Cover by Alex Ross
January 2005 sees the return of the cold war - to comics. That month Speakeasy Comics will debut the first issue of the twelve-issue series "Atomika." The series is created by writer/artist Sal Abbinanti, who's joined by inker Buzz and co-writer Andrew Dabb ("Ghostbusters," "Happdale") with his friend Alex Ross providing the cover to issue #1.
Abbinanti told CBR News that the series is set in the old Soviet Union at the beginning of the cold war, but it's a very different world indeed. "Atomika is a metaphor for our God of the 20th century (Technology)," said Abbinanti. "He is a God that walks among men. The Soviet Union rules the world, but all the dying Gods (all religions now deemed illegal) are losing their power. Now they want it back, thus they do battle with Atomika for the peoples worship."
Some of the characters that populate the series are based in part on Russian folklore, such as many of the dying Gods of Russia. Arohnir represents the first son of Mother Russia (The Revolution) with Atomika being her second son (Technology). There's also "The State," which Abbinanti described as "sort of a Soviet JLA put together by the government to contain all things deemed counter productive to the CCCP."
Abbinanti's been working on "Atomika" for years in his free time, spending his days representing a diverse group of professional comic artists including Alex Ross. Abbinanti admits breaking into the comics industry as a penciller has been a struggle, so he decided to create something of his own. "I couldn't get any comic gigs except gaming stuff," said Abbinanti. "Marvel, DC, they all told me my work looked too European. What was I suppose to do, move to Europe?
"So, I kept plugging and to keep my chops up (drawing skills) I worked on my own concepts, saved a bunch of dough and decided that the only way it was going to get printed was to do it myself. My friend Tim Bradstreet was really the guy that told me the only way I was going to get into comics was to do it myself."
And do it himself he's done, although it's taken him five years to get to this point. The biggest factor in the delay has been simply a matter of money.
"I tried many times to get 'Atomika' off the ground, but I simply didn't have the money. I was a bartender for 13 years just getting along, paying student loans and rent and living off Ramen noodles. Then Alex Ross came into my life. I began working for him - art sales, website, conventions - and I was able to save a ton of dough and produce the book. I owe everything to that guy. I said it many times before - Alex Ross saved my life."
For Abbinanti, the reasons for setting his first creator-owned project in Russia are plenty, with the dynamic style of Russian imagery and visuals playing a major role.
"Russia has an entirely different culture and way of conveying storytelling," said Abbinanti. "Growing up during the cold war, Russia was the Evil empire. All we heard was they were coming to get us one day. Russia was like the Apocalypse. It was a cold and forbidding place with huge furnaces. At least, that's what the media told us, especially furing the Reagan years. I wanted to draw things that weren't there; things that were products of ones own imagination. So, why not the big bad Soviet Union?"
Abbinanti is being helped with the writing chores by writer Andrew Dabb, whom he met online a number of years ago.
"Andrew was a pro writer looking for pencillers to add art to his scripts," said Abbinanti. The two hit it off, put together some proposals and shopped them around town. "Andrew was putting together some samples for DC/Vertigo, 'Ragman' and some others for [then Vertigo editor] Axel Alonso. Andrew was just coming off of 'Happydale' at the time. Well, our proposal was never looked at by Axel, but I really loved Andrew's scripts and sincerely hoped that we could stay in touch.
"So, when I fleshed out 'Atomika,' I had a ton of ideas, but I needed a pro to really give things structure and great dialogue. So I gave him a buzz and he was still interested. Andrew's really a great writer and you're going to see big things from him soon."
Originally the plan was to self-publish "Atomika" through Abbinanti's studio, Mercury Comics. Then, he met with Adam Fortier who founded Speakeasy Comics, a new publishing concern. Abbinanti had spoken with a number of publishers, but wasn't excited about the prospects with any of them. When Abbinanti met Fortier at the Baltimore Comic-Con earlier this year, the two immediately hit it off. "I'm really fortunate to be with Speakeasy," said Abbinanti. "Adam is a great guy, very professional and incredibly knowledgeable about the comic business."
Already Abbinanti's got four issues completed, with all twelve covers commissioned by some of the industry's top artists. Artists already signed on to do covers include Alex Ross, Glenn Fabry, Mark Texeira, Michael Turner, Tim Bradstreet, Buzz, Simone Bianchi, Eric Powell, Bill Sienekiewicz, Gary Gianni and Claudio Castellini, with more in negotiations. In addition, there are already plans to publish "Atomika" overseas.
"I do a lot of shows overseas for Alex Ross, so I've been talking with some european publishers and they really like Vertigo type super hero books (guys without capes). So, I will definitely be publishing 'Atomika' in French, Italian and German."
Abbinanti will be aggressively supporting this book in 2005 and hopes fans will give it a look.
"I have a lot to prove with this book. So expect a lot of art in this series. Many new book's show you a few cool pages in their solicitations and then you buy the book and those were the only cool pages they had. With 'Atomika,' whether you love it or hate it, I promise readers lots of blood, sweat and tears. I'm putting everything I have into it. Lots and lots of double page spreads, action, cool settings, great writing and great covers."
And he's got a special deal for all his readers who'll meet him at any of a number of conventions he'll be attending in 2005.
"If you buy 'Atomika' and don't like it, please come up to me at a con (Speakeasy booth or the Alex Ross booth) and I will give you you're money back. I will also sign and give a sketch on every issue for every fan at every con I attend."
"Atomika" #1, Pages 15 & 20
"Atomika" #1, Pages 24 & 25