McNamara & Braddock on The Martian Confederacy

The Martian Confederacy

Have you ever been to Mars? Didn't think so.

To paint a picture for you, in the year 3535, Mars has come and gone as a tourist destination and turned into a shell of its former self. When the money dries up, living on the Martian surface goes from vacation to grueling life. With breathing air in short supply thanks to a monopolized distribution system, the inhabitants of Mars are fighting for themselves and against each other. That's exactly what the three rogues at the center of the graphic novel The Martian Confederacy are all about until a glimmer of hope prompts them to reach higher than themselves. The writer Jason McNamara has described it like Dukes of Hazzard in space, and that's a good starting point.

Originally conceived by Jane's World creator Paige Braddock, she brought in Jason McNamara as writer and went from there. Available now from Braddock's Girl Twirl Comics, The Martian Confederacy is a word of seedy mercenaries, corrupt leaders, androids and a talking bear or two. It's a modern western in a futuristic time and place, but inside it's still human – even when the most human acting of them all is an android.

NRAMA: Thanks for talking to us. Let's start off with the facts -- what's this book about?

Jason McNamara: In the 3535 the Martian population struggles to afford breathable air. Boone is a womanizing thief whose friend is murdered by a corrupt lawman. In investigating his death he uncovers a conspiracy concealing a scientific advance that could bring breathable air to Mars. Boone, his android partner Lou469 and his hairy friend Spinner soon find themselves marked for 'prescription.' Before they can free Martians from corporate hooliganism they'll have to escape their own personalized death traps.

The story was inspired by Bechtel's failed attempt to privatize the drinking water in Brazil. I was fascinated by the idea that a corporation would threaten to sue people for collecting rainwater on their roofs.

NRAMA: This isn't Total Recall with bears, is it?

JM: Oh, hell no. If anything we owe a tip of the sombrero to the Dukes of Hazzard. The shows down home spirit of family values, community and absolute lawlessness live on in The Martian Confederacy.

NRAMA: How would you describe Mars in the year 3535?

JM: Long past its heyday as a destination planet Mars gets by as a third rate tourist trap. Casino's, Duty Free Markets, Exotic Entertainment. Imagine Reno without all the class.

The people are poor but resilient. Most only work during the tourist season and then have to ration their oxygen supply to last the rest of the year. There's big money in letting people suffocate.

NRAMA: Reading over the advance sent to me, I really like Boone – he's like a slutty and smarmy Han Solo. How would you describe him, Paige?

Paige Braddock: I would describe him sort of the same way. He's a good natured, "do no harm" sort of guy... who just wants to work enough to get by, party as much as possible (enjoy life) and has a soft heart for the ladies. He's sort of like a futuristic Robin Hood, with just a shade of Romeo mixed in.

NRAMA: How would you describe the Professor and Boone's relationship with him?

JM: Boone, swimming in the shallower end of the emotional pool, probably doesn't realize the professor has been like a father to him.

Raised as an orphan, Boone met the Professor when he broke into his laboratory. Over the years the professor would try to check in on Boone and give him honest work. Both were the only family each other had. When something bad happens to the professor, Boone's tries to adopt his mentors more altruistic ways.

NRAMA: How would you describe Boone's partner, LOU469?

JM: She's my favorite character in the book and not just because she's got a bubble butt.

Because she's an android Lou doesn't have any of your normal human hang-ups. Whether it's playing tug of war with the girls, Russian roulette with the guys or engaging in a little hot talk with a space ship, she's down for a good time. When Lou gets kidnapped she's excited because she's never been kidnapped before "ooh, where are you taking me? No, don't tell me I want to be surprised."

NRAMA: Spinner's also a real hoot, especially when he gets out from behind the bar. How did he and the whole talking animals thing come about?

PB: Don't ask me why, but I've been wanting to do an anthropomorphic bear since like 1996. I have the sketches in my sketchbook to prove it. Spinner is my favorite I think. He tries to keep his animalistic side under wraps, but when he's pushed he is a force to be reckoned with. Plus, he was really fun to draw. I loved that Jason played up the "animal" prejudice and classism on Mars, in regards to Spinner and his family. He's really the only one of the main characters who has cubs.

NRAMA: I noticed an undercurrent of free-spirited sexuality here, between men, women, robots and other types. How does that factor into the book?

PB: Well, Jason and I both wanted the story to have some free-spirited sexuality... imagining that things might be quite different at this point in the future... but we also wanted to keep things "clean" enough for an all-ages audience. I think we found that balance and still made it sexy and fun. Striving to do an all-ages book made the shower scene a little tricky, but I think I managed.

JM: The future people of Mars know how to have a good time. They're poor, they're living under a corrupt government and Mars is a hot dry dump. What else can you do but try to enjoy yourself before you die?

NRAMA: How did this idea start out with you two?

PB: I've been wanting to do a humorous sci fi story for several years, and I've always been fascinated by Mars, but I couldn't seem to get much more than a basic concept/pitch down on paper. I had a couple of the characters in mind... Boone and Spinner specifically. Lou and Sally were concepts of Jason's. But really all I had was a vague notion of who these characters were. Jason really brought them to life and made them a team.

NRAMA: How did Paige bring you in on this project, Jason?

JM: We met at a convention, traded books and hit off. We kept in contact and eventually Paige asked me to write something for her. She gave me some concept sketches of this Martian society that had been kicking around in her head. I pinned them to my wall and kept wondering what the story was going to be…

You ever watch a trailer and then put the whole movie together in your head? As a writer I'm always doing that. So one day all her sketches clicked for me and I knew what the story was going to be about.

NRAMA: Paige, this is a big shift from your work on Jane's World and the Peanuts library, and the first time you've worked with another creator. What led to that?

PB: As I said, I've been wanting to do a Sci Fi book for quite a while but between the day job at the Schulz studio and my night job on Jane's World I had to give myself a little "reality check." There are only so many hours in the day. I actually thought I'd be able to keep working on Jane's World while I was working on the Mars book but I began to realize that I couldn't live in both worlds at the same time... there were too many characters in my head... plus, I wanted to work with a brush on the Mars pages and that was a big style change from Jane's World. I ended up taking a break from Jane's World for a few months to finish Mars. It was great to be working on a totally different project from an art perspective. I feel like the Mars book pushed me as an artist and I feel like Jane's World will benefit from that expansion. It was also really nice to not have to worry about the story. As you said, this is the first time I had worked with a writer and luckily, Jason was great to work with. We only had a few creative points that we debated in the early stages of the project and those got worked out really smoothly and I think worked out for the benefit of the book overall. What else can I say? Not only is Jason the funniest, most clever guy I know, but he's a real peach to work with.

The Martian Confederacy hit comic shops in August. It can be ordered via Diamond with item number MAY083907, or via bookstores with ISBN 978-0-9794207-1-9

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