Tell us about your creator owned comic Black Alpha.
About 10 years ago, while I was complaining about the Star Wars prequels to a friend, who recommended rather than getting frustrated with the direction the prequels took, why don’t you just do your own story? With that being said, I will give you the quick elevator pitch, or movie pitch, if you will. What if you took the Batman story sprinkled in some Iron Man tech, and dropped it off in the middle of a Star Wars-like universe? That’s the sand box I’m trying to play around in. The slightly lengthier version is that there are at least a dozen star systems that are under the protection of the mighty Guardsmen. The Guardsmen are a combination of folk hero/royal guard for the magistrate that not only serve the monarch, but also the people of the Provinces as well. The Guardsmen are the pilots of a CEL (Cyber Enhanced Link) suit. Each member of these warrior elite has to train rigorously as the suit is an augmentor of this person’s natural abilities. The pilot has to remain incredibly disciplined in order to operate the suit effectively.
The Amariah are one of the oldest and most legendary of factions of the Guardsmen, which are destroyed by a mysterious threat during a rescue mission. With the Amariah gone, and the Guardsmen numbers reduced as a whole, the magistrate has reassigned the bulk of the Guardsmen to the more wealthy and influential core systems. Due to the mysterious threat, and political upheaval, the outlying provinces (which are referred to as the Fringe Territories) are left unprotected, and as a result, have decayed into lawlessness and corruption.
Our lead protagonist, Tranden Antares(who grew up in the Fringe), dons the CEL suit, and appropriates the ship of a fallen Guardsmen, and uses these weapons as a means to avenge the destruction of his colony, of which his family was a casualty. Instead of the Batmobile and the Batcave, we have Black Alpha’s ship, the Aramis 7. Instead of Alfred the butler, we have his robot assistant/confidant AUTTO.
The story has themes of loss, redemption, and renewed hope. As you can tell from my lengthy premise, I have combined the tropes of the superhero myth, against the backdrop of grandiose space opera.
What was the first comic you read and what do you read today?
John Byrne and Chris Claremont run on the X-Men – first comic series that I collected regularly and bought for myself as a kid. I tend to follow artists around, rather than titles. Right now because of Greg Capullo, I’m enjoying his and Scott Snyder’s run on Batman.
How did you get into the comic business?
Like most comic artist wanna-be’s, I went to the cons and got into the submission lines and basically learned that it would probably be better to talk to working comic artists and get feedback from them. If they thought that you looked professional or polished enough, at least back in those days, you stood a good chance to be introduced to an editor or two. In this particular case, the artist was Cully Hamner who introduced me to his editor at Malibu Comics and after waiting for a few months, found out that Marvel had acquired Malibu Comics. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from Marvel editors Matt Morra and Joey Cavalieri asking if I wanted to work on Marvel’s Punisher 2099. I was elated because it was a dream come true. Unfortunately, I got in just as the comic market bottomed out, and wasn’t on the book very long before it was cancelled. Some time after that, I migrated over to the video game industry.
Talk about your time in the video game industry.
I learned at the beginning of my career in the video game industry that there’s a different mindset transitioning from comic book artist to concept artist. The main notion being that you can spend a lot more time refining characters and their designs and that’s because once you’re done designing characters you can hand your characters off to modelers and you possibly never have to draw them again. Also, art directors want the characters to be as perfect as they can be for a particular game. It’s also really cool to see your designs come to life in the animations. Last but not least, the hours tend to be more regular. Most of the time.
How did you develop the idea for Black Alpha?
The character Black Alpha has been around since I was in grade school really. I always knew I wanted him to be a cosmic hero with a ship, and that remained the basic premise for many, many years. It wasn’t much more refined than that until much later. I was always attracted to characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man and Batman and Star Trek and Star Wars, and my character and story was probably born of those five major influences. Since I have loved both super hero myth and space opera equally, this is my attempt to merge those genres.
What is the future of the series?
Currently I am wrapping up the first issue of a six-issue mini series (with a story by Drew Hunt, Mike Keirns, and myself), which has an all ages demographic. As I move forward, I am building this thing as a transmedia vehicle. There are already toy and merchandise prototypes developed, and I’m also talking to people regarding graphic novels, books, and later, cartoon and film features. The comic will be released online as well as having a limited print run.
What advice do you have for up and coming comic creators?
If you’re creating your own comic, spend some time world building and developing it, so that the universe you’re creating feels structured and solid. If you’re just trying to break into the comic business, try and be honest in how you view your work. Always be open to critique and learning from them, because you always want to be at the top of your game as the industry only wants to work with the best.