10 Questions for Martin Powell

Martin PowellMartin Powell is a writer whose career has stretched across multiple genres and publishers. His credits include Scarlet in Gaslight, The Verdict, A Case of Blind Fear, Necroscope, Return of the Devil, Gravestone, Disney’s Aladdin, Pilgrim’s Progress, Alien Nation, The Spider Chronicles, The Avenger Chronicles, Gaslight Grimoire, The Phantom Chronicles, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and more.

The Saint Paul, Minnesota, resident is also busy with a variety of new projects. “I just completed new graphic novels of Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, and my first Superman and Batman books are due out in a few weeks,” he says. “Also, in late 2009, I’ll be writing an adaptation of Fredric Brown’s classic sci-fi novel Martians, Go Home for Sequential Pulp Comics, a new company founded by Michael Hudson, to be marketed and distributed by Dark Horse. The fabulous Mike Manley and Brett Blevins will be illustrating my scripts. It’s going to be great fun.”

Let’s face it; your only chance to keep up with this guy is by regularly checking in on him on MySpace or Facebook.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

Martin PowellWhen I was in the second grade. I started writing and drawing my own comics then. The first comic book I remember doing was a Winnie the Pooh story, all in crayon, during the Christmas holidays.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

Two high school English teachers were extremely influential to me. Bill Gruen taught my first creative writing class and Patricia Hicks recruited me for the literary magazine, which was a thrilling time for me. I’ve searched for both of these fabulous teachers many times over the past several years, but so far I haven’t been able to locate either of them. I hope I do meet them again someday, just to say “thank you”. They really made a difference in my life.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

Ray Bradbury was, and is, a shining inspiration for me. He and I started a correspondence back in my early days, when I was still struggling to become published. It was rather casual kind of thing at first, a fan writing to his favorite writer. We would exchange Halloween and Christmas cards, that sort of thing. Then, a couple times I actually had the courage to send him some of my work. Busy as he was, Ray actually read it and offered me very instructive and encouraging advice. He could have just ignored me, but he didn’t. I’ve never forgotten that.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

If you surround yourself with who and what you love, I don’t think you can ever run out of inspiration and ideas. I read a lot, and more than just comics, such as novels, biographies, scientific essays, short stories, and poetry. See plenty of movies, live theater, music concerts, and visit museums. Don’t watch television.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

I’m a full-time writer, and I typically work 8 to 10 hours per day, 5 or 6 days per week.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

My laptop Dell computer. It’s a miraculous secretary, editor, and proofreader.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Dreaming up the original concept of a new story is tough to beat, but once I get to writing the dialogue — bringing the characters to life — I’m really in my element.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career — in or out of comics — and why?

The most rewarding project, creatively, that I’ve ever had is my comic book adaptation of Fredric Brown’s Martians, Go Home, which I’m working on right now. Brown’s original story is brilliant, one of the greatest, and smartest, alien invasion adventures ever, but he left a lot open to the interpretation of the reader. That’s great news for this sort of comic book and graphic novel re-telling because it also gives me room to play inside Brown’s darkly comedic universe. I honestly feel like this is more of a collaboration with Fredric Brown than your basic ordinary adaptation. In fact, there’s nothing ordinary about it. A close second, I suppose, would be Scarlet in Gaslight, my Sherlock Holmes/Dracula adventure. It was nominated for an Eisner Award twenty years ago and jump-started my early career.

The most rewarding thing, out of comics, are the multitude of fantastic people I’ve been privileged to meet over the past two decades. After all this time it still seems amazing to me that I actually have readers and fans.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Study the old masters. Don’t focus so much on the new trends. Read more than just comics. Seek out the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson. Keep at it. Don’t give up. You really only need four things to succeed: Talent. Practice. Patience. Luck.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

Don’t spend your life working for the dreams of someone else.

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