Interview by Anthony N. Castle
Universe Gun started life as a webcomic in 2013, the creation of writer/physicist/programmer Dr Mike 2000. Universe Gun is a love letter to the superhero comics of the 70s and 80s with a hefty dose of futurism, physics, programming and politics. Dr Mike recently launched a trade paperback collecting the first four issues of the psychedelic superhero sci-fi saga and is taking the new release on a mini-tour of fairs and conventions…
Universe Gun has just gone to print on its first trade. How has the experience and reactions been thus far?
We had a launch party at Greenlight Comics in Adelaide a few weeks back to launch both the trade paperback of the first four issues, The War on Orgone, and the latest single issue, number 8, Inner Space. I was a bit concerned beforehand, considering I’m a one-person team generating the hype for this with a single set of social media accounts and contacts. But on the night, my friends, fans, and allies in the Adelaide comics scene really came through for me.
So far I’ve heard nothing but positive reactions from people who bought the book. I understand that Universe Gun is dense. It’s a turducken of a comic rather than a light, refreshing snack. Asking someone to check out your 12 issue miniseries is asking for a considerable investment of their valuable free time, but it seems to pay off once people get past that initial hurdle.
The Kickstarter was a quick success. What might that mean for a sprawling psychedelic superhero fantasy like this?
At the start, I felt like I had a lot of factors working against me with this one, most notably that the fan base I’ve accumulated already have the first four comics in single issues. My intention wasn’t to cut down lots of trees so that they could read it again, but more to get the story into a format that’s more attractive to new readers, and to interstate comic shops.
I describe Universe Gun as a “psychedelic superhero/sci-fi saga” every week when I publish a page to the web. I still find myself wondering what I mean when I say my comic is “psychedelic”, though. For a superhero/sci-fi strip it’s actually quite buttoned down. I establish the ground rules – superpowers, nano-technology, space warping tesseracts no faster than light travel – and then stick to them pretty rigidly. I guess the “psychedelic” in the story comes from the exploration of what it would be like to be superhuman. In terms of the art, that is unarguably psychedelic; bright colours and false colour shadow rendering similar to Max Peters, Al Brodax and other 1970’s trippy artists.
My audience so far has been very mixed. I’ve got some old superhero fans my age, who get where I’m coming from and what I’m riffing off – comics like the Legion of Superheroes, X-Men and the cosmic era like Adam Warlock. I’ve got younger readers too. One of my biggest fans is a woman in her 50’s who’s never read a superhero comic before, which really makes me happy.
And you’re embarking on something of a mini-tour for Universe Gun…
I’ve got the Adelaide Toys and Comics Fair coming up on 22 April. I did one of these back in November, and it was a great experience. The weekend after that there’s Melbourne Supanova. This will be my first interstate con and good practice for August, when I’ll be going up to Brisbane for ZICS to claim the free table I won in the 24 Hour Comics Challenge last year. The weekend after Melbourne Supanova, Greenlight Comics are hosting a mini Artists’ Alley for Free Comic Book Day, and celebrating a year of trading and I’ll be taking part in that.
At issue 8, Universe Gun still has plenty in the barrel. What’s in store for in the future?
Universe Gun’s got four more issues to go. It’s always been designed as a limited run of 12, with a definite ending in mind. Issue 9 will be out later this year, and is mostly drawn already. Issue 12 will come out in early 2019. Artist-me is already bracing myself for this big finale, because writer-me thinks it’s a good idea to try and illustrate some quantum physics effects using comic panels. No point making it easy for yourself, is there?
Details of the Universe Gun mini-tour can be found on The Art of Dr Mike Facebook page. Universe Gun Book 1 will also be available at Gold Coast Supanova from MCA Studios at Table 34 in Artist’s Alley.