Earlier this week in advance of New York Comic Con, IDW teased that the outrageous "Mars Attacks" property the publisher licenses from Topps Cards would be ray gunning its way on to some of their other comics, starting with E.C. Segar's classic sailor Popeye. Today, the publisher released the full info on the event, and it may be even wilder than fans have expected.
For five weeks across January, "Mars Attacks" one-shots featuring an eclectic array of characters. "Mars Attacks Popeye" comes from Martin Powell, Terry Beatty, and Tom Ziuko followed by "KISS" by Chris Ryall, Alan Robinson, and Tom Ziuko. The month continues with "Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters" by Erik Burnham and Jose Holder and "Transformers" by Shane McCarthy and Matt Frank. Finally, an original IDW property gets into the mix as "Mars Attacks Zombies Vs. Robots" by Chris Ryall, Andy Kuhn, and John Rauch.
The series will feature regular covers by Ray Dillon in a style inspired by the classic trading cards, but they'll also come with some surprising variants allowing Mars to attack a mix of well known creator-owned properties by top-notch artists like Mike Allred, J. Bone, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, Rob Guillory, Dave Sim and Terry Moore not to mention a few curveball property variants like Judge Dredd by Ray Dillon and Spike by Franco Urru. The publisher shared an exclusive first look at these variants with CBR.
IDW Editor-in-Chief and Chief Creative Officer Chris Ryall proved the brains behind the fifth week event, and he opened up with his desire to do a series in the vein of their recent "Infestation" crossovers that was a more tongue-in-cheek take on the licensed property mash-up idea "I put together the 'Infestation' story two years in a row now. The first one was kind of a cheat in that we couldn't have the characters cross over into one another's world, so we told these stories that were tangentially connected. But we never got to tell a story where they met each other like people would've liked. We got to do a bit more of that last year where the characters did overlap, but I didn't want to go back and do 'Infestation 3.' We wanted something different," Ryall explained.
"The 'Mars Attacks' property is a bit more insane than most of the licenses we have. There's lots of good carnage in there, so we thought it'd be fun if we could spin that into some of our other books that are more respectful properties. Normally in 'Transformers' you don't get the level of insanity of a 'Mars Attacks' comic. We thought it'd be fun to mash that all together."
Format-wise, as he and his other writers were preparing their stories, Ryall said that releasing the stand alone one-shots by era made the most sense. "I wanted to go chronologically. I wanted 'Mars Attacks' to fit into these universes by the rules already established in those books. So if there's a Popeye story, the Martians can only cause as much damage as you'd see in an old Popeye strip or a Fleischer cartoon. It's not going to be quite as over-the-top violent as John Layman's 'Mars Attacks' comic. It'll fit well into the Popeye universe. So every issue is a stand-alone story, and they roll out chronologically by era. Popeye comes first and takes place further back in the timeline around the 1930s."
His own story with the theatrical rock bank also had its roots in a classic comics effort. "With KISS, the one-shot takes place in the '70s. It's basically a 'What If?' that plays off the very first 'KISS' comic that ever existed. It was that Marvel magazine comic that Steve Gerber and John Buscema did. I basically take that story and throw Martians into it. We're doing similar panels from that story and using the same characters and then expanding from there. I don't know if it's any more crazy than Steve Gerber did, but at least aspires to the same level of craziness. That was the first KISS comic I ever read as a kid, so it's fun to go play with that and mash Martians back into it.
"When I think of these things, I come to it as a fan," Ryall added. "What would be cool? Well, it would be cool if we saw Martians take KISS' abilities and you saw Martians with KISS makeup and all of that. That's where the story goes, so the humans that should have turned into KISS never get that chance. The Martians get the talismans first, and then the human members of KISS have to try and stop this invasion."
Fans asking for more twits on the established IDW series will be interested to hear that the third "Mars Attacks" one-shot features "The Real Ghostbusters" – a nod to the Saturday morning cartoon. "Since we've used Ghostbusters in these last few 'Infestation' stories, we asked ourselves 'What can we do that's different?' We've had a lot of people asking for a story set in the world of the animated series and the NOW comic that was done a while back, but we've always had our stories roughly set in the movie universe. So now we're doing 'The Real Ghostbusters' so people can get the animated versions with the Martians mixed in as well. Then we jump into the future with Transformers. We thought that one would be fun because we've got Shane McCarthy who did the epic 'All Hail Megatron' story for us coming back to do a big 32-page battle with Martians."
Wrapping on Zombies Vs. Robots" was a no brainer for the writer. "We set up early on that there aren't concrete rules with how that property works, so you can do kind of lunatic things with that property. We established early on that there was a stargate sort of thing – a gateway in the 'Zombies Versus Robot' world that went to other places. So that's a great mechanism to bring the Martians down and let stupid things happen from there. I didn't set out to write two of the five, but it ended up being that way because with KISS I had a story I really wanted to tell, and with 'Zombies Versus Robots,' I try not to hand that off to anyone else if I can help it."
When it came to the variants, Ryall cast a wide net hoping other artists would have as much fun with the series as he did, and the comics community didn't disappoint. "I've been trying to get the coolest possible people I can to do variant covers. Their characters aren't involved in the crossover, but we've got Mike Allred doing 'Mars Attacks Madman' and stuff like that. They're really fun variant. There are going to be covers from Mike, Dave Sim, John Byrne and some other cool people. We would have liked to involve some of those characters, but it gets too complicated when you're dealing with licensed properties on one side and all these characters and universes involved. That leads down a road to complete madness. There's just too much paperwork. But with a cover, you can do just about anything.
"So I started looking at creators I loved and properties I thought were cool. With John Byrne, I think everyone would expect something like 'Next Men,' but I wanted to do something we've never done. Then I thought, 'Nobody in the world except me and other old school John Byrne fans remember Rog-2000 – the robot character from his Charlton days.' So I thought it would be a fun celebration of John's almost four-decades in comics to have him go back and do a cover where Mars Attacks Rog."
But the variants ended up going deeper than standard sci-fi and action properties. "We also had Walt Simonson do 'Starslammers,' and then we got even crazier with Terry Moore doing a 'Strangers In Paradise' cover. It's like, 'What's the stupidest thing we could do that people would never expect?'" Ryall laughed. "That's a fun, earthbound, realistic comic mixed with this crazy Martians. I was actually surprised, pleasantly so, that some of these creators wanted to do covers. I thought, 'Terry more is an Artiste! He'll never want to do this.' But he just laughed and was all for it. Getting Dave Sim to do one was an unbelievable thing. And with Judge Dredd, since we're just about to launch our own title, I didn't want to drag him into a crossover with these titles before we've established our take, but doing a cover made sense. And Greg Staples did this cover that's just amazing. It stunned me how good all of these were, like Rob Guillory doing 'Mars Attacks Chew.' It's a murder's row of great artists and fun properties."
Overall, the variant that maybe best embodies the spirit of the project is one Ryall didn't expect to happen. "The one I was most surprised happened was that it was only a little over a year ago that the rights for 'Angel' went over to Dark Horse. That wasn't necessarily something we wanted to see happen, so we thought we could have some fun with that and tweak both the fans and Dark Horse a bit if they'd allow us to do a 'Mars Attacks Spike' cover. And so we got Franco Urru who was our big artist on those properties to do the Spike cover. I'm glad Scott Allie at Dark Horse had a good sense of humor about this, and we go to do one last cover with Spike where the Martian is about to crush a bug that Spike's hanging around with in 'Buffy.' It's all about, 'How much fun can we have with this thing?'"
Stay tuned for more IDW news from New York Comic Con all weekend on CBR!