There aren’t many careers in which one can find inspiration in a GWAR song. But, for local comic creator Jeff Martin, the shock-rock band’s mix of metal, sci-fi and insanity served as the creative spark that has given the creator an international audience – with a weekly comic strip on Heavy Metal Magazine‘s website.
“I was trying to come up with something that could get my mind going for a comic in a weekly format,” says Martin. “And I had a GWAR album in my car. ‘Where is Zog?’ begins to play with the guy repeating ‘Where is Zog?’ on this really heavy drum loop. It really got my creative juices going.” Martin, whose previous comics work include the independently produced Rent-A-Thug (a strip that came out of his comic strip work at the University of Alberta’s Gateway from 2005 to 2010) and HEAT: The Space Age of Pro Wrestling, now imagined distant, alien worlds, strange creatures and an adventure that would (one day) answer the song’s titular question.
The idea became a story of two aliens who crash on an uncharted planet. They are wrapped in a bizarre Technicolor ’70s sci-fi adventure as they attempt to retrieve Zog and get home. “They are on a planet where they understand nothing and are forced into cultural situations that they do not understand – all while trying not to be eaten,” says Martin.
With the simple, easily digested premise in hand, Martin looked to Heavy Metal Magazine as a potential publisher – a dream gig for those in the industry. And though Martin, who has been working full-time as a comic creator for three years and part time for over a decade, was confident in his work, it took seeing the magazine’s editors speak at a comic convention to convince him that his comic would be the right fit. “I realized that Heavy Metal does stuff that looks like my art. Not the painted European stuff, but the more cartoony stuff as well. So I thought, why not?” he says. “I shot them an email, and they said yes; it was (surprisingly) the easiest submissions process I have ever done.”
The strip, which began posting weekly on heavymetal.com in November, is now viewed by readers world-wide and, for Martin, serves as validation of his work – which he has honed for over 10 years. Where strips like Rent-A-Thug were blocky and stylized, Martin’s work is now fluid, colourful (Where is Zog? is Martin’s first full-colour strip). He now receives emails from fans far from his Edmonton home. “Where is Zog? is the first thing of mine that they’ve read and didn’t know about my work before. So there’s also people who are pretty psyched about what I am doing now. That’s always validating,” says Martin.