An interview with Mike Marts, EIC of Aftershock Comics
Marts: Yeah, sure. I’ve been a comic editor my entire life and a lot of people may not understand exactly what a comic book editor is, but it’s kind of the same thing as a showrunner or executive producer of a tv show or even like a general manager of a sports team. I’m responsible for the selection, cultivation and hiring of the talent who work on the books, helping them to develop storylines that will last for issues, months and hopefully years.
I got my start at Marvel Comics about twenty-five years ago and worked for them about a decade on primarily the X-Men franchise and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. I also spent about a decade at DC Comics, where I was managing the Batman line of publishing.
GWW: Wow, you’ve done the really big stuff haven’t you?
Marts: Yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given some great opportunities and great chances throughout my career, working on Batman and the X-Men. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But y’know, most-if not all-of my career was spent working on the mainstream characters, and the very big things, very big families of characters and there was always that part of me that wanted to develop my own work, to develop books of my own and certainly to try my hand at creator-owned comics as opposed to the standard work for hire, or company owned comics.
When the guys who were putting together Aftershock Comics first contacted me it was really just good timing for myself, for them, for my career and it was just the right thing at the right time. I was certainly very happy working for Marvel right before that, but this opportunity to help build and form a company was too good of a opportunity to pass up with the amazing talent that we have.
GWW: Speaking of talent, you have amazing people working on your books. You have creators like Garth Ennis, Francesco Francavilla, Marguerite Bennett and Juan Gedeon just to name a few.
Marts: Our roster of talent is the one element of the company that we are most proud of. When we started the company we went into heavy recruitment mode and I think it was the perfect combination of my address book combined with Joe Pruett’s address book. Mine was primarily mainstream based, a lot of classic superhero type creators, writers and artists, while Joe’s was more indie and he’s a multiple Einser award nominated editor and publisher and his address book was always comprised of very high end talent and very unique artists and I think those two address books has made for some very exciting combinations in the books that we’re initially offering.
When we add to that a whole new roster of talent, people that we feel are the superstars of tomorrow, I think we have an unstoppable roster unlike any other publisher right now.
GWW: What do you think makes Aftershock different than any other indie publisher?
Marts: Well, we get asked that question quite a bit. We’re very careful to distinguish ourselves from the other publishers, I think all the other publishers do great and they’re successful in their own way. We’re not trying to copy any of them, or become the next company, we’re not trying to surpass ’em, we’re just trying to become the first Aftershock Comics, and really trying to establish our brand as it’s own thing.
Our main focus is quality comic books, quality story, quality talent. We’re not overly concerned about market share or how many titles we put out per month, we’re more concerned with getting the right combination of talent together and making sure that everything we do has the same stamp of approval on it, that means the same level of quality so that years from now people will equate the Aftershock logo and the Aftershock brand with quality storytelling. Readers will know that when they pick up their books, they are getting our books they are entitled to a certain amount of quality storytelling and if they don’t get that then we aren’t doing our jobs right.
GWW: I have a question from one of my editors: ‘What is the hardest part and the most fun part about your job.
Marts: Y’know, it’s funny. Sometimes the same thing can be the toughest part and the most fun part. Even though we have a relatively small amount of books coming out compared to a Marvel or DC, we’re only a few people, we’re a small company. So, at any point in time, the timing of what we have in the pipeline is pretty immense, and that’s everything from the amount of creators we have to the number of books and pages we’re working on, so one of the toughest things can be this constant juggling of various pieces, and everyone getting along and having a good time. At the same time that tough part of the job is one of the most thrilling parts of the job and one the parts of being a comic editor that I have always loved the most. That adrenaline rush from putting together projects and creators, getting everything out with the highest amount of quality that we can while still getting it out on time. I think that one thing can be the toughest part but one of the most rewarding.
GWW: How does it feel to have such big name creators like Brian Azzarello and Garth Ennis working for you?
Marts: It’s fantastic. Some of these creators I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of these people before, some Joe Pruett has worked with before, but there are a few guys that neither of us have worked with before that we only know from conventions or industry get-togethers or things like that. For a lot of us it’s the first time that we’re doing this dance together. For other people like Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, I’ve worked with them my entire career and it’s great to be working with them again, but for a handful of others it’s their first time out. It’s great, I wouldn’t be wanting to start a new company with any other creators out there, the people that we have working with us right now are the best in the business and there are other great creators out there that aren’t with us yet, but they’ll be with us soon.
GWW: What’s it like working with these other people, in terms of managing and running the company?
Marts: The people who are involved with Aftershock is the one main reasons I made the jump. We only have a few people in the company right now but they come from great backgrounds, everything from social media to technology to television and film production to film distribution. So we have extremely experienced people who come from all walks of life, but who all bring something unique to the table in terms of storytelling and if you put them all together, I think the result is something tremendous.
GWW: With the rise of digital comics will you be putting out Aftershock Comics out on the digital market?
Marts: Yes. Everything in Aftershock’s library will be available digitally through all major platforms. It’s something we are finalizing at the moment and we’ll have some great news about it very soon.
GWW: Where can we find Aftershock Comics?
Marts: We’re everywhere on social media, you can find us on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, I think if you look hard enough you can find us Pinterest. Our website has all our information there. We’ll be attending several big shows over the spring and summer of 2016 which we’ll be announcing soon and I think you’ll be able to find us a lot of places coming up.
GWW: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with GWW!
Marts: No problem , it was really a pleasure!