In Cameron Crowe’s phenomenal 1989 classic Say Anything there’s that great quote on the poster. For those of you who don’t know the movie, it goes like this. To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to get to know Lloyd Dobler. I think that’s how I feel about Martin Dunn and after this interview, I think you will as well.
At MegaCon Tampabay he was one of my favorite interviews as he is full of so much love and energy for comic books and the industry. You can just feel it oozing out of him and there’s no way you can’t come away hyped after spending some time with him. So, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. I was almost going to post the audio file because the interview doesn’t do justice to who he is as a person and a fan. Because to know, Martin Dunn is to love him. And you guys are about to get to know Martin Dunn.
Marco: This is a two-part question. What got you into comics, made you fall in love with the medium and how did your career start in comics?
Martin: That’s such a broad question. Falling in love with it, I guess it started as a kid. I don’t remember exactly how old I was but I remember I had a cousin who gave me a box of comics and it had a bunch of Spiderman and X-men comics that were the old mail order stuff. There was a comic shop in the next town, my mom used to take me over there after that, I always bugged her about getting another new comic, and it was such a few and far in-between experience, then my dad found out I liked comics and he would go to flea markets and bring home boxes of comics and in those boxes, I found a few that stood out, Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, the Daredevil comics by Frank Miller and then probably Miracle Man.
Marco: That’s some serious stuff there man.
Martin: Good friends of mine will tell you, I have a Miracleman shrine in my house, I have Kimota! tattooed on me as well. It came down to, though, what made me want to do it, draw comics, I was either a freshman or junior in high school and I had a teacher, Mr. Leanado who I still speak to, and he was probably the most inspiring person back then, he would always say you are talented, you should be doing this, working in comics, so he got me tickets to a Michael Turner workshop and I went and it was a whole new world. So, I got an internship at CrossGen Comics and then I literally left comics completely, to move to Nevada with my now ex-wife, then in 2011 I came back to it because I’d gotten into the music industry and done very well and I hated it, but I’ve always been happy with comics, buying comics, reading comics, going to cons and so I decided to dust off some old ideas and everything just kind of fell into place from there.
I went to some cons, started talking to people and asking lots of questions because I have this philosophy that you should be a sponge for anything you’re passionate about and you should learn everything about it. I paid for a two-hundred-dollar sketch from George Perez for the Hero Initiative so I could just sit next to him and ask him questions. He said, what do you want me draw and I said, I don’t know, Batman and then started asking him all these questions so that was kind of my approach. I’d go to these panels and ask questions you’d never hear people ask. I sought out how to do it and if I didn’t know how to do it, I learned it and I think that’s literally one of the reasons I’ve gotten bigger in this industry. I didn’t know how to ink when I got in, I didn’t know how to letter, I didn’t know how to format or build books, I didn’t know how to print, set up for distribution, but I learned it all. I have good ideas, people say I have good ideas, apparently, I get good reviews but even now I don’t think I’m the writer that I could be, I don’t feel like I’m the artist I could be because I’m constantly trying to learn. I’m so excited about the panel tomorrow, there’s Mike Perkins, Bob McCloud, I’m on there with Chuck Dixon, Tony Bedard, Sunday I’ve got Liam Sharpe, Pat Broderick, and my whole hope is I’m going to leave those panels learning something new and I’m the guy who is literally hosting these panels but to me, this is the coolest thing in the world.
Marco: I like that you talked about learning and asking and wanting to know everything there is about the industry. Because one of my pet peeves is people who don’t do research. Especially when they want to get into an industry they profess to love. Google, it, ask questions, you know?
Martin: I said this to… I think it was Matt Hawkins who said I should put it in my book. I’m working on a book about making comics now and my problem with the independent comic scene is we have a whole lot of faucets and not enough sponges. No one is willing to sponge up all the information, they’re just pouring it out, this is how I do it, I do it right. No, you don’t but you know it’s fine. I’m positive I don’t do everything right, that would be impossible, I’d be making a lot more money right now.
Marco: So, CAE Studios and Big Pond Comics, did that come about out of a necessity of getting into and then being in this industry or was it something you just wanted to do? Had to do?
