A new feature giving an in-depth look at indie and small press creators.
Here’s something not everyone knows... Indie comic creators are self-centered know-it-alls who think they can do your job better than you, especially if you’re comic blogger or journalist.
Of course, please read “Indie comic creators” as “me” and “anyone unlucky enough to have my foibles projected upon them by me.” I shouldn’t talk for everybody, but I do think most of us indie yucks would agree that even the best of the comic journalists are lacking in the nature and the breadth of their underground coverage. Not that we’d all agree on what all should be covered or what would constitute better, just that there needs to be more and better coverage.
I know. Not very helpful. Within the din of “comic book news” our complaints amount to a barely audible but insistent whine.
Well, I’m tired of whining. I’m just going to do what I feel needs to be done... Which is write a column about Indie creators in the format and style hat I’d like to see for myself.
1) A spotlight overview of a creator’s career based on an actual conversation. (An email conversation, but an organic flowing question and response as opposed to a stale form survey interview.)
2) A focus on the spotlighted creator as a unique person with real world experiences that feed into their art.
3) Very clear and prominent links to the creator’s website and social media presence.
4) Everybody who asks for attention gets an email response and honorable mention for any completed work. guaran-fuckin’-teed. (More on that at the bottom)
Spotlight #1: Joe Martino
Facebook Pages: FHA-Q, The Mighty Titan
Neck of the Woods: Little Ferry, New Jersey
Personal Stuff: Single dad (2 plus one on the way) in his early 40s with a girlfriend cool enough to allow an ongoing email conversation about comics while on vacation.
Day Job: Tattooed IT Guy. (OK, I don’t think the tats are part of the job, but that’s how he described it!)
Years in the Comic Biz: 16
I wasn’t going to talk to Joe Martino. My only contact with him was a direct tweet about his kickstarter campaign that was clearly a cut ‘ paste job. “Please check out my kickstarter!” and a link. I can’t recall talking to Joe before that, but clearly I followed him for one reason or another which allowed him to shoot me that direct tweet... so like a good monkey, I clicked the link and began to scan the project in truly superficial fashion. I saw a Superman inspired character named “The Mighty Titan,” which didn’t immediately jump up at me as something i’d be interested in... So I skipped past the video. I briefly admired the art, including a very nice Jerry Ordway alternative cover, but didn’t read any of the text. At the bottom of the page, something turned me around. Joe’s bio pic had him all decked out in a CBGBs tee shirt! I went back and actually paid attention to the kickstarter. (Now you know the secret to getting my attention... Make it vaguely Ramones related and I’m your huckleberry.)
Turns out, what I had dismissed based on the pictures as being just-another-superhero yarn was a story about a just-another-superhero suddenly having to come to grips with his own mortality and that the content was largely reflective of the author’s own experiences with cancer. That’s a lot meatier fare than I had expected! Teach me to judge a book by it’s cover. I went back and watched the video, read the text and dropped Joe an email back to see if he’d be interested in taking part in the first Indie on Indie Spotlight.
Not wanting to waste any time and admiring his willingness to put such a personal issue up front and center, I asked him about the reality of the Cancer experience first. Joe contracted Kidney cancer initially 2004 and again in 2007. Apparently kidney cancer is most common in elderly men and it’s really rare for a young guy without a genetic marker for it, like Joe, to come down with it. “Just lucky” as he put it himself. Now one of the big stressors in his life is his yearly MRI to see if the Cancer has returned.
That’s what his cancer was. In a purely clinical sense. What his cancer, and the Mighty Titan, is about is much more.
“I really wanted to do this for people to understand what some people go through. I had no idea before my first bout what that meant. I used to think I was invincible. Like nothing could hurt me and the with one conversation, it was gone. So, that was my first thought. Imagine I was invulnerable. What would this mean to be if my alter ego wasn't? How would I deal? Would I keep my honor? Would I live(or die) with dignity?”
I’ll admit... I thought that invincible was an odd choice of words. He may have been indulging in some salesmanship for the kickstarter by using a typically heroic word, but it peaked my curiosity from a different angle.. Its not an adjective I’d have ever used in a description of myself at any point in my life. I remember the shallowness of my 20s and 30s and regret the ignorance of my youth as it pertains to m current health, but I never consciously thought of myself as some sort of indestructible force. Joe’s comic should be an interesting solely on the basis that it will give me insight into a line of thought that never occurred to me before.
I’m also intrigued because like me, he’s also a music guy. (The CBGBs t-shirt didn’t steer me wrong! No “Old Navy Fashion Statement there!”)
“I've been a musician since I was 17... I spent my early 20's trying to be a rock star. I wrote the music to my Kickstarter video with Red of Ripface Invasion and recorded it with Elviz Christ of Saint Avarice. New Jersey Hardcore bands. :)”
Wrote the music for his kickstarter!? Far freakin’ out! I love a good renaissance man!
Like Mighty Titan, most of Joe’s comic work is superhero-centric. He has illustrated done a bunch or pinups for indies like Image comics’s Invincible and the Dave Cockrum Tribute book. Currently more a writer than illustrator, Joe is the creator of Shadowflame and Ripperman, which were published through Arcana Comics. There’s info on these pubs on his website including Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe style write ups on the characters.
Interesting enough, the publication effort that intrigues me the most is kind of buried on the site. Like any good punk rock kid, Joe has a thing for the alternative press comics of the 60s and 70s and is working on putting out his own vision of such a rag.
“We (friend John Orlando) have released 3 issues of FHA-Q right now. John is working on the 4th. We've been pretty regular with them, every 2 or 3 months. The reaction has been great but diamond wouldn't stock it so we are selling them through my store. It is like the Undergrounds of the 70s and beyond. But it is it's own thing. If you like Crumb and Zap Comix you'll love FHA-Q. There is a real 'Resurgence' going around in the Underground comic scene. People will be seeing it soon. They won't have a choice! Lol. Well, we hope. “
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if alt press “resurged” to its original levels, and every true pinko-funny-haircut freako in America picked up copies, we’d all still be broke...
Want to be in the spotlight?
The guarantee. I will respond to all requests for press submitted using the form at the link below.
I may not grant you a spotlight, but I’ll take the time to let you know that I appreciate that you’ve created something and are hustling to get the word out about it. Frankly, the inability of the majority of modern “comic press” to take this step is mystifyingly bush league and rude.
Additionally, whetherI spotlight you or not, I will probably post your name, comic book title and a website link in an “Honorable Mention” section of every subsequent Indie on Indie Spotlight. (By “probably” I mean I reserve the right to draw arbitrary lines based on my own moral compass. to start with, no tentacle rape or neo nazi tracts...)