WARLORD OF MARS #0 Marks Matt Brady's Return - Alums Chat Comics, Science, & Message Board Drama

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Matt Brady was the "face" or at least the name, of Newsarama for years. As editor of this site he became a household name throughout the comic book industry. Then, he abruptly left not just Newsarama, but seemingly comics and the industry at large altogether.

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Troy Brownfield, meanwhile, was the mastermind behind the Best Shots review team, a spin-off of ShotgunReviews.com that today represents the main survival of that website. He worked as a columnist for years, and basically debuted the "top ten" countdown structure for the site that you all love(hate) to read once a day.

Now alums of Newsarama, both Troy and Matt have moved into the other side of comic books - writing them. With Blood Queen, a new ongoing series written by Troy, and Warlord of Mars #0 coming soon from Matt, both writers have found a home at Dynamite for the first time. Troy agreed to come back to Newsarama for a special interview, looking both back and forward with our old ban-hammer throwing comrade.

Newsarama: First off, Matt - this is the second time you’ve been in this seat since you left the masthead here at Newsarama, six years ago. Can you, looking back, summarize your experience here?

Matt Brady: It took a few months for me to be out of it to realize that it was a grind. I mean, it was fun. I love what we had created and I loved what I did, but man…there was no down time. The audience was always hungry for content. There was no time to rest. I think overall, even though I was starting another job after leaving Newsarama, it took me about a year to finally relax.

My good friend, Charles Brownstein said it best when I told him I was leaving Newsarama, and by and large, the industry, he said, “You probably just added ten years to your life.”

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Nrama: You and I co-wrote two things that came out in 2011. One was the story “Short Straw”from the Batman 80 Page Giant of that year. But the first was the Buck Rogers Annual at Dynamite. Any self-indulgent recollections?

Brady: We had a year-long arc for Buck Rogers planned out that would’ve paid tribute to every iteration of Buck through the years - I remember we wanted to have a vertically oriented newspaper strip style segment in there, and wanted to beg and plead Howard Chaykin to draw a Gil Gerard TV version-inspired segment. Man….

And Batman - we had that follow-up to our story with Thomas Nachlik planned out too, and the larger ramifications of it, remember? And then - New 52, and that was that. {sigh}

Nrama: As sort of a bridge from Buck Rogers to John Carter, part of the reason that you have a knack for science fiction certainly comes from your science background. What’s your personal education background and what do you teach now?

Brady: I never really played this up at Newsarama, but I come from a really solid science background - writing and the journalism stuff was always on the side. I’ve got a B.S. in Biology, an M.S. in Marine Biology, and did all the course work for a PhD in Physiology/Pharmacology. I think at one time, I counted it up, I had spent 30 consecutive years in school, since starting in pre-school. My goal was always to teach science. I met my wife while getting my Master’s - she was working on hers at the same time, so science has always been a part of work and home. Even when I was “Newsarama,”I was addicted to the Discovery Channel, and kept myself on a pretty steady diet of science books.

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

After we sold Newsarama, and I saw that my vision of what I wanted the site to be wasn’t matching up with (then) Imaginova’s vision, I knew I needed an exit plan. I quietly asked around, and got some very flattering offers, but by then, we’d grown roots here in North Carolina, and I wasn’t looking to move to New York. By then, my wife had transitioned from her job as a lab manager at Wake Forest University to teaching middle school science, so I figured I could go back on my old dream and teach science, which I did.

Currently, I teach high school science - Physical Science and Honors Chemistry, specifically. I had to do a little re-learning of some of the topics, but everything came back to me quickly. So by now - I’ve been teaching for five years. It’s exhausting, but more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done.

Nrama: Given that you were steeped in pop culture during your years of writing and at Newsarama, does that play a role in how you teach?

Brady: Definitely. Teenagers are the prime consumers of polar culture, so I think that I come off - at first - as a little strange to them. I know some of the same “language”they use. I know video games. I know television. I know movies, animation, anime and music. Just the common language allows a certain bridging of the communication gap, but also, I use pop culture to keep my kids interested in the topics we’re studying. Speed, distance and time? Fast and the Furious. Newton’s Laws? Curving bullets in Wanted. Radiation? Hulk and X-Men. As for chemistry, looking like Walter White just helps a lot. But yeah - I incorporate pop culture into classwork, explanations to make things relevant and even sometimes in tests.

Oh, and managing Newsarama’s message boards? It’s the same thing as managing a classroom full of sometimes unruly teenagers. Though I think the boards and comics in general have more drama queens than my classes, honestly.

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Nrama: You’ve recently gotten back online with your own site again - what is TheScienceOf.org?

Brady: Right now, not nearly as much as my wife and I are hoping it will be.

Going from everything I just said about science and popular culture, what my wife and I are looking to do with TheScienceOf.org is use popular culture as a springboard to talk and teach about science. It’s still in what I’d call a mid-beta phase, but we’re feeling our way along and adding content. The idea is kind of simple - for instance, the upcoming Scarlett Johannson film, Lucy came out with a trailer where Morgan Freeman, as a character, explained that humans use less than 10% of their brain. That’s just not true. I get what they’re trying to say, and how it works for the story, but still - it’s just not true.

Nrama: So this will be a site that takes down the “science”in pop culture?

Brady: That’s not what our aim is, no. For example, with Lucy - I wrote a short article that looks at the science of it all - including where the myth of the “10%”comes from. What we want to do is use something like that trailer and use it to introduce people to the real science behind the claim. Nine times out of ten, explaining the science will compliment the story - like with some of what Mark Waid does in Daredevil.

But, if in explaining the real science behind a story element, the audience realizes that perhaps the writer/artist/director should have done a little more homework…well, hey, we’re just explaining the science.

As we move along we want to really start a focus on teaching science in a way that’s complimented by pop culture, and offer lessons, worksheets and other help for teachers that’s aligned to curriculum. Our plans for the site are big - it’s just a matter of finding the time to do the work.

Nrama: Let’s get back to talking about comics. Since now two thirds of your work in comics has been on “pulp”heroes, is there an attraction to them for you?

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Brady: It’s partly attraction and partly opportunity. Nick Barrucci at Dynamite has worked hard to collect some of the best characters and refresh and in some cases, revive them against all odds and market pressure. I mean - there’s a Green Hornet comic? There’s been a Red Sonja comic for what, over ten years? Flash Gordon is being published in 2014? Sometimes the characters don’t find an audience, but by and large, Nick knows the mix of character and creator to make things work.

So yeah - he has some of my favorite characters, which I remind him of constantly, both by telling him that and sometimes drowning him in unsolicited pitches and ideas.

Nrama: I remember that we talked about this when we worked on Buck Rogers - the “update”vs. the “don’t update”sides of the coin. For example, should Buck Rogers - or John Carter, for that matter - be written as if they are characters who are in a future that has passed through our present, or in John Carter’s case, has lost some of the innocence or Edgar Rice Burroughs’original stories?

Brady: I’m always going to be on the “don’t update”side of things. These characters exist when and where they do, and they work there. You can introduce new versions into the modern day, to extend the legacy, so to speak like Green Hornet Strikes! that Bret Matthews wrote and the other new additions that were added, but no - keep the originals original.

But that doesn’t mean that you should slavishly adhere to both canon and tone. Personally, I don’t want to read John Carter stories that are written by someone trying to do their “best ERB.”I want to read someone who is telling a good John Carter story that is true to the original, has internal logic, and just works, you know? I want smart stories featuring my favorite characters - which is what I think we all want.

Nrama: Now, onto the John Carter #0 issue, specifically. How did you get involved?

Brady: Simply enough, Nick shot me an e-mail and asked if I wanted to pitch an idea for a John Carter #0 issue. I thought about it for maybe 30 seconds and sent one back saying, “SURE!”and it all rolled along from there.

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Nrama: So - and knowing that writers can sometimes jump at an opportunity before they have a full idea; did you actually have an idea when you said yes, or did that come later?

Brady: Actually, at the time I didn’t, and I remember “complaining”to my wife that now I had to come up with a John Carter idea. But it all came together pretty quickly, overall.

Nrama: Having worked with you on Buck Rogers and Batman, and about a dozen pitches, I know what “our”process is like, but this time, it was all you. How did you come up with and flesh out this story?

Brady: Marinate and back burner. I soaked in John Carter for a couple of days, re-reading chapters and passages from the original novels and stories, as well as watching the movie again. And then, partly due to my schedule with teaching, I couldn’t stop everything for a few hours and write out the story - so I just let the ingredients soak. I have about a fifteen minute commute to work, so I did what I would do with other stories I’ve worked on - I made a “soundtrack”playlist (the John Carter soundtrack and a LOT of Game of Thrones music…) and would listen to it for the drive and tell myself stories until I settled on one that was cool. Usually, these built up from scenes in my head that were partly inspired by the music and I would stitch them together.

Nrama: Cool scenes stitched together into a story? That sounds a little Michael Bay-y…You had some kind of overarching idea, right?

