Back during MegaCon Tampa Bay I interviewed and got to know Martin Dunn. I previously knew of him through a friend and the comic book community but after that weekend I walked away feeling I met the kind of creator that as a kid or teen would make me excited to read comics. Someone who’s work you always want to check out and who’s career you want to cheer on.
At the convention, Martin briefly mentioned Wrong Way. A semi-autobiographical comic that was more real than made up. A story that captured a snapshot in a period of his life. A comic that in the best way must have been painful to pour out onto the page. Because from reading the first issue I can tell you that Wrong Way hits you in all the right places and in some places, you wish it didn’t.
From the comic.
WE ALL MAKE BAD DECISIONS… Having been a rebellious teenager, Trey Miller was once part of a nation-wide manhunt, when he and his high school girlfriend Allison went on a cross-country crime spree together. Now, in his mid-thirties, Trey’s mundane life as a struggling cartoonist leaves him feeling lost and overwhelmed with his life, partly due to the consistent berating he suffers from his wife Madison, and overbearing father.
However, several events transpire that lead to Trey making the decision to hit the road in search of Allison, and any other adventure he can find. These choices will forever change his life whether they are inspired or misguided.
And it perfectly uses black and white and color to illustrate the two major points in the main character Trey Miller’s life. Black and White for the present illustrating the humdrum monotonous struggle of adulthood. The things you don’t want to deal with, but must. From the disappointing way things, have turned out for you to being reminded by family at what a failure you are. But with color the past like the Oz portion of the classic MGM film The Wizard of Oz is so much alive. The possibilities are endless, every moment, especially when you meet that mystery girl or end up crashing into a ditch on the side of the road in hindsight seem like an exciting period.
I also have a crazy feeling from growing up listening to punk rock music and the friends I had who were into the scene more than me that the color pallet reflected that era of the music from Trey Miller’s youth. A quick question to Martin and two seconds later his answer proved my suspicions were right. The colors are all stolen from punk rock/grunge rock ads from the 90’s. How cool is that? At the least it shows you some of the thought that was put into this comic.
Another neat addition to the comic is the way they blend in the music. Story of my Life by Social Distortion, Silly Girl by The Descendants, Stranger than Fiction by Bad Religion, and Wrong Way by Sublime. Now they’re not the first to do this but none the less they get it right and it comes off natural and it adds to the story rather than distracts from it.
And by them I also mean the artist Cori Walters. I know I haven’t talked much about the artist but Cori’s work is fantastic. Channeling Jim Mahfood and the Punk Rock zines of the 70’s. DIY is all over the page of this book. This is also Cori’s first published work and it doesn’t show. Talk about being ahead of the game. Because they bring this comic to life in the best way. In that you can’t imagine it working with any other artist. And that’s probably the highest compliment I could give anyone. Cori Walters is someone to watch for. Keep an eye out.
And for you Joshua Black fans check out Trey’s hoodie in the flashback sequences.
Now I know this is going to seem like a ridiculous statement. Especially given that I’ve only read the first issue of this comic. But I’d like to think I know a thing or two about what constitutes a good comic. So here it goes. If you enjoyed The Copybook Tales from Oni Press or Blankets from Drawn and Quarterly, then you will want to check out Wrong Way.
Before I sent my questions over to Martin I asked him (for shits and giggles) if he could sum up Wrong Way in the classic Hollywood elevator pitch what would it be? His answer was “Fight Club meets Bonnie and Clyde by way of SLC punk.” I think after reading the first issue you might agree.
Now how about those questions concerning the comic? And don’t forget to check out the preview pages littered throughout this article.
Marco: Hey, Martin. Why don’t you tell us some more about this comic? Like how did it come to be?
Martin: Well, it’s this therapeutic concept that I started working on back in like 2012. I was in a really bad headspace and felt sort of trapped in my own glass house. It’s not an easy thing being a single dad, and I just felt like I was trapped in this box with no way to escape, and no way to make it better for my kids. It started with me jotting down memories of better times, but when I re-read them, I realized I was really romanticizing them quite a bit.
In 2009, my now ex-wife ran off and left me with our 4 kids. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. I was really a kid myself, and I just sort of had all this weight on me. I vented that in Joshua Black, the feeling of the world being on your shoulders. However, with Wrong Way, it was a couple of years later and I had this idea, it was based on several friends saying I should write a story about my life. What started as more of a personal log, turned into a 74k word story.
Around this time, my then girlfriend was helping me edit the manuscript and said I should “Just make it into a comic.”, I argued I didn’t think it would work, but after some prodding, I wrote a 24-page script but sort of just slept on it.
At MegaCon (Orlando) 2016, I met Cori Walters, and we hit it off pretty quickly. Cori and I are separated by a good decade gap in our ages, but both of us love punk rock music. Cori had shown me some of their work and I was really in love with it. We talked through email and text quite a bit about working on something together. I have so many projects I’m developing in some form or fashion, that I’d sent a link to a folder with like 100 different concepts I was wanting to do and by just not even thinking about it, Wrong Way was in there. Cori hit me back a day or so later and was hardcore into wanting to do Wrong Way. So, that was that.
Marco: What was the need for you to tell this story?
