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AN INTERVIEW WITH MARTIN WAGNER

ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN 1994- by Andrew Goletz

Martin Wagner began the saga of Hepcats back in college while doing a daily newspaper strip featuring the main characters who would eventually appear in the Hepcats comic. If Cerebus is the self publishing wonderdog and Bone is the self published rising star; shooting from obscurity to the mainstream, then Hepcats is the proverbial middle child. It was promoted in successful self published books, but no one seemed to be buying the damn book, which was a shame for Martin and a loss to the readers who were missing out on a wonderful story.

AG: What is Hepcats about?

MW: Life.

AG: How did Hepcats come about?
MW: I began the strips in school because Iím a lousy student and I bore easily. The strips were created to alleviate scholastic boredom.  The series took on a life of its own after several years treading water as a film student and the sudden realization that I had two years of publishing experience as a cartoonist behind me. I discovered that cartooning would allow me the creative freedom to express myself and tell personal stories that the film industry, with the sheer awesomeness of its size and money required within it, could never allow.

AG: Why use anthropomorphic characters?
MW: Chuck Jones said, ĎItís easier and more believable to humanize animals than it is to humanize humansí and heís dead right. Anthropomorphic characters enable readers to bond with them more easily because you are forced to recognize and concentrate on their personalities. At that point, all you have to do is pop the head off and pop on the human head of whomever a particular character reminds you of.

AG: Are the characters and events in Hepcats based on personal experiences?

MW: Most of them.

AG: Hepcats is set up as a 100 issue series. Do you have the entire story planned out or is it just a rough idea?

MW: Only up to issue #39. I donít have it all planned out because, as a real life series, I want to leave room for experiences in my life yet to come that may make for good stories.

AG: Why self publish?
MW: I wanted to do it myself to a) retain ownership or the series and b) avoid editorial interference with the art. Any mistakes made with Hepcats would be mine and mine alone and I would also enjoy all of the rewards.

AG: What can be done to give Hepcats the recognition it deserves?

MW: I guess itís in the hands of the fans.  Word of mouth is the single most powerful tool, followed by stuff like this; interviews and such. One thing I could suggest is that every fan who is really fanatical about Hepcats should buy two copies instead of one, and make one a loaner.

AG: What can retailers do to help?

MW: I think there is a certain breed of retailer who is predisposed to support alternative material and Iím currently in the process of working with as many of those people as I can find to do Hepcats promotions suited to their individual stores.

AG: Whatís the biggest obstacle keeping titles like Hepcats from achieving the success of a Batman or X-Men?

MW: The fact that a majority of the comic fans are boys 12-17 who prefer superhero stuff to alternative stuff. Every store has some open minded adult customers, but I donít think those stores do much to reach them with adult alternatives. I never had any illusions going into this that Hepcats would ever meet X-Men type sales.

AG: Youíve been very outspoken in your criticism of the Big Two, particularly Marvel. What accounts for your hostility?

MW: Marvel exists to serve itself as a corporate entity first and the needs of the artists second, if that much. Chris Claremontís unceremonious dismissal from X-Men after 17 years, the war with Jack Kirby over the return of his artÖthese things have gone very, very wrong with our sense of values in todayís fast moving corporate society. Comics are product, sales are charted to determine market share and readers are consumers.

AG: With the formation and success of Image and other independents like Dark Horse, do you get a sense of a revolution coming within the industry?

MW: I donít see Image as being so much a revolution as a big ego trip on the part of a bunch of superstar ex-Marvel hacks. Where artists are concerned, I try to live and let live. I learned long ago that the only way Hepcats is going to get anywhere is to not care what sort of craziness and petty feuding is going on in the industry. By concentrating solely on Hepcats, I will make Hepcats succeed.

AG: What are your interests? Your recommended reading or viewing?

MW: Comics: Eyebeam, Cerebus, Love and Rockets, Jab, Tantalizing Stories, Hate, Usagi Yojimbo, Cages and Bone. Movies: Anything directed by John Woo.  

Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz