Getting 'Super Real' With Jason Martin

Long-time Newsarama readers might remember Jason Martin’s Super Real for his posts on our forum going back several years. For those that don’t, here’s the premise of Super Real: Five teens are brought to California to star in a reality tv show in which they’re given powers and put at odds with one another; think MTV’s Real World meets Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero, but done in the comics form it was intended to be.

Martin’s art style is reminscient of more animated-style cartoonists such as J. Scott Campbell and Skottie Young, portraying a young and energetic cast with the linework to match. Over the course of 6 years he’s self-published several issues, and expanded his efforts into his own small-press comics publisher: Super Real Graphics. He’s published graphic novels by several other cartoonists, but his pride and joy Super Real is nearing completion. For more, we talked with Martin by email.

Newsarama: You’ve been self-publishing Super Real for some time – I remember your banner ads back in the old days of Newsarama.com. How’s the self-publishing experience been for you?

Jason Martin: Yeah, I’ve been on Newsarama forever, and used to be quite active on the boards/comments, and took to posting banners in my sigs before that was really commonplace (I miss the old ‘Rama setup, sniff sniff). So everyone used to recognize me from that initially.

I have been at this now, for just over 3 years officially, in terms of publishing, but yeah, I debuted Super Realas an ash-can/DIY little book at San Diego Comic-Con in 2003, and it took a couple more years to get the book off the ground via Diamond and comic book shops.

Along the way I’ve learned a lot, and self publishing can be rewarding, frustrating, taxing, demanding, fun, exciting, you name it. Sure, making comics can be the easiest thing, if it’s something you have a passion and a knack for, but plunging fully into publishing is completely different. We’re truly at a crossroads in both the US industry, and comics in general, so it’s just a really challenging time to be in this space.

I never question my love for this though, and have no shortage of ideas and goals.

NRAMA: How would you describe the Super Real series?

JM: Super Real is the story of five people that sign million dollar contracts to get genetically enhanced for a reality TV show based on comic book super heroes, and the book follows them through the process. In other words, it’s the Real World meets the X-Men, with parallels to Star Wars, politics, Street Fighter, and Fight Club, to name a few… all with a bit of the old ultra-violence!

It’s created completely by me, except for two special issues, which also featured guest artists, including Jim Mahfood, and Josh Howard.

NRAMA: For this interview I went back and re-read the Super Real single issues and recalled the use of real political figures such as George Bush and Dick Cheney as villains in this. What led you to do that?

JM: Well, Super Real was always designed to be grounded in the real world. I mean it’s centered around these five regular people, but only in the sense that they’re people who find it normal, or acceptable, to sign their bodies over to genetic manipulation for a TV show and a fat paycheck. So really the story becomes about who these people are, why they’d do it, and what the ramifications of it entail. Plus I knew going in, that the producers behind the show would naturally be key in our story too. However, we’ve all seen faceless suits as characters in a villainous power structure before, and there’s an inherently generic quality to that, so, I decided early on, to ape what Marvel had been doing in their Ultimate universe, and use actual likenesses for those characters. The current political powers of the time, among a couple others, were a natural fit, and lent themselves to the story and enhanced it in numerous ways.

That’s how you wind up with the X-TV extreme programming network owner being George W Bush, or W.W. the 3rd, and Dick Cheney, in this case Dick Fadir, being the CEO of Geniburton, the genetic corporation driving the show. Two characters with motivations of their own, which happen to parallel the likenesses they’re based on. Not to mention, it’s fun and cathartic to use those figures, and brings a treasure trove of character opportunities. The things we ultimately do with these guys is pretty out there, and also adds other levels to the story, where they don’t just work as a political allegory, but also bring traits of a couple iconic bad guys from a certain sci-fi fan favorite trilogy!

NRAMA: And with all the hubbub of Obama in comics – do you plan on featuring him in these new issues?

JM: Well, obviously, you can’t have the previous administration as touch stones, and not incorporate the changes to the current political landscape… so yes, as you may have noticed, Obama’s likeness does indeed play a major role in the story. Clearly, he wasn’t a figure when the story was created, but as luck would have it, he fit perfectly with what I had planned for the twist in our story that drives our end game, and that works even better with the other levels of the story as well. So it’s a huge win-win in utilizing that.

Plus you get to see Obama literally as a super powered figure, taking on Dick Cheney, in a no holds barred showdown!

NRAMA: You have a Super Real collection coming out soon, with the 5 published issues plus two new ones. Why’d you decide to jump from serial to a graphic novel, bypassing the release of those last two issues?

JM: I started publishing Super Real at the very end of 2005, and honestly, the comic book landscape has changed significantly since then. From the increasing move to the trade/graphic novel format, to the push from the big two to saturate the market via their never ending event books and line wide increases in output, and also with the increases in price and cost in that time, and two significant changes to the Diamond sales thresholds. To say nothing of my own schedule and its impact on the ability to build and maintain the book’s audience. So, the writing was on the wall, and finishing the series in traditional format was not an option with Diamond. That said, the final issues of our story will be available in serial/single issue format, as one oversized special issue, Super Real: Cast Change, via the new independent comics distributor, Haven, and their May Comics! catalog through comic book shops, as well as directly via the website, in both print and digital/pdf download.

The special sixth issue will be available early this summer, just prior to the release of the graphic novel, so fans of the series that just want to pick up the book’s conclusion have that option (the special does stand on it’s own as well), and those looking to check out the entire series can do so at an affordable cost with the graphic novel. The complete 220 page trade collection will sell via Diamond and comic book shops, and is in the current Diamond Previews Catalog for July product, priced at only $18.99 retail. That’s the equivalent of 10 standard issue comics for around $1.90 each!

NRAMA: Lately you’ve expanded into publishing others, under the brand of “Super Real Graphics”. How has that been – and do you plan to do more?

JM: Super Real Graphics has always been the publishing brand, but extending it outside myself is something I’ve wanted to do. Last year some things kind of fell in place, and I launched Super Real Graphics Presents, a line of self-contained, creator-owned graphic novellas.

Dave Dwonch’s Gnome - the story of how gnomes were once the Earth’s greatest protectors, but when a Lovecraftian evil from another dimension emerges in 1956, there’s only one true gnome left to answer the call - was the first book. And then Grant Gould’s The Wolves of Odin - which is basically, Vikings vs. werewolves, with Norse mythology told in a Tolkien fantasy style - followed that this past November.

Just fun books, with strong concepts, in a kind of hybrid format, between single issue comics and full sized graphic novels, perfect for readers to give a shot. The first two did fairly well, and I’ve got plans for more in the near future, including my own concept, Con of the Dead, where a bad girl comic booth babe must survive a zombie fanboy outbreak at San Diego Comic-con! Axe wielding gnomes, cthulhu, werewolves, Vikings, and zombies… cool stuff sure, but also told from a fresh perspective.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m working to figure out a formula on these that’s best for today’s market, with the changes at Diamond etc, and emerging digital opportunities, but there is no shortage of quality creator-owned material deserving of readers eyeballs. I’m continually amazed at the conventions, and online, with the range of talent and quality that’s out there, and mostly unseen. It’s just chipping away at the market, to get this stuff in front of readers. So I really appreciate you taking the time and allowing me to highlight my stuff!

Please check out SuperRealGraphics.com for more information on all the stuff mentioned here, you just might find something cool you would have otherwise missed!

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