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Johnny Zito and Tony Trov, writers of Black Cherry Bombshells and Moon Girl, along with Christian Weiser and artist Paul Maybury (Aqua Leung, Party Bear), are teaming up with High Treason Pictures to tell the story of Zoe, “the swashbuckling captain of Earth’s first Martian colony. Isolated on the farthest frontier of civilization, order breaks down when unfamiliar hostiles invade. Zoe faces mutiny, death and dishonor; she must sacrifice her humanity if she hopes to survive.”
I spoke with Paul, Johnny and Tony about the new project, D.O.G.S. of Mars, due later this month. Like Zito and Trov’s Moon Girl, the comic will be released digitally via comiXology, with plans for a film down the line. Thanks to Paul for an exclusive look at some pages from the project; for more, check out this video he created.
JK: What is D.O.G.S. of Mars about?
Johnny: It’s about astronauts marooned on Mars and hunted by monsters. It’s like Lord of The Flies and Star Trek.
Paul: So far it’s about surviving as far as I know. This might sound stupid but I haven’t read the script past what I’ve drawn. This is less an action packed Monster book than a study of the character’s humanity in my opinion. I know roughly that characters die, but it’s more interesting to draw them scene to scene not knowing their fates. I feel like this creates an honesty and an interest in each character as I draw them that I might not have if I know they happen to be a throw away character that gets killed three pages later. Like I said, that probably sounds pretty stupid.
Tony: We like to describe the project as being in the genre of space-ploitation.
JK: Can you tell us more about the main characters?
Johnny: Zoe is the swashbuckling captain of Earth’s first Martian colony. Turk is her brash XO who second guesses every order. Emit is Zoe’s husband, an arrogant physicist who bites off more than he can chew. It’s an ensemble cast of average, “blue collar” folks, who just so happen to work in outer space.
Tony: Exactly. Space-plotation.
JK: I’m assuming D.O.G.S. Is an acronym … What does it stand for?
Johnny: Division of Global Surveyors… Which is kind of a play on the real life Division of Planetary Science and NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor.
JK: How did you guys come together for this project?
Paul: I was living in Austin working at Hot Topic at the Barton Creek Mall for 6 months. It was a bad time to be a comic book creator out of work, and it was the only job I could get on short notice. Literally my two choices were Hot Topic, and Forever 21. I think I picked the lesser of two evils? Any ways, while I was zoning out at the register, we carried copies of Kill Audio by Sheldon Vella and Claudio Sanchez. Travel back in time to 2008 I was signing copies of Aqua Leung in NY next to Claudio, and in Popgun with Sheldon. It kind of got me down thinking about how through various deals falling through I was where I was at. At that point Party Bear, a half completed graphic novel had been turned down three times over… Sort of magically Sheldon and I started chatting on DeviantArt about this and that and when he asked me what I was working on I said nothing. Apparently he passed this project along to me and here I am drawing a comic that’s going to see the light of day.
Johnny: We all got to hang out at SDCC last year and things clicked. We talked about Asian gore movies, Alien comics, the interior lighting on a submarine, wilderness survival and country western music; turns out we have a lot of the same influences. Paul really understood the themes of isolation and claustrophobia we were trying to get across in this story. It’s been really exciting working with him.
Were you familiar with each other’s previous work before you met?
Tony: Yes, Zito and I were very familiar with Paul’s work before we met. We were all Zuda Comics kids.
Paul: Yeah, I remember they were winners and I was a winner in my mind with Maxy J. Millionaire. Zuda invited me back for a best of rematch with Gabriel Hardman’s Crooked Man and others, but I declined. If you can believe it, Gabriel Hardman lost again, so there was little chance of me hanging with Zuda. I’m no Zito and Trov.
JK: And how did you guys hook up with High Treason Pictures?
Tony: I was working in the art department for High Treason’s last film, The Best and The Brightest, as the set dresser. We had just managed to get LaMorte Sisters picked up at Zuda Comics. The producers heard about our good fortune and invited Zito and I to pitch.
Johnny: They’ve been awesome and very supportive. Christian Weiser, one of the producers, has been very involved with developing the project from the very beginning. The comic is part of the film’s development as far as they’re concerned.
JK: What are some of the influences you’re bringing to the artwork, Paul?
Paul: If you asked me what I wanted to draw, it probably wouldn’t be space werewolves or scenes of ping pong, but they’re all in the script. Part of what I’ve been telling myself and trying to live by is if I can’t make drawing something fun, I’m doing it wrong. I decided to just draw whatever fell out of my head, despite some of the different directions the script had to offer. This isn’t Johnny and Tony’s fault, I’m just difficult and sensitive about my art. Most of all I’m just a pain in the ass. I started pulling from a lot of horror Manga, and staring at Yoshiharu Tsuge and Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I got really inspired after reading Black Blizzard, and learning how how quickly it was created sort of compelled me to draw DoM as fast as I possibly could, and sort of let go and let it be raw. Because I’m sort of a one man band in the art department (I do have two interns Ricky and Katy who erase, scan etc. <3) the colors are sort of a playful limited palette that I try to invert and squeeze as many variations as I can out of it. Other than that it’s just me dusting off the cobwebs and drawing long term sequential stories again.
JK: We’ve been asking folks about how they see digital affecting their work in 2011, but since you guys are already firmly entrenched in that side of the business, instead I’ll ask — are their plans for this to be seen in print someday?
Paul: Hopefully, since I’m not doing the digital covers, I’ve requested to draw the print covers. Plus I’ve always wanted to draw something that comes out in issues. I didn’t really get to come into comics before the graphic novel became so tempting.
Tony: We want D.O.G.S. of Mars to be available in multiple platforms. Print is something we are definitely interested in and we’re currently looking into finding a publisher.
Johnny: Until then, it will be available on Comixology. The comic is also going to be available in Spanish, thanks to all star letterer Gabe Bautista.
JK: What else do each of you have planned for 2011?
Paul: I drew a 7 page Clock story that’s been in limbo for about a year. I’ve heard rumors that Image will release it in Crack Comics early 2011.
Aside from that Charlyne Yi (Paper Heart) and I are discussing a new project and trying to find a publisher for it. I’m also working on a new project with Josh Tierney that has anthology aspects to it with great creators like Nathan Fox, Guy Davis, Toby Cypress, Sheldon Vella, Travel Foreman and more attached to contribute. I probably just jinxed it but whatever happens happens. I would like some publisher to pick up Party Bear so I can pay myself just enough to finish the last 40 pages. I also have a short Savage Dragon story that I wrote that Giannis Milonogiannis will be drawing.
Other than that I have about three graphic novels I’m writing, and I plan to just keep creating and owning my career.
Johnny: We are wrapping up a comic book donation drive, all of which is going to Reading Is Fundamental. We’ve had a great turn out.