Wes Hartman is a prolific comic book colorist. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in comic books including Billy Tucci, Walt Simonson, Tyler Kirkham, Mark Silvestri, Mike Zeck, Mark Bagley and more. Some of his work includes Star Trek, Vampirella, Gears of War, Tales of the Batman, and Resident Evil. Wes recently launched a KickStarter campaign for his newest project, Savage Sasquanaut. We got the chance to talk with Wes about his project as well as learn a little bit more about this prolific creator.
Bounding Into Comics (BIC): You recently launched a KickStarter for Savage Sasquanaut. What can you tell me about it?
Wes Hartman (Wes): Savage Sasquanaut is the first issue in a mini-series about bigfoot in space! The basic setup is in the 60s when NASA was doing everything they could in the space race to beat the Russians, one of the subjects they used as a test pilot for the space program was none other than bigfoot. And in a very Fantastic Four/Farscape kind of way, cosmic anomalies and radiation and whatever unknown ether managed to transport bigfoot across the universe! The first issue picks right up in the middle of all the action where bigfoot is making an escape by “car jacking” a starship under construction on a space station. It’s a quick paced adventure story that introduces us to most of the main cast.
BIC: Besides Savage Sasquanaut are there any other major characters? Who are they?
Wes: Sasquanaut is the star, but it’s really an ensemble production in volume 1.
Right away we are introduced to Captain Brenner. He’s in charge of overseeing construction of the starship that Sas is stealing along with his recently made acquaintances and remains integral to the story throughout this series.
We also introduce Trax, a short, purple, mohawked, individual who’s always up for a good fight! Though, to be honest, Trax isn’t really all that great at fighting. He’s not another in a long line of ultimate fighters running around the galaxy, he’s a loud mouth who can’t often back up the boasts he makes, but he’s loyal and good company. Trax becomes Sasquanaut’s main friend and companion through the series.
The other “villain” for lack of a better description is Empress Dalia. She is the undisputed all powerful ruler of the Aurellian Empire, the largest galactic power in the known universe, and she also happens to be Captain Brenner’s boss. Dalia is a woman accustomed to getting anything and everything she wants, no one denies her as she’s super temperamental and will kill pretty much anyone who tells her “no.” It so happens Sasquanaut is stealing her personal ship in the first issue and this really pisses her off. Not to give too much away but when no one in her life ever denies her once she comes across a “beast” who has no clue who she is or cares about anything she wants, it makes her mad but it also makes her intrigued.
There are a couple other supporting characters that come into this issue and more in the 2nd issue and flush out a bit of the ones introduced here, but I don’t want to give away everything, people should read it, haha.
BIC: On your KickStarter, you compare the story to Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and Farscape, how is Savage Sasquanaut like each of those shows?
Wes: Well besides the obvious of being in space? And Buck Rogers is clearly the man out of time/space which Sasquanaut is in that role. Each of those shows have a strong supporting cast that are each beloved by fans and I hope I’m creating a group of characters that will provide good foils for Sasquanaut and help him navigate through the unknown new universe. One thing that people can keep in mind when reading the story is that EVERYTHING is new and unusual to Sas, and everything is mundane and normal for his counterparts. While Sas is very go with the flow he cannot survive where he is without help and he knows it.
One of the best things about those shows and films is the versatility they provide the story and that was something that I really wanted to emulate, not really for nostalgia or homage, but my own selfish desire to not get bored. I wanted to design a universe and story that would allow me to easily move in and out of other genres and settings and allow me as a story teller limitless possibilities. When you craft a story world one needs to impose certain rules and laws for the characters and events to unfold in and be believable for the audience, for this story, like Star Trek and the rest, I have those “rules” tied more into the character and personality and everything else can be turned on it’s head just as easily as going to a new planet. Star Trek, Firefly, Farscape, even Star Wars in the cartoons, while being space faring adventures, all had episodes that were basically a Western with ray guns. I like the concept of being able to do that, tell a western, tell a noir story, an epic, a romance, I want to see dinosaurs, and sand worms, tell a horror story, and whatever else that pops in my head and have it all seamlessly work together. This series is only 6 issues, but I have plenty of ideas for a long time to come and I hope to be able to do that.
BIC: What do you want readers to take away from the story?
