Imagine if nearly everyone could fly like a superhero. Skipper Martin did, and he’s spent the last ten years bringing his Bizarre New World comic to life.
In 2007, Martin launched Bizarre New World at Ape Entertainment with artist Christopher Provencher and colorist Wes Dzioba. The first four issues of Bizarre New World quickly found critical acclaim, but a wider audience elluded it. Undeterred, Martin continued his main Bizarre New World storyline with artist Adam Huntley and he started a Bizarre New World anthology that allowed over 50 creators to explore the idea of humanity taking flight. Among the contributing creators were several established pros, including Rick Leonardi, Tradd Moore, Allan Jefferson, Megan Levens, Tone Rodriguez, Roberta Ingranata, Corinna Bechko, Ed Brisson, and Troy Dye.
It’s important to note that Bizarre New World is not a superhero story. There are no villains to fight or overly heroic battles. It’s simply about the way that the world reacts to these changes before the price of this miracle becomes clear. The main storyline follows Paul Krutcher, the world’s first flying man… who quickly loses the only thing that made him unique when the rest of humanity takes to the skies.
Without the backing of a publisher, Martin has put an incredible effort into finishing his story. Both the 278 page main storyline and the 225 page anthology have been completed, and Martin has started a Kickstarter campaign to finally bring Bizarre New World back to print.
Unfortunately, success still remains out of grasp for Martin. Although the Bizarre New World Kickstarter has amassed nearly $5,000 to date, it remains $10,000 under its funding goal with only a few days remaining before it ends on Thursday, May 28. There’s a very high possibility that Bizarre New World will fail to get funded despite being complete and ready for print.
Recently, Nerdist caught up with Martin, who shared a very frank assessment of the challenges that he’s faced on this project, including the amount of time and money that he’s spent on it, and even a taste of some of his horror stories about working with other comic creators.
But Bizarre New World is ultimately a hopeful story, and Martin also spoke about the way that the series has genuinely changed his life for the better in addition to sharing his inspiration for the tale, and his advice for other aspiring comic pros.
NERDIST: Assume that most of our readers haven’t seen Bizarre New World yet, how would you break down the premise?
SKIPPER MARTIN: Overweight schlub Paul Krutcher discovers he’s the world’s very first flying man, but his specialness is short-lived when soon the entire human race joins him in the sky!
N: What inspired this story?
SM: The core idea sprung from basic wish fulfillment. Who doesn’t want to fly? Typically in fiction, human flight is reserved for superhero stories, but I wanted to explore how it would affect a real blood and guts human being. Once that simple idea hit me, it wasn’t long before I imagined taking the idea globally. How would the world change if everyone could fly?!
N: I really enjoyed the entire Bizarre New World comic, and the ending that you have in place for the main storyline. How long did you have that in mind as a conclusion?
SM: No spoilers of course, but the basic ending concept came to me whole from the first few minutes the idea popped into my head. If, however, you mean the actual ending scene, that’s a bit more personal. When I first met my girlfriend Ellen Everett in person, it was after getting to know her through phone calls over a month or so. We hit it off so well when we met that leaving her brought me to full blown ‘ugly face’ sobbing that fogged up my glasses. For a moment, it looked to me like I was soaring through clouds. This of course gives ZERO context to the actual ending that appears in the book, but that’s where the scene was inspired from.
N: How did the Bizarre New World Anthology come about?
SM: In my opinion, the only honest way to explore the entire world flying is to bring in other unique points of view. Even in the beginning, I believed other voices were absolutely essential in making the project a fully fleshed-out complete endeavor. I didn’t know how many stories I could afford to produce, so I started off small. It ballooned into a massive undertaking of its own, clocking in at 225 pages from 50 collaborators.
I couldn’t really afford to make the main book, let alone this short story collection, but I was so damn happy with the results, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. The whole idea really came alive for me as this flying world got bigger and bigger.
N: From start to finish, how long did it take to finish the main storyline and the anthology?
SM: The original idea came to me in 1999, but I was too intimidated to act on it until 6 years later. On October 10, 2005 I woke up seriously pissed off that I hadn’t ever tried to create something that was entirely my own. After a bit of thought, I realized the best idea I’d ever had by FAR was my flying world idea. Screw being intimidated that the idea was too big! Screw waiting for an opportunity to come to me!
I decided on that day to take an honest stab at trying to make something fresh and unique. I purchased a Moleskine notebook, wrote the date and a temp title “Flight” on the first pages, and I simply started working. On February 5, 2015, the project became officially complete. The anthology was in production alongside the main book and was actually finished in late 2014.
SM: Our funding goal is $15,000. The book is finished, so all that’s paying for is the printing. I did everything I could to make a campaign that was affordable to the possible backer – even going so far as to factor in a small loss on my part. This was the only way I could offer a quality printed 278-page book for only $25. The plan made sense because it would ‘kick start’ the awareness of my book and get it into reader’s hands ASAP. I then ponied up another $5,000 I didn’t really have to market the Kickstarter campaign. In for a penny, in for a pound, eh?
