So, I guess by now, something is pretty obvious about my literary tastes. For the most part, I’m drawn
to two specific elements in any of the fiction I read. The first is the paranormal. If you take a look at the books I’ve typically raved about in the past (um, or written for that matter), you’ll find that the majority of them have a great deal of the paranormal element within them. Now that doesn’t mean that just because a book has something paranormal in it, I’m going to like it. On the contrary. Lots of paranormal in the Twilight series, but I simply have no interest there. Heck, I think it’s safe to say I’m not interested in any modern vampire fiction at all…unless it’s a throwback to the good ol’ days, like Kane Gilmour’s THE CRYPT OF DRACULA.
So, no…just because a book has the paranormal element in it doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. There also has to have another factor as well. I’ve pondered this identity of this mysterious element for quite some time and it’s become quite clear to me what it is. All of the books I enjoy also have a healthy dose of pulpy goodness too. In that, I mean that the stories tend to draw a great deal on the time-honored formulas of the classic pulp stories of yesteryear. That’s not to say that these stories aren’t original…it just means that there’s a certain spirit to them…a certain feel about them that harkens to those classic pulps.
You can imagine, then, how excited I became when I learned that my friend and future co-author, Kane Gilmour, was involved in an incredible project called WARBIRDS OF MARS. As the brainchild of the multi-talented Scott P. “Doc” Vaughn, Warbirds of Mars originally launched as a web comic (www.warbirdsofmars.com
). Doc drew the comics and Kane Gilmour wrote the scripts.
Let me tell you…these comics are pure pulp heaven! We’re talking martian invasions, ray guns, rocket ships, spies, flying saucers…it has it all! Just so much fun.
But Doc and Kane weren’t content with just entertaining the masses with this great comic. Oh, no! They had to offer their rich “Martian” invaded world to some of the best pulp authors out there today to see what would happen if these great minds would come up with their own stories in Doc’s wonderful world. And from that, they have given us the anthology of pulpy delights known as WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT.
Well, don’t take my word for it. Check out the product description for this anthology:
It’s 1948 and WWII never ended! Instead, Earth was invaded by creatures from the stars! One small group of resistance fighters has banded together to hold the line…at all costs!
WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT!
Bomber pilot Jack Paris. Lounge singer Josie Taylor. Bandaged avenger Hunter Noir. Mysterious hybrid Mr. Mask. Together they will stop at nothing to undermine the Martian occupation of Earth. From daring action in the South China Sea to explosive chaos on the frozen glaciers of Greenland. Watch a man transformed into a vigilante hero, as the world he knows crumbles around him. See an alien-human abomination discover self-worth in the death of a man who extends him kindness. What are the resistance plans for combating the Martian threat? Discover an awakening as two young boys journey from distant farms to the big city, to get in on the life of battle. Just what are the creeping monsters threatening the small southwestern town of Adobe Wells?
Scott P. Vaughn’s vision of a world ruled by three-eyed invaders from the popular webcomic comes to life in this anthology, with fourteen tales of intrigue, horror, and desperate action. The stories run the gamut from the air war, to the horseback of the wild west and the nocturnal alleys of battle-torn 1940s urban America. Brought to you by some of the best names in the horror, action & adventure, supernatural thriller, and comics genres. Relive the glory of the Pulp era with these stories of the fight.
Contributors to this anthology, besides Doc and Kane, include some of my all-time favorites like Sean Ellis, Ron Fortier, Stephen M. Irwin, J. H. Ivanov, David Lindblad, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Alex Ness, Chris Samson, and Megan E. Vaughn. And the book has some amazing illustrations (a couple by Seven Realms’ very own Christian Guldager!).
So yeah…you guys need to pay attention to this book. Need to pick up a copy and just have a blast reading it. But once again, don’t take my word for it. Listen to the creators themselves. I asked them to take a few minutes to share a bit about Warbirds. Here’s what they had to say:
Kane: Tell us about your inspiration for the WARBIRDS OF MARS series, and why you wanted to
put together a webcomic with the idea.
Doc: The inspiration goes way back; I’m a pop-culture enthusiast big time, especially early to mid 20th century film, animation, comics, and pulps. When I started seeing all these new, free webcomics a few years back, I noticed how the format was often wide, like newspaper Sunday strips and dailies (Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon is some of my favorite artwork). So, of course, I wanted to do my own, and it seemed like a good excuse to dust off my own pulp-style ideas that I had sketched out in previous years.
What drew you to working on WARBIRDS OF MARS with me?
Kane: Initially I just wanted to work with you, and hone my chops a bit on comic scripts. You asked me to join you on the webcomic idea, because you wanted to draw and regularly on a series. While I knew I wasn’t as familiar with the era as I could be, it still sounded like a lot of fun. Your ideas were far more fleshed out than I thought they would be. You had long-range ideas for where the series would go, and drawings of all the major characters. You gave me extensive notes on the ‘Martians’ and why they were attacking.
