Marc Alan Fishman: The Secret Origins of the Samurnauts
“Sir! Miss! Can I tell you about our comic book?”
“Awesome. It’s called the Samurnauts. It’s about a team of Samurai Astronauts, led by an immortal kung fu monkey, fighting zombie cyborg pirates in space!”
“Jeez! What were you on when you created that!?”
And with that comes a wink and a nod from our potential customer. You see, they think we’re being coy. Here’s the kicker though – we’re not lying.
I make no qualms about why I make comic books. I am absolutely still a kid at my core. When I go to Wal-Mart or Target for sundries? I always walk through the toy aisle – and not for my son. My DVR is chock full of cartoons. Better than that? Matt and Kyle, my Unshaven Cohorts, are one in the same. When we Unshaven Lads take our show on the road, we fill literally hours of time discussing the minutiae of superheroes. We dissect the books we read, TV shows we watch, and of course… map out our own little corner of the great-and-powerful world of sequential fiction.
It really comes as no surprise to me why then we end up with a pitch as we do with the Samurnauts. It literally all started out at a Bakers Square – as most all of our creative jaunts do – just brainstorming. On one fateful occasion we came to discuss how we’d create the most marketable creation known to man. We pulled together the common threads of those cartoons and comics we loved so much growing up. The sage warrior/mentor of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The color-coordinated weapon-driven team action adventure of the Power Rangers. And the villains? Well, we just piled on as many adjectives as we could until we felt we had something. And we laughed. Because to us, this was just a joke. A flight of fancy so that we could make a fake ad to take up space in the next issue, that would become a huge in-joke to our growing fan-base.
And then, after tackling horror, and R-rated super heroics… with a third issue to complete our first series in front of us… we came back to that shared pie-experience, and faux advertisement. The Samurnauts was simply too good to pass up. Not because we felt like parodying commercial crassness (like TMNT and the Power Rangers), but because we’d literally thrown our own nerd-gauntlet in front of ourselves. Our brainstorming produced a pitch so insane, that to not do it justice would be a sign that maybe we shouldn’t be making comics in the first place. And then folks? We did what we Unshavenauts do best. We created a world, and treated it with reverence.
We make comics because we can’t stop building worlds. It’s not enough to declare we have a kung fu monkey. We have to know that he practices Hou Quan. We have to vet out that his hou gun is formed from the cosmically irradiated metal of his shuttle craft. We have to know that he was launched as Albert V, the fifth monkey to be shot in space, secretly, in April of 1950. And yes, we even have to know that the worm hole he travelled through carried with it the chronal energies that made him intelligent and immortal. I make comics because it’s those insane details that make our comic worth reading. Beyond the hilarious pitch that sells it… our comic takes itself seriously. It’s really perhaps the only way we can say with a straight face that we needed only a few slices of pie to give birth to something so crazy.
And it’s that respect we pay, in building a universe from a silly set of adjectives, that earns us our keep on the convention floor. When your pitch is as insane as the Samurnauts, the customer-in-waiting could quickly determine if our zeal is merely style over substance. Upon flipping the book open and seeing fully painted pages opposite completely digitally drawn portions, it’s clear that our tongues may be firmly in cheek… but our hearts are on our sleeves. Just as those cartoons and comics of our youth took themselves seriously, we too employ the power of not forcing the wink on the audience. When they see that we start with the tropes – the lantern jawed leader, or the bad boy with a heart of gold – we don’t shy away from giving them a little depth to boot. And when they see that we’re willing to not only have a kung fu monkey on the cover, but we have a real back story, and a generation-spanning tale to tell? Well it’s clear that we owe Bakers Square a debt of gratitude.
My intent here is not to necessarily shill my product to you. You’ll note I’m not even mentioning Unshaven Comics’ website has a store where you can purchase the Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #1. You’ll relish the fact that I’ve no need to mention we’ll be in Fort Wayne, Indiana on May 11th, or Detroit, Michigan on May 17th hawking our wares. At the beginning of this lil’ column, my only intent was to give you a glimpse inside the madness that is my collective mind with my bearded cohorts. Amidst the literally thousands of pitches we will hurl on convention floors this coming year… now you’ll appreciate it when we meet that knowing nod with a smirk of self-confidence.
“What were you on when you created that!?”
We’re on the best drug of all; a big toke of youth, and a friendship of 20 years.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell