One more week to go before Axe Cop: Revenge on Rainbow Girl starts posting. To introduce you guys to the project, and to it’s artist, Tom Martin, I did a little interview with him to discuss the project, and what it was like jumping into doing a full Axe Cop story with his nieces. He also shared some of the project artwork here above as a sort of preview.
Ethan: So, you have been a pretty faithful Axe Cop follower for a while now. How did you first discover Axe Cop?
Tom: I don’t even remember. I… I think it was just one of those links people post randomly. “Check out this comic strip, written by a kid!” or something like that. It was in the very first weeks, when it was first starting to catch on. I clicked and got caught up in an action man with a mustache that, for once, wasn’t some ironic Chuck Norris homage. It was that very real feeling of action excess, without the sort of forced bravado that ruins similar projects like BLACK DYNAMITE or PLANET TERROR and every other 70s / 80s action tribute. I’ve been a devotee ever since.
Ethan: Yeah I think that is what fascinated me as the comic started to take shape. It never tries to be dark or ironic or edgy, but it just is by accident at times and that makes it so much more fun.
Tom: It does. There’s an earnestness in it, that this is the best possible outcome for this particular bad guy and his particular attempt to… rob the bank or take over the world or what have you.
Ethan: So, have you been into other comics and do you consider yourself a comic fan? Where does Axe Cop fit into your love of the genre?
Tom: I went to comic art school- I graduated from the JOE KUBERT SCHOOL in 1998. I just never managed to make that full-on leap into comics work. I got sidetracked with having to get paying work, and while I wasn’t doing comics, I got into graphic design. That ate a nice decade of my life, but at least the pay was good. I haven’t kept up with comics much of late. I certainly don’t read any other webcomics. I used to read PVP, and did a guest strip there, but I got lost over time and now I don’t even follow any ongoing comics except for Axe Cop. I still tightly clutch my Alan Moore and Frank Miller graphic novels from my 90s heyday. Axe Cop fits in somewhere at the top of my comics pantheon. I haven’t given any time to jotting out a list, but the feeling I get from a good Axe Cop beats any feeling I’ve gotten from comics in a very, very long time.
Ethan: So when you decided to sit down with your niece, Charlotte, and make your first guest episode, how did that come about? What made you think to involve her, and it did it go as you thought it would?
Tom: I just wanted to get involved. I felt like I got the Axe Cop THING, that thing that I’d seen a lot of other people miss when they wrote their own guest strip. It’s not about a cop with an axe doing crazy action things. The Axe Cop thing is a kid telling a wild story, and you need a kid to do it. So if I were going to get involved, I’d need kid imagination. I stoked it with candy and turned on a video camera and set her loose. It probably helps that I put a costume cape on her before she began. Then she just unspooled a story and I put it down.
Ethan: Yeah when I read your first guest comic I really felt like you got it. Your style works really well, you have good storytelling sense and you do a good job of organizing the chaos a kid will give you to tell a story with. You submitted a good number of guest episodes and they have been my favorites. What are your initial feelings, going from guest episodes to doing a full story arch? What was the process like with your nieces, and what do you think of the story you’ve cooked up?
Tom: Going from guest episodes to a full story arch has been a bit of a shock- the process in busting out a page without any editing is very different. I learned a few things from you that I hadn’t gotten about the strip in reading. For example, the narrator doesn’t speak in the kid’s voice. I’d started the story as Charlotte did, with “Once upon a time, there was Axe Cop. The end. Just kidding.” Then we cracked down on that and other things like making certain Axe Cop knows he’s right, all the time. I had to fine-tune a number of things, but nothing was a hassle. the biggest issue was learning how the story structure gets adjusted. When I drew my first draft, it was very much a literal retelling of exactly what Charlotte had said, and then we went about shifting things for the sake of telling a more dynamic story. Very good, excusable changes, but things I hadn’t imagined would be in the Axe Cop creative process. The process for that was just me getting the kids alone for a while, clicking on the voice recorder and setting them loose. I encouraged the wildest options when I saw her backing down from a strange choice. I like the story they’ve cooked up, very much. I just wish Charlotte could get around trying to make everyone’s hair pink. Seriously, that’s a recurring thing with her.
