In 1990, Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons first introduced the world to Martha Washington in the four issue miniseries Give Me Liberty. Hailed as an apocalyptic tour-de-force from the cartoonist behind The Dark Knight Returns and the artist of Watchmen, Martha Washington struck a chord in comics and was awarded the Eisner for best limited series. Miller and Gibbons followed up the initial miniseries with two more, as well as several one-shots. And now, Dark Horse is bringing all the stories and all the sketches together for a true must-have: The Martha Washington Omnibus.
What is it about, you say? The story is about Martha Washington, growing up in the slums of Chicago in the near-future and falling into the job of being a hero in America's fight for freedom against armies of Fat Boy Burgers, the Aryan Thrust and the sinister Surgeon General. Martha Washington is many things over the course of these published stories – prisoner, runaway, lunatic, soldier, seditionist – and it shows a future with a lot of the same problems today… but with no shortage of explosives and explosive situations.
We talked with series artist and co-creator Dave Gibbons by phone on route to San Diego Comicon to find out more.
Newsarama: Tell us Dave, what all is in the The Martha Washington Omnibus?
Dave Gibbons: Well, it's the complete Martha. It's everything that's ever been in print about Martha. It's the B>GIVE ME LIBERTY, MARTHA GOES TO WAR, MARTHA SAVES THW WORLD, all the short stories in both their colored and black & white versions. Also there are different covers for things and things done for t-shirts. Really, if it's been in print and it features Martha, it will be there.
It's going to be done hopefully in "Absolute" format. You know, the oversized format like the Absolute Watchmen. There will probably be a slipcased edition of it. It's probably going to come in at about 600 pages. It's amazing that over the years it's come to be so much. It's going to be a hefty book –- you wouldn't want to drop it on your foot.
NRAMA: Does this include the rare "Logistics" story from the action figure released?
DG: Yes it does. That's going to be in there, in its correct order. Everything's going to be chronologically placed, irrespective of when it was published because in fact "Logistics" takes place before the story that was published earlier. So we made sure everything was in the right order so it can be read as a consistent story and all the covers will be in there as well.
NRAMA: Tell us about the new material in the book.
DG: Well, the are some unpublished pages for Martha. Try-out stuff, sketches and various stuff that for one reason or another didn’t make it into print. Stuff that was drawn in a different format. Basically, whatever I've been able to find in my file drawer. And rather like I'm doing with the Watching The Watchmen book, there will be some narrative and background material as to how Frank and I actually came to dream the whole thing up and the conversations that we had. Examples of Frank's notes and concepts and everything like that.
NRAMA: It's been 18 years since this series first debuted -- but when did it originally begin for you and Frank?
DG: Gosh, it was some time after he'd done Dark Knight Returns and I'd done Watchmen and it was an obvious thing really. We'd got to know each other quite well, and one day one of us said "wouldn't it be really good to do something together?" And it kind of all sprang from that.
It started with the germ of an idea from Frank – kind of a synopsis of a few possible scenes. I did some sketches and then Frank took it and very much ran with it and wrote a full script. That was adapted and the book was done at different lengths. There was a lot of too-ing and fro-ing and a lot of adjusting until we came up with the final format of it.
NRAMA: Given the upswing in Hollywood studios taking comics to film, what do you think our chances are of a Martha Washington film?
DG: Well, I would imagine quite good. This is very much Frank's end of things, but I would think given his track record and my name is going to be on the Watchmen film in some capacity. I would think that it's very possible.
I'm looking forward to meeting Frank in San Diego Comicon for the first time in a long time. So when we have a chance to speak, maybe I'll know more after that. Looking at the subject matter, it's very strange the way politics kind of go around the block and back again. With the American forces trying to keep peace in the world is as topical today as it was when Frank wrote it back in the '90s.
I still think there's a bit of satire and adventurous fun to be had with it all.
NRAMA: The last MW comic was 2007's Martha Washington Dies one-shot, which left open the possibility of more stories. Should we get our hopes up?
DG: Thanks really up to Frank. I thought that the story really was the perfect capstone on everything that we'd done. It left so much to the imagination and I think did provide definite closure and ending to it. Although it may be "Martha Washington 3 Goes To War" or "Martha Washington 8 Against the Barbarians" or something like that. As far as I'm aware, Frank doesn't have plans to do that but.. you never know. In comics you can never say never.