MacPherson & Barentine Have an "M-Theory"

Coming off Harvey and Eisner nominations for his gothic fairy tale "The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo" and its recently released sequel, writer Dwight MacPherson isn't slowing down. Instead, he's teamed with Mike Barentine, a former theme park caricaturist and current tattoo artist to create "M-Theory," a new miniseries beginning in September from Image Comics and Shadowline. Steeped in classic science fiction, "M-Theory" combines intrigue, action, and the fight for survival of the human race. MacPherson and Barentine spoke with CBR News about the book, its origins and influences.

"M-Theory" follows the adventures of three humans who receive a doomsday transmission from an interdimensional being. "The first is a 19-year-old prodigy at Princeton University, the second is a government scientist who works on the top secret Area 51 installation, and the third is the commander of a space expeditionary force at the edge of the galaxy," MacPherson told CBR News.

"Goetz is the top scientist in his field, stationed at Area 51," Barentine added. "He made contact with an alien at the Roswell landing and since has been searching for other alien life forms. I find him to be a cutthroat character willing to do what is needed to survive."

The American space exploration team is made up of characters like Price, Monroe, their robot Rex, and the fearless Captain James Bishop. "They fly around the galaxies blowing up hostile planets and eliminating all threats," Barentine said. "And Agnes is a student at Princeton University. Like Goetz, Agnes made contact with the alien being and has become the target of a group of Nazis. In this story she is truly one of a kind. "

"M-Theory" is close to MacPherson as it draws upon some of his largest influences. "I've been a huge fan of the pulp sci-fi serials, dime novels, movies and comics from the 1930s to the 1950s for most of my life," the writer said. "In fact, my earliest memory of television was watching a rerun of the '50s serial 'Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe.' Needless to say, I've loved the classic media from the golden age of science fiction since childhood and really wanted to create a book that paid tribute to that wondrous era. You'll also see some 'Twilight Zone' and 'Outer Limits' influence in the story as well. Rod Serling and Leslie Stevens were phenomenal screenwriters in my estimation."

As for the genesis of the idea, MacPherson remarked, "When I actually sat down to plot the book, I had just finished watching the first season of 'The Outer Limits.' The two episodes that really stuck in my mind were 'The Galaxy Being' and 'The Borderland.' If you've seen those episodes, you'll definitely see where that influence played into the final story. From there, it was simply me pulling elements from my memories of the golden age of science fiction; piecing it all together and making it work."

While "M-Theory" is the culmination of a lifetime of science and pulp fiction, the road to publication was not a long one. "I actually wrote 'M-Theory' about a year ago," MacPherson said, "and put it into a development folder. I had just signed a contract with Shadowline to make 'The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo,' so that was my focus. After the success of 'Poo' book 1--which received Harvey and Eagle Award nominations, I might add--and 'Archibald Saves Christmas,' I decided to pull 'M-Theory' from my computer and pitch it to Jim Valentino and Kris Simon at Shadowline. Kris immediately loved it and I signed a contract a couple days after pitching it."

The publication "M-Theory" is the realization of MacPherson's dreams not just a writer, but as a comics fan. Said MacPherson, "I've wanted to see a book like this for so long. To actually be the one to make it happen--that's even better! I love all my books for various reasons, but 'M-Theory' is definitely one that is closer to my heart. It's basically a nostalgic love letter to the marvelous age of pulp sci-fi that engaged my imagination as a child--and still engages me today."

"M-Theory" is also the comics debut of artist Mike Barentine, a tattoo artist out of Austin, Texas. "Mike's visual storytelling skills are fantastic," MacPherson said, "and his wonderful exaggerated style really brings a lot to each and every page. Most of the old television serials were overly dramatic and Mike's style captures that perfectly on the printed page. I don't think I could have made a better choice for an artist on 'M-Theory.'"

Said Barentine, "When I read the script, the first thing I thought of was 'The Planet of the Apes. It's a tense ride that hits you below the belt in the end.

"I've never done any comic books before," Barentine continued. "I went into this project blindly. I was over-thinking everything and that was just making it incredibly difficult. I simplified the characters down to shapes. Once I had the right gestures, I just built off of those. It's a simple and fun style of the cartoon element."

Like the classic science fiction pulps of old, MacPherson is aiming for a wide audience. "It's a pretty taut science-fiction thriller with depth for the adults, but it's also an action-adventure story with jet packs, laser rays, robots and flying saucers that can be enjoyed by any reader regardless of age."

In the event that "M-Theory" finds that audience, MacPherson is ready for more. "This miniseries definitely concludes, but like the great old sci-fi serials, it ends in a cliffhanger of sorts," MacPherson said. "I would definitely love to do more M-Theory stories, but whether that happens or not is entirely up to retailers and fans. So please buy, buy, buy!"

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