What does it take to travel through space and time? A lot of work and preparation for starters, but don’t tell that to a trio of orphaned teens who find out their parents have been abducted by a time traveling madman. To find their parents wherever – and whenever they are, these three partner with a strange man who’ll provide them information if they steal rare antiquities for him.
That’s the story in the upcoming original graphic novel Rift Raiders, written by Mark Sable and illustrated by Julian Tedesco. Sable has been on a creative tear as of late, doing creator-owned work like Grounded, Fearless and Hazed while also doing work at both DC and Marvel. His last big project was the limited series Unthinkable from BOOM! Studios, and in this new project he’s reteaming with the artist of that, Tedesco, to tell this unique tale.
If the story isn’t unique enough yet, just look at the company who is putting it together. Longtime movie production company Kickstart has ventured into the world of comic pubishing, enlisting editors Jimmy Palmiotti & Larry Young to publish twenty-four graphic novels a year. No single issues, just straight-to-trade and they’re not only going to comic stores but also your local Wal-Mart, one of many retail chains the publisher has partnered with for a dedicated section.
For more on this, we talked with Rift Raiders creator and writer Mark Sable.
Newsarama: On your blog you described this as “Goonies meets Time Bandits”, but I see no Babe Ruth candy bar in sight. How would you describe the book, Mark?
Mark Sable: There’s no Baby Ruth and no Sloth, but the woman from Throw Mama From The Train and Joe Pantoliano make an appearance.
Seriously, I compare Rift Raiders to Goonies because of the tone, and Time Bandits because of the scale and scope of the adventure.
Rift Raiders a fun, teen time-travel adventure story about kids who think they are orphans, but learn their parents are alive and scattered throughout time. In order to rescue their parents, they have to strike a deal with a shady character who has them steal mystical artifacts in return for revealing their parents location.Nrama: What would you say the big theme is here - what are you trying to show the reader?
Sable: There’s not really some heavy theme here, like messing with history is bad or anything like that. I do think though, that Grounded and any of my work that deals with teens, it’s about parents needing to trust their kids enough to be honest with them.
Nrama: At the center of all this is a teen named Dodger. What’s he like?
Sable: When our story starts, Dodger is sort of your every-teen, with one exception. His parents claim to be archeologist, but they never take him on his digs or share the finds they supposedly keep hidden in a secret vault. So he’s dedicated his life to becoming the world’s greatest thief – just so he can uncover his family’s secrets. Of course, he gets more than he bargained for when he finds they’re not just time treasure hunters but time travelers.
Nrama: I hear Dodger's not the only teen who has some misplaced parents - who
are the others?Sable: There are three other “orphans” who Dodger finds after their parents are seemingly killed in accidents where no body was ever recovered.
Myles is the only one with a work knowledge of history and the group’s moral compass. If he’s the angel on Dodger’s shoulder, Sikes is the devil – a kid who could care less about finding his parents and who’s just in it for plundering the past.
But my favorite is Layla…she’s a veteran time traveler with the ultimate combat training – having been taught by everyone from the Shaolin Monks to Wild Bill Hickock to Muhammad Ali.
Nrama: In the preview you gave us, someone grabbed Dodger's parents after the
time belt broke - who are they?
Sable: The gauntlets that grab the parents belong to the Casimir. He’s the big bad of the book, and is also seeking mystical weapons from throughout time, but to reveal any more would involve major spoilers.
Nrama: How'd you come up with the premise of Rift Raiders, Mark?
Sable: It came from mashing up Time Bandits and Oliver Twist in my brain. I love Time Bandits, but I did my definitive work on little people when I did my midget western, “They Shoot Ponies Don’t They” with Chew’s Rob Guillory and Tom Mauer in Popgun Vol. 1.
Plot wise, I borrowed a bit from Oliver Twist. Instead of orphans being recruited to steal from Victorian Englishmen, they are recruited to steal by a Fagan-type character known as The Fence. You never quite know who he’s working for – the kids, the Casimir, both or neither.Nrama: For this, you're reteaming with your Unthinkable artist Julian Totino Tedesco. What was it about that project that united the two of you to continue on with this new project - a long one - with a new publisher like Kickstart?
Sable: I was so blown away by what Julian did with Unthinkable that I would have worked on him with anything. When Kickstart asked for artist suggestions, Julian was my first and only choice. People have compared his work to Joe The Barbarian’s Sean Murphy, and I think he’s a breakout artist.
What’s great is…although Unthinkable is my favorite published work, Julian’s art on Rift Raiders is on an entirely different level. Without sacrificing the level of detail in Unthinkable, the action is just so much more dynamic in Rift Raiders, and the characters are even more expressive. I purposely wrote Rift Raiders with the intention of giving Julian’s work more room to breathe, and as a result it’s a showcase book for him.
Nrama: How'd you hook up with Kickstart Comics to do this book?
Sable: Kickstart was and is a successful production company before they were a publisher, and had expressed interest in Hazed and Unthinkable. I developed a great relationship with Samantha Olsson and Jason Netter, and we’ve been looking to work on something together for a long time.
Any time there’s a new publisher, especially one with Hollywood roots, there’s always skepticism. But from both a business and creative perspective I couldn’t be happier with everything Kickstart has done.
A lot of their press has been focused on the fact that they have a distribution deal with Walmart – something almost every publisher has wanted to do but has been unable to. That’s part of a larger approach of making books accessible to readers who might not have tried comics. I’m beating a dead horse with this, but we need to grow comics’ readership if we want to see the medium thrive.What I think is cooler, though, is that they haven’t forgotten direct market retailers. At the direct market shops, they'll be offering hardcover versions of Rift Raiders instead of the softcover version for big box stores.
Nrama: You've done a lot of comics, but I believe this is your first original graphic novel - the others have been serialized first. Am I wrong? If not, what's it like writing for this longer uninterrupted format?
Sable: Hazed, my sorority satire from Image, was also an OGN, although it wasn’t originally conceived that way, which Rift Raiders was. I grew up on serialized comics and love writing them, but I prefer doing an OGN, where I can tell a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end without artificial breaks every 22 pages.
Nrama: You've said Rift Raiders is completely done on your end - so what else are you working on?
Sable: A lot…although I unfortunately have to be vague about some of it. I have a Teen Titans special with the aforementioned Sean Murphy coming out this fall, and hopefully a Marvel story or two. I’m doing another book with Kickstart that hasn’t been announced, and I just finished a screenplay for a very cool director.
I think the two projects I’m most excited about are collaborations with Salgood Sam (Sea of Red), who I did a Comic Book Tattoo story with, and Paul Azaceta (Amazing Spider-Man), who I haven’t done a big project with since Grounded. There’s no bigger compliment to me than when an artist wants to work with me again.Timey Wimey Stuff