"Teenagers from Mars." Thinking about this title will bring a number of thoughts to mind. The first might be it's a cross between "Third Rock from the Sun" and "Dawson's Creek" coming to the WB this fall. You'd be wrong. The second is you might think it's some sort of science fiction, futuristic story. Again you'd be wrong. What "Teenagers from Mars" IS is a comic from the minds of Rick Spears and Rob G about a group of teenagers who do those things that all teenagers do. Well, most of them at least.
"'Teenagers From Mars' is about kids - it's about comics - it's about falling in love - it's about smashing shit up," series writer Rick Spears told CBR News. "It's the story I got tired of waiting for so I just wrote it myself."
"I stick by the Fight Club meets Goonies analogy," is how series artist Rob G preferred to describe the series.
"'Teenagers' is about a lot of different characters all connected by the fact they live in Mars," continued Spears. "In #1, we meet Max and his gang of teenage grave robbers, then Macon, a comic book artist who gets in a fight with his boss over comics, and finally Madison who is arrested for beating up a slimeball after he looks up her skirt. In #2, Macon and Madison meet during a night of zombies, vomiting and vandalism and end it with a kiss. As for what is coming next - it'll ruin the surprise if I just tell you."
"This is just the beginning," teased Rob G. "We're introducing you to the setting and characters and just when you think you know what's going on - we'll start the real story."
The duo didn't have to look very far for inspiration; the story, people and locales are all pulled from their pasts.
"A lot of the book is based on real people, real places and things that really happened," said Spears. " Macon is real, the Zombie party was real - stuff like that. I wanted to set up Mars as a place that's familiar enough that you could relate to it and the kids real enough that you'd want to hang out with them."
"For the art, the inspirations were mostly things that I remember from my high school days," said Rob G, "the way things looked, the way people acted, dressed, what they were into, like skating was huge back then, so you can see lots of skating references in the book. Or, the hottest girls in my school were the death chicks, so of course that's how I draw the girl. And since Rick and I grew-up in the same area around the same time his vision and mine are very similar."
Getting back to that title. Where did it come from?
"I came up with 'Teenagers From Mars' because I'm a big B movie nerd," said Spears. "I love movies like 'I was a Teenage Werewolf' and I wanted a title that set up that kind of feeling. It also sums up how a lot of adults see kids, like they're from another planet."
When Spears and Rob G began working on "Teenagers from Mars" they had hoped to find a publisher to go through. Unfortunately most publishers weren't willing to take a chance on the two, but they felt they had a product worthy of going forward with and the encouragement of one publisher helped them move forward.
"Initially we hit up some of the indie comic publishers and were either rejected or ignored - the one exception being Chris Staros at Top Shelf," said Spears. "He was great. He actually called on the phone, still rejecting us due to a difficult market he said, but he wanted to tell us that he still really enjoyed the story. Rob and I had pretty much expected the rejections so we had the back up plan of just doing it ourselves. Rob and I both grew up with the DIY (Do It Yourself) punk aesthetic and had practiced it with our bands, mini-comics and films. If you don't sweat the money DIY gives you the power to be unstoppable. So we work our day jobs and make 'Teenagers' at night."
But as anyone who's ever published a comic on their own knows, it's not an easy process and when unexpected events happen that could have brought this publishing project to a complete stop, enter former CBR columnist Larry Young and the future got a little brighter.
"We printed #1 in time for the 2001 [Small Press Expo] and then 9/11 happened," said Spears. "The SPXPO was canceled and I was stuck with a big bill and a couple thousand comics in my very small Brooklyn apartment. We went to the Baltimore con and the National con in NYC and were selling to some local stores and to our friends and family. It was slow, going but we were having a ball and then we got lucky. Enter Larry Young. I'm not sure how he heard about us but Larry wrote and asked for a copy of the book. I sent him our whole bag, the comic, buttons, stickers, a copy of the full script, everything and the next thing I know he writes us up on CBR. A guy named Greg Dunnion who had seen Larry's article asked his local store, All About Books and Comics in Phoenix, AZ, to order him a copy of TFM. The store contacted Diamond and eventually Diamond contacted us and asked to carry the book. Through Diamond, 'Teenagers #1' hit the shelves April 2002."
"Yes, it's all Larry Young's fault," continued Rob G. "Larry got us huge recognition for the book right here on this very site, so #1 did fairly well. People seemed to like it and told their friends and so #2 did well, too. Now, the challenges as I see them are to continue a quality comic in a timely fashion. We have to keep people interested in the book and characters with a good art and a great story, but also be able to keep the book coming out on time."
Both Spears and Rob G grew up in the same part of Virginia. They had the same friends and similar interest, but didn't meet until both moved to Brooklyn. When Spears arrived in New York he decided to take this screenplay he wrote, "Teenagers from Mars," and turn it into a comic. It took him about a year to find Rob, but the match was a good one. Spears told us Rob nailed it with the very first sketches he submitted for "Teenagers" and the rest of the story you already know. So, where to next?
"'Teenagers from Mars' is a trilogy with the first 8 being the first part," said Rob G. "We know what's going to happen all the way to the end. The second arc will tentatively be out very soon after the end of the first, but a lot of things can happen. It will depend on how well the first part is received and whether or not we can afford to put out the second, and so on and so forth. We also have talked about changing the format with the second part maybe something like 48 pages every 3 months or something like that. It's all up in the air. We're really just focused on getting the first part out right now."
"Yeah, I've planed out the 2nd and 3rd arcs and know exactly what's gonna happen," continued Spears. "These kids have an unavoidable destiny and it should be one hell of a ride. We also plan to do some one shots here and there to fill out the story and some of the secondary characters. What we don't want to do is drag it out forever and get old and bloated and still be doing a book about teenagers. We might do an OLD FARTS FROM MARS then but we'll just have to wait and see."
Both Spears and Rob G are busily working on a variety of projects outside of "Teenagers from Mars."
"I'm currently working with Brian Wood on 'Couriers,' the sequel to his 'Couscous Express,' said Rob G. "Rick and I are doing an original graphic novel called 'Filler' for AIT/Planet Lar and Rick is writing another OGN, 'Full Fathom Five' with art by Christopher Schenck also for AIT/Planet Lar. So, we've got a lot in the works but we'll always be cranking out 'Teenagers From Mars' and doing books together. We want to, at all times, have a Rick and Rob book coming out. It's just easier to assault the world of comics when you have someone to back you up and pass you ammunition."