Brady: Oh, of course - and I should have mentioned that. In writing a #0 issue that would be coming out before the ongoing series and not necessarily tied to the ongoing series, my story options were limited a little - I couldn’t start an arc, I couldn’t really introduce any characters, make sweeping changes to the mythology or drill down too deep into the canon. I had to get in, and get out while telling a story that entertained and hopefully satisfied readers. So I used a shortcut of sorts.

Nrama: Which was?

Brady: Years ago, probably when I was writing for Wizard or maybe even Overstreet’s Fan, I interviewed Mark Waid who was writing Captain America back then. I did the typical green question of “where do the ideas come from?”and his answer always stuck with me - he said one of the simplest and most powerful stories you can tell with a character is to (a) figure out what means the most to that character, and then (b) what happens when you take that away.

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

So that was the overall approach - take the most important thing away from John Carter. Then fill in the scenes, etc…I bounced some off of you just to see if they played right, and if I remember correctly, you only had one or two suggestions, so I felt like I was on the right track.

But then it all came together after a couple days of driving and telling myself stories about John Carter as I would fall asleep at night. In the end, it worked for me - other people’s milage, of course, will vary, but I really like the story.

Nrama: You touched on it a little there, but can you expand on what you said a little in regards to the challenge inherent in doing a one issue story like this?

Brady: Sure. I knew going in what this issue was  something to tide John Carter fans over before the new series starts up this fall. My editors Joe Rybandt and Molly Mahan guided me along as I tested the waters, steering me back on track if I started to go too far afield. But basically, I looked at this story from the very beginning as we did with the Buck Rogers Annual - this/that was/is one story that some John Carter fans are going to pick up wanting a solid story featuring the characters they know. Also, this may be the only John Carter comic some people have picked up in a long time, or…ever. I had to tell a story that showed who John Carter is, what he stands for, as I mentioned earlier, what’s important to him, who his friends are, and what his life is like.

I remember with the Buck Rogers story we tried to do the same thing - and I think we nailed it there, given the responses of some people who said that they had never bought a Buck Rogers comic, but because of us they did, and they came away knowing, and more importantly, caring about who Buck Rogers was.

That’s what I hope I did here.

Nrama: What you said earlier about not slavishly sticking to ERB’s tone and style. How did you apply that?

Brady: Mostly in dialogue, I think. I’ve got Tars Tarkas, Dejah Thoris and John Carter in my story, as well as few other, er, NPCs. The story is not set in a time of war or crisis, and so no one is prone to overblown speechifying or large, blustery declarations which the characters could…sometimes use in the original works. Think of you and two friends who you’re really close to (okay, one could be your lover/wife) - there’s a shortcut to your talking. The history you share informs how you interact in the present.

I like to think my John in this story is more casual - we get to see him at a calmer time - albeit briefly, which helps, again, to show the readers what kind of man he is.

Nrama: Going back to where we were earlier, talking about science, it would be hard to apply science to a John Carter story, given that, well, John Carter’s Mars is a fantastic Mars. From what you said, you are pretty much an activist when it comes to “getting the science right”in pop culture. Did that feeling give you any difficulties when you were writing this story?

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Brady: Not really. Look, I understand that John Carter’s Mars isn’t and can’t be anything like ours. The story can’t work otherwise. So I was fine working in that world and what it means for the limits I can put on the “science”- although I have a couple of small nods to the “real Mars”in the story. One will be obvious when you see it, and the other - the location of the action in the story was inspired by a real location on Mars - the Noctis Labyrinthus, which is at the western end of the Valles Marineris, or Mariner Valley. I took a little bit of liberty on the layout of Noctis Labyrinthus, but come on - how could you not use that as a setting for a John Carter story on Mars?

And I owe special thanks to Molly for working to find a place on ERB’s Mars where that could fit in.

Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Art from Warlord of Mars #0
Credit: Dynamite

Nrama: Sales pitch time - what would you tell someone in a comic shop if they were looking at the issue and you wanted to close that sale? Why should they buy it?

Brady: I’d tell them mostly what I said - it’s a done-in-one story about John Carter, yeah that guy from that movie that you may not have seen, but created by the same guy who created Tarzan. This story will give you a snippet of his life and show you what’s important to him and let you know who he is and hopefully - leave you wanting more. It’s a fun adventure.

Nrama: So - wrapping things up what’s next for Matt Brady?

Brady: I’m going to be co-writing a creator-owned miniseries for another publisher that I can’t say anything about just yet, but it hopefully will be coming out by the end of this year. And as you know - we’ve got pitches everywhere, so we may see life on one of those soon. Oh - and I had this other idea about another geographic feature on Mars that would make for a great setting for another John Carter story and I’ve been talking to Joe about that…so hopefully, I’ll be getting back to Mars before too long.

Similar content
Twitter activity