I looked at it all, and immediately saw the potential to take the story in a lot of different directions, because a lot of varied interests had informed your vision. So we could do air-war, and we could do ground adventure. We could do nocturnal avenger, and we could do WWII homage to Where Eagles Dare. I started seeing endless directions, and that, combined with just wanting to work with you again on something, was enough to pull me in. We had fun with the webcomic, and then we got the idea to do something in prose.
Why did you want to expand to prose, and what kind of book did you expect we’d wind up with? Was the anthology what you thought it would be?
Doc: No, it wasn’t exactly what I thought we’d end up with; actually the anthology smashed my expectations with its complete mix of story types and new characters and settings. I figured everyone would write team action stories set in New York or Europe, or sky battles. What we got was all that plus archeological adventure, cosmic horror, weird tales, intrigue, and so much more. It quickly took this little pulp idea in my head and went global. I just wanted the stories and characters to reach new readers through a multitude of great writers and artists, and along the way, I discovered everyone has their own ideas of what pulp is and what it can do. I thought we’d end up with a short book of pastiche, I guess, and to my indescribable joy, we got this thick tome of a variety of story types that all take place in this world we created.
Was this your first real work on any sort of anthology as an editor?
Kane: I actually presided over an anthology-sort of project in academia once. It was terribly difficult to get all the materials I needed, and in the end, I left academia entirely before the project saw the light of day. That gave me some idea of what we were in for with this anthology. As it turned out though, we had a relatively easy time of it. Stories came in (even if they were late, but I was prepared for them to be late). Art came in. All of it was better than I hoped it would be. None of it duplicated what anyone else had done.
Now that you’ve gone though the whole process of creating an expanded universe and doing an anthology, would you want to do one again?
Heck, yeah! It was time-consuming, but so interesting. I don’t know if I’d want more control
over it, or leave it just the same—as it was, giving these creative minds a pretty free range yielded such surprising results. I’m terribly interested in seeing if such success could be duplicated.
Now that you’ve been the writer of the webcomic strip for a number of years as well as being co-editor of the new prose WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! anthology, and keeping in mind the sort of ‘infinite possibilities’ these tales seem to open up, where do you see Warbirds going from here?
Kane: That’s tough. I mean, I know we have discussed where the storyline in the comic might go for the next few years, but we have so much now with regard to the world we’ve built, which others have elaborated on. We could go anywhere really. I can see doing more stories set in the Warbirds world with other characters, and I know we even talked about inviting other authors to play in the universe with longer pieces too. From an editing standpoint, I think as long as we adhere to a few general guidelines about the world, the sky is the limit. We’ve explored the main characters, and we still have an over-arching tale to tell in the comic, but there could be any number of side stories featuring normal people or even other resistance fighters.
What have you not seen yet in this world that you’d like to see—either with the existing characters, or in general story terms?
Doc: Gosh, that’s a good question. I love the notion of these pulp-hero characters we’ve created doing open battle with the ‘Martians,’ and I always want to see more of that. I can’t get enough of humanizing them as well—seeing how their everyday lives mix with their alter egos. I just see so many possibilities with the core characters. But I am SO looking forward to advancing the storyline to a time when the resistance is still a desperate fight, yet their technology has incorporated alien tech to become more diesel-punk, more death-rays in the skies. Mixing that into this 1940s WWII/noir setting that we’ve set up, from New York to Europe, to the stars… oh, that sounds like bliss.
For me and perhaps many Pulp and New-Pulp readers, WARBIRDS OF MARS is a mash-up of heroic and sci-fi motifs we’ve seen before. What does Warbirds mean to you?
Kane: I like that we are telling a story of a world that is under occupation by a hostile force. We aren’t really telling the story of WWII in Warbirds. It’s more like a 40’s Red Dawn. But that’s only when we focus in on our small team. When we look at the broader world, it’s really Casablanca. People are trying to get along in a world gone crazy, while the war still goes on around them. It’s like a perfect playground of motifs with which to write. To me, I’m proud to have been a part of it all up until now, while mindful of reminding everyone that this all really came from you and your love of all these motifs. I’ve thrown in every wacky thing I could think of, and had fun along the way, but I still think of Warbirds as distilled essence of Doc. It’s still a great opportunity for me to write scripts (and with the anthology, edit stories and contribute one of mine), but I try to be wary of injecting too much Kane into the mix. I strive to come up with things that work for me and my desires and what I want to see, with what I think you want and need Warbirds to be. I think for the most part it all comes together nicely.
Besides drawing the strips and maybe tackling more long-form prose, where do you expect to take the concept? Do you see the universe now as an open-ended concept, or do you feel there are a set number of tales in you for WARBIRDS and then you’ll move on to something else?