Martin: When I was first trying to get into comics, I had many meetings with indie publishers here in Florida and I took Joshua Black around and was like, hey I’ve got this comic and they were all into it but they all tried to play me for an idiot. They either acted disinterested after the fact or they acted indecisive, gave me the runaround on certain things and I got frustrated.
Finally, I had this really horrible experience with this publisher that, it’s funny because Bleeding Cool covered this story, look up Jesse Grillo, you’ll know who I’m talking about, but it was horrible and a buddy of mine was working at a con and I was like, I’m going to make my own company, I don’t know what I’m going to call it yet, and he said you’re an artist and at a con, con artist, that was so cheesy but we were Con Artist Entertainment for a while but I didn’t like the negative connotation of con artist so we went to CAE Studios and then Dee Fish, whom is one of my best friends in the whole world, and she was doing Big Pond Comics and I was doing CAE and we started to collaborate on everything, we were literally in my studio all day working together so we kind of became this sort of big merger where Big Pond and CAE became one entity. It started slow, like what if we do all our kid-friendly books through Big Pond and we did all our other stuff through CAE? That’s cool but then #IFightGhosts went from a kid-friendly book to something not kid friendly and it was a Big Pond Comic so we had this weird conundrum and that’s how CAE/Big Pond was born.
Marco: I must say I love Joshua Black. The issues you sent me we’re so good, but something that I noticed and I might be wrong was this almost has a Clark Kent/Smallville kind of parallel. Like I could see this as a show on the CW. Was that something that inspired you when creating Joshua Black?
Martin: The inspiration for Joshua Black, it’s like this melting pot. Route 666 by Tony Bedard and Karl Moline is the influence behind the tone but some of the more over the top concepts come from Savage Dragon and Erik Larsen’s style. The beginnings of Joshua Black was a character named Damien and I wrote it in high school and it was called God’s Sin. It was this thirteen-year-old kid that was angry at everything, had this abusive life so he tried to destroy everything. It evolved, I came back to it years later, it’s got crazy Miracle Man stuff, it’s very much influenced by that concept too, it kind of plays into that. But when I was writing those first three issues, I finally took the dive and was binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, comparing it to a WB show, I can see it.
One of the coolest things that was ever said to me by a fan was, this was just after issue three came out and she came up to me at a show I was doing, she couldn’t compose herself and I said what is it and she said issue one broke my heart, because it was my brother and I was like what do you mean. And she said my brother killed himself, but it was because of her father and for her it was like seeing her brother and father and she loved the book, it was liking seeing what would happen if her brother had lived, it was very powerful and really, I didn’t know what to say. She was super touched by that and I get it a lot from people who get that who get that element from it.
I always worry that the book, there’s disconnections throughout that whole book and I get that. I do it on purpose. Some people don’t realize that but my favorite complaint ever was the lack, the flames that Levetica shoots out when she first debuts, they’re so perfectly aligned that you never see her boobs and that was an actual review of issue two of Joshua Black. But I get a lot more positive connections, emotional connections and Joshua Black was an emotional book for me, it’s about taking responsibility. It’s about several things, as a person who suffers from bipolar disorder, ADHD, who is a single father with four kids, I had to literally grow up on the spot.
If you think about it that’s Joshua, not wanting to screw up the burden handed to him and that’s kind of where all of that came from. I think that right now where we are with the story, with the team we have and everything, it’s probably my favorite project to be working on, it’s fantastic.
Marco: As an independent creator who has his own publishing house and is putting out his own books, do you have the want or the need to work with Marvel or DC?
Martin: A friend of mine who runs a website asked me in an interview one time, would I be willing to leave everyone behind, stop doing what I’m doing and go work for Marvel or DC, I said hell yes and he was shocked. I would never leave my friends behind, I’ve always reached back and said if someone was looking for a talent, I’d say I know an inker or I know a penciler, that’s not it at all. It’s a dream, a bucket list dream. I’d love to do a Spiderman story; I want to do a Batman story but then I want to do something that people would never believe.
So, Marvel should totally hire me for all my connections in the indie scene and my supporters, thirty thousand followers on Twitter and hey, I have a Supernatural fan base. My dream project would be to come in on something small, like take Hannibal King out of the superhero element and make him a private detective who is trying to get away from all this crazy cape nonsense, with DC the same thing, I’m willing and able. I’ve worked so hard just to get on that map and it’s not because I think it’s better than what I’m doing now but to me, it’s that natural evolution, like what’s the next step? Well the next step for me would be to go and work for someone like Marvel or DC.
