Forget the jingle -- when it comes to the new one-shot Ani-Max, from Dynamite Entertainment and Liquid Comics, our hero can do whatever a spider can. Not to mention an ape. A tiger. A scorpion. A snake. And anything else in the animal kingdom.
How does a 12-year-old boy go from ordinary kid to a one-man menagerie? As the comic comes out this week, we chatted with writer Ron Marz to talk about the lead character, what it's like to bring a multimedia concept to the comics stage, and just what made him go ape about young Max's adventures.Newsarama: Ron, can you tell us a bit about how you ended up getting involved with Ani-Max?
Ron Marz: Ani-Max is a concept that was developed by Sharad Devarajan and Gotham Chopra of Liquid Comics. They invited me to come in and turn the concept into a comic, so it's very much their idea, but they allowed me to take the concept and run with it as a comic.
Nrama: So our hero is a boy named Max, who can assume the characteristics of different animals. But what can you tell us about him as a character? Who is this kid?
Marz: Max is a pretty typical American kid who gets selected to be the next bearer of the Animus Stone, which is where his animal powers come from. So I guess instead of the classic Everyman archetype, he's more of the Everykid archetype. The Animus Stone allows him to change his physical form and mimic the powers are any animal, insect, fish or bird.
Nrama: Now, there's a bit of an environmental message in this property as well, correct? Anything you can tell us on that front without giving the whole thing away?
Marz: First and foremost it's an adventure story, but there's certainly an environmentally-friendly aspect to it. The story isn't preachy, but it's got an underlying theme of respect for animals and the balance of nature.
Nrama: Looking at the animal powers, it's interesting, because you'd think more characters would have this in comics -- and you really only have Animal Man and Vixen. What's the appeal of a power set like this, and what sorts of storytelling opportunities does it open up for you?
Marz: The only limits to Max's powers are really the limits of the animal kingdom. So the scope of what he can do is pretty vast. The caveat is that Max can only access this power three days a day. The issue that comes out this week gives Max's origin, but we also show him taking on a fair number of animal guises. The fun part is coming up with the right animal power for the particular situation in which Max finds himself.
Nrama: And going back on that previous question -- considering you had the entire animal kingdom at your disposal, is there an animal that you were particularly excited to get in the script?
Marz: I have a pretty keen interest in gorillas. Maybe that comes from reading the Tarzan novels as a kid. But the gorillas are always the first animal I seek out whenever we go to an animal park or habitat. So I made sure there's a Gorilla-Max in the story. I'm also fascinated by the beauty and power of tigers, so we open up with Tiger-Max.
Nrama: It's interesting, because this is an all-ages property that's also in development for an animated TV series. For you, how do you make the switch from the more adult fare of something like Witchblade to something like this?
Marz: It's really all storytelling for me, and every story has its own parameters. This concept was built to be all-ages appropriate, so it's not limiting at all to write within those boundaries. It's what works for the story. Something like Witchblade or Magdalena has a different set of parameters that's not all-ages appropriate. I've always said that as a writer I want to pursue an array of material in all different genres. Ani-Max gives me an opportunity to stretch some different muscles. I wouldn't be much of a writer if I wasn't able to handle a range of stories.
Nrama: Looking at comics as sort of a development platform, how does that impact your work? When you've got a one-shot to really carry the story, what are your goals, and what sort of things do you have to focus on?
Marz: Obviously comics are seen more and more as a stepping stone for other forms of media. That's a whole separate discussion as to whether it's a positive development. But I don't approach the job any differently. when I write a comic, my job is to write the best comic I can. I don't approach something like Ani-Max, which is certainly animation appropriate, any differently than I do an issue of Witchblade or Artifacts or anything else. The job is still the same, which is to tell what I think is an entertaining and visual story.
Nrama: How about the art team involved? You're working with Jeevan Kang, right? Can you tell us a little bit about working with him, and what you think about his work?
Marz: One of the big draws to me for this gig was the chance to work with Jeevan, who I think is a really gifted artist. I edited him when I did some editorial work for Virgin Comics on a completely different project with a completely different art style. One of the things that I found really impressive about the Indian artists that I came into contact with, and continue to find impressive, is that virtually all of them could work in a multitude of styles. Jeevan absolutely falls into that category, but his superior storytelling is evident in whatever style he's working in. The whole team pulled together a really nice package that you could hand to a 10-year-old who maybe doesn't read comics regularly, or a 35-year-old who is an Every Wednesday warrior.
Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren't sure about Ani-Max, what would you tell them to get them onboard?
Marz: It's something a little different. I know when people look at a book that has an "animated" style" sometimes it's dismissed as being only for kids, but that mindset completely misses the mark. When we say "all ages." that's exactly what it means, ALL ages, not simply 12 and under or whatever age range you want to put on it. I'm happy to hand Ani-Max to my kids, as well as to my wife, who happens to be a big-time animal lover.What do you think of the latest Dynamite-Liquid partnership book?