Smith on New Brighton Archaeological Society

New Brighton Archaeological Society

There is a secret world outside our own: the truth behind legends, the treasure seemingly lost to the ages and imaginary creatures who are flesh and blood. It's a dangerous life to explore this secret world, and when the world's foremost experts lose their lives trying to uncover these mysteries there's only one who can take their place: their kids.

First appearing in the 2007 anthology Popgun Volume 1, the kids of the New Brighton Archeological Society are returning in their own graphic novel. Collecting the Popgun stories and telling new ones, the graphic novel is written by Mark Andrew Smith (Amazing Joy Buzzards) with art by newcomer Matthew Weldon.

With the graphic novel scheduled for release on November 19th through Image Comics, we talked with writer Mark Andrew Smith to find out more about the Society and the kids behind it.

Newsarama: Mark, how did the story of New Brighton Archeological Academy come about?

Mark Andrew Smith: The story was an infusion of a lot of factors. Mostly I wanted to do an adventurer type of story with some kids for an all ages’ audience where it’s a lot of fun but also has a great mood and tone to it. There are a lot of little things that inspired the book and it’s a comic book equivalent of kid’s chapter books for an all ages audience. But mixed with a classic Norman Rockwell tone and some Bill Watterson influence and energy to the characters.

NRAMA: And what are the kids after in this book?

MAS: The kids are trying to complete their parent’s work that was left half finished and beat their parent’s nemesis. So their parent’s were experts at what they were doing, but the kid’s have to learn everything as they go and figure everything out, which makes it a lot of fun.

MAS: The kids are being looked after by their godparents, who also raised their parents. Can you explain their connecting with the New Brighton's families?

Their Godparents are the caretakers for the New Brighton manor and they were there to help out with their parents when they were younger and now they've taken their parents role as custodians for our kids.

NRAMA: You're working with Matthew Weldon, who seems to be tailor made for your story here. How did you hook up with Weldon?

MAS: I met Matthew online for an art battle that he did for another book I was working on. Matthew did a great job on his pinup and he worked in a different style for it that I liked a lot. So when I saw this pinup out of the style I had seen before it just clicked for me and I got very excited about it and knew that he was the perfect artist to work on the story of New Brighton Archeological Society with. Matthew’s very tailor made for the story. He’s a great collaborator and so wonderful to work with.

NRAMA: The children are brought together by the fate of their parents, who were known as the world's greatest explorers who tragically died while on an expedition. Their fate was glimpsed in one of the Popgun shorts – but will we learn more about that, and about the man who caused their doom?

MAS: Yes in this volume we will learn more about the man who caused their parent’s doom and some of his motivations. There will be a few great revelations here and eventually the kids are going to have to go head to head against this man that caused their parent’s doom.

NRAMA: Although they're without parents now, they did have them when they were first growing up. What was their relationship like with the parents?

MAS: They had a really great relationship with their parents and their parents included them in a lot of their work. The had books lying around the house growing up and their parents told them tales of far off places. So they’re kids of course but very much like their parents and there is a lot of love between the two. They had very good, loving, parents.

NRAMA: In the Popgun stories there's mention of a Great Library – in fact, that's what their parents were after before their deaths. What is the mystery behind it?

MAS: Ah! I can’t say too much about it but you’ll find out after reading the book what it’s all about. The library is very important for unlocking secret lands and long lost places. With the books you control these other places but many of them were never meant to be opened.

NRAMA: The kids here are a spectacular foursome. Can you tell us about them, individually?

MAS: The kids are some great personalities. They each have their own voice and their own skill sets. I like them all equally while writing them. The kids come from two different families that have always been friends and their parents worked together on their adventures. One family is Chinese American and the other Irish American and there are two brothers and sisters from each family.

Cooper and Joss are brother and sister. They get along very well but Cooper is dramatic and very animated and funny. He’s a character and a troublemaker. He’s the devil’s advocate of the group and he often gets them in trouble or exaggerates things for his own amusement.

Joss is his sister and she’s a go-getter and more serious and a voice of reason. In a lot of ways she keeps Cooper anchored and under control and she’s a good balance for him. She’s got great leadership skills and she can outrun all of the boys. She’s a one girl wrecking crew, and kicks a lot of butt. So she’s a really great character.

Benjamin and Becca are brother and sister. Benjamin is a salt of the earth type character that always does what is right. He has a great sense of fairness and ethics. Benny rises to challenges and he's the rock of the group, with a sense of fairness and ethics. He's a problem solver and very patient. Benny's someone you can always depend on to keep his word. When he grows up you could imagine him growing up to be policeman, a service man, or a private eye like Marlow. He's got a good sense of humor as well and gets along with everyone.

Becca is smart with numbers and the well read. She's more like the princess of the group and the youngest. She can have a bit of a mischievous side to her as well. Benny is her brother and he's very protective of her.

NRAMA: The kids aren't the first to be in the New Brighton Archeological Society. What's the history behind it?

MAS: The New Brighton Archeological Society was a club that once belonged to their parents when they were their age. So it's something that they accidentally stumble upon and they decide to revive and become a part of to connect with and honor their parents. So these kids are really picking up their parent's torch in everyway and seeing out their parent's duties.

NRAMA: This graphic novel is scheduled to be released in November. Do you have any special appearances or signings planned to coincide with that?

MAS: I think Matthew will plan a signing or appearance I hope. I've been away from my home in America for two years so I won't be there for the release for a signing or appearance, but it would be nice to do and I miss being able to connect with people and old friends.

NRAMA: Away from America? Are you on your own New Brighton-esque expedition? What's going on?

I've been teaching English in South Korea for Elementary and Middle School. So I've been away for about two years and Korea is a really nice country to live in. It enabled me to do comics and really give them a push. So I moved half way around the world just so I could make great money and give doing comics a push eventually as a full time job.

If I stayed in America I probably would have been swallowed up and had to give comics up, but I promised myself I was going to throw everything into doing comics and graphic novels full time in a big rally over the next year or two. So I've been here to facilitate that. It's a pretty big commitment to your art when you move away and then go into exile just to be able to keep doing something that you enjoy. But I have a strong feeling that something good will happen by the end of this year that let's me do comics fulltime. But Korea has been a good enabler for me to keep doing what I enjoy the most.

NRAMA: Since you're in Korea and who knows when we'll speak to you next, let's cover some of those othr books you got going on briefly. You're best known for Amazing Joy Buzzards – what's going on that front?

MAS: YES! The Amazing Joy Buzzards is the project that I'm best known for and I do that with Dan Hipp. We're nearly done with the second volume and it will be out in November as well. I'm really looking forward to being able to read it and hold it as a finished product in my hands. The Amazing Joy Buzzards is something we're both passionate about and a great book to work on. I think fans will be very pleased with the new volume and the story that Dan and I have crafted for them.

NRAMA: In scrounging up for this interview, I read a title of something you're working on that I haven't heard much about – the Gladstone's School for World Conquerors. What's that?

MAS: Gladstone's School for World Conquerors is a new book I'm working on with Armand Villavert and Dylan McCrae. The story centers on a school for the children of great super villains where they teach you the arts of becoming a great villain. But the twist is that for the past 15 years there has been an armistice between superheroes and super villains and that it's turned into a spectacle much like professional wrestling.

Only the kids don't know it's fake and find old books about their parents constantly being beat up by their old superhero nemesis.

The kids have enough of their parents losing and band together to take on their parents old enemy and in doing so open up a HUGE can of worms that they've got to put back into place before they start a full blown war again.

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