IDW Publishing continues its creative use of the Mars Attacks license this June with “Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated,” where three timeless literary tales, “Moby Dick,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Robinson Crusoe,” find themselves mashed-up with the Martian property. The stories are courtesy of writers Phil Hester, Beau Smith and Neil Kleid with art by John McCrea, Kelley Jones and Carlos Valenzuela, respectively.
Handling “Classics Obliterated’s” take on “Moby Dick” is fan-favorite writer Phil Hester, known for runs on “Wonder Woman” and “The Darkness” as well as penciling books like “Green Arrow” and “The Irredeemable Ant-Man.” Joining Hester on pencils is “Hitman” and “The Boys: Herogasm” artist John McCrea.
Hester spoke with CBR News about “Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated,” sharing details about his “Moby Dick” themed entry to the anthology and touching on other literary classics he’d like to adapt. Plus, exclusive art by McCrea!
CBR News: Phil, what’s the premise of “Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated?”
Phil Hester: Why limit the delightful chaos of “Mars Attacks” to modern times? This project is a chance to spread that subversive fun to other eras and literary settings that benefit from a Martian boot to the ass. To that end, we’re all imagining ways to have those blessed Martians interact with characters and concepts from the classics of literature in a way that’s both fun and a little bit scary — and probably just plain gross.
Can you share details on how “Mars Attacks” mixes with “Moby Dick” in your story?
I tried to tie the presence of the Martians in with Herman Melville’s months at sea before he became a famous writer. If he had encountered these grotesque alien visions while a deckhand, they might have fired his literary imagination or even driven him mad. It’s basically Mars Attacks Herman Melville with some whaling action thrown in. Plus, “Moby Dick” was asking for it.
Why “Moby Dick?” Have you read the novel?
I read it long ago, but went back and brushed up on specific scenes and themes before writing the script. You can blame John McCrea for all of this. He draws the regular “Mars Attacks” book, and when they asked him to contribute he picked “Moby Dick.” I guess he’s always wanted to draw whales. Anyway, John and I have a good working relationship, so when the gig was approved John asked me to come aboard.
Was there a temptation to pencil this yourself?
No. The idea of drawing a tall ship with all its rigging and masts is just terrifying to me. I suck at that kind of technical realism. I think that’s what’s so astounding about John’s pages; he makes details like that come to life without bogging them down with a kind of photorealism that might tempt lesser artists. I mean, these ships look like real whalers of the 19th century, but still look consistent with John’s style.
You’re known for writing horror, but this book gives the impression of being comedic. Does your “Classics Obliterated” story lean more towards one or the other?
I write a comedy/horror book called “Golly!” which is one of my favorite projects. I think horror punctuated by comedy is one of the most satisfying experiences in fiction. In the case of “Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated,” I took the approach of writing a straight horror script and letting the absurdity of the Martians’ presence in otherwise familiar literary settings carry the humor across.
Any other stories you’d like to give a “Mars Attacks” spin to?
Probably. I hadn’t thought about it much before this project, but it was so much fun that I’d love to give it another spin.
Why do you think “Mars Attacks” seems to work so well as a ‘mash-up’ theme?
As I mentioned before, just the simple visual absurdity of the Martians is enough to make their presence in any mash-up fun. I mean, drop a Martian into a classic painting like “American Gothic” or “The Night’s Watch” — funny.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m writing “Invincible Universe” for Skybound/Image with the great Todd Nauck on art as well as “Thunder Agents” for IDW with Andrea Di Vito drawing. I’m also working on a book I both write and draw which I’ll spring on you all when you least expect it.
Any other literary adaptations you’d like to try your hand at?
Jut straight up adaptations? I’d love to adapt any Lloyd Alexander works, from the “Chronicles of Prydain” to “The Iron Ring.” I think he wrote accessible and heartfelt adventure stories with a strong moral component. He’s a huge influence on me.
Also, if they weren’t so played out by now, the “Dune” books. I guess those may be too recent to count as literature in the minds of some, but those people are tools!
“Mars Attacks: Classics Obliterated” is out this June from IDW Publshing.