While covering Emerald City Comicon 2017 (ECCC), PopCultHQ had the fortunate opportunity to meet up with Team AfterShock. Representing the near two-year old publishing company at this year’s event was Lee Kramer, Joe Pruett, Mike Marts, Lisa Wu, and Stephan Nilson. One thing I mentioned to everyone on hand was my desire to give readers, fans, and future AfterShock Army members, a look at the people behind the scenes of indie publishers. You already know the comic books which they release. You likely know some, many, or even all of the creators who’ve signed on with the label. But what about the people responsible for finding new talent, who shares the company’s news and review copies with media sites, that is responsible for AfterShock’s social media activity, who are out there many weekends each year attending the cons to share each series they’ve released as well as meet with everyone: the fans, the readers, the collectors. These are the people we want to spotlight and share with you these often unsung heroes keeping the company moving all while remaining grounded. The crew at AfterShock Comics was more than willing and happy to oblige, so that’s pretty dope in itself.
One of our interviews was with the man himself Mike Marts. As Editor-in-Chief of this fast-rising publishing company, I was determined to meet and interview Mike and pick his brain a bit. With over 20 years in the industry, and having worked as Editor for both Marvel Comics and DC Comics, Marts brought a lot of experience and know-how to AfterShock Comics and their focus on creator-owned series over licensed ones. To quote from AfterShock’s website regarding Marts, “…is a seasoned insider with over twenty years of experience in the comic book and entertainment business. He has edited some of the most critically acclaimed and highest-selling series of the last two decades, and has spearheaded several of the industry’s most popular franchises including Batman, the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. With long tenures at both Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics, Mike brings along an extensive history of dynamic storytelling and universe building.”
Here is PopCultHQ’s interview with a man I admire greatly and respect for his contributions to the comic book industry over the last couple of decades, as well as the big things he’s been doing the last two years with the indie publisher. Plus he gets to hang out with some pretty sweet people at AfterShock and in the business, so there’s that. 😉
PopCultHQ: You’ve had quite the career in the comic book industry. What was it that made you want to be a part of AfterShock Comics?
Mike Marts: I’ve always preferred to surround myself with like-minded individuals. People who shared a vision, who shared a common way of telling a story, just people that I could really relate to. I did that throughout my career and you end up with a creative family of sorts. When I came to AfterShock, I certainly wanted to continue that trend of working with that same great group of people. Joe Pruett, our Publisher, employed that same strategy so together the two of us brought our creative families to this one new, single company and merged them. I think that what you have is a great combination of different types of talent; different types of writers, artists, and creators all working together. Of course, once one project cycles out, why wouldn’t you want to keep working with the same type of people? That’s why we have encore projects from Marguerite Bennett, Garth Ennis, Justin Jordan will have another one…so we like to grow our family, but we also like to keep it in the family.
PCHQ: Like also with Phil Hester with BLOOD BLISTER and SHIPWRECK…
Marts: Yes. Exactly.
PCHQ: So it’s an almost combined agreement as to the atmosphere [at AfterShock]? You sort of established the kind of environment you want to work in. Every one on the same page and confidence in your team. Is that right?
Marts: Yeah, a lot of it is that. You know, we have certain guidelines and foundations that AfterShock is built on. Once we had those as the foundations, we could really let the different creators spread their wings and we can allow them to really do their own thing, and to tell their story the way they want to tell their story.
PCHQ: So as the Editor at AfterShock, you essentially work with every creator. Am I correct in assuming that?
Marts: Yep! Correct.
PCHQ: Do you ever run into situations where, and you may have prior to Aftershock I’m sure, do you ever run into language barriers with creators? You work with creators all across the country, you want to put a great package together, great talent together, but sometimes that has obstacles, such as translating or even sending something back for edits because they didn’t quite grasp maybe what the writer was trying to convey. Has that ever happened with you or is it something you encounter?
Marts: I think it’s happened a bit in the past but as years have gone on, and the global reach of comic books has expanded, you come across that problem less and less. A lot of it has to do with the fact that “comics” is its own language. Everyone who works in this medium, speaks that language. We’re able to communicate that way. Like you said, we have artists all over the country but we also have creators all over the world. There’s no travel ban at AfterShock Comics. We’re looking to…wherever the best artist is; sometimes we find that in the States, other times it’s in Brazil, Poland, Turkey. There’s a lot of different places where we find our artists.
PCHQ: You’re one of the co-founder at AfterShock. There were five of you who came together, is that right?
Marts: Yeah. We refer to ourselves as partners. There are five of us: Myself, Publisher Joe Pruett, who is also our Chief Creative Officer, our President Lee Kramer, our Chief Executive Officer Jon Kramer, and our Vice President in charge of investment relations Jawad Qureshi. Some of the best guys to work with in the world.
PCHQ: How did you guys come together? What made you all just up and say, “Let’s do it!”
Marts: The connection was with Lee Kramer and Joe Pruett. Some years ago, they had become friendly because Lee was interested in optioning one of Joe’s comics that he had written. So the two of them started talking and they found out that they were like-minded individuals and shared some creative visions. Back then, they had talked about forming a company. This was a few years ago. And that version of the company never came to be but flash-forward a few years later, they got back together and talking about it and they assembled the team.
PCHQ: And here you are! Two years and you’re a hot publisher fast on the rise. Thank you for your time Mike. Excited about all you’re doing with AfterShock!
Marts: You bet. Thank you.
A very special thanks to Mike Marts for taking the time out to speak with us at ECCC 2017. I’ll certainly be looking forward to connecting with him again for a follow-up interview. There’s a lot more I want to ask, but to be honest I think while I was at ECCC, I was fanboying out a little internally and spaced on a few things I wanted to ask. Another day, another time perhaps.
Mad respect for Marts!
If you would like to keep up on what Mike and AfterShock are up to,
be sure to follow online and social media. Links can be found below…
Editor-in-Chief/Co-Founder – Mike Marts