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Who Wants to be a Genetically Altered Superhero?

by  in Comic News Comment
Who Wants to be a Genetically Altered Superhero?
“Super Real” graphic novel on sale in September

What do you get when you cross an upstart extreme programming cable network with a biotechnology company? You get Jason Martin’s “Super Real,” in which genetically enhanced 18- to 30-year olds compete to win a million dollars on a reality TV show of the same name. CBR News caught up with writer/artist Jason Martin to get the details on the upcoming “Super Real” graphic novel.

“Super Real’s” ensemble cast is a decidedly eclectic mix. “These aren’t mere mortals thrust into super powered responsibility by random events, they actually choose to get radical genetic procedures for fame and a big payout,” Martin told CBR. “So you inherently have a certain range of people that would even consider that, balanced by extreme programming cable TV execs making the casting choices. You wind up with a Go-Go dancer/waitress with a deep family secret, an aspiring body builder/wrestler with Tourette’s syndrome, a young spokes model that may or may not have been raised in Europe, a strung-out club promoter/producer, and a silver spoon black sheep nymphomaniac.”

The villains of the piece, the XTV network execs who produce “Super Real,” bear more than a passing resemblance to some of America’s most recognizable political figures. “We’ve all seen corporate suits cast as villains before, and it can be pretty generic for a comic book story, where colorful characters bring a lot more impact and weight dramatically,” Martin explained. “So the idea was to do like Marvel with their Ultimate line, and find likenesses for those characters. After struggling with ideas, the presidential personas of Bush and Cheney struck me as perfect on a number of levels, so I ran with that.”

A self-described “slave to pop culture,” Martin has been a longtime comics fan, coming up on books like “Cerebus,” “X-Men,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and the budding creator drew comics of his own during those formative years. Years later, after having his interest in comics reinvigorated by the standout mid-’90s comics work of creators like J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira, Paul Pope, Masamune Shirow and Jason Pearson, Martin decided to throw his hat into the comics ring. “I knew I wanted to do something contemporary and fun with a super group but, as you know, there’s no shortage of super teams in comics, so it had to be something different,” Martin said. “At the time reality TV was really taking off with things like ‘Survivor,’ so the idea to merge the two came to me and ‘Super Real’ was born.”

Pages from “Super Real”

When Martin published the first issue of “Super Real” three years ago, he had no idea the journey to completing his story would be such a long one. “When the first couple issues came out months apart, it was building momentum, and getting great reviews, and really felt like it had a chance,” Martin recalled. Rising pamphlet prices and the economic downturn conspired to keep Martin from publishing the final issues of his opus, causing “Super Real” to spend a year in publication limbo. Martin was resistant to going straight to trade with the final issues, and after an effort to publish the final issues through Diamond as an oversized special fell through, the creator arranged to have the special published digitally through Haven Distribution, just before Diamond’s release of the “Super Real” graphic novel this August.

“Hindsight being what it is, I’ve made the journey much more difficult for myself, being too anxious, naïve, and really releasing the book too soon,” Martin continued. “‘Super Real’ was just another victim of the collapsing independent comic market, with the sales hurt by my inability to get the book on any kind of regular schedule. As I said though, it always had a good following, solid market awareness, and great reviews, so I’m glad people can give it another shot in book format, and fans can finish up the first story arc in comic format.”

The upcoming 200-page graphic novel is comprised of the five issues of “Super Real” from the original run (three regular issues and two specials) and the oversized finale. “Additionally, I’ve retouched the original issues, and even had the first special, which was published in black and white, fully colored for the book,” Martin said. “So, it will read like one complete volume, the way it was always intended.”

Pages from “Super Real”

A fan of visual storytelling in all its forms, it was always Martin’s intent to utilize “Super Real” as a way to showcase the talents of other up-and-coming artists. With that in mind, Martin commissioned variant covers for each issue of the series. “Those artists also had their covers as a poster in the center of every copy, along with an interview, so a small showcase in each issue,” he said. The upcoming graphic novel features a pinup gallery collecting the bevy of “Super Real” pinup art that has been created over the past three years.

It was Martin’s desire to work with other artists that led him to create not one but two “Super Real” specials. The first was “Super Real vs. The Comic Book Industry,” which pits the “Super Real” contestants against thinly-veiled stand-ins for comic industry icons. “Each cast member and section was drawn by a different artist, with the featured artist being Jim Mahfood,” Martin said. That was followed by “Super Real vs. the Movie Industry,” a double-sized sequel special featuring the art of Josh Howard and a handful of other emerging comics talent.

Last year, Martin took the idea one step further by creating SRG, his own indie comic publishing label. Short for Super Real Graphics, Martin kicked off the line with two graphic novellas, “Gnome” and “The Wolves of Odin.” Dave Dwonch’s “Gnome” posits that gnomes are anything but the creatures of myth they are believed to be today. “Gnomes were real and once the Earth’s great defenders, until they had a curse placed on them, petrifying them until the day they were needed once more,” Martin said. When a “Lovecraftian evil from another dimension” threatens Earth in 1956, a solitary gnome must enlist the aid of local beatnik in saving the world.

Pages from “Super Real”

Grant Gould’s “The Wolves of Odin” pits the Vikings of a Tolkien-style Norse mythology against a lycanthropic menace. “Viking warrior Tyr is caught in the middle as Odin unleashes werewolves on the Northern men, for turning to new religion, and Thor guides him to stop the carnage,” Martin said.

Coming up next for SRG is Martin’s own OGN, “Con of the Dead,” which follows “a group of survivors; a booth babe, a celebrity in ‘trooper’ gear, and a female MMA fighter, trying to battle their way out of a zombie outbreak at San Diego Comic-Con,” Martin revealed.

Martin said that fans could look forward to more “Gnome” and “Wolves of Odin” down the road, but that for the time being at least, the “Super Real” graphic novel marks the end of that particular story. “‘Super Real’ was always designed as a closed ended story arc,” Martin said. “I’m a big fan of manga and European stories, where you can follow characters for some time, but you ultimately get a full story, and pay off for your investment.” That said, plans are already underway for a spinoff, the second part of a trilogy, featuring an “exciting and talented artist” whom Martin could not yet announce.

And if sales of the “Super Real” GN warrant it, Martin hasn’t closed the book on the book entirely. “I really think when people see the whole story, they might be surprised by what the book has to offer, and hopefully it can find a new life,” Martin said.

The “Super Real” graphic novel hits stands in September.

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