I first noticed Joe Martino’s work from stalking around comic book message boards when I heard of something called Shadowflame. I didn’t know anything about the project but I remember the name well. Fast forward a few years and the next name on my long list of potential interviewees is Joe Martino. He’s been doing this indie comic thing for a hot minute and has tons of knowledge. We had a great conversation about his work, the indie scene and Kickstarter.
Who are you, where are you from and where do you reside now?
Joe Martino. I live in Little Ferry NJ. I grew up here. I moved to the next town over for 9 years and have been back in town for 2 yrs.
What was the first comic that you read?
The first comic that I remember reading was a JLA book from the late 70s. I started ‘collecting’ comics about 1982. My mom had gotten me a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk. I got the first appearance of the Hobgoblin that way. It came with a tattoo that I used immediately. Devaluing the book of course.
That was a good time to start reading comics. Did you write your own comics as a kid and if so, was there a particular book that inspired you?
I wrote my first comic at 10 years old. I took marvel characters and made them into Diamond people. Their villain was the diamond cutter. My mother swears that I modeled it after my 5th grade teacher. Lol. I don’t know exactly what inspired me specifically but I do know that comics in general really interested and excited me.
Did you continue to create throughout High School?
I did. Most of my characters were created between 8th grade and 10th grade. Then I discovered girls and cars. I started reading and creating again in 1994. 5 years after High School.
Now, that is a familiar story, I really resemble that remark. Okay, let’s get to Shadowflame. Tell me a little bit about that story.
I think a lot of guys went that route. Once I got engaged I started reading comics again.
I created Shadowflame when I was 14. He had the traditional trunks and belt. In 1995 when I decided he would be my first ‘real’ comic, I redesigned him and made him more cosmic looking. That also inspired me to change his origin. I wanted to do a mix of cosmic and down to earth comics. He was a very focused and dedicated homicide detective in NYC. He was away from home very often and he was making the wrong people angry. At the same time he was neglecting his wife. Don Tony Baltinetti sent some thugs to Tom’s apartment and he wasn’t home. They killed his wife instead. Tom Blamed himself. About a month after that he was about to take his service revolver and end his pain. He actually pulls the trigger. When he does he is transported to a ship that is orbiting the world. He is told that he is the last of a chosen line that will receive the gift of power and protect the earth from Maldestrak. A being of immense power that destroyed their world. He reluctantly takes the power and becomes Shadowflame.
I hope you can edit this for grammar and spelling. Lol.
How was the book received when you published it?
Through Diamond, horribly. At conventions and store signings it went really well. A lot of people seemed to really like Shadowflame. That continues to this day.
Yeah, dont get me started on Diamond. Let me step back. Did you write and do the art for Shadowflame or did you work with someone?
I wrote the whole mini series. I penciled 2 issues. I didn’t have the time to draw issues 3 and 4.
I know you worked with a few publishers after that, how was that experience?
I haven’t really had a bad experience with a publisher. All of them did what they promised and tried to get the books out there in the best way they could.
That’s always good to hear. Who would you say are some of your biggest influences?
After Shadowflame, what was your next project?
Ripperman. He was a character I created in 1987. I wanted to create a killer of killers. Ripperman is a being who was created by both god and the devil to rid the world of people who have otherwise gotten away with their proper punishment.
He wound up being more of a demon hunter and protector of abused children.
That sounds great. So things were moving along for you and then I think you had a really bad health scare. What happened?
I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2004 at 33 years old.
Wow. Well I assume you beat it as we’re chatting now. Out of that life altering experience came your character Titan. Had you created him in High School or was he a totally new hero?
He was new. I needed something to keep myself busy. I was going to give Shadowflame cancer but he didn’t have any real support structure. So, I created a hero that I could tell my story wrapped in a superhero shell.
Talk about therapy. I’m sure Titan’s experience is an amalgam of people you met throughout your own odyssey.
Yes. Especially recently. I did a lot of research into what people have gone through being a young cancer patient. Plus none of us can turn into the 6 foot 4 embodiment of Hyperion the Titan.
Yes, but we all want to! Give me a brief synopsis of Titan’s story.
When we meet Titan he has had the power for 5 years or so. He is based in Chicago. His main villain is a 90+ year old former nazi scientist named TrenchMouth. He has a serious axe to grind and wants Titan dead. The first issue is pure comic superhero action. We don’t get into the cancer until issue 2. I wrote issue 1 as if readers have never heard of Titan. I am hoping people enjoy the misdirection and the last page. I am curious to see if people guess what I am trying to do.
I know you worked with a series of both well known and new artists on the creation of Titan. What was that experience like?
I like getting artists who inspire me to do covers. Shadowflame had Bob Layton, Rudy Nebres, Paul Ryan and John Byrne. Ben Templesmith did the original Ripperman cover. So when I started planning out Titan, I made a wish list. Some said yes, some said no. Jerry Ordway, Jamal Igle, Steve Lightle, Bob McLeod and John Byrne are doing the Titan covers. I even got Chris Giarrusso to do a variant of issue 1. My creative team, only Luca is new. I’ve worked with the other guys in one way or another over the years
Now that’s the way an indie creator has to hustle. I admire your ambition and success. Speaking of indie, you’ve been on the scene a long time. How has it changed over the years?
This January I will be doing this 17 years. I’ve seen it go up then down then up again. The speculator crash hurt Shadowflame. The new movies have helped and hurt comics. Marvel is once again starting to over saturate the market making it even harder for little guys to get shelf space.
Okay, sorry to keep you a little long, but lastly, you had a successful Kickstarter project for The Mighty Titan. Do you have any pearls of wisdom for creators attempting to start a campaign?
Lots! Be prepared for a month of pure anxiety! Have a realistic goal. End your campaign on the 1st or the 15(pay day for most) And put together a good team. Twitter was great for me. Crowdfunding = community. If you want people to support you, support other Kickstarters. It isn’t easy and even $1 goes a long way.
Thanks. Lastly lastly, where can the fans find your books and contact you?
I am on Twitter @jgmcomics. Also jgmcomics.com. People can check out The Mighty Titan Facebook page at www.themightytitan.com.
I also have a store at jgmcomics.ecrater.com
Great. Thanks for the time. Take it easy.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me
Andre Owens has been hiding in Los Angeles for over 15 years, a former Director of Photography, he now writes and publishes the cosmic comic, Force Galaxia. He is currently writing and plans to produce a webseries, The Psychedelic Detective. In his free time he enjoys long form television, sushi and a celebration of all things 420. His name’s not Supergreen!
By Andre Owens
“An Interview with Joe Martino: From Shadowflame to the Mighty Titan!”