Ethan: Haha awesome. So, you are creating history in the tiny little world of Axe Cop, but for those of us who live in it, this is the first comic story to be done by a team that is not Malachai and me, and this is also the first time an official Axe Cop story will be penned by two girls. How do you think Charotte and Amelia’s approach differs from Malachai’s, and have you found that they stay faithful to the rules of the Axe Cop universe because they think in “kid-logic”, or do they create new rules?
Tom: I’d say they definitely have a different approach from Malachai, and I’ve been betting this whole time that if Malachai got his hands on the story, he’d not approve, haha. Malachai seems to be much more about what I’d have been about at his age – ninjas and weapons and big action set pieces. The girls are different. Charlotte is very much about creating an awkward social situation, and having the characters talk it out. Originally the story ended with no fighting at all, they just talked things out and the story resolved with hugs and friendship. That’s great in a practical sense, but for an action comic we needed a battle. That’s why I included her little sister Amelia, who’s 5 and immediately said “Okay. The bad guys have a fire-breathing dragon.” Her approach is very much kid logic and the stream-of-consciousness kid storytelling thing. “And then this happened, and then this happened, and then this.” Very little comes back and gets resolved, but in the meantime you’re getting so much good material to wrap back into the actual story of it all, and it tied together nicely. I’d say their approach was different, but that the results, with some tweaking, will not be disappointing to the seasoned Axe Cop reader. …I hope.
Ethan: Well from what I have seen it definitely fits into the world. It does have a different flavor than what Malachai and I create, but I think it fits well. I really enjoy seeing Axe Cop working in the realm of how little girls think, because they do tend to think much more about “how does this impact my character’s feelings” whereas little boys seem to be concerned with “how does this blow everyone on earth’s mind?”. I think some of the best moments for Axe Cop is when he has to be relational.
So, just to wrap this up, I grew up on Ninja Turtles, and some of my favorite comics were the Mirage Studios original series, when Eastman and Laird opened up the Turtles to be created and drawn by other creators in the independent comics scene. It was a great gateway drug into indy comics for me because I got introduced to so many other creators. How do you feel about handing the reins on Axe Cop over to you guys? Do you feel like that works with this property?
Tom: I do, and with respect I think it’s the only way things can go on. Kids grow up, and eventually Malachai’s going to be too old to reap these little gems from. I don’t know if you’re grooming your stepson to take on the mantle like Batman trains a new Robin now and then, but at some point someone’s going to be handed these reins. I think the best thing for the readers is to condition them to the idea now- that Axe Cop can live outside of the original creator, and can go on so long as there’s a kid brain that can think up wild ideas like a ghost shark planet or something like that. It’s a monument to a kid’s imagination, which is friggin’ sacred.
Ethan: Definitely, and it is because you see it in that way that I asked you to take this project on. Everything you said is totally true. For Axe Cop to continue on, we need some other creative teams to take a crack at it. All the great comics have had to do the same thing. I think that, with the TV show coming out, we have seen Axe Cop taken into the hands of other writers and I think that generally it works as long as the writer’s write in the right spirit. I think Malachai has set a precedent and a tone that, if anyone is to make a good Axe Cop story, will need to be faithful to. You have been faithful to that, and I’m excited to start posting your pages on the site here. Consider this your formal introduction to the Axe Cop audience. Everyone say hi to Tom.
Tom: Assuming you said hi, hi back. Assuming you snfifed in derision and thought “this isn’t the guy I’m used to,” I’m hurt by your recalcitrance. Seriously though, I’m excited to start getting this out there. We’ve got a lot of pages with big moments and things that I think will have been worthy of the loyal Axe Cop reader. Stick around. As mentioned: we’ve got a fire-breathing dragon.
Ethan: Alright, so just so everyone knows, you will be updating your pages on your own, writing the blogs every Tuesday until the story ends. On Thursdays, I will post Ask Axe Cop episodes. In the meantime, you are helping AxeCop.com have more regular content while Malachai and I work on the new print-exclusive miniseries, so thanks. I can’t wait for next week!
Tom: Excellent, thank you for giving us a shot. This is going to be fun. And not a lesson in hubris. I hope. Cheers people!
Axe Cop: Revenge on Rainbow Girl will begin posting next Tuesday, November 19th!
P.S. Check out this great interview with Nick Offerman over at Newsarama. Also, this blog at the Daily Caller about Axe Cop and kids being censored.