Colin Maxwell is the mastermind behind Maximized Comics and as his latest release sees him step into the world of Steampunk, it seemed like an ideal time to shine that steam-powered lamp in his face for some fun old-fashioned questions 😀
What were the biggest influences for ElectroMagnetic?
Other comics, video games and cosplayers were the biggest influences. Games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Dishonored and Bioshock have quite a steampunk vibe that I really liked. Comics like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Legenderry were also big influences – the historical setting, the gadgets, vehicles and teams of heroes. There are a few Steampunk cosplayers in Scotland that I often see at conventions, and I’m always intrigued by their gadgets and costumes. I find the whole Steampunk culture fascinating, especially how cosplayers invent personas and backstories for the costumes they create.
What drew you to creating a steampunk comic?
I think I first thought about it when I was working on a H.G. Wells inspired story for the Dundee Comics Prize. I was researching The War of the Worlds and discovered the Scarlet Traces comic series, which takes place after the events of the famous novel. In that story mankind has learned to utilise the technology left behind after the failed Martian invasion, so there’s an odd mix of futuristic technology, with historical aesthetics. Before discovering Scarlet Traces I’d had exactly that idea for a story, so was disappointed that it had already been done. I immediately started brainstorming ideas to try to come up with something original, which resulted in ElectroMagnetic. The main unique point is that it’s set during a fictional war between Britain and a steam-powered India.
Do you have the whole ElectroMagnetic series planned out?
The second episode is scripted and almost half of the artwork has been completed. The remaining episodes have partial scripts and outlines. I have an overall story for about 6 episodes, with a few key moments and events planned out in detail. Of course, the ending is crucial, and I recently rewrote my original idea after watching Solo: A Star Wars Story – it doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, it was just a moment of inspiration that hit me during the train sequence.
Was your approach to writing Electromagnetic different from your other titles?
It was a bit of a different approach as I was doing a comics writing class with Emma Beeby (2000AD, Mata Hari, Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter) when I wrote the script for episode one, so was learning some discipline in writing characters and story flow. Our final assignment was to write a 4 to 6 page script, but I churned out the whole script for episode one of ElectroMagnetic, which was 18 pages at that time. Emma gave each of my classmates feedback on their scripts, and I was very pleased when she told me that mine was very good and almost ready for publication. I always immerse myself in whatever I’m writing about, so when I was doing the historical stories I visited lots of castles and medieval events. When I wrote the Big Comic Con I was visiting lots of comic events and tried my hand at cosplaying. With ElectroMagnetic I read lots of comics and books, watched Steampunk movies, played related video games and even made a costume.
You’ve released historical comics but what was it like re-writing history to suit yourself?
There was a lot more freedom, obviously, but I still did a lot of research. Writing historical, fact-based comics requires a lot of research, but it does need a degree of fiction, as you have to fill in the blanks in some of the stories. You still need to write dialogue and pace the story well, which requires some creativity. I think my previous experience of researching history is a benefit to the story of ElectroMagnetic, because I’m basing some of the events and characters on real life, which adds to the authenticity.
What drew you to Kickstarter for this latest release?
Kickstarter has proved to be a popular launchpad for many comic titles. I think comics are one of the most successful products on Kickstarter, and I’ve watched many comic projects do very well. I can only imagine what the great comic writers of the past could have done with Kickstarter, where they could have released stories unhindered by editors and publishers. This is my third Kickstarter, and so far it has been very good for raising awareness of my comics, as well as providing funds to pay artists and printers. I back a lot of comic Kickstarters myself, as there are a lot of very interesting stories that you just can’t find anywhere else. I think that if you’re genuinely interested in the comics medium and want it to be more diverse, then you’ve got to check out Kickstarter. The big publishers tend to go for a safe bet when it comes to new titles, so they’re rarely going to publish anything that’s very different or niche.
Do you think you’ll do more Steampunk stories?
I’d certainly consider more stories involving the characters I’ve invented. I have a half idea for a follow-up story that happens a few years later. Just like ElectroMagnetic it’s influenced by current affairs and news events, which makes it more than just an action story. I will do more science fiction, as it’s my favourite genre, but whether or not it’s Steampunk will all depend on that vital spark of inspiration.
What’s next from Maximized Comics?
I expect ElectroMagnetic to take a year or two to complete, but meantime I’ll continue writing short stories or one-shots in various genres. I’m working on a couple of short historical comics too, but probably the biggest other project I have planned is a supernatural detective story that I’m seeking an artist for. It will probably be a one-shot or a short series. Without saying too much, it follows a police detective who is drawn into a case of missing persons, only to have his very methodical, organised world turned upside down when he discovers what is really happening.
You can jump on-board this Steampunk campaign of Colin’s over on the link below: