Shiny Shelf


INTERVIEW: Rick Spears

By Eddie Robson on 19 November 2002

In case you missed it when we told you the first time: if you enjoy teen movies, grave-robbing and insurrectionary action, pick up Rick Spears and Rob G’s indie book Teenagers from Mars. Issue #4 comes out later this month and Shiny Shelf caught up with Rick to ask a few questions about it.

What motivated you to make Teenagers From Mars?

It all started with Mike Diana’s comic book censorship case and a quote by Frank Miller somewhere that suggested that when dealing with censorship comic book creators, retailers and fans should start acting like the heroes they create, read and sell. From there I threw in a bunch of punk rock, zombies and John Hughes type s*** and we were off.

What made you want to do a comic at all? Is it just because you’re comics readers or is there something about the medium that particularly appeals to you?

I grew up on comics and movies and I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I went to film school and made a bunch of short films but movies cost a lot of money and require a lot of help from crew and actors to cameras and other equipment. Even independent film requires a lot of bulls*** and compromise. But comics, comics are like the Wild West. With some creativity, a computer and a little determination anyone can make comics.

There are obviously all kinds of influences in the mix – any you’d care to name?

Dan O’Bannon, Tod Browning, John Carpenter, Wong Kar-Wai, George Romero, Philip K. Dick, Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Mobius, Alan Moore, Joey Ramone, Frank Black, Kathleen Hanna, Jello Biafra, Joe Strummer, Glenn Danzig.

How did you end up working with Rob?

I wrote the whole script out and then spent about a year looking for an artist. One day Macon (the Macon in the comic) was talking to Rob’s roommate JJ, and they introduced us. From the first sketches Rob had TFM nailed and we were off.

What are your plans for the series? Any clues as to where it’s going? What, ultimately, do you want to achieve with this thing?

In TFM #4 (out in November) Macon and Madison hook up and hit the movies to see the classic, The Atomic Dead. After helping Max and the gang sneak in, Macon gets into an altercation with the usher. The usher proceeds to beat Macon savagely until Madison comes to his rescue. Meanwhile Max, Punk Danny and Spock with a little help from a mysterious musket ball stumble upon a hidden treasure trove of pornography. All in all just another night for the unstoppable Teenagers from Mars.

Then in TFM #5 the town of Mars has had enough of silly comic books and the vandalising of their precious Mall-Mart. Stan’s comic shop is shut down, Macon lands in jail and comic books are burned by the dozen. Things look pretty bad for our kids but now the stage is set for the revolt of the Teenagers from Mars.

Teenagers From Mars is an eight-issue series and we have two sequels in the works. The second series, titled Curse of the Teenagers from Mars, will follow shortly after the conclusion of the current series. That will be around twelve issues, I don’t know yet. And then we have a third story after that.

Where is the City of Mars? Any place in particular? How did you originate the characters and are they drawn from real people?

Well there is a real Mars in Pennsylvania but that’s not our Mars. Mostly Mars is based on Richmond Virginia. Richmond’s a stronghold of the old south and simultaneously the most evil and fun place I have ever lived.

Tell us about the other stuff that you do when you’re not writing funny books…

Kissing on my hot wife. Hunting down rare/out of print/lost movies and comics.

Do you see anybody out there who seems to be on a similar track to yourselves? What do you think of the current comics scene generally?

There are a lot of people out there doing some very interesting stuff, so much it’s hard to keep track of it all. There are a lot of people self-publishing and/or working with independent publishers and there is a scene of sorts but it’s hard to define. It’s not like a local music scene were everyone gets together for shows. The comics scene is international with the internet. I’ve got friends in comics that I’ve never met face to face. In Brooklyn there’s a tighter scene, Rob and I are still very new but we are worming our way in.

There seems to be a particular agenda behind TFM. As well as the presence of the Comic Book Liberation Army, I note that it’s ’self-published’ – you haven’t formed a company to put it out under. What statement are you trying to make with the book – I mean, how would you describe it?

The Comic Book Liberation Army is a big thing I think is missing from comics. We have the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) and they do good work but I think we also need a very offensive comic book organisation to protect comics. The idea is to have a well-organised, educated and motivated organisation that attacks anyone that attacks comics. In TFM we sow the seeds and take it to its most extreme but in real life we could create a vocal group that mobilised to make things hard for comics enemies and do things like arrange sit-ins, boycotts, protest marches, petitions and aggressive campaigns against politicians that target comics. The idea is to wrap comic books in barbed wire and make it to hard, painful and messy to attack comics. Make them think twice. Make them not even dare.

As far as self-publishing. Rob and I came from the punk DIY aesthetic. We just want to put out good comics.

Do you and Rob intend to work together outside of TFM?

Rob and I have developed a very creative relationship and a true partnership. We have about a million projects we want to do together and plan to work together for a long time to come. Right now Rob is drawing The Couriers with Brian Wood and then we are doing an OGN called Filler that will be out in 2003 from AIT/PlanetLar.

I note that the TFM characters appear in the ad for Rob’s project, The Couriers…

The TFM kids aren’t in Couriers – that ad was just sort of a joke on how Bri’s characters are ‘cooler’ than the TFM kids.

What are your ambitions? Any comics projects that you’d really like to do? Any non-comics projects that you’d really like to do?

Right now I just want to achieve a full-time career in comics that will pay the bills and put a stake in the heart of my blood sucking day job. That would be heaven. As far as projects Rob and I have some ideas in the works for a string of graphic novels starting with Filler next year. As for non-comics – I went to film school and someday I’ll pull together a TFM movie.


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By Eddie Robson




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