Friday, September 30, 2011

Allow Me To Introduce. . . Mark Martin

Remember back in the late 1980s when there was a "Black and White Boom" in the world of comics? A multitude of independent companies published a huge number of comic book titles. Printing on newsprint without color was relatively cheap, so why not? Some of the comics were good. Others not so much.

One of the great ones was Gnatrat, The Dark Gnat Returns. Cartoonist Mark Martin's storyline was clever and his artwork was both clean and distinctive. The comic was a parodic mash-up of Frank Miller's work on Batman and Daredevil and Ronin. It worked. The comic book was acclaimed. You can give yourself a reminder of how much fun Mark's artwork is by looking here.

One or two more Gnatrat comics made it into print but then Mark went in some other directions. He drew some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stories for Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. He became a regularly-scheduled artist-columnist for The Comics Buyer's Guide (welcome to the club!). Plus I always enjoyed stumbling upon Mark's cartoons when I was subscribing to Nickelodeon Magazine in the 1990s.

But then Mark Martin dropped off my radar for a decade or so. Last month I sold a Gnatrat on ebay and it got me wondering whatever happened to Mr. M.

One Google search later and I was watching a video of Mark on pitching a Gnatrat revival! Kickstarter is a website where individuals-with-plans present their concept and invite onlookers to make monetary pledges to help make their concept a reality. When the individual's goal is met, production commences.

I very much liked Mark's hierarchical pledge-levels. For a certain amount a pledger's name would be lettered into the proposed Gnatrat story or, for a certain higher amount, the pledger's avatar would appear in the story.  I was disappointed that I happened upon the Kickstarter video after the pledge deadline had passed, but I found the video entertaining in and of itself and you can watch it yourself over here.

I wrote Mr. M a note saying how much I have enjoyed his work and (what the heck) whether he would consider ruminating on a couple of questions for the widely-beloved Hayfamzone Blog. And he said yes!

I asked what his favorite comics series and
who his favorite artists of all time were.
"It's impossible to narrow it down to a manageable 
list, so just off the top of my head Krazy Kat, Pogo,  
Melvin Monster, WEIRDO / Arcade / RAW,  
Rowland Emmett, Charles Addams..."

I asked what current comics series he follows.
"None. Sorry about the short answer, but it's honest.
The only thing I have consistently followed and bought 
in the last year was the Melvin Monster hardcovers."

I asked how he makes his living between Gnatrat jobs.
"I'm a designer / illustrator at a publishing firm. I'm an 
anonymous cog in a machine by day."

Anonymous cog indeed. Not around these parts! And now if you don't mind, I'll wrap up our little write-up with the sentence that launches Mark's Wikipedia entry:

Mark Martin is an American cartoonist known for his humor and satire.


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