Wes: Have a good time! When I make comics I want them to be fun and enjoyable adventure, however, I’ve discovered through my years that there is a recurring theme in my writing, and that’s the search of trying to find one’s place in the world, and this is clearly a continuation of that. it’s not something I ever really set out to do, but I think with my own search for my place it is something I easily relate to and engage with and I think other people can as well.
BIC: There’s a ton of information about Sasquatch and Big Foot and plenty of conspiracy theories, how heavy did you get into the conspiracy theories when researching?
Wes: Honestly, no. I’ve stopped and started this project so many times and had so many different ideas on how and where to go, once I totally divorced myself of being on Earth it didn’t seem like something I wanted to get tied into. Initially I was going to have a lot of the story on an alternate Earth/dimension, and was having fun with that, but like I mentioned previously at the end of the day I felt that I may end up being too constrained in what I wanted to do with the future of Sasquanaut and I didn’t always want to use the mcguffin of “it works because it’s another dimension.” Instead I went with the more, “it’s another planet so it can have and be anything I want.” Maybe a bit more lazy but infinitely more satisfying.
BIC: You are working with artist Gab Santos, what’s it like to collaborate with him?
Wes: Gab is a phenomenal artist. I can’t say enough nice things about his work. His work speaks for itself, you can look at it and know this guy is special. I wish I knew him better personally, but my interactions with him were very limited, and as much as I love the work he did, our process was less collaborative and literally more of an artist drawing exactly what I wrote for better or worse.
BIC: You’ve announced a couple of stretch goals already, but there are still two that are hidden, can you tease what they might be?
Wes: Not right now. We just unlocked the first stretch goal but there is still a ways to go to the next and I’d like to focus on hitting that one, and as it gets closer then announce the next goal.
BIC: You’ve got six issues planned, do you plan to run KickStarters for each issue?
Wes: That’s the plan. I initially developed this idea and the issues several years ago with the plan to publish the traditional route, but as time went on and circumstances changed I decided to try my hand at Kickstarter. If I had designed the project from the get go for Kickstarter and know more of what I know now I would be doing it a bit differently, but I can hopefully use these six issues to develop a fanbase for my comics and not be so focused on my comic coloring.
BIC: Do you have plans to take the book to a publisher after your KickStarter campaign?
Wes: I’ll wait and see. All the art for issues 1-6 is done, but it will still take me some time to complete coloring and lettering issues 2-6 and I don’t want to worry about releasing them through a publisher until the issues are done. I have an idea that maybe after I get them all done I may try and re-release them with a publisher through the traditional route to stores to keep brand awareness up while I get the next volume or project done. We shall see, nothing is set in stone, but not sure exactly how I want to go after all these Kickstarters.
BIC: Who would you say are the biggest influences on your storytelling? Are there certain creators you try and emulate?
Wes: Oh, man, that’s a good one! I don’t know. I love Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Brian Wood, Brian K. Vaughn, Kirkman is doing some really cool stuff, but I don’t see myself following too much in their footsteps. I guess one of my key influences would be Fred Perry, creator of Gold Digger. Fred was the artist for my first creator owned comic Sky Sharks, but not only that he pretty much ended up serving as my editor too. When a man who has currently the second longest running creator owned series (and he’s aiming to be the longest running series) you pay attention. He writes, pencils, inks, colors, letters each of his own issues, but on top of that he’s created countless other properties and is one of the single most creative people in the world, and Fred taught me an incredible amount when we did Sky Sharks. He helped me better understand story structures and a lot of the nuances involved in doing what we do well. Whether or not I do any of it very well is up to the readers. I adore Fred but again our stories are different. A lot of what I wanted to do with this comic is maybe inspired by more Gold and Silver Age comics in that I am trying to create a complete and compelling story in every issue. While every issue connects together I want every issue to stand alone and you don’t see too much of that these days. Issues 5 and 6 is a two part for the series climax but I aim to make them as accessible as possible.
BIC: Is there anything else you are working on?
Wes: I’ve wrapped up my main coloring gigs and am spending my days caring for our newborn daughter. I’m also working to complete issue 2 of Sasquanaut, lettering is mostly done and onto coloring. And I have a laundry list of story titles and ideas that I want to develop, the two that are on my list after this round of Sasquanaut and are in early development are MAGIC PUNK and GRAVEYARD ORBIT. And then I am also trying to work on some short stories for Sasquanaut, ideas that didn’t quite fit into the narrative of issue 1 without breaking the pacing, but I still want to include as either future stretch goals or in the eventual collected edition. more background for some of the characters that are a lot of fun!