This week on MECCAcon Weekly, I was gifted the opportunity to interview mainstream and Indie artist, Alitha E Martinez. Martinez is very well known in the industry for her penciling and backgrounds for some of the most well known titles, including Archie, Black Panther, X-Men, Bat Girl, and Heroes. Her own company, AriotStorm, has produced such titles as Yume and Ever, F.O.R.E.I.G.N., and NINGYO.
Things she says at times can be somewhat controversial, due to the fact of her NO F**KS GIVEN attitude. She is unapologetic to her thoughts and feelings of the industry, no matter whose feelings might be affected. I don’t agree with a few things she said in this interview, but I guess that’s what I liked about it the most. She didn’t sit here and answer her questions in a politically correct way.
She said what SHE felt was needed, and I hope it agrees with her in the end.
Alitha E. Martinez
Freelance Comic book Artist. Owner of Ariotstorm Productions LLC.
BOOKS/ SERIES you’ve created and/or worked on::
My professional career began in 1999 penciling Iron Man for Marvel Entertainment. Since then, it’s been a great ride getting to work on titles like X-Men; Black Sun; Marvel Age Fantastic Four; Black Panther; Voltron; NBC’s Heroes; New 52 Bat Girl; Archie Comic’s New Crusaders, and currently WWE Superstars and WWE Slam City for Paper Cutz. I’ve done larger projects that required more than just penciling and inking in graphic novels like Vampire: My Boyfriend Bites; Kung Fu Masters; Quest for Dragon Mountain for Lerner Publications; also, Political cartooning for the New York Post. In my spare time I work on my creator-owned titles Yume and Ever, Foreign, and Ningyo, which I publish through my company, Ariotstorm Productions, LLC.
Favorite comic book series as a child::
I didn’t know comics existed until I was a tweenie. Namor was my favorite.
I don’t want this interview to be solely about all that you’ve done for everyone ELSE. Let’s lift YOU up first. Tell us about F.O.R.I.E.G.N series, and what direction it came from creatively.::
Foreign is actually a small part of a universe I’ve been writing continuously since I was a kid. It’s about a space-dwelling community trying to reconnect with their origins on the Earth. They hadn’t been “home” in centuries, but they’ve always protected the planet. Now they have to figure out why, or if the Earth should still be considered their home world. I love space epics, warfare, big battles and dramatic stories about our human struggle with mecca and fighter jets (but there are no giant robots in my story).
I found it to be wonderful that you chose to use so many different cultures in the comic. Many times I find that when it comes to nationalities of whatEVER kind, it tends to stay on one flat note.::
Foreign was a part of the “bigger” book that I started to write nine years ago. It’s just a hobby, I never actually intended to publish it or for anyone to see any of it EVER. But my son, A.K.A. my little editor, asked why wouldn’t I publish it? He’s too young to understand my fear of rejection, of stepping out into an unknown and often cruel world of critics. I’m used to being an invisible workhorse. I don’t cause waves, I’m not one of comic’s shining stars, I’m just a constant who’s been able to feed my family with art and self-publishing a novel is wayeee different making a comic book. I’ve made so many embarrassing mistakes, and getting people to try a new thing has it’s own difficulties; but I feel this book, because it’s closer to my true passion and I guess because I’ve lived with the characters for a very long time.
Did you grow up enjoying science fiction? Who were your favorites?::
Of course I grew up on Science fiction, almost from the moment I hit this country’s soil I discovered black and white sci fi movies, Voltron, Transor-Z, and the likes. I read Asimov, Huxley, Orwell and fell in love. I watched Robotech and Starblazers and set my life goals.
Tell us in a summary about your series, YUME AND EVER. Why did you choose that title?::
You know the drill. Nefarious evil-doers hatch a diabolical scheme to rule the world. Super heroes unite to halt their odious plans. One epic battle later, the day is saved and almost everybody goes home happy (except for the one B level hero who has to die for dramatic effect). Even the bad guys are comfortable with that. It’s the status quo until they actually succeed. Yume and Ever, my superhero title, is my defiance. I created it at a time to lessen the loss of my first creator-owned venture that I tried with a team, Ningyo. That went up in the flames that non-paying ventures often meet their end in. After Ningyo I wanted to do something lighter and fun. But at the time I didn’t know how to put together an entire comic book on my own. I. LEARNED. FAST. I learned photoshop, illustrator, and anything else I had to be able to do it on my own. Now I just need the time to continue to put it out, which is very hard since my day job of drawing comics pays for Yume and Ever and Foreign.
The title is actually the name of the two main characters, Yume and Ever. The Kanji in the title are their name in combination that mean dreaming forever. This is my dream come true, to tell a story of my own.
Why did you choose to debut the series with no words? I personally find that to be OVERLY dope, by the way.::
The first issue has no words because, like many, I read a comic book in ten minutes. Then it gets destroyed on my bathroom floor. I wanted to push myself to create something that told the story without a single word. I wanted people to stop and look, and create their own narration. Later, the characters themselves a have different take–sometimes comical sometimes not–on the Pandora Event.
Was YUME AND EVER in any way influenced by any current or political events?::
Any political tie-ins are accidental. If Yume and Ever reflects the world around us its because of the foothold in reality that all books need to make them relatable. Diversity, our shared human condition, a touch of the familiar are necessary to any book. When those things are missing the vision is skewed.
Will there be more issues?::
There will be more issues. I’ve been trying to save the money to print issue 3 for years. I know there are resources like Kickstarter out there now, but I guess I’m something of a masochist. I like to meet people face to face and, hopefully, interest them in my books. It’s a slow process, but so is creating a comic on my own.
Are you a huge wrestling fan, because one must be a wrestling fan to do something like WWE ALLSTARS so brilliantly, lol. I felt 7 years old all over again while gazing the artwork of the issues, lol. You’ve basically done a LOT of work with WWE all together. How did all of that come about?::
I was a huge wrestling fan as a kid, LOL. The climate of the genre has changed. When I watch the WWE now all I see are mostly naked huge tattooed men writhing suggestively, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just not the “eat your vegetables” Hulk Hogan of my childhood. I took on WWE Superstars because it was something different. I like a challenge. And I tell you, nothing has been so much of a challenge as trying to translate real recognizable people into the surreal world of a comic book.
Was it empowering for you to illustrate on the BLACK PANTHER series at all? Are you excited about the movie coming out, or does it not effect you?::
Black Panther was another check on my roster. There’s so much to do that there’s no time to appreciate what you’re doing. I never really thought that I had any impact on a Mark Texteira’s run on Black Panter, but I’m certainly glad after the fact that it was so well received.
What was more of a satisfaction for you to to work on, BATGIRL or HEROES?::
Batgirl afforded me the chance to work with my first editor, Bobbie Chase, again; and I loved every minute of it. With Heroes I really didn’t know what I was getting into, I didn’t even know it was a show on TV, I jumped at the chance to work with Nancy Dakesian again and found myself in the middle of something I didn’t expect.
I see a lot of my comrades get interviews solely on the work that they do for mainstream, as if their OWN projects aren’t worthy of praise. Does that irritate you at all?::
That is my biggest irritation, and this is the first time I’m expressing this. I’ve been going around for years wearing a false face. I didn’t enter comic to spend my career drawing someone else’s characters. I wanted to tell my own story. But more often than not I’m dismissed or not even allowed to mention my creator-owned properties. I’ve sat there while “legitimate” creators tell me how they pity my struggle. My struggle?? Drawing is my job, but it’s a part of me too. No, I cannot add much to a mainstream book. I can’t change its look to suit my taste or address my personal sensibilities, but that doesn’t make me a puppet or an object to pity. It irks me to no end to hear I like your “whatever I worked on for someone else” but I’m not a fan of your “alternative” work.
What was your favorite cover art/project that you created for a series?::
My most fulfilling project was My Boyfriend Bites, for Lerner Publications. It’s as much creative control as I’ve ever had over a project. A spread I got to do for DC’s Mad Max Fury Road art book was my first 100% me piece published in comics, colors and all. I’m wildly excited about that.
Alitha E. Martinez and Jackie Ormes are sitting down at a local health food store enjoying lunch. What are you two conversing about or brainstorming?::
I would apologize to her for not being able to build on her foundation. I didn’t know she even existed for years into my career and I’m still not familiar with her work. Very little has changed, I think, since her day. We’re still fighting for a place that we’ll never get so long as we continue to be marginalized.