Martin: It was one of those situations where I was battling my depression. I just had to get it onto the page, and out of my head. It’s not something I’ve kept secret that I have travelled a rough road to get to where I’m trying to go. I’m an addict with 14 years and counting of sobriety, I suffer from Bipolar disorder, Anxiety, and ADHD. However, for the first time in probably my entire adult life, I was in a stable place, and I was sort of uncomfortable with the lack of chaos. Which I know sounds insane, but I’ve been to jail, I’ve been shot at, jumped, beaten up, I’ve been broke, homeless, living out of my car, and so much more. This was a period in which I finally had this odd calm around me and I had no idea how to handle it.
The concept evolved though. It had been about 4 years since I’d touched that story. It led me to re-write the script, update it, and breath a fresh life into it. One of the initial flaws with the first draft of the first issue’s script was pointed out by my editor. All the characters were downright horrible people. I had this screwed up perception of myself, and my life, that I’d just turned everyone in the script into broken and disgusting individuals. When I rewrote it, I made Trey more like myself now. I’m no longer in a horrible marriage, but I am a comic creator digging out my own stronghold in the scene. I do want that big dream job and opportunity at a bigger company, and while my parents are more supportive than Trey’s, I have dealt with that type of scrutiny to this day from others.
Marco: Having read the first issue and some of our previous conversations before this interview. I got to know how much of what I read is true in the first issue?
Martin: I’d say like 80% is true in some form or fashion. Trey’s Dad is based on my ex in-laws, Joey is an amalgam of some of my best friends in high school, Allison is based on my ex-wife when I met her and another girl I dated in high school. Madison is based on my ex-wife and some ex-girlfriends, etc. etc. etc.
The truth is there though. Something some of the reviews I’ve gotten back are talking about is the realism within the dialog. The trip to Trey’s parents is almost verbatim a conversation I had with an ex-girlfriend. The dinner table discussion, is based on something I witnessed at a friend’s holiday party in which his father just completely ragged on him the entire time. The first encounter with Allison in Trey’s flashback is 100% the way my ex-wife and I met. “There will be so much Smoke and Pussy” is also legit a thing my childhood best friend used to say to me all the time in high school.
So, I’d say the 20% that is false is easy to pick out. I never ran off to join Occupy Wall Street because I saw a girl I knew in the paper there.
Marco: And finally, why should the comic book-loving audience out there check this comic out? Instead of spending their hard-earned money on Marvel, DC, or other comic book company’s books. Why should they instead fork over $3.99 to check out your slice of life indie comic?
Martin: If you buy it you’ll make me happy? You’ll increase my chances to not have to starve? You’ll inflate my ego a bit? I’ll be honest. I don’t know. I don’t feel like it’s competition. I do know that when you read and support indie comics and creators, you’re opening the door for a wider group of amazing creators to get their feet in the door and deliver to you something that you may be missing. I hardly feel I am the best guy out there, but I work my ass off and I put everything I have into every project my name is on.
If you don’t buy my work, then go buy someone else. Ruben Romero and Clara Meath’s “Throwaways”, Bob Salley’s “The Salvagers”, Dirk Manning’s “Nightmare World”, Dee Fish’s “Wellkeeper”, Josh Dahl and Shawn Langley’s “Rapid City”, Felipe Cagno’s “The Few and the Cursed”, Raymond Leonard’s “Agent Solo”, The whole run of Tyler James’s Comixtribe stuff, Sean Mack’s Short Fuse Media is doing great things, hell if you want to support something you know, Erik Larsen’s “Savage Dragon” is still being released.
I mean, tell your LCS to carry indie books, go over the heads of Diamond and order direct from the creators themselves. There are always stores in your area willing to help creators. Yancy Street Comics in New Port Richey are big supporters of the independent comic scene here in Florida. The owner, Steve Baginskie is a class act and as long as you don’t call him on a Wednesday, you can probably get your books in both the New Port Richey and Tampa shops. Comic conventions are a hotbed for independent and creator-owned books too. I’d say Kevin Boyd the comics coordinator for Fan Expo is another of the biggest supporters of the new wave of comics coming through. So, check out who is at the upcoming shows, and go and buy their books!
I’m not just trying to sell you on just buying my stuff or CAE Studios’ stuff. I want you to be buying and supporting the independent comic scene. It’s the readers who will help bring in the “Creator-owned era” of comics. I can tell you I love my Marvel and DC books, but at the same time, I love new and original stories.
You never know if the next Y-The Last Man, or Preacher, or Walking Dead, etc., is out there if you’re not looking. If you’re a sceptic, you can get copies of most indie comics for ridiculously low prices on Comixology. I know for a fact you can get Joshua Black #1 and Wellkeeper #0 for free on Comixology right now. So, I urge you, this holiday season, buy someone something creator-owned. It’s going to be a passionate journey into someone’s love and determination. I can’t lie and say all indie comics are good, I won’t even say that most are good, but there are some gems that would make Thanos smile out there.
And that’s a wrap and I honestly if after reading what I had to say, looking at the preview pages and reading the interview if you’re still not convinced to check out Wrong Way #1 then I don’t know what else to say. But it’s obvious that there is so much passion, love and determination going into this book that it will be worth your time and money. So if you’re interested then don’t forget to check out the book when it’s released this Wednesday November 3oth on Comixology and follow CAE Studios/Big Pond Comics on Facebook and Twitter. And while you’re at it follow Martin Dunn as well on Facebook and Twitter.
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 Bill and Ted 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.
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