happened that we didn’t think was going to happen, let’s face facts man, everyone makes comic books. You walk around this floor and there’s a ton of indie creators man with varying levels of work. Some of it is just amazing. So people liked the book and they liked it enough that I was like, let’s try again. So our original artist, Rudy Vasquez couldn’t continue and so Adam found Roy Martinez through Facebook that connected comic writers and artists. Roy is the closest I’ve ever seen… he’s inside my head. And so when he found Roy and he showed me the pages and asked him to do a few sample pages, I think we asked him to do something like 4 or 5 pages. By page 2 I was just like you’re done, you’re done, you’re fine, you are officially part of Blood and Dust.
NG: And where is Roy in the world?
MM: He’s in the Philippines.
NG: Oh, OK.
MM: And that’s another interesting thing, you know we started a thing here called AZ creators right? I love Arizona and I love local artists and everything else, but the thing for people trying to get started in the world and everything, let’s face facts, you have to pay United States page rates and you know it’s hard to find the level of work I was looking for at the page rate that I could afford. You know Roy is, I honestly can’t – I mean I have met some of the most amazing artists, I know some amazing artists, it’s crazy, but I would put him up against anybody. I would put him against I do not care who- Neal Adams, or name one and Roy is going to come up with something just as amazing as theirs is. So I’m a fan of the man, and that’s the thing. Our colorist also lives in the Philippines. Raymund Lee, both Ray and Raymund are protégés of Whilce (Portacio) and they just do this crazy work. And that’s what you do, especially as a new creator if you want to do this. It’s very likely you are not going over to your buddy’s house and be doing this next door. We’re talking at all hours of the days and nights, I get a message saying, I’m not really sure what this means because it’s a second language. So I go, let me explain it you know? And there we go.
NG: What plans do you have for this series?
MM: So this series was originally written as a six issue arc, and we did that because that seemed to be what a graphic novel was. And literally I say these things because I want everybody to understand how completely ignorant you can be and yet still end up sitting here going this is freaking awesome. So we like literally counted pages in a comic book, so we started with 21, learned a little there (even numbers are good), so we evened that out. And we looked at books like Hellboy and stuff and we were like, seems to be about 6 issues, that’s what we’ll do. So after signing with Action Lab last year, the approach we are taking is we’re doing the first 3 issues, so August 3rd is the first issue release date, so they are going August, September, October. Then we are going to bundle them all together for a trade paperback for November and December. Then the next 3 issues will come out January, February, March and then will be bundled together for the volume 2 of the trade. We called it Blood and Dust: The Life and Undeath of Judd Glenny though Blood and Dust is the overall title. Each arc is going to have like Blood and Dust: The Ballad of Law Dog and Preacher Man, there will be Blood and Dust: The Life and Undeath of Sadie May Kalum which is the only other vampire he let live. So we have a lot of different stories that we want to tell and none of them are nice.
NG: At the beginning of the interview you had said that you conceptualized this as a sort of a Strange Tales with Judd telling the stories to his grandchildren; do you ever see it turning back into that anthology style book?
MM: Yeah, I think there is going to be a lot of opportunities. Like we talked about doing the Glenny Family Christmas, because the thing about this story is that Judd is not a nice man and I cannot stress that enough. You’re going to find in history and everything as things are revealed, I expect people to lose their mind. I expect a lot of controversy. I expect a lot of people will be very unhappy when they finally find out everything about him. He is not a hero and he’s not and anti-hero, he’s just him. So the kids are where the humanity comes in. Because they are kids, they’re just kids that can kill you. So there will be parts where he’ll tell stories. We’ve introduced a character named Eddie who is kind of a vehicle for Judd to kind of talk to, and kind of start off with here’s this story. In fact that was kind of a good way to allow him to tell things of his past and why these things are happening and everything. I hate blatant storytelling in comics. The best compliment I have gotten on the reviews so far is, ‘I am 3 issues in and I have no idea what’s going on and that is the best thing I have read in comics because I truly don’t know what the hell is happening,’ and that’s the way we wanted to keep it. I talk a lot about the backstory during interviews and everything but when you read the book you’re like where the hell is that at, that’s not here, this isn’t anywhere and you’re going to find it out in maybe issue forty-something where you’re like holy crap.
NG: So this is a grander universe, you could carry this story forward for some time?
MM: I desperately hope so. It’s hard to understand, I mean I have tattooed it on my arm. I mean this; this story is such a passion for me. When I go out, when I ride my Harley and I ride through the desert, Judd’s in my head. I don’t know what he does half the time until I start writing it and then I’m like, wow that’s f-cked up, you know? I have such a large grand scheme and a world for this that I want to play with and do things that nobody’s ever seen in a vampire story arc.
NG: Are there any other stories in you, comic wise, do you think? Would you ever or have you started writing anything else?
MM: Yeah. So Action Lab asked me to pitch for one of their Full Moon properties, I’m in the middle of doing that.
NG: I love the full moon stuff.
MM: Yeah I do too. And the one in particular that they asked me to so, they liked it. They thought it referenced too much to the original, you know because I wanted to pay respect to the history of that. I mean no matter what you can say about movies, Full Moon movies or Troma movies or things of that nature, they are specifically done a certain way for a reason and to play in that sand box was really weird because I have only been used to writing out of mine. I tried to pay a lot of respect to it. They were like, we like it but you can get rid of some of that. So we will see how that goes. I just talked with Action Lab last night and gave them another story I want to do that they really liked a lot and so I’m starting to put together another creator owned- the things like Full Moon and stuff is… well, I’m not used to it. I’d rather set goal to be like, gosh I want to write for Marvel or I want to write for DC. Those are page rates man, that’s a job and that’s awesome. It’s a badass job you can have. But the great thing about doing creator owned is that nobody tells me what to do with my story and the best thing about Action Lab and Danger Zone is that they have given me absolutely no restrictions whatsoever, they’re like go nuts, do whatever you feel like is what you want to do in your story, and I’m like OK!
NG: If someone wanted to find you online where would they go?
MM: Well there is @bloodanddust on Twitter, there is Nightshade Comics, Blood and Dust, and Michael R. Martin on Facebook as well as on Instagram and also www.bloodanddustcomic.com as well as www.nighshadecomics.com. I’m rebuilding the site so right now it’s a placeholder. Since we have moved over and moved to the Action Lab/Danger Zone family we’re rebranding a little bit and changing it up a little. Right now with the book coming out in August, the thing I need people to do is go to your local comic book store and ask them to please get you a copy of Blood and Dust. And if more things like that happen, the more you will see cool stuff coming out from us.