There has been a lot of saturation in the media about how diversity is needed in the comic book industry, and how characters need to be developed who represent us. Last time I checked, they ALREADY existed, lol. It’s all about WHERE you’re looking. What is your take on this?::
This is a loaded question, forgive me in advance. I think people are confusing the issue of diversity with the reality of comics, and the way we learn to draw. We set out to learn the human form–not the black form, or the white form–we learn human anatomy and pray, try, fight to get it as close to right as we can which often translates into a blank human devoid of all of out wonderful differences. Couple that with the lack of time and you get an entire book full of blanks. Now the issue of the comic book environment; well, look at the creators and when the book was created. When everything relies on the past as it was seen through the eyes of a certain set of people we can’t complain about what we don’t see. Current books are also the world seen through a writer’s eye. The mainstream have a distinct “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” policy, and the indie scene suffers from extreme narcissism. It’s all the same problem, just at opposite ends of the spectrum. Perhaps the issue isn’t about diversity and more about creating a more realistic reflection.
I said it earlier, the books we relate to have a foot in our real world. In our real world we are a glorious mix or everybody and everything, not a one-sided perspective.
How important is it for you as a woman to be represented in the Latin/Hispanic art community as a whole, let alone literature and comics?::
It’s NOT important to me to be a woman in comics or a latina in comics, or any other label in comics. To me that means that I’m not a part of comics like a man would be. I’m something aberrant that shouldn’t be there if I can’t be recognized as an artist in my own right as a human being. If at the end of my day I’m only spoken of as a woman in comics then it would be a shameful waste of my life. Our collective struggle is far from over. More than anything I want to be just AN artist.
I believe you have stated that you first introduced yourself professionally as A. MARTINEZ, to hide the fact that you were a woman. When was the moment you decided enough was enough?::
I was introduced as A Martinez, not by my own choice. It’s not unusual for names to be initials, but “A” is also a proper Spanish name for a male. So guess who got an unexpected sex change that stuck with me for years.
What do you think needs to be changed in order for the advancement of women in comics?::
Sexism in comics, heeeee. You mean with the sexy costumes? Then who am I to throw stones?? I draw nigh-to-naked men covered in tattoos looking like your next best @#$%, and their lady counterparts in my spare time; and the rest of my day I draw what’s expected of me. There’s such a fine line between sexy and sexism that the water gets muddy. Again, I think we’re looking for that drop of reality. Is it realistic for a hero to fight in five-inch heels? No. Is a good bra and body armor necessary? YES! Why are they all idealized (men included)? What? Are we supposed to actually admit to our own shallow dark natures now?
Do you think that sexism exists in the comic book industry? Why or why not?::
The issue of sexism in the community of comics is alive and well so longs as we’ve got segregated lists of artists, women panels, women cons, women only gatherings. Are we artists or this dismissable thing called a woman?
If you could meet any comic book character and be friends with them, who would they be?::
Namor and Thor for the very obvious reasons.
Are there any new projects?::
Foreign is my new baby. I’m trying to get book 2 ready for June 2015. It’s been such a process, and the challenge to print it at home has been daunting, but that’s also the joy of it. I’m getting to create something outside of my normal box
Where can we find you online? Links, Handles, Hashtags, Bribes::
www.ariotstorm.com, my work-in-progress site.
Alitha E. Martinez on facebook. @ariotstorm on twitter.
Any last thoughts, screams, rants, praises, etc?::
I’d like to send a shout out to my wonderful comic industry family and most especially to my son, Michael. He’s my cheering squad, my mini- editor, and wonderful source of amazement with the stories he tells now as he grows into an artist in his own right.
The only chances you regret are the ones you didn’t take.
MECCAcon Weekly is a weekly series of features, interviews, and highlights, all focused around comics and art, mainly centered around the AFRIKAAN diaspora community. We focus on the upliftment and advancement of arts thru various mediums. #MECCAconWeekly can also be found on our sister site, DARK MATTERS.
MECCAconWeekly is also a division of Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts – MECCAcon. MECCAcon is an annual convention every SEPTEMBER, located in Detroit, MI.
“BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED” …This is my motto. Whatever environment you come from, whatever your surroundings or financial circumstance, there is ALWAYS room to grow, flourish, and BLOOM.
Maia Williams, also known as “Crown”, is executive assistant to many different businesses, artists, and events in the Metro Detroit area. Crown is also CEO and founder of
Amonyet Enterprises, Cooking Ciphers, MECCAcon, and Crown’s Royalties.