Doc: Right now I see a few years worth of comics and books, sure, with an eventual finale and closure. I hate stories without proper endings. I always wanted to know what happened to the heroes of pulps and movies that just faded away. I keep toying with the ideas of novels as well as changing the comic format from webcomic-only to something more like Golden-age print, and eventually doing enough work to collect it all into one omnibus. But right now I’m facing other comic, art, and writing deadlines, so I’ve got to clear enough off my desk first so we can continue WARBIRDS properly.
What’s it like seeing your scripts turned into webcomics by me? How does it compare to seeing new writers tackle the universe you helped create?
Kane: It’s strange. Sometimes, you draw exactly what I had pictured in my head, with regard to angle and so forth, although the level of detail is much more present than my initial vision. Other times, the result is totally different from what I pictured—but always way better than what I had thought of. I think the weirder thing is when you capture my mental picture perfectly. In those cases, it’s like a voyeur was tramping through my brain. I love to see the details of things you put in that came from half-assed comments from me like: “Maybe throw in some propaganda posters or something” and then we get an amazing vision of the aircraft hanger with stunning architecture, ladders, fuel trucks, freight on palettes, posters, squadron banners, hoses snaking along the floors, crew members, and so forth.
What’s it like to get a script from me that asks to you draw something devious like a cross-section of a B-24 Liberator in flight, when you are expecting to get a more Alex Raymond-esque simple scene on the ground or maybe in a cockpit?
Doc: Sometimes I’m really blown away by the complete 180-degree turns your narrative can take or the directions with which you guide me through this tale. It makes it unique and better than the simple homage-type comic I think I would have done alone. It also gives it new possibilities and a lot more story. Other times I curse your name and write you hate mail that I never send while I scour the Internet or my library for reference material from which to illustrate.
Ok, I’m kidding about the hate mail.
Do you see yourself ever writing a Warbirds novel?
Kane: I think I could. I haven’t had the spark of an idea for one, but I feel like I know the characters well enough to do one. Of course, I’d need to be invited to write one…
What about you? Two of the tales in the anthology were yours—the opening and closing stories, and they nicely anchored the collection, with some reviewers (myself included) calling your story ‘Refined Elegance,’ the best in the collection. Plus, you are working on a space opera trilogy of novels. Will you write a full-length Warbirds novel?
Doc: I really want to, yeah. I have a bunch of ideas written down, and would want to do something similar to ‘Refined Elegance,’ but on a much broader scale. Like I said, I love diving into that time, those characters, and that battle. And with the anthology’s completion, I feel like the avenues are endless. I just need the time to sit and write it with the attention it deserves.
Who would you cast in a WARBIRDS OF MARS movie (if ever there was one)?
Kane: Excellent question. Wow. I hadn’t ever really given that idea much thought. Plus I’m starting to get to that age where I don’t always know the names of the latest young actors, but I’ll take a crack at it.
For Josie Taylor, I think someone like Anne Hathaway might work. I’ve only seen her face though, and haven’t seen her act in anything but The Dark Knight Rises and Alice in Wonderland. I suspect she could bring a lot to the roll, but I also have a tough time visualizing her in the part, because I haven’t seen her do period.
For Jack Paris, I’d want to either see an unknown actor who looked the part, or maybe somebody like Shawn Ashmore, who was Iceman in the third X-men flick. Ryan Gosling might do, as well.
For Hunter Noir, I’d prefer Richard Armitage in the role. I really liked him in Spooks, and I can visualize him in the bandages and fedora. This one is tough, because for me, Hunter Noir is very much the way you draw him—and we both know who your model was.
As for Mr. Mask, he’d simply have to be taller than the others, and willing to tolerate the costume.
What are your thoughts on a cast for a feature film?
Thorin Oakenshield as Hunter?! Nice, I like that. I agree about Ryan Gosling as Jack Paris—I really dug him in Gangster Squad and Crazy, Stupid Love. Speaking of Gangster Squad, though, Josh Brolin would make a cool Hunter Noir. He has that quiet raging gunfighter thing down since his years on Young Riders as Hickok, and we know he rocks the fedora and long coat. Maybe James Purefoy; he was the bees knees in John Carter and Solomon Kane. Josie’s tough: She requires someone young, steely and beautiful actress, but with a figure (and hair) that works with 1940s clothes. Jennifer Lawrence really blew me away in Silver Linings Playbook, both as a brunette and with her acting chops. But if not, maybe Mary Elizabeth Winstead or Anna Popplewell—they’re both fresh-faced but capable of action scenes. I’d round it out with the always-hot Charlize Theron as Lady Doyle, Jason Momoa as Mr. Mask, and someone like Ron Pearlman as the voice of the Kaizer.
Get Guillermo Del Toro to direct, and we’ve got a deal.
Thanks guys! And good luck to both of you on Warbirds of Mars and all your other projects.
Readers, once again, I urge you to check out this great book and comic series. You can pick up copies of the book here
And of course, Kane Gilmour (his The Crypt of Dracula novella is one of my FAVORITES!!), here: http://kanegilmour.com/