Now out with it’s 5 issue (out of 6), the story centers around an alternate reality San Diego and its inhabitants in the aftermath of a major economic disaster and the subsequent chaos. Rebuilt by a group of top scientists and protected by the Navy Seals stationed at the Coronado Naval Base, New San Diego has become a technological utopia.
After a sixty year long war threatens to break out again when another state attempts to occupy the city, seizing their resources. Their only hope for survival rests with the ancestors of the Navy Seals who protect the city as MARKSMEN.
We sit down with the books writer, David Baxter, to talk about the work of making history.
Fanboy Confidential: In a book like Marksmen, set in a post-apocalyptic future, pretty much everything has to be considered before jumping into writing the story, such things as social hierarchy, geography, fashions and technology, all of which have a bearing on the story. How much time did you spend fleshing out these details before putting pen to paper for the script?
David Baxter: Actually, it took quite a bit of time to build the world of Marksmen. There was about a month of research that included consulting with some futurists like Vernor Vinge and Mark Pesce as well as discussing this with members of the military stationed in San Diego. Once the world was formed I had long discussions with my editor Dave Elliott before I actually started scripting. I felt it was very important to get the details as close as they could be in a post-apocalyptic story like this.
FC: Marksmen has a large cast of characters, especially for a six issue series. What was the rationale behind this, were they necessary to fill out the story or was the story built around your character ideas?
DB: Marksmen was meant to cover a large canvas. This six issue arc was going to be the first act in at least a three act master story. The large number of characters was planned with that larger story in mind. I also wanted the latitude to explore other members of the Marksmen team once the main story was established in this first act. Hopefully we will get enough interest to tell the other stories that Dave and I envisioned.
FC: As with many sci-fi stories, there is a distinct western edge to Marksmen. What do you think makes these two genres so appealing as a combination?
DB: I think both genres speak to the importance of self destiny and determination and that is instantly appealing. I didn’t set out to do a genre mashup per se, it just grew out of the story once the decision was made to have Lone Star and New San Diego at odds. From a purely visual angle, I loved the juxtaposition of having Drake in full armor on a horse. The ultimate high tech coupled with the low tech.
FC: The first few issues of the book are spotted with pop culture references. Are these all favourites of yours or just a random smattering?
DB: The references are favs of mine. Just little brush strokes for fun.
FC: Marksmen is published through Image Comics. We at Fanboy Confidential are huge advocates of their current stance on taking chances on emerging talents and fresh material. What are your thoughts on this subject?
I’ve always been a big fan of mainstream comics but there has to be a forum for new voices and artists and thankfully Image has stepped up to create a place for them to be heard and seen. I feel very thankful for their support of our story and really hope they maintain their current stance and never forget about the folks trying to break in.
FC: For the future comic talents out there, can you talk us through the process of pitching a company like Image with a comic or graphic novel concept?
DB: I wish I could but my situation was a bit unique because Benaroya publishing was able to secure a spot for all of its titles because of the efforts of our editor, Dave Elliott. It was Dave who did the pitch and it was Dave who assembled my amazing team of co-artists Javier Aranda, Garry Leach and Tom Coker. The pitch I made was to Mike Benaroya, the head of Benaroya Publishing. He asked what I would do with an action story set in the future that had the title Marksmen. I came back with my idea to do a post-apocalyptic story that was based in reality. No vampires, no aliens, no zombies, just long term recession coupled with a civil war that destroys the infrastructure of America.
FC: There are several very good post-apocalyptic based comics series’ on the shelves at the moment, such as Wasteland and Crossed, to name a few. What separates Marksmen from the rest?
DB: I think both Wasteland and Crossed are great post-apocalyptic series but I consciously wanted to stay away from any kind of device that would pull an audience out of the reality we had established with creatures that weren’t human or any kind of plague that caused people to act strangely. Our goal was to look at a realistic “what if” scenario and play it out with some archetypes from Aurthurian legend and greek mythology thrown in for fun.
FC: Issue four is incredibly action heavy, with much of that action epically vehicular in nature, which artist, Javier Aranda, really excels with. How do you go about writing such grand scale action, or is this where the art team takes the ball run?
DB: Again, Dave Elliott deserves the credit for assembling such a talented team for me to work with. Since I come from a screenwriting background, writing epic scale action wasn’t challenging but Javier’s pencils just took my words to the next level. From a very early stage I wanted the visual of seeing a NASA crawler covered in Monster Trucks. I had never seen this before and really wanted to get that out there.
FC: Tomm Coker’s covers are simple but very striking. Do you, as a writer, get a say in the cover design, or are they a complete surprise every time that they come through?
DB: Tomm’s cover work is entirely his own and have been a surprise and a complete pleasure to see emerge with every issue. I have gotten to see some of the art work before it is totally finished but I’ve been so pleased that I haven’t made any comment. Who would?
FC: Who are your influences as a writer and who inspires you in general?
DB: I’m a big fan of mythology in general and I love epic stories. Tolkein, Heinlein, Vernor Vinge, Ken Follett, Rod Serling are all big favorites. In the comics world Alan Moore stands out. I loved the Chris Claremont run on X-Men in particular.
FC: What are your favourite sci-fi stories?
DB: True Names and Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. I think he is one of the best sci-fi writers alive and I’ve had the honor to get to know him pretty well. He actually wrote the afterword for the Marksmen trade paperback.
FC: Do you have any other series’ in the pipeline that you’d like to tell the readers about?
Well, I have the arcs plotted out for at least two more Marksmen series. If the public demands it, I’ll write it. I’d also like to do some graphic novels based on historical figures like the 1930s racer Tazio Nuvolari and Teddy Roosevelt when he was Chief of Police in New York City.
FC: The series is just now coming to a close, so when can we expect a collected volume?
DB: If all goes well there should be a trade paperback available by this April.