G-Man talks to Michael Nelsen about Supernaut

I stumbled across Michael Nelsen’s mind-blowing Supernaut fairly recently (#1-3, #4 & 5) and I was lucky enough to catch-up with him during his busy schedule and fire some questions his way.

Was Supernaut something you have been working on for a while?

I originally conceived of the idea way back in 2012 but only began working on the story in 2013. I did the first 10 pages and sent off submission packets with no response, so took the time to finish Issue #1 and resubmit. I figured then if nobody wanted to publish it with me, I’d just serialize it online on my site for free – luckily 215 Ink liked what they saw and got me onboard. Issues #2-5 were worked on throughout 2015, with life events getting in the way here and there as delays. It finally released in the Fall of 2016 on ComiXology.

Supernaut deals with some fairly big ideas – was that tough to tackle?

Yes and no. I have always been interested in ideas of life after death, metaphysics, spirituality, and religious mythology, so it was easy enough to conjure those past experiences and ruminations into the narrative. Constructing the narrative around those ideas, introducing our main character and his back story that humanizes him and grounds the concepts of higher realms, that took some planning. I spent a lot of time pre-planning each issue in elaborate notebook entries before writing the scripts. I drew together lots of various story “kernels” I had saved previously in building the Artifacts, which in turn informed the story of it’s purpose as a quest. A journey of both physical and spiritual progress; collecting items and expanding consciousness. I think I was able to succeed in telling the story because I broke it down into chunks. Even though I didn’t know the whole story yet, I planned each issue to have a “Genre” as a thematic feel. Issue 1 is a trippy Morrison inspired cosmic comic romp that moves backwards in time like the movie Memento, Issue 2 basic sci-fi, Issue 3 is a Caper film, Issue 4 is a mythic quest, and Issue 5 I wanted to be like a metaphysical Video Game with level bosses and a final boss for the character to fight through literally and figuratively. Once I had these buckets, it became easier to fill them and the story formed as I went, often without me knowing where it was leading.

What was the inspiration for Supernaut?

Originally Supernaut was going to be a Green Lantern-type “Space Cop”. I was holding some styrofoam packaging from a desktop printer one day and got the images of the Oortum Bands he uses. They were going to be the tool and badge of office like a Green Lantern ring. I then needed a kind of character who would get sucked up into such cosmic melodrama and imagined an astronaut would be perfect – in the memory of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. This was back in 2012 or 2013, and before Astronaut imagery seemed to invade the popular culture and there was a new comic every month with a skeleton astronaut or floating spaceman on the cover. I don’t know if I taped into a collective unconscious vein here, but such coincidence usually inform me that I’m on the right path. As I began writing the story, it quickly evolved into something very different. I was inspired largely by reading and listening to Joseph Campbell lectures on mythology for the big ideas. I also used this story as a way of expressing my thoughts on the Afterlife and as a way of dealing with thoughts I’d had about my dad’s death back in 2005. From the storytelling side, I will always be inspired by Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis in my writing. I also drew from my graphic design background and followed the lead of some Jonathan Hickman techniques and ideas.

What drew you to the comic book genre for this story?

There is just no other medium that would give me the result I had in mind – a blend of images, words, graphic design, info graphics, cut scenes, genre-mashing, time-hopping, world shattering EVERYTHING. Comics will always be my first love as a creative and as a fan. I’ve’ read them for most of my life. And being this story became so personal, it seemed fitting that my personal art form would be the medium it would live in best.

Did you feel this story was easier to tackle by working on writing & art duties yourself?

It was much harder to do all the work, of course 🙂 But I think it was easier to get my vision down on paper by handing the creative duties myself. I originally was going to look around for other artists to do some or all of the art, but as my ideas began to crystallize, and the story became more and more personal, I felt I needed to keep it all under my creative roof.

Could we see more from Supernaut in the future?

I have loose ideas for a continuation of the series, for sure. Themes of rebirth. A continued exploration of the strange universe I created in the initial mini-series, and a chance to dig more into the background of the Extra-dimensional thieves Supernaut partnered with. Besides being a harsh critic of my art (I do feel it improved over the 5 issues, but all I see are flaws, you know?), my only regret with the 5-issue run was I created these fantastic supporting characters and then didn’t really utilize them as much as I would have liked. In this initial story, they are somewhat relegated to being symbols of human frailty and shortcomings – even at the far end of the universe and under the threat of cosmic apocalypse, they still succumb to petty acts of betrayal based on base human qualities: weakness, jealousy, and fear. They represent things that Supernaut has to move past and let go. “Pieces of my former self flaking away.” Still, I’d like to visit each of their homeworlds and backstories because I think it would be cool 🙂

What other writer/artists inspire you?

Oh, man, SO MANY. Largest writing influences in comics all come from the UK – Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. In literature: Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Dan Simmons, and David Wong. Artists: Top of this list will ALWAYS be Art Adams – since I was a kid. I gave up aspiring to draw like him, but I will always be inspired by his work. Influence for Supernaut came from Daniel Acuna, Jonathan Hickman’s design elements, John Cassidy’s “Planetary”, and Sean Phillips’ “Sleeper”. I’m constantly inspired by guys like Toby Cypress, Michael Del Mundo, Tommy Lee Edwards, Eric Canete, Matteo Salera, and Art Adams’ illegitimate son, Nick Bradshaw 🙂

What comics are you reading just now?

Mostly IMAGE books with a mix of genres: The Fix, Monstress, Extremity. Lately I’ve been reading novels again, and going back and re-reading classic trades or things I missed in the past. I really feel like I should be reading the latest Ultimates judging by the insane cosmic stuff I’ve seen when paging through it at the comic shop – but with Marvel’s weird habit of re-numbering and re-using titles, I don’t know where to jump into the book 🙂

What else are you working on?

It’s been a busy couple of years here, but I’ve managed to get started on a few projects. I’m wrapping up the art on an 8-Page short story submission I geared towards Heavy Metal; I have a script competed for a strange fiction story that involves the missing head of an actual Philip K. Dick android; and I’ve written 3 issues for an epic Science Fantasy adventure that has been percolating in the back of my head for a decade or more. So I’ll be arting and submitting in the near future 🙂

You can get hold of Supernaut over on Comixology now and you can find out more about the title over on the 215 Ink website, Facebook & Twitter pages.

You can also catch up with Michael over on the 50 Foot Robot Studios website or Facebook page and through Twitter.


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