COMMENTARY TRACK: The Martian Confederacy

Fri, August 29th, 2008 at 2:26pm PDT | Updated: August 29th, 2008 at 2:29pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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"The Martian Confederacy" graphic novel on sale now

On sale now is the new original graphic novel "The Martian Confederacy." Set on the red planet in the year 3535, the story is one of a world that's lost its tourism trade and most of its natural resources. Or, as writer Jason McNamara says, "The Martian Confederacy" is about "toxic air, blood-thirsty politicians and drinking bears." To save Mars, it's up to three outlaw rednecks to get back the one thing that can cleanse the putrid air and return the planet to its former glory.

"The Martian Confederacy" comes to us via Girl Twirl Comics and the creative minds of Jason McNamara ("First Moon") and Paige Braddock ("Jane's World"). Read along as they discuss in this week's COMMENTARY TRACK their new science-fiction world, the role of Latin American colonization in the story, and the behind-the-scenes story of the cover: Was it attractive enough? Would it move books? Will the "bubble butt" help?

Read on to find out!

As always, SPOILERS follow.

Story continues below

Page from "The Martian Confederacy"

Jason McNamara: In writing early drafts of "The Martian Confederacy," we kept coming into conversations like, "Wasn't that done in 'Star Wars?'" Or "Planet of the Apes?" Or "Dune?" We decided to embrace science fiction as a living language by having our characters embrace those movies as their past. Hence their money is called "Shatners."

It's also a reflection of TV babies, like myself, who were raised by television. I couldn't name the first five U.S. presidents but I could write a dissertation on "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Sketches for additional pages

JM: These initial first three pages were added after the book was finished. In looking at our mock-up, we realized that we needed an atmospheric entry point into the story. Also, we neglected to establish that Sally, the Alculde's assistant, has some. . . peculiar genetic abnormalities. As opposed to it coming out of left field later, we give you a glimpse of her walking on a set of hands.

Final versions of sketches above

JM: Adding pages was one of the luxuries of writing a graphic novel as opposed to single issue with a specific page count. I thought Paige did a great job of interpreting my script. Adding these pages was a good suggestion on her part. These "prequel" pages reminded me of the quiet openings of Sergio Leone's westerns. The establishing panel on page four was originally the start of the book.

Pages 1-4, 5

JM: One of many tributes to television and film, our "professor" is named The Professor, a la "Gilligan's Island." And the Alculde (Al for short) is also named after his job function. In basing the intergalactic colonization of Mars after Spain's colonization of Latin America, I lifted Al's position from history. The Alculde was a figure in Spanish colonies who acted as the legislative, judicial, and executive arm of the government. They mostly worked alone or sometimes with an assistant. One of the Alculde's many responsibilities was to make sure you prayed at night. How they reinforced this I have never been able to find out.

Page 12

JM: Outside of one panel, we don't really tell you what's happening back on earth. But Paige figured that eventually with overpopulation and the depletion of fuel, people would be forced to live in abandoned cars. That's where we get the germ for house plates from earth.

Pages 13-14

JM: The last page of this scene was illustrated by accident. When I write scripts I keep notes and dialogue ideas in parentheses and then when I go back and tighten things up I delete them. In this case I had some crap dialogue notes that I had left and Paige illustrated.

So I utilized this extra page between Spinner and Boone to expand on their characterization. Spider-Man fans might recognize the names of Boone's ex girlfriends.

Page 67 process from script to color

JM: Paige and I had some spirited debates while creating the book, all of which I think ended up making the book better. One of which was about the cover. This past spring Paige presented me with our cover. It was a shot of Lou, our android, holding her broken-off arm on the surface of Mars. I loved it. Paige and I both love Lou the most out of all the characters. She's clever, resilient, and ironically the most human of all the confederates. So I was stoked to see her on the cover. But then Paige decided to change the cover. I'm sure she won't mind if I show some highlights from our email debate.

Original cover
From: Paige Braddock

To: Jason McNamara

I'm seriously thinking of revising the cover and using the current image that we have of Lou as the title page inside the book. Obviously I haven't finished color on Spinner and Boone. And I'm going to give Lou more of a bubble butt. . . But I think this approach might be better. . .

From: Jason McNamara

To: Paige Braddock

I love you but you're going to give me a *$%ing stroke.

I like the original cover much better. It's. . . the one we've been promoting online, at conventions, book signings, with mailings and solicited in previews. Altering it now would undermine our promotional efforts. Even if Jackson Pollack came back from the dead to paint us a new cover, it would be too late to affect preorders.

And while I love a bubble butt as much as the next guy... the original is better and already in play.

Don't hit me.

From: Paige Braddock

To: Jason McNamara

Sorry... don't have a stroke. (You crack me up.)

This whole cover discussion has been interesting. I was ready to toss the 2.0 version of the cover because you felt so strongly about it...

But then when I got that feedback from two retailers whose judgment I trust, I thought we maybe shouldn't toss it out so quickly.

As both of them highlighted, what really counts is off the shelf sales... catching the shopper's eye.

Final cover

JM: Now I look at those covers and I don't know what I was thinking. Paige was right: a bubble butt tops amputation any day of the week.

You can see that cover in finer comics stores everywhere right now. If you can't find "The Martian Confederacy," ask your retailer. The Diamond Order code is MAY083907. Alternatively, you can order it through a bookstore with the ISBN number 978-0-9794207-1-9.

As always, if you have any titles or creators you'd like to see in THE COMMENTARY TRACK, or you're a creator with a book coming out that you'd like to talk about in detail, drop us a line. We're especially looking for artists/colorists/letterers who are looking to talk about their craft, as we've had a shortage of those so far. We're busy behind the scenes lining up books for the weeks ahead, but there's always room for more!

THE COMMENTARY TRACKS

TAGS:  commentary track, the martian confederacy, paige braddock, jason mcnamara, girl twirl comics

 
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