I’m working my ass off right now to try and get a publishing deal for a couple of books. Evie’s book Fetch is getting so much attention but I haven’t had the right publishing deal come up, and it’s not because I’m expecting a million dollars, I just want a deal that works for me financially. I have four kids to take care of, I can’t do that if I’m spending four thousand dollars on print runs, I can’t do it. Right now, I’m working on a pitch for Wrongway, which is the most ridiculous, off the course of anything I’ve ever done, I’m sure my fan base would be confused. It’s the most personal project I’ve ever written, it’s about my life, I’m ready to pitch that. I really want Fantographics , that’s who I want, I have to mail them a copy because they don’t take digital submissions. So yeah, if Marvel or DC came knocking I’d be right there, what do you need.
Marco: Now that everyone knows a bit about you as a creator and your love of the industry and what you do. As a fan of comics, what is it that you’re enjoying right now?
Martin: I like anything Justin Jordan works on; my problem is some of the stuff I’ve been reading is a year old. I have a box just full of books, I’m that far behind, and I’m also working on comics so I’ll read more when they come out. I’m more up to date with Marvel and DC stuff because I can easily throw it on an iPad from Comixology and read it there. I always feel bad when people ask me this question because I want to say indie books but the only stuff I’m up to date on now is, I’m reading Spawn, does that work?
Marco: Oh, yeah, of course. Heck I’m still reading Spawn. People don’t give Todd enough credit for keeping a book going for that long. Especially with all the people he’s brought on board.
Martin: Birthright is fantastic, I’ve read every issue, it’s amazing. You can tell Joshua Williams from me to him that it is brilliant.
You know what I love? Old Man Logan by Jeff Lemire, it’s the best written Marvel or DC book out there right now. Issue eight gave me goosebumps, I haven’t had a comic give me that kind of reaction in so long, probably since Ultimate Peter Parker died. I don’t ever fanboy and I tweeted Jeff Lemire, wow, holy crap. His run on that and Extraordinary X-Men have been fantastic, I love X-Men and I have not liked X-Men in so long because it’s all watered down, Wolverine hasn’t been the same so I love Jeff Lemire’s Old Man Logan, it’s just amazing.
I like Dan Slott’s Spiderman but I’m not sold on the conspiracy story line yet. The problem with Peter Parker is that they’ve made everything for him so great that it’s hard for him to have a happy life but he still manages to have a crappy life. I think the problem is that Peter Parker is a blue-collar hero and everyone can relate to him, now that he’s rich it’s oh, who cares that his girlfriend sold him out and was trying to get him killed, he’s worth millions. He has a lot of crap going on but because there’s so much action and Spiderman now we forget that his step-uncle just died.
For me, when it comes to comics in general, there are certain things that still hit the beats. I still read Walking Dead religiously, I still read Invincible, I read Savage Dragon, Spawn. I think since Erik Larsen came on Spawn it has been the best Spawn in like forever. Even though I’d love to do a Spiderman and Batman story really, I’d love to cut my teeth on characters that don’t have that audience, that I can prove myself with. Anyone can come in and do a Spiderman story and it’s like, he sucks or he’s good, I get that but you’re always going to have ‘that’ reputation afterward either way. For me, coming onto a character that no one remembers like Hannibal King or Taskmaster, I swear though D-Man is the character I want to work on the most at Marvel. Give me D-Man and I’ll give you the greatest D-Man story of all time.
Well, the fat lady is singing and that means it’s time to wrap this up. I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Let us know how you feel below. And don’t forget to check out Martin Dunn’s work via your local comic shops or the CAE/Big Pond comics website and Comixology page. You can also follow Martin on twitter and Facebook.
And check out his comic Joshua Black. It’s so good and worth your time and money.
Marco Lopez is the co-owner of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly webcomic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Abbott and Costello in tights. Also hosted on the site is Marco’s web strip series Orion’s Belt that follows an Afro-Latino family of adventurers in space and his anthology series A Shot of Whiskey. Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.