I don’t know what the opposite of the Midas Touch is, but I sure seem to have it. Every single thing I tried failed spectacularly. People love the book, I’ve got a killer collection of glowing reviews to prove it, but the public simply didn’t show up to support us nearly enough. To put so much energy, money, good will, good intentions, you name it, into something like this, only to watch it publicly blow up in my face – it’s been a very very heartbreaking experience.
N: Bizarre New World was set up at Ape Entertainment in 2007 for a few issues. How did that play out?
SM: About as well as my Kickstarter experience. They were good guys, we all tried, and we all share the failures.
N: Why did you decide to go it alone after your experience with Ape?
SM: The honest answer to that question sucks, but it’s lack of professionalism. I don’t limit that statement to just publishers, not by a very long shot. You can’t work in comics for any serious length of time and not be smacked in the face constantly with unprofessionalism. It feels like everyone treats the work as incidental and unimportant. If that’s the status quo, and believe me it is, the less left to other hands the better.
Even with my current Kickstarter failure, at least I have no one else to blame but myself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The guys at Ape made mistakes, we all did, but they treated me fairly. I’m mainly self-publishing now with fellow Ape alumni Troy Dye because I no longer want to have anyone else to blame.
N: Give us a ballpark estimate on how much you’ve spent on Bizarre New World over the last ten years.
SM: The project took 9 years and 4 months to complete. After the first 3 years, I stopped keeping a running total on money spent. It was just too damn painful. Every time I was ready to throw in the towel, a new page of beautiful art would show up, a new killer script would hit my inbox, something would remind me how special this project was, and I’d just knuckle down and keep going. I started this damn thing and I wanted to see it through.
A day or so after the project was done I sat down and did a post mortem. It took a couple of days to go through all the records, and my very conservative total number was $118,293.74. I wasn’t shocked at all. Depressed yes, but not shocked. Now add another $5000 for the Kickstarter debacle, and anyone can easily understand my current low spirits.
SM: The easy answer is I just wouldn’t quit, but that’s not the honest answer. The fact is people loved the results. If my book was reviled when it hit the stands, hell, even if my book was casually dismissed, it would’ve been extremely easy to just stop. But the accolades just kept piling up. I’ve got around 50 positive reviews, and only 2 negatives. I was called ‘best new comic’ twice. Readers would approach me at cons to tell me how much they loved the book. How could I leave something like that unfinished? I never would’ve forgiven myself.
N: I know you’ve got some horror stories from working with other creators. Which ones can you share?
SM: A penciler once bluntly said to me “all artists are flakes.” I’m willing to bet any anthology creator has a long list of horror stories just like mine. I used to wonder if it was just me, but I later learned flakey artists are all too common.
If I say the words “I’ve been cheated out of money by an artist,” there are multiple people out there would could read this and think “He’s talking about me!” And you know what? I am. You. Yes, you pitiful scumbag, I am talking about you! I remember what you did. I remember what you owe me. I absolutely DO NOT forgive you, and would very much like a simple refund. The amount is meaningless. Be it a hundred or thousands of dollars, if you promised me something and think I just forgot, I didn’t, I won’t, and I hate you with the burning fire of a thousand urinary infections.
For every artist who whines on Facebook about being treated unfairly, I’m here to cry BS. I paid the rate people asked. I paid usually within 24 hours of completion. I covered the PayPal fees for convenience. I offered bonuses to get work finished. I offered flat-out bribes for people to finish. I even paid advances to multiple people. It usually ended badly. Do I have horror stories? From newbies to pros, I’ve been screwed over by a lot of people. And I know I’m not alone.
N: Fair is fair. What are the best things that came out of working on this book?
SM: Finding my girlfriend Ellen Everett, and making friends with some damn good people. They know who they are.
N: Looking back, what would you have done differently?
SM: I’m a firm believer that making mistakes is a good thing. To that end, I stepped on a stadium full of rakes and learned something from every damn one of them. I can’t change the past, but if I could, I wish I had heeded that penciler’s advice I mentioned more thoughtfully.
SM: My homepage BizarreNewWorld.com has a preview you can read right now, as well as 14 short anthology stories too. I absolutely recommend people try me out before contributing. I stand by the work and believe reading some will prove that I’m worth backing.
N: If the Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, then what’s your next move?
SM: Considering how things are going, I honestly haven’t a clue. Once this public Kickstarter flogging is over, I’ll probably lick my wounds, save up the money, and pay for the printing myself. I paid for everything else. Why stop now? In the short term, I’ll probably try a digital solution so the wonderful backers who did support me can read the book ASAP.
N: Do you have any final thoughts for potential readers of your books or budding comic creators?
SM: For readers, I recommend trying some of the free Bizarre New World comics that I have on my site. It’s a work of passion that I poured my guts (and bank account) into because I believed it was a story worth telling. I still believe that. For budding comic creators, I say heed the wise words of Peter Quincy Taggart – “Never give up, never surrender!” Even with all the horror stories, I’m glad I saw this project through to the end. I’m damn proud of the final work. Even from all the people who treated me terribly, in the end, it’s the book that matters.
Either that, or use me as a cautionary tale and never ever make comics.
To contribute to the Bizarre New World Kickstarter, and you only a few days